Friday, December 7, 2018

What happened at the 12/4/18 Council meeting: bill holding Amazon bribe hostage deferred, anguish over gentrification, bad kennel bill deferred.

Above  is the video of the Council meeting of Tuesday, November 4, 2018. It is three hours and 13 minutes 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 meeting and skipped portion of it looking for the good parts. I rushed through the public hearing portion watching that 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.

Only one council member, Erica Gilmore, was absent from this meeting.

Vice Mayor Jim Shulman begins the meeting with a brief eulogy of President George H. W Bush and former mayor and congressman Richard Fulton. Following the prayer and pledge, Mayor Briley addresses the Council. This is extremely rare that a mayor appears in person before the Council. He paid tribute to former Mayor Richard Fulton.

The Vice Mayor asked for committee reports on matters other than legislation: This is not a normal feature of council meetings but the city is facing several issues that the council feels deserve special attention and the vice mayor has tasked committees to look into these issue. These various committees are charged with studying the issues of budget,  contract procurement, innovation and school safety. None of the committees had anything very important to report but they are working on the issues.

The Vice Mayor announced that a joint Budget Committee and Affordable Housing Committee will be holding hearing on concerns that have been expressed in the media about how MDHA operates. The Tennessean recently published an article pointing out that MDHA spends lots of money and funds lots of downtown development with almost no oversight from the administration or the council. The mayor appoints members to the MDHA board and the council confirms them and beyond that they operate independently, with no oversight and little transparency. To read The Tennessean's report see this link.

The vice mayor reminds the council that all nomination to serve on the new police oversight board must be turned in by 4:30 pm on Tuesday Dec.18th. If any readers of this blog would like to try to serve on this board, go for it! One of the ways you can be nominated is to be nominated by a community organization, but the term is undefined. The selection of members of the board is a complex process to say the least and there is a lot of confusion. To see the announcement and an explanation of the nominating process, see timestamp 21:33- 30:40 in the video.

Bills on Public Hearing: There are 18 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.

Bill BL2018-1288 (as amended) is intended to stop the owner of a commercial establishment from giving away or leasing their parking spaces.  One of the causes, perhaps the major cause, of sparse development along major corridors and for urban sprawl is the requirement that owners provide parking for their customers. The codes require so many parking spaces per so many seats in a restaurant and so many parking spaces per so many square feet of different types of retail. Some developers of  commercial property have met the requirement and then turned around and leased out their parking spaces, defeating the purpose of the requirement. This is an attempts to stop that. My view is that we should give up on this attempt to cater to the old model of car-oriented development and let the market work it out. If someones wants to open a restaurant with 2O tables and only supply five parking spaces, let them.  No one spoke on the bill and it passed by a voice vote of the Council.

Bill BL2018-1357 cancels a Planned Unit Development Overlay District on property located at 3419 Murphy Road and Bill BL2018-1358 changes from ORI-A to SP the zoning on that property to permit a mixed-use development. I happened to be visiting a relative on Richland Avenue recently and in about a three block section, about half the houses had signs opposing this development. Council Member Kindall moved to defer both bills to the January 3, 2019 public hearing, which passed.

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. It requires kennels be located on ten acres. 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. If you live in the city and own a dog and are going out of town for the weekend and want to board your dog, would you have to go to Watertown or Dickson to board your dog? This was on the agenda on November 6th and deferred.  When on the agenda of November 6, I spoke to the sponsor and he essentially said this was a work in progress and he welcomed feedback and input.  To offer your input on this bill, the sponsor welcomes your comments and you may contact him at  Council Member Bedne moved to defer the bill indefinitely, which motion was seconded and approved by a voice vote of the Council. Councilman Bedne says the bill is still a work in progress and will be brought back up but in a different form.
Bill BL2018-1393  is a rezoning bill in the vicinity of 27th Ave. North and Clifton Ave changing from RS5 to MUL-A zoning. Among those speaking in favor is Pastor Enoch Fuzz. of Corinthian Baptist church. Several people speak in opposition. The opposition is that it furthers gentrifies the area and replaces affordable housing with more expensive housing and will displace residents. It passes the Council on a voice vote.
Bill BL2018-1395 is much like the last one. It rezones property in the vicinity of 26th Avenue North and Clifton Avenue. The bill would rezone some property from RS5 and IR to MUL-A and RM20-A. The opposition is the same as the previous bill, that it further gentrifies the area and replaces affordable housing with more expensive housing and will displace residents. Following the public hearing several council members speak on the bill. It is an approved bill and passes on a voice vote.
The problem of disappearing affordable housing and changing communities is real. What can be done about it, I don't know. I don't think anything significant can be done. The amount of affordable housing than the city can build or entice to be build is not a drop in the bucket to what is being lost. I think it is a simple fact that when property becomes more valuable because Nashville is becoming more prosperous, then some people will no longer be able to afford to live where they did live. I can understand the anguish of  those who see their community change.  Part of what is happening is that communities that are close to downtown or gentrifying and many low income people who did live close to downtown will relocate. Part of Antioch is becoming the new low income areas. No doubt many low income people will leave Nashville. While I have compassion for those who are upset by the change, I don't think we can freeze low income communities and mandate that they stay low income. The best solution is to let the market work. To see the discussion on these two bills see timestamp 44:28 to 1:29:18.
Bill BL2018-1399  changes from AR2a to CS zoning on property located at 1488 and 1492 Bell Road. I know nothing about the merits of this request but am simply calling attention to it because it is bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. No one spoke on the bill and it passed on Second reading by voice vote.
Resolutions. There are 18 resolutions most of which are on the consent agenda at this time. 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 of interest.
Resolution RS2018-1507 requests that Metro refrain from providing economic incentives to Amazon unless and until employees of the Metropolitan Government receive cost of living adjustments. This is co-sponsored by the most conservative members of the Council such as Steve Glover and Robert Swope and the most liberal members of the Council such as Freddie O'Connel and Brenda Haywood.  The administration and the Chamber of Commerce oppose this.  This is substituted and then deferred indefinitely. Councilman Glover makes clear this effort is not being abandoned but simply deferred.

Resolution RS2018-1508 would encourages a change in the NES policy of collecting contribution to its weatherization program for low income property owners from an opt-in policy to an opt-out policy. Currently if your electric bill is so many dollars and so many cents, you may select to have your bill rounded up to the next dollar and that odd cents amount goes to a fund to pay the cost of low income property owners to have work done on their home such as insulation to improve energy efficiency. This would change that policy so that your bill was automatically rounded up unless you opted out of that process. I adamantly oppose this.  I contribute routinely to causes and charities I support, but I don't want someone automatically rounding up my bill without my specific informed consent. This is memorializing.  It "encourages" NES to adopt this policy; it would not have to do so. It is deferred one meeting.

Resolution RS2018-1509  calls upon the Davidson County Election Commission to ensure that the voting machines it purchases in the future provide a voter-verifiable paper audit trail and that such functionality is implemented. This is memorializing and the Election Commission would not have to do it. This is substituted, then passes.
Bills on Second Reading:  There are 11. This is the only one of interest.
Bill BL2018-1404 removes certain storage and impound fees for recovered stolen vehicles. Storage fees for tow-in lots under the jurisdiction of the MNPD are currently waived for owners of stolen vehicles. However, fees are currently charged for vehicles at private towing and impound lots. This ordinance would waive fees at both Metro Government lots and private lots. While I feel sorry for the individual who must pay a fee to recover his stolen vehicle, we cannot expect private companies to just adsorb the cost of towing and storing the vehicles. If the owner of the vehicle does not pay the fee, then the city should pay the fee for the victim of auto theft if that is a cost we want to absorb.  This is deferred to the January 15 meeting.
Bills on Third Reading: There are 13. This is the only one I find of interest.
Bill BL2018-1283 (as amended)  says that Metro cannot use the proceeds from sale of surplus property to fund operating cost.  While it seems to make sense that one should not use one-time money to fund on-going cost, as we did this year, I am not sure that this flexibility should be taken away. There may be times when the city needs to do that. This passed by a machine vote with no opposition.

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