Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What's on the 1-23-18 Council agenda: The mayor's $9 billion transit plan, trampling property rights and stopping affordable housing, new Airbnb rules, and creating a Police Community Oversight Board

Update: This meeting scheduled for Tuesday January 23rd is the meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday January January 16th and was rescheduled due to bad weather.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. The hot topics are the mayor's transit program, a bill to create a police citizen's review committee, the bill that would trample a person's property rights and kill an affordable housing development, and bills that would change the rules on Short Term Rentals such as Airbnb. If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  or you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

Mayor's mass transit plan.
Bill BL2017-1031  is the bill to adopt  the Mayor's transit improvement program and approving  the program, and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018 to approve the tax increases to support the program.  While this should be controversial, expect it to pass overwhelmingly. At a three and a half hour public hearing on January 9th the proponents vastly outweighed the opponents, supporters have been organizing for months, the proposal has the support of Chamber and other movers and shakers in town and the Council meeting as a special council committee composed of the entire body voted 29 to 1 to recommend it. A group called Transit for Nashville Coalition has gathered over 30,000 signatures in favor of a mass transit program for Nashville but the signatures were supporting mass transit not a specific amount of taxes to support mass transit.

Despite the vote in favor of approved this is already determined, I expect a few speeches in favor and look to Councilman Robert Swope and Councilman Jon Cooper to possibly speak against it.  While the bill says the price tag for the plan is $5.4 billion, when all cost are included the price tag is closer to $9 billion.  This assumes no cost overruns. With cost overruns typical of similar projects the real cost is more likely to be between $15 billion and $22 billion. While the vote on Tuesday night well be overwhelmingly in favor of the plan, I am not assuming it will be approved in a public referendum especially if organized resistance emerges.  Some Council members will justify their vote in favor by saying they are simply letting the public decide the issue. That is not what the bill does. It puts the Council on record endorsing the plan. To fully understand the issue see page 6-14 of the staff analysis.

Police Community Oversight Board
Bill BL2017-951  on Second Reading would establish a Community Oversight Board to conduct investigations and provide citizen oversight of officers of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.  It would provide for an eleven member board, seven nominated by citizens groups or by petition confirmed by the Council, two appointed by the Council and two appointed by the mayor subject to Council confirmation. The Board would have the authority to investigate allegations that MNDP officers have committed misconduct in violation of policy or criminal misconduct.The Board would hold regular meetings and have a staff of researchers and lawyers. This would cost about $386,000 a year. A previous Council staff analysis said there are due process concerns with the way the board would operate. In my view this bill needs to be defeated. This bill will probably not be voted on due to procedural issues regarding council rules. More than likely the sponsor will have to start over with a new bill.  Nevertheless, depending on how lenient the vice mayor is, expect some passionate speeches in favor.

Trampling property rights and stopping affordable housing

The Ridge Apartments
Bill BL2016-219   is the bill that tramples a persons property rights, partially taking property without compensation, and kills an affordable housing development. This bill is on third and final reading and it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission which means it will take 28 votes of the Council to pass.  This has been in the works for a very long time. Most zone changes allow people to do something with their property they were previously not allowed to do; this bill is a "down zoning," taking away a right someone now enjoys.  The developer is already vested in the project having designed the development and arranged financing.  If this passes it is an outrage. There will likely be lawsuit which Metro will most likely lose and the state has threatened to withhold low income housing tax credits, an essential financing tool for most affordable housing developments.  For more on this issue, see Contact your Council member. Stop the trampling of property rights and the killing of an affordable housing development.

Changing the rules regarding Short Term Rental (Airbnb" or home sharing). 
Bill BL2017-608,  Substitute Bill BL2017-937Bill BL2017-981, and Bill BL2017-982   all concern short term rentals. I am supporting 937, the least offensive of the bills. The worst of the bill, which would phase out non-owner-occupied short term rentals in areas zoned residential is bill 608. Bill 937 is being supported by the the citizens groups of home sharing advocates. It was worked on for a very long time by a special Council committee and was the subject of numerous meetings. It is called the "compromise" bill but many of the more vocal neighborhood activist are not happy and want to abolish home sharing all together and favor 608 which would abolish non-owner-occupied short term rental. For a more detailed explanation of these bills follow this link, this link, or see the staff analysis starting on page 16.


Other agenda items:
There are seven mayoral appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda for confirmation and as always they will be affirmed. There are no bills or resolutions on public hearing.  There are 10 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading.  Normally bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote. It is rare that a bill on First Reading is voted on separately. I normally do not read bills until they get to second reading.
There are 12 resolution on the agenda and all are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes  unanimously the committees to which it was assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. None of the resolutions on this agenda are of much interest.

There are only four  bills on Second Reading and one of them is the bill to create a Police Community Oversight Board discussed above and another is the mayor's transit plan above. The only other bill on second reading of interest is this one:

Bill BL2017-941  would establish a a Commercial Permit Parking Program. The council would have to approve the geographic areas in which this applied. In those areas commercial vehicles could only park on the street if they had a permit to do so.  As we grow, parking become more of a problem with people parking on streets taking parking places that deny those spaces to those who have businesses or residence on the street a place to park. These seems reasonable.
There are 32 bills on Third Reading. One of them is the bill to trample property rights discussed above.  Others are the bill concerning short term rental discussed above. Bill BL2017-1026 is the only other bill of interest and it is only of interest because it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission and will require 28 votes to pass.  It changes from RS5 to RM20-A zoning on property located at 1308 Montgomery Avenue.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person but I wouldn't recommend it. There will be a mob of people for this meeting. You can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site and you can watch it live on Roku. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel. If can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video on this blog the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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