Sunday, December 16, 2018

What's on the Council agenda for 12/18/18: new affirmative action program for minority and women contractors, $25 million in General Obligation bonds w/o debt service $, asking NES to automatically "round up" electric bills.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, December 18th 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 more interesting if you have the agenda and agenda analysis.  It is still not very interesting but more interesting if you know what the heck is going on. You don't have to watch it and yet you can still me informed however, because  I will watch it for you and then a couple days later post a summary of the most important Council actions and I will post a video of the meeting and highlight the interesting parts, if there are any.

Below is a summary of the agenda, highlighting what I deem to be the most important items.

After the call to order, invocation and pledge of allegiance, there will be a report from committees reporting on matters other than legislation. These various committees will be reporting on budget,  contract procurement, innovation and school safety. The council has a special budget subcommittee to look at the budget crisis facing the city including the role that tax increment financing plays in our budget woes.  A new initiative has been launched to "level the playing field," as Mayor Briley calls it, when it comes to minorities getting their "fair share" of Metro contracts. More on this at this link: Briley proposed a new aggressive affirmative action program for minority and women contractors.
Last meeting these committees reported that they were meeting but had nothing to report.

Kay Bowers
There are three mayoral appointments for council confirmation on this agenda. These always get approved. Two are to the board of the Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (MDHA).  This board  has come under a lot scrutiny recently. In a Tennessean article titled MDHA board awards millions to developers with little oversight or transparency, the body of the article elaborates on the a title. One of the nominees to this board is Kay Bowers, who is the executive director of New Level Community Development Corp. From my work affordable housing field, I am acquainted with Kay Bowers and have respect for her. She will be a good addition to the board. Working at her level with a non-profit, I would expect her to be an advocate for the affordable housing component of MDHA's mission and less of an advocate for corporate welfare.  I hope the Rules Committee stressed to the new appointees the need for more transparency and oversight of MDHA.

Resolutions. There are 18 resolutions all 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 RS2018-1455  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.  Also, to put this in the CIB, something else would have to be taken out or the amount of money allocated to debt service would have to be increased.  One cannot simply issue new bonds without the money to pay the debt service. The debt service could be increased if we had excess revenue but that is not the case.  I suspect this will be deferred again. I suspect the sponsors, Jonathan Hall, DeCosta Hastings, and Brenda Haywood know this is a futile effort and are simply doing this so they can tell their constituents, "we tried."

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. This was on the agenda last meeting and deferred to this meeting. 

Resolution RS2018-1530  by Councilman Bedne ask the Tennessee General Assembly to establish a fund to cover property owners’ losses from diminished property values following the preemption of Ordinance No. BL2016-234. This is meaningless. The state is not going to do it. BL2016-234 was a bill from year 2016 that would add “natural gas compressor stations” to a list of facilities regulated as a “major source” of air pollutants which require a local permit and would do some other things. This was a part of an attempt to stop a proposed natural gas compression stations planned for Joelton and Antioch.  Federal law says that local government can not stop these developments and the Federal government has the right to permit them. Council passed 234 anyway and then the State nullified it. I wish the Council would reject these meaningless feel-good pandering measures but they won't. This will pass, but is worthless. 
Bills on Second Reading:  There are 8. This is the only one of interest.
Bill BL2018-1419 is a new aggressive affirmative action program for minority and women contractors doing business with the city. I addressed this issue in this post: Briley proposed a new aggressive affirmative action program for minority and women contractors. For details of this issue, read what I previously wrote and the staff analysis. 
Bills on Third Reading: There are 16. Most are zoning bills approved by the Planning Commission.
Bill BL2018-1399 (as amended) is a disapproved zoning bill in Councilman Bedne's district. I know nothing about the merits of the bill but am simply pointing it out because it is a disapproved bill and will require 27 votes to pass.

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