Saturday, December 7, 2019

What happened at the December 3rd Council meeting? Water rates hiked, fencing permit bill deferred, World Aids Day recognized, more Council oversight enacted.



This meeting is three hours and ten minutes long.  Life interfered with blogging so I am late posting this analysis of the last council meeting and I did not carefully watch the video. I skipped all of the bills on public hearing. Bills on public hearing are zoning bills or zoning related. They usually concern no one except nearby neighbors. I do pay attention to bills disapproved by the Planning Commission but on this agenda there were no disapproved bills. I did not do much timestamp notation this time so if you want to watch the more interesting parts you will have to find them yourself. Also the formatting is different, not showing the normal background color for the page, but I do not have the time to correct. I may devote more time to this and add the notations so look for a possible update.

If you are going to watch the meeting, follow this link to access the agenda, agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda.

After Pat Nolan's introductory commentary, the prayer and pledge, and some announcements, the Council gets down to business at timestamp 16:26.

Elections and Confirmations.  There are 16 of them. There was a contested election for a seat on the Industrial Development Board. Winnie Forrester was elected with 22 votes. Seats on this board may not be of much interest to the general public but some financiers and developers care. The other candidate, Andy Bhakta got 17 votes.  I don't know anything about either one of them. 

Former mayor Bill Purcell was confirmed to a seat on the Board of Metro Development and Housing Agency. 

Rules of the Council. The Council adopts new rules of procedure. I notice that the order of business omits the Pledge of Allegiance. Here is first items listed under order of business: 
    1. Meeting called to order 
    2. Invocation 
    3. Roll Call 
    4. Approval of minutes of previous meetings 
    5. Communications from the Mayor 
The pledge of allegiance normally occurs immediately following the invocation. Is the Council going to discontinue the pledge? I have written my Council member to ask why the Pledge of Allegiance was omitted from the order of business of the rules of the Council. I will share the response. During discussion of adoption of the rules, no one mentions this omission and I do not know if previous Rules included the pledge in the listing of order of business. 

Public Hearing. It runs from timestamp 34:22 to 1:40:25.

Resolutions.

     Resolution RS2019-100 and Resolution RS2019-116 both involve the reallocation of funds that were originally intended for the Gulch pedestrian bridge to other purposes. These are adopted on consent.

     Resolution RS2019-128 recognizes December 1, 2019 as World AIDS Day in Nashville. Last month we had a recognition for a Transsexual Day of Remembrance and of course in the summer we have the gay pride event and a resolution so honoring gays and it wasn't long ago the city erected historical markers honoring two of the earliest gay bars in Nashville. We are giving a lot of attention to gays in Nashville.  Aids, of course is a terrible disease and there is nothing wrong with recognizing a World Aids Day, but if we are going to do so, I think we should have Alzheimer's Day or Remembrance, and a Heart Health Day of Remembrance, and a Cancer Day of Remembrance, and a Breast Cancer Day of Remembrance and Autism Day of Remembrance, and Death due to Drunk Drivers day of Remembrance, and Aborted Babies Day of Remembrance, and Americans killed by Illegal Aliens Day of Remembrance, etc, etc.. There are 365 days a year and there are plenty of illnesses and causes and events worthy of a day of remembrance. This passes on a roll call vote, with 34 in favor, no abstentions and no "no" votes.  However four people did not vote.  Not voting is different than voting "abstain."  If someone left the room or simply set on their hands they are not listed as having voted.  I will list who did not vote for this in a future post.

Bills on Second Reading. These are the ones that I find of interest.
     Bill BL2019-46 requires the Department of Water and Sewerage Services to submit annual reports to the Metropolitan Council. The reports include: 1. The Audited Financial Statements, including net position, capital assets, outstanding bonds payable, and other financial information. 2. The Annual Budget Review, including the adequacy of budgeted revenues to cover projected expenses and debt requirements. 3. Any other information deemed relevant by the director or upon request of the Council public works or budget and finance committees. This is good as far as it goes. I just hope the Council will read the reports and act if they need to do so. If they do, this might stop a future occurrence of what we are experiencing now, where the water department is out of reserves, needs a lot of infrastructure work and the water rates are insufficient to keep the water system functioning. The problem with Water and Sewer is that they operate off of their own revenues so when the Council is putting together a budget they pay little attention to waste and inefficiency in water and sewer because even if they can cut their budget that does not free up money to spend elsewhere so as a result they get less scrutiny than other departments. I wish the Council would even do more than this to insure sound financial management at Water and Sewer. This passes on a voice vote.

     Bill BL2019-77 requires the disclosure of the full cost of a project prior to submission of capital expenditure authorization legislation to the Metropolitan Council. Currently the New sheriff's headquarters $17M over budget. This is not cost overrun. We simply started the project $17 million short of the cost to complete it. That should not happen. This bill should prevent it. It passes on a voice vote.

Bills on Third Reading.
     Substitute BL2019-6 says that if a short term rental property has operated without having obtained a permit, there shall be a waiting period of one year from the date of such determination before they can get a permit. Also, if a short term rental had a permit and failed to renew it, and operated without the renewed permit they would have a six months to get a permit. This passes by a vote of 26 in favor, 18 opposed.

     Bill BL2019-31 would require a permit for all new fencing. We have never required this before. I would want to know what problem this is trying to address before voting for it. It seems like more unnecessary government bureaucracy and cost to homeowners. I oppose. It was deferred.

     Bill BL2019-43 (as amended) requires than any adverse notification about Metro's finances from the State be delivered promptly to members of the Council. The prior administration did not do so. This is a good bill. It passes 37 to 0.

   Bill BL2019-45 (as amended) raises water and sewer rates. It raises several different fees, raising water fees about 63% and sewer by a lesser amount. The rates would raise each year for several years, not all at once. Unfortunately, this has to be done. We have a consent degree agreement with the Federal government to improve the system and don't have the money to do it and the State Comptroller says we have to do it. Also, improvement need to be made. More than 65% of Metro’s water pipes and 58% of the sewer pipes are over 40 years old. This passes by a vote of 38 to 0 with no abstentions.

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