Thursday, November 8, 2018

What happened at the Nov. 6 Council meeting: Monroe Harding Children’s Home forced "compromise" rezoning advances, bad kennel bill deferred, Council pay raise fails.

This is the video of the Council meeting of Tuesday, November 6, 2018. It is a little over four hours long. If you are going to watch it, it will make a lot more sense if you can follow along with an agenda. To access a copy of the agenda, the agenda summary and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link. I did not carefully watch the full four hours but skipped portion of it looking for the good parts and watched part of it in double speed. If you think I may have missed something important, or important to you, you may want to watch the video for yourself.

Six  members were absent for this meeting. That is a lot. Those absent were Gilmore, Anthony Davis, Pardue, Vercher, Potts and Rosenberg.   Below is a summary of the meeting highlighting of what I deem to be the most important items.

After the prayer and the pledge, the council took out of order memorializing Resolution RS2018-1482  honoring the memory of those killed in the attack on the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sending support from the Nashville Community, and calling for an end to hate-filled rhetoric, racism, and bigotry. Several member spoke denouncing hate and intolerance and advocating civility. At timestamp 13:22 the council returns to regular order of business.

There were no surprises in confirmation of mayoral appointees to boards and commissions. They were all affirmed

Public Hearing: There are 30 bills on Public Hearing. Bills on public hearing are usually to rezone a particular piece of property or to change the text of zoning code.   I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning. These are the one I found of interest.

Substitute Bill BL2018-1365  is a bill to rezone about five acres of property from R10 to RS10 in Councilman Pulley's district. It is approved by the Planning Commission.  The only reason I am calling attention to this is that I think this type down-zoning is poor policy. This type of down-zoning occurs quite often.  The effect of this bill is that it takes an area which can now have duplexes and makes it illegal to have them. It makes this area single-family only. This reduces future density. As Nashville struggles with the issue of affordable housing and urban sprawl, any policy that decreases density contributes to a lack of affordable hosing and contributes to urban sprawl. This bill is no different than what happens all of the time but I think it is poor policy. Also, it takes away from someone a property right they now enjoy. Neighborhood surveys are conducted to see if residents want this rezoning, but that does not insure that someone may not realize they are losing a property right. I also think that what is often behind this type of rezoning is a desire to keep out renters and protect the character of the neighborhood which may mean to thwart diversity. It helps keep poor people and minorities from moving to these neighborhoods.  I will not be calling attention to every bill of this type but wanted to call attention to the policy that allows this type zoning which contributes to lack of affordable housing, urban sprawl and may violate property rights and may thwart diversity.
Bill BL2018-1370  is a disapproved rezoning bill in Councilman Russ Pulley's district to rezone the property of Monroe Harding Children’s Home. It would rezone "from from R20 to SP zoning on property located at 1120 Glendale Lane, at the northwest corner of Glendale Lane and Scenic Drive, (19.87 acres), to permit 31 single-family lots or a community education use of up to 200 persons, a religious institution, an orphanage, or a day care center (over 75)."

The current use of the property has most of the acreage as open space. The way the property is currently zoned the owner could develop up to 53 units. This "compromise" is a "voluntary" down-zoning being forced upon Monroe-Harding. Monroe Harding desires to relocate and needs the proceeds from the sale to support their mission. The current site no longer suites their needs. Their initial desire was to sale the property as currently zoned which they have the right to do. The Councilman introduced a bill to rezone the property against the will of the owner. His proposal would have allowed much less density than what this current bill allows.  Rather than fight this illegal down-zoning, Monroe-Harding gave into bullying. This is a shameful abuse of power forcing someone to give away their property rights. This compromise does not satisfy many of he neighbors and they oppose any redevelopment of the property. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:51:36- 2:58:49.  This passed on a voice vote on second reading and will require 27 votes to pass third reading.
Bill BL2018-1371 regards dog kennels and and stables. There are several things
wrong with this bill. I am not sure what the bill would do.  It defines kennels as only kennels that breed dogs. Where does that leave dog boarding facilities?  Could they continue to operated in the city? Ten acres seems like an awfully high threshold for having a kennel. This bill was definitely not ready for prime time. I spoke to the sponsor and he essentially said this was a work in progress and he welcomed feedback and input. To contact the sponsor email him at He defered the bill to the December 4, 2018 meeting.
There are 30 resolutions most of which are on the consent agenda. A resolution is on the consent agenda if it passed the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Bills on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. Any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda. Below are the resolutions on interest.
Resolution RS2018-1395   would appropriate $360,000.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment for the Nashville Fire Department. The resolution was disapproved by the Budget and Finance Committee. Council Member Glover moved to withdraw the resolution,

Resolution RS2018-1430   This is non-binding but would request the Civil Service Commission to increase the salary of the council members from $15,000 to $23,100 and the salary of the Vice Mayor from $17,000 to $25,230.  The council cannot increase their own salary so this would take effect when the new council is seated.  Since the city was unable to honor a promised cost of living salary increase for Metro employees, I do not think the salary of the Council should be increased at this time.  Also, the amount of increase seems excessive. I do not know how long it has been since the council had a pay raise however and how much councilmen in other cities earn.  With a forty-member council, our council members should not earn as much as a comparably sized city with a much smaller council, in my view. I am pleased to report that this was deferred indefinitely.

Resolution RS2018-1455  would approve the issuance of $25 million in General Obligation bonds to fund certain projects.  Some of the projects are not listed in the Capital Improvements Budget adopted by the Council. The Council cannot approve funding of projects not in the CIB. The CIB can be amended however, but that would take a separate action. The resolution was disapproved by the Budget and Finance Committee. Council Member Hall moved to suspend the Rules of Procedure to offer a late amendment. The motion was met with objection to cause the motion to fail. Council Member Hall moved to defer the resolution to the December 18, 2018 meeting, which motion was seconded and approved by a voice vote of the Council.

Resolution RS2018-1462  approves a sole-source contract for $455,000 with Benchmark Analytics to provide certain services.  It may be that this firm is the only firm that can provide the services the city needs.   I tend to be skeptical of sole-source contracts. This passed on the Consent agenda. I hope the Budget and Finance Committee carefully investigated this before passing it.
Bills on Second Reading:  There are 12. This is the only one of interest.
Bill BL2018-1334 tweaks the  ticket tax for the Major League Soccer Stadium. This would raise the overall price of attending a game and may suppress attendance. This was on the agenda on Second Reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting. The bill was recommended for deferral at the request of the sponsor by the Budget and Finance Committee, the Codes, Fair, and Farmers Market Committee, and the Convention, Tourism, and Public Entertainment Facilities Committee. Council Member Henderson moved to defer the bill, which motion was seconded and approved by a voice vote of the Council.
Bills on Third Reading:  There are 17. Here are the ones of interest.
Bill BL2018-1281 (as amended) requires all metro employees and contractors doing business with Metro with contracts of over $500,000, to take a sexual harassment training.  It may be contrary to a state law that prohibits cities from imposing additional requirements on state licensed firms, This has been twerked from when first introduced. Metro would not be doing the training so the companies would do it for their own employees and certify that they had done so.  So, Human Resources is now saying the cost of this would be negligible. The bill does not dictate the extend of the training so it may not amount to much. This was on Second Reading Council meeting before last and deferred a meeting. Last meeting it passed Second on a voice vote. I have no problem with this bill as amended. The issue of imposing additional requirement contrary to state law is probably not a problem since I doubt any company would object given that they do their own training. So, this accomplishes little and cost little. It passes 28-0.

Bill BL2018-1316  establishes screening requirements and standards for waste
dumpsters. This is great for those of us who have to walk or drive by unsightly dumpsters but will add expense for entrepreneurs wanting to start a new business.  Well intention measures like this drive gentrification by making it difficult for poor neighborhoods to exist and if all parts of the town are aesthetically pleasing to middle class taste, you price poor people out of their neighborhoods and this leads to loss of affordable housing and makes it harder for struggling entrepreneurs to start new businesses. You cannot have a lot of affordable housing without affordable neighborhoods and affordable neighborhoods may have unscreened dumpsters behind tire shops. You can't still have affordable neighborhoods and expect every neighborhood to look like Green Hills. This passes with no discussion on Second reading and passes Third by a vote of 28-0.

Bill BL2018-1329 establishes some rules for the residential parking permit (RPP) program. Some residential areas near popular commercial area have had a problem with parking. Visitors to the nearby commercial establishments have been taking all of the parking on neighboring streets and residents who rely on on-street parking can not park on their own street. This permit system attempts to solve that by allowing only cars with permits to park on that street. If however you want to have guest for a baby shower or family dinner, it means they would be illegally parking on your street. Residents could purchase two guest permits good for a year. While this RPP system is new to Nashville it is common in lots of larger urban areas. No doubt this policy will be tweaked from time to time. This passes 28-0.

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