Sunday, December 15, 2019

What's on the Council agenda for 12-17-2019: Permits to build a fence, mandated baby changing stations, pay raise for teacher, new oversights of Water department.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, Dec. 17th  at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis. For those who want to watch the Council meeting and follow along, the meeting are more interesting if you know what the heck is going on. You don't have to watch it and yet you can still be 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. Below is a summary of the agenda, highlighting what I deem to be the most important items.

Resolutions. Most are routine things. Tese is the only ones of interest.

Resolution RS2019-85 request the Metro Planning Commission to change the Subdivision Regulations to prohibit the creation of new private streets and require all new streets created as a part of the subdivision platting process to be public rights-of-way.  This "request." It is a memorializing resolution.  It does not in itself do anything.  When Metro request something of the Federal or State government it is pretty much meaningless. However, when the Council request something of an agency of Metro government, it is taken seriously since the Council controls their budget and confirmation of appointees.  Since this is a memorializing resolution the staff attorney does not provide an analysis of this resolution.  When making a request of a Metro agency or department, I think the staff analysis should explain the importance of what is being requested. 
I have a concern with this resolution, I do not know if it is valid however. I hope this is answered in committee. My concern: The roads in gated communities are privately owned.  If they were public roads, the public could not be kept from using the public road.  Would this have the effect of ending gated communities?  I have emailed the sponsor, asking this question. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2019-130  appropriated $7.6 million to  fund the mid-year 3% cost of living raise for Metro teachers and support staff. I support this. 
Bills on Second Reading.
Bill BL2019-30 bans barbed wire and razor wire fencing in the Urban Zoning Overlay District along arterial and collector roadways. This is one of those bills about which I am conflicted. I sympathize with those property owners who are trying to protect their property, but this type fencing creates a feeling of living in a war zone. It makes a street ugly and devalues enjoyment of public spaces. 
Bill BL2019-49 authorizes a property tax exemption for historic properties owned by charitable institutions. I support this. I support efforts to encourage the preservation of historic properties. 
Bill BL2019-95 would require baby changing stations in buildings with public restrooms.  There would have to be at least one diaper changing station per floor if located within a family, assisted-use, or unisex bathroom, or one per sex per floor if located within a separate-sex restroom. This legislation would not require a retrofitting of any buildings. However, newly constructed public bathrooms and public bathrooms that are altered so as to require a building permit would be required to install diaper changing stations in accordance with this requirement. I wonder how many baby changing stations in men's restrooms are ever actually used.  I have never seen one in use. This is one of those things I think we should let market demand dictate. We should not mandate it. 
Bills on Third Reading .
Bill BL2019-3   authorizes Metro  to opt into the historic properties tax abatement program under state law and would establish a historic properties review board.  I support this. I don't want to require property owners to preserve historic properties but I support incentives that encourage historic preservation.
Bill BL2019-31 (as amended) would require a permit for all new fencing. We have never had this requirement before and I unsure what problem calls for more burdensome regulation. I oppose it. For the sponsor's explanation see time stamp 1:08:40 at this link where it was discussed on second reading.  It passes on a roll call vote of 27 to 9 and one abstention at that meeting. 
Bill BL2019-46   would require more oversight of the Water and Sewer Department. It would have to submit annual reports to the Council which would 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. In my view this does not go far enough but it is an improvement.
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. 
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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