Monday, October 21, 2019

What happened at the 10/15/2019 Council meeting: Legal undermined in settling lawsuits, "gay "coming out honored, parking ticket fees increased.

The agenda of this meeting was only eight pages long and there was not much of importance on the agenda yet the meeting is two and half hours long. If you are going to watch the meeting, you will get a lot more out of the meeting if you know what is under discussion. To access the  agenda, agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

I am providing my summary of the meeting below. However, be advised that I only hit the high points and report on what is important to me, so you may want to watch it for yourself. I do not even attempt to form an opinion on each zoning bill and normally only report on those that are controversial or are bills disapproved by the Planning Commission.  Also, if you view the minutes of the meeting you can find out from the official record what happened without watching. Unfortunately, the minutes are often not posted until a week later. You can access the minutes at this link

The meeting is graveled to order at timestamp 7.46. At timestamp 12:51, Mayor John Cooper addresses the Council. It is rare that the mayor ever addresses the Council and this is Mayor Cooper's second time to do so, having addressed the first meeting and this the second meeting of the Council. Cooper recognizes National gay Coming Out Day and endorses the resolution honoring the event which is on the agenda. He announces the $12.62 million the Convention Center Authority is going to give the city. He announces he is rescinding the  controversial Mayor Briley executive order concerning illegal immigration and announces the appointment of a task force to develop a policy to address the issue. He announces that soon he will be bringing before the Council a request of water and sewer rate increase and explains why this is necessary. He announces the city will be looking at traffic and transportation issues. He asks the Council to vote to confirm his appointments of Finance Director and Legal Director.  He says, "this will be the council that gets stuff done."

Appointments and elections:

  • Jeff Syracuse is elected President Pro Tempore. He was the only candidate. 
  • The Council elected Council members Zulfat Suara and Tom Druffel to the audit committee. 
  • Kathleen Murphy was elected Chairman of the Planning Commission beating out Councilman Steve Glover by a vote of 37 to 3. Glover said he did not campaign among his colleagues for the position. He seems to me that if he had not counted votes and thought the vote would be competitive it would have been better not to have placed his name in nomination. While, if I were serving in the Council, I would have voted for my friend Steve Glover, I am actually pleased he did not get the position. It is very demanding and time consuming and Glover's influence and talents are best used elsewhere rather than being bogged down in the minutia of zoning controversies. 
  • Councilman Freddie O'Connel was elected to a position on the Traffic and Parking Commission which means he will also serve as Chair of the Council's Parking and Traffic Committee. His nomination was uncontested. 
  • The Vice Mayor appoints Chairs and members to eight "special committees." These are committees that will only exist for three months and then file a report with the Council of their findings. The special committees will also have citizens who are not members of the Council serving on the committees. The committees include; Why people are not voting and what can be done to improve voter participation, What steps can be taken to make sure teachers do not have to pay out of pocket for school supplies, street closures, Sidewalks and why does it cost so much to build them and how is the list of which sidewalks get build determined, why does zip code 37208 have the highest rate of incarcerated people in the nation, the pay of teachers, police and fireman and how we compare to other cities, what opportunities are provided to young people in Nashville, and Codes enforcement issues. I am pleased to see these steps taken. These are all issues that need special attention. I am especially pleased to see attention given to the sidewalk issue. We spend vast amounts of money to build sidewalks but don't get many new ones.
Public Comment: No one signed up to comment. This is somewhat surprising to me. With a new slate of radicals elected to the Council, I thought we may see some progressives take the opportunity to grandstand and propagandize and flex their muscle. On the second meeting of every month any Nashvillian may address the Council regarding a local concern. To do so one must register in advance with the Council office.

Resolutions. The Council begins considering legislation at timestamp 1:06:10. Most resolutions are lumped together and passed on the "consent agenda."  If there is not dissension then the resolution is considered to have passed unanimously.  Any member may have an item taken off of the consent agenda or have an abstention or "no" vote recorded. These are the resolutions of interest.
Resolution RS2019-30 "urges" settling the lawsuit against the city by Shaundelle Brooks, as next of kin of Akilah DaSilva. Akilah DaSilva was shot in the shoulder during the Antioch Waffle House shooting of April 2018. 911 dispatchers sent emergency responders to the Waffle House in Hermitage, nearly 10 miles away. The family claims the delay caused a massive blood loss that resulted in DaSilva’s death. However, that fact is in dispute because their were at least two other ambulances dispatched to the correct address so this mistake apparently did not cause the death of DaSilva.  Normally the Council settles a law suit after Metro Legal recommends it. My view is that when the legal department ask for a settlement of a law suit rather than litigating a law suit, the Council should defer to the legal department. However, in this case, the legal department has not yet reached a settlement with the plaintiffs. They are still in the discovery stages. That is a big difference. The resolution contains language that could be construed as an admission of guilt on the part of Metro government. The language of the resolution could help the family in a separate lawsuit they have against Vanderbilt Medical Center. Councilman Russ Pulley does an admirable job explaining all of this. Glover and Hager also drive home the point that passing this resolution could harm the interest of the city. Counil member Vercher speaks at length in favor of the resolution. The minority caucus supported this resolution. If this should pass, then it likely that everyone with a lawsuit against the city will lobby the Council for a favorable settlement and lawsuits will become political matters rather than legal matters.
The family of DaSilva wanted to address the Council. This takes a 2/3rds vote of the body which failed to approve. If I had a vote, I would have also voted "no." There was no need to hear from the family. There is a motion to defer the matter two weeks and that motion fails. The vote on the resolution passes by a vote of 25 to 13 with one abstention.  This sets a terrible president. When the meeting minutes are published I will post how members of the Council voted. See timestamp 1:30:33- 2:29:45 for the discussion.
Resolution RS2019-39  appropriates $11.3 million out of the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various Metro departments. That is a lot of money but this is normal. It passes on the Consent agenda.
Resolution RS2019-49  recognizes October 2019 as LGBT History Month in Nashville and October 11, 2019 as National Coming Out Day. I don't think "coming out" is anything to celebrate and would vote "no" or at least vote "abstain," if I were serving in the Council. I am disappointed that this passed on "consent." It is worth noting however that this does nothing but express the will of the Council and spends no money nor actually does anything.
Bills on First Reading. As is the norm, all bills on First Readng are all passed by a single vote lumped together. Bills are not evaluated by Committee until after First Reading.

Bills on Second Reading: There are 16. These are the ones of interest.

Bill BL2019-1 raises the parking violation fee for most parking violations from $11 to $25. This seems reasonable to me.  With the scarcity of parking places and the increase in the value of parking space it seems reasonable to increase this fee. Councilman Sledge explains that this is the first step in a process to modernize our parking system.  It passes on a voice vote.

Bill BL2019-4 prohibits aerial advertising.  I always like seeing aerial advertising. The bill is amended and deferred one meeting.  The sponsor explains the reason is noise. I'm not buying it.

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