Sunday, November 4, 2018

What's on the Council agenda for November 6th: Increasing the pay for Metro Council members, regulating dog kennels out of business, selling bonds for projects not in the CIB, changing the zoning of Monroe Harding Children's Home.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, November 6th at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the staff analysis for those who want to watch the Council meeting and follow along. If you are going to watch it, it is somewhat less boring if you have the agenda and agenda analysis.  You  don't have to watch it and yet you can still me informed. I will watch it for you and then a couple days later post a summary of the most important Council actions and a video of the meeting. Below is a summary of the agenda, highlighting what I deem to be the most important items.

There are four mayoral appointments to boards and Commission on the agenda for Council confirmation but none are to  the troubled commissions. The Council rarely rejects a mayoral appointee.

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. At public hearings almost all opposition come down to (1) concern about traffic, (2) water runoff and potential for flooding, (3) overcrowding of local schools and impact on infrastructure, (4) detrimentally changing the character of the neighborhood. You will hear the same agreements over and over. I am only pointing out the bills that I think will have an impact beyond the immediate neighborhood or for some other reason are of interest.

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). This may constitute an attempted "taking" of property, or it may not. I know there has been concern in the community that a large number of home could be build on what is now green space.  Monroe Harding needs the proceeds from the sale to expand and relocate.  I don't know if this bill is the result of a compromise that Monroe Harding is agreeing to or an attempt to take away their property rights. Being a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission this can pass second reading by a simple majority of those voting but will require 27 votes to pass Third Reading. If anyone has insight as to the status of the Monroe Harding controversy, please contact me and share the information. Write me at Rodwilliams47@yahoo.com.

Bill BL2018-1371 regards dog kennels and and stables. There are several things
wrong with this bill. It would establish a minimum of ten acres to have a stable or kennel. That is a high threshold.  You cannot find ten acres in Davidson County on which it would be economically feasible to use as a kennel.   Also there is no logic as to why ten acres should be necessary.  People need kennels near them, not way out in the country. This would curtail a service that people need. Another, more significant problem, is that it defines kennels as "an establishment for the breeding of dogs."  That is not the customary definition of "kennel."  If the intent of this was to make it only apply to kennels that breed dogs as opposed to boarding kennels, then the wording should be different. Are boarding kennels called something different in the code and defined?  What would be the effect of narrowly defining kennels as places to breed dogs? Could other boarding kennels continue? Why is this even needed? If noise is the problem, that can be addressed with the existing noise ordinance. In any event this bill has not yet gone to the Planning Commission and must be deferred one meeting.  Maybe it will be amended or the sponsor can be persuaded to withdraw it. As written it needs to be defeated.
There are 30 resolutions all 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. Since the committees have not met yet, some resolutions which are listed as on the consent agenda may not be on the consent agenda when the council meets. 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. However, some atrocious memorializing resolutions that were on the consent agenda have been approved from time to time. 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 ones 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 only reason I am calling attention to this resolution is because it was previously deferred indefinitly and is now back on the agenda. There must be a problem with or opposition to this ordinance or it would not have been previously deferred indefinitely.  If is my understanding that the Fire Department is in need of this. It has not yet been acted upon by the Budget and Finance Committee.

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 he 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 twelve-member council, in my view.

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 so this will likely be deferred.

Resolution RS2018-1462   would approve 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 hope the Budget and Finance Committee looks at this very carefully to determine that the specs were not written in such a way as to make Benchmark the only company that could supply the services and to insure that they really are the only firm providing the desired services. I tend to be skeptical of sole-source contracts. 
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. I don't expect this to generate controversy, but it might. 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.
Bills on Third Reading:  There are 17. Here are the ones of interest.
Bill BL2018-1281 (as amended) would require 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 won't  hurt if it passes.

Bill BL2018-1316 would establish 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 before and it probably will again, but I oppose it.

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.
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. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the MetroYouTube channel.   If can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video here the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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