Saturday, March 3, 2018

What's on the Council Agenda for 3-6-18: Approving the law firm to investigate the mayor, Exempting Churches from building sidewalks to nowhere, Judicial reform, new data collection requirements for Metro contractors.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  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. There is no real "hot-button" issues or expected controversies on this agenda. The most important items is selecting the law firm to conduct the Council investigation of Mayor Barry, but that should be without controversy.

Boards and Commissions
The first order of business is the call to order, prayer and pledge followed by consideration of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions. There are nine mayoral appointments to boards and commissions on this agenda for Council confirmations. The council always approves these without discussion or dissent. 

Selecting a law firm to investigate Megan Barry
Not listed on the agenda, but probably right before the vote on confirmation of boards and commission members appointees, or perhaps as a late resolution, the Council will vote on accepting the Memphis law firm Burch Porter &Johnson as the firm to lead the special council committee charged with investigating Mayor Barry's misuse of pubic funds to facilitate her affairs with her subordinate. If would be difficult to find a quality law firm located in Nashville that is not in some way compromised in their ability to perform an objective investigations. Almost all local major law firms have law partners who donate to candidates, or do business with the city or are in some other way are compromised. I think it was wise to chose an out of city firm. The committee charged with investigation Mayor Barry recommended Burch Porter and Johnson by a vote of 5-0.  Nine law firms had applied for the position. Just from what I read from the news media, this appears to be a good selection.  There are some Black members of the Council who seem to have a single issue focus on assuring that any law firm the city does business with has a proportionate number Black lawyers. Don't be surprised if their is some questioning along those line. I expect the firm to be selected by the Council. To read more about this issue of selecting the law firm see the Tennessean' coverage of the issue.

Bills on Public Hearing
There  are 21  bills on Public hearing. Items on public hearings are all rezoning bills or related to planning and zoning policy.  Rezoning hearings bore me and I don't even try to form an opinion on the merits each rezoning bill before the Council.  Rezoning bills usually are of interest only to people who live near the proposed rezoning. People who don't care one way or the other do not show up, and with rare exceptions, the only people who speak in favor of rezoning bills are those who will benefit from the rezoning such as the property owner or the developer.  Opponents always make the same argument which boils down to one of these: 1) the change will result in stressing the infrastructure such as too much traffic on the roadway or overcrowd the schools, 2) will cause flooding, and 3) will change for the worse the character of the community. If you are interested in knowing what is permitted in different zoning districts, follow this link. I call attention to only those bills on public hearing that for some reason I expect to be controversial or to bills which have been disapproved by the Planning Commission. A bill disapproved by the Planning Commission requires 27 votes to be approved on third and final reading and sometimes that can be difficult to obtain.Below are the only bills on public hearing I find of interest. 

Bill BL2017-938  would exempt religious institutions from current sidewalk requirements, provided the religious institution is within the General Services District and does not abut an existing or planned sidewalk. This was on the agenda on Jan. 2nd and was deferred to this meeting. I like this bill and think it should pass. It applies only in the General Services District which is generally the suburban and rural areas of the county.  At the rate we are building sidewalls it will be about 600 years before we build sidewalks in some of these areas.  In the middle of nowhere, were there are no sidewalks, why should sidewalks be required in front of the church?  I think this policy should apply to all development meeting this same criteria.  It serves no purpose to have little isolated, random sidewalks to nowhere. This bill is disapproved by the Planning Commission but deserves to pass. 

Bill BL2018-1099   is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. It would change from RS5 to SP zoning on property located at 207 Myrtle Street,  to permit up to four multi-family residential units. I have no opinion on the merits of the rezoning.

Bill BL2018-1100   is another disapproved bill.  It would change from R15 to SP zoning for properties located at 401 Kinhawk Drive and Nolensville Pike to permit all uses permitted by MUL zoning except Alternative Financial Services, Bar or nightclub, flea market, hotel/motel, mobile storage units and automobile parking.
There are 27 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 except for this one.
Resolution RS2018-1054  would reduce the jailers’ fees authorized under state law that are assessed against misdemeanant prisoners incarcerated in Davidson County jails. We charge people for staying in jail even if they are jailed for a minor traffic violation. Until this issue arose, I did not know one had to pay for staying in jail. Often the fee is waived but it does not have to be and often it is not. According to the resolution, "although jailers’ fees are only assessed against persons actually convicted of criminal offenses, such fees may be assessed not only against persons serving misdemeanor sentences in county jails, but also against persons being held prior to trial on misdemeanor charges." That is an outrage. This resolution would reduce the fee to $0. I support this resolution.
Bills on First reading: 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.

Bills on Second Reading: There are 10 of them and none of them are of much interest.

Bills on Third Reading:  There are 15 of them. These are the ones of interest.
Bill BL2017-1026 is a disapproved rezoning bill in Councilman Scott Davis district. I have no opinion on the merits of the bill but am pointing it out simply because it is disapproved and will require 27 votes to pass. This was on Third Reading last time and deferred to this meeting.

Bill BL2018-1054  says that when metro enters into a lease. leasing to another entity a piece of metro property, that that lease must go before the Metro Council for approval and if the lease is for more than fifty years, it must first be declared surplus.This is a good bill.  

Bill BL2018-1063 as amended,  is a bill to "require the Procurement Division to collect comprehensive data regarding the participation of subcontractors in the procurement process."  Currently, the Minority and Women Business Assistance Office (BAO) is authorized to collect information to monitor the Procurement Nondiscrimination Program. The information “may” include information regarding business ownership, supplier information, and subcontractor information. This changes the "may" to "shall."  In the past and probably still, I know this program was often abused. Sometimes a White contractor and a Black subcontractor may switch rolls to get an advantage as a minority-owned firm. The White guy may agree to be the subcontractor to the Black guy. Also, I have known of instances years ago, where a man would make his wife the owner of their family-owned construction company in order to gain an advantage as a women-owned business. I don't know if this would reveal those manipulations or not, but it may. I support this.
To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person or 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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