Saturday, December 1, 2018

What's on the Council agenda for Dec. 4th, 2018: Stopping the Amazon bribe, removing storage fees for stolen vehicles and a bill to ban kennels.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, December 4th 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.  Without the agenda and staff analysis, watching the council meeting is as about as exciting as watching paint dry. With the agenda and analysis it is as exciting as waiting for water to boil.  You  don't have to watch it and yet you can still me informed, however.  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 exciting scenes.

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.

There are no mayoral appointments for council confirmation on this agenda. 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. 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, infringe on basic property rights, have already been to the Planning Communion and failed to pass that body, or for some other reason are of interest. Bills on public hearing are on second reading. A bill disapproved by the Planning Commission may pass second reading by a simple majority but on third reading requires 27 positive votes to pass.

Bills on Public Hearing

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. 

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. I expect a lot of people to be at the public hearing opposing these bills.

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. The bill has not been improved since then. I expect this will be deferred again. To offer your input on this bill, the sponsor welcomes your comments and you may contact him at

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.
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 RS2018-1507 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. I hope it passes.

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.

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.
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.

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. 
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. It is also available 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 hear and provide commentary.

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