Friday, September 21, 2018

What happened at the Council meeting of 9/18/18: Tax increment financing (TIF) reform advances.

At one hour and 48 minutes long this is a relatively short council meeting. Nothing of great controversy was on the agenda. To access the council agenda, council staff analysis and my agenda commentary follow this link.

Six Council members were absent this meeting. That is an unusually high number. Those absent were Pardue, Huezo, Weiner, Pulley, Bedne and Dowel. The meeting starts with a couple of ceremonial presentations and does not get down to business until timestamp 19 in the video.  The Vice Mayor announces the establishment of a special committee to look at school safety issues and the establishment of some other special committees and announces that new committee assignments have been made for the coming year. There are no surprises in the confirmation of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions and all are approved.

The public comment period starts at timestamp 32:35 and only two people speak and they speak on issues of local concern. So far, the public comment policy is going better than I expected. I thought all kinds of activist would take this opportunity to vent and it would turn into a lengthy session of grandstanding but that has not happened yet.

Resolutions. Most resolutions passed on "consent" which means they were all lumped together and passed by a single vote. Any member could have had a "no" vote recorded or have had an item taken off of consent. Below are the ones I found of interest.

 Resolution RS2018-1385 by Councilman Blalock  is a resolution requesting grocery store operators within Davidson County to take effective measures to reduce the use and/or impact of single-use plastic carryout bags and report the measures being undertaken in this effort, and encouraging the use of reusable bags by residents and businesses within Davidson County. In a previous council meeting Blalock had sponsored legislation that failed to ban plastic bags. In may view this needed to fail also. However, it only "request" grocery story to do this so grocery stores can just ignore it. It passed on the consent agenda.

Resolution RS2018-1390  approves a PILOT for renovation of an affordable housing  apartment complex. I have some concern that this subsidy  may become an expectation for any developer who develops anything except luxury apartments. I admit I do not have enough information to know if this concern is justified. I hope the city is using this tool judiciously. This passed on the consent agenda.

Resolution RS2018-1391  approves the sale of $775 million in General Obligation bonds. These are all bonds authorized by other legislation actions of the council. This passed on the consent agenda.

Resolution RS2018-1411  confirms the mayor's appointees of members of a Blue Ribbon Commission to recommend Metro cost saving and improved efficiencies. It is an impressive list and includes former Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz, ex-Metro Councilmember Emily Evans, real estate developer D.J. Wootson, SEIU Local 205 President Brad Rayson and former school board chair Gracie Porter. I am especially pleased to see the appointment of Emily Evans. I observed her when she served on the Council. She is smart and had a firm grasp of Metro financial issues. Dave Goetz seems like a good choice.  I don't know much about the qualification of the others. I am hopeful that this committee will come up with some meaningful recommendations.  The establishment of the Blue Ribbon Commission was an initiative of Councilman John Cooper. This passed on the consent agenda.

Resolution RS2018-1393 was a resolution approving an agreement between the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and Metro through the  Nashville Police Department, to provide police assistance to the Middle Tennessee Drug Enforcement Task Force. I assumed this would be routine and be on consent but it was not. The purpose of the Drug Enforcement Task Force is to gather intelligence data and conduct undercover operations related to illegal drug trafficking. I do not know the basis of the opposition as there was no discussion of the resolution. The vote was 28 to 3 with Sledge, O'Connell, and Rosenberg voting "no."

Resolution RS2018-1395  was to appropriate $360,000.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment for the Nashville Fire Department. It was deferred indefinitely. The sponsor explains that the requested funding for the equipment will be in a different resolution in the near future.
Bill BL2018-1283  on Second Reading would prohibit the use of funds from the sale of Metro owned property from being used to fund the operating budget. While I do not think it is wise policy to use one-time funds for reoccurring expenses, I do not think it ought to be strictly prohibited. If this passes it would leave a hole in the current budget because the budget did rely on revenue from the sale of some property that has not sold yet. That problem could be easily fixed by changing the effective date of the prohibition to future budgets and exempting it for the current budget year. Nevertheless, I think this bill should be voted down.  It should be noted however, that anything done by legislation can be undone by a legislation so if this did pass and a future council wanted to undo it they could do so. Passed by voice vote.

Bill BL2018-1314  on Second Reading establishes the Blue Ribbon Commission to look for government efficiencies and cost savings. The Commission wold be 15-member. This lays out how they are appointed and their duties. Resolution 1411 above is the confirmation of the five appointed by the mayor. This is deferred one meeting on a voice vote without discussion.

Bill BL2018-1319  on Second Reading would amend the law regarding Tax Increment Financing.  TIF is a program that provides that property taxes generated in redevelopment areas and authorized by Council do not flow to the General Fund but instead are used to subsidize the development and repay the cost of infrastructure improvements in the area. Much of downtown development does not contribute to the tax revenue of Nashville but flows to MDHA because of this. This bill would impose a formula requiring that a portion of the property tax revenue would flow to the general fund to support schools. it is Passed by voice vote and referred back to Budget and Finance. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:13:05- 1:32:19.  This is a complicated issue. A sort of shell game is played with some of the TIF tax revenue in which some money is included in the school budget but the schools must pay that money to MDHA. I think TIF should be greatly reduced and there needs to be more transparency brought to the issue. Hopefully that will happen. This is a good bill and deserves to pass.

Bill BL2018-1315 on Third Reading creates a  Tax Increment Financing Study and Formulating Committee. This sits out the composition of the committee and what they are charged with doing. This is a positive development. Passed 32 to 0.

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