Monday, September 17, 2018

What is on the Council Agenda for 9-18-2018: an attack on use of plastic bags, a Blue Ribbon Commission to look for cost saving, and studying Tax Increment Financing.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. This is a shorter agenda than that of recent meetings without lots of controversial issues.  This should be a shorter meeting and I am certain Council members will be pleased.  Recent meetings have been marathon session running four to six hours. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the staff analysis for those who want to watch the Council meeting and follow along.

Below is legislation of interest.

Resolution RS2018-1385 by Councilman Blalock  is a resolution calling on 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. This needs to fail also. We do not need to be trying to force grocery stores to give up plastic bags and forcing them to report to metro on this topic.

Resolution RS2018-1390  approves a PILOT for renovation of affordable housing  apartment complex. PILOT is "payment in lieu of taxes." The company does not pay property taxes but instead makes a payment considerably less than what they would pay in taxes. Only in the last couple years have PILOTs been used to promote affordable housing. Prior to that they were used to entice businesses to locate to Nashville.  I hope someone is closely monitoring this program and thinking long-term. This will be the thirteenth such deal for affordable housing.  When we talk about "affordable housing" we are not talking about the projects.  Unless one had personal knowledge, most of what is "affordable housing" one would not know it was some how subsidized. The unintended consequence of using this PILOT tool to encourage affordable housing, is that it may become an expectation and subvert market forces. There is still a demand for housing that is not luxury housing, but if the expectation become that any developer who builds anything but luxury housing gets a PILOT or tax credits or other subsidies then no developer may build non-luxury housing without that subsidy. On the other hand, my fears may be unfounded. I just hope this tool is being used judiciously.

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. I do not expect this to be debated or controversial.

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.

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 resolution should be voted down.  It should be noted however, that anything done by resolution can be undone by a resolution so if this did pass and a future council wanted to undo it they could do so.

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.

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. This is better than nothing.  However, I think it probably should be deferred to see what the Tax Increment Financing Study and Formulating Committee comes up with.

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.

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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