Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What's on the Council agenda for 1-3-19: prohibiting competition, clemency for Cyntoia Brown, historical preservation.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Thursday, January 3, 2019 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Normally the Council meets on the first and third Tuesday but since Tuesday was New Year's Day, the Council moved the meeting date to Thursday, January 3rd.   Below, I am highlighting the agenda items I deem the most important and providing some commentary.  To access the Council agenda and the staff analysis follow the highlighted links.

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. The various committees have been called upon to report on their area of concern for several meetings now but none of them have had much to report.

Next is mayoral appointments for council confirmation. There are nine appointment for consideration. These always get approved. Hundreds of people serve Metro free of charge on numerous boards and commission and their service should be honored and appreciated. However, I,  nevertheless, think the Council should use this process to ensure we are getting the best people and people who will follow wise policies and put the public interest ahead of the interest of the agency they serve.  This is especially true when appointing people to those scandal-ridden or controversial agencies such as MDHA, The Airport Authority, The Hospital Board, Farmers Market or the Human Relations Commission. Maybe some probing questions get asked in Committee, but I doubt it. It would be refreshing if, on occasion, the Council rejected an appointee. None of the appointees on this agenda are to the troubled agencies.

Bills on Public Hearing: There are 24  bills on Public Hearing. Bills on public hearing are usually to rezone a particular piece of property or to change the text of the 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 only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning. I only call attention to bills that trample private property rights, that I know will be controversial for some reason, or have been disapproved by the Planning Commission.  Bills disapproved by the Planning Commission can pass Second Reading by a simple voice vote but require 27 votes to pass on Third Reading. These are the bills on Public Hearing that I find of interest. 

Bill BL2018-1357 and Bill BL2018-1358.  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 back in November and in about a three block section, about half the houses had signs opposing this development. These bills were scheduled for public hearing on Dec. 4, 2018 and Council Member Kindall moved to defer both bills to this the January 3, 2019 public hearing. To read The Tennessean's coverage of this issue follow this link.

Bill BL2018-1417  would extend Historic Landmark protection to public interior
Should the interior of  historical places be protected
spaces.
  This is one of those issues about which I am conflicted. I am a strong advocate of private property rights but am also an advocate of historical preservation. I think a sense of place matters and historical places should not be bulldozed for parking lots. If not for the work of preservationist, Nashville would no longer have Union Station or the Ryman Auditorium. Having a designation of a Historic Landmark does not prohibit a property owner from tearing down a historic property but makes it more difficult to do so. I know some people have such strong opinions that they seldom, if ever, have a conflict. I do sometimes have competing values that come into play when evaluating a public policy matter.  Sometimes, public policy is about striking a balance between competing valid concerns.  I do not yet have an opinion on the merits of this bill, but it is not because I don't care enough to have an opinion but because I am conflicted.

Bill BL2018-1418  also concerns historic preservation. It would require Preservation Permits before any person undertaking any action for or with respect to any structure located within any of the historic overlay districts. While I want to preserve historic properties, Government can get too meddling. This would apply to interior renovations, alterations, repairs, or demolition. If someone purchases a home in a historic neighborhood, they should not have to get permission before they can remodel their kitchen, in my view.

Bill BL2018-1438 changes from AR2a to RS10 and RM4 zoning for properties located at Bluff Road approximately 930 feet southwest of Nolensville Pike (60.19 acres). I have no opinion on the merits of the bill but am simply calling attention to it because it is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. 
Resolutions: There are 15 resolution. A resolution is on the consent agenda if it passes 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 RS2018-1508 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 elect 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 but they probably would do so if this passes. It was on the agenda previously and deferred to this meeting.

Cyntoia Brown
Resolution RS2019-1544 request that Governor Bill Haslam grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown. The case of Cyntoria Brown has been widely covered by the Nashville and the national media. Brown, as a 16-year-old prostitute,  killed a john by shooting him in the back of the head. She has been portrayed as a victim of sex trafficking and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna have advocated for clemency on her behalf. Brown has proved a model prisoner and has earned a college degree while in prison.  I am unsure what is the right thing to do, but if I served in the Council, I would oppose this resolution. I don't think the right thing to do is so clear cut, that the Council should be sharing their opinion with the governor. 
Bills on Second Reading.  There are thirteen. Here is one of interest. 
 Bill BL2018-1441  After Bird scooters came to town, the Council then came up with some regulation to govern them as well as rental bicycles and other similar devices. At the time, what was passed by the Council said the number of providers of these "shared urban mobility devices, " could not be limited by Metro government. Since then Lime has come to town and a couple other companies have plans to come to Nashville. This bill would limit the number of operators of these devices to four and would require new providers to get a "certificate of necessity."  This bill needs to be defeated. It probably violates the State constitution and it is bad policy. Metro should not be in the business and curtailing technological advancement or protecting existing providers of a service from competition. 

Bills on Third Reading. There are ten and none are of interest.

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 here and provide commentary.

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