Monday, August 19, 2013

Two very bad bills! Council Agenda for August 20 with analysis and summary.

Two bad bills need defeated:  One is the minority and female set aside for construction contracts "involving metro."  The other is a memorialize resolution that ask Congress to end sequestration and raise taxes and make no meaningful budget cuts.

To follow along, you can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. And, you can get the Council staff analysis at this link: Metro Council Staff Analysis.

Election of President Pro Tempore
This is the first order of business. The President Pro Temp conducts the Council meetings in the absence of the vice mayor. While one may wonder why one would want the job, it is a coveted position and sometimes is subject to lots of lobbying. Various faction often line up supporting one candidate or the other. I understand that it not going to be a contested election however and Councilman Chris Harmon is the only one seeking the position.

Confirmation of Appointment
There are five appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda, but none of them are to the troubled or controversial agencies. The Council never turns down a Mayor's appointee and the Council never examines the appointee's qualifications or questions their views anyway, so it doesn't much matter. All appointments are always confirmed unanimously.

Bill on public hearing: There are none.

Consent Agenda
There are sixteen resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays 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. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda but it doesn't happen often. Some really terrible stuff slips though on the consent agenda sometimes. Memorialize resolutions get incorporated into the Consent Agenda unless someone objects and there is a very liberal memorialize resolution on the agenda which may slip through on the consent Agenda. I discuss it below under "memorializing resolutions."

Below is a resolution I find of interest:

Resolution 2013-810 appropriates $14.2 million dollars to various departments for various projects. Included in these projects is $350,000 to the Tennessee State Fair to replace the annex building and make other repairs.

In case you missed it, it has been determine by council staff attorney Jon Cooper that the 2011 referendum on the fairgrounds, which passed with 71 percent of the vote, gives more protection to the fairgrounds than I thought it did. I thought all that referendum did was increase from a simple majority to 27 votes, the number of votes it would take to close the fairgrounds and sell off the property. However, Mr. Cooper says to change any uses of the fairgrounds would require amending the charter. With this new interpretation, maybe the administration has given up on the strategy of starving the fairgrounds into oblivion. I doubt the city would be spending $350,000 to improve the fairgrounds if not for this new interpretation of the meaning of the fairgrounds referendum. (For more on the topic, see this link.)

Bills on First reading:
They almost always pass. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading. I don't fault anyone for letting a bill move forward to second reading. Unless something is just atrocious, it should be allowed to advance to second reading. There are only three bills on first reading. BILL NO. BL2013-523 is almost atrocious enough to oppose on first reading, however I would honor Council tradition and let it go ahead and pass on first and then fight it.

Bills on Second Reading: It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are six bills on second reading.

Bill Number BL2013-517 needs to be defeated. This is the "set aside" for minority or women-owned businesses, not only for Metro projects but for private projects than get any Metro "participation." So if this bill passes and HCA accepts Metro funds to build a new office building or the parking garage connected to the new office building, they have to comply. If a new hotel is build downtown and they use tax increment financing, they have to comply. So, instead of the developer awarding a contract to a bidder who has the best track record and offers the lowest price they must make sure they have met their quota of contracts awarded to minority-owned or women-owned businesses.

If you think about it, this is really racist and sexist and insulting. It says that minorities and women can't compete on their own merits; they are simply inferior to other providers of the same service and must be given a preference.

This also invites corruption and abuse. A married couple in business for themselves will claim the wife owns the business in order to get the preference. White contractors with a Black subcontractor will let the Black subcontractor become the primary contractor and the White contractor will become the subcontractor to increase their chance of being awarded a contract. 

I was discussing this bill with a council member who disagreed with me. He said this bill did not sit quota's but only goals. He said it was nothing more than a "feel good" measure and that members of the council were supporting this bill to keep a more stringent variation of the bill from passing that really did set quotas.

While it is true the bill only sits "goals," it is worth keeping in mind that minority hiring quotas and student enrollment quotas that give preference to less qualified Black over more qualified Whites are often only "goals," but that act as if they were firm legally binding quota's. People getting government assistance know that a "goals" better me met. The effect of a "goal" is that it is a quota.

There is an even worse bill than this one sponsored by Councilmen Gilmore which is on first reading. This bill needs to be defeated and when the Gilmore bill which is on first reading reaches the floor on second reading, it also needs to be defeated. We should not be in the business of giving preferential treatment to certain classes of people. All competitors should be treated equally.
What happened to BILL NO. BL2013-513 and BILL NO. BL2013-514? Last council meeting an attempt was made by Councilman Scott Davis to defer the bills on first reading but that motion failed and the bills passed. I expected them to be on second reading but they are not. These are the bills that would establish the Gallatin Pike Urban Overlay on properties from the river to Briley Parkway. These bills are an example of well-intentioned but poor zoning. To see the video discussion last council meeting on this bill and my explanation, follow this link. To learn more about the issue, see here .

Bills on Third Reading:
Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. There are fifteen bills on third reading.
ORDINANCE NO. BL2012-103  to rezone some property in Antioch to allow an asphalt plant is still on the agenda for third reading. This bill was first introduced in Feb. 2012 and was deferred for months. The bill has been greatly improved with buffers and new reporting requirements and has the approval of the Planning Commission.
Memorializing Resolutions:
Memorializing resolutions are usually not controversial and usually honor a sports team or someone on their retirement or some such thing. However, a memorializing resolution does represent the will of the Council. Council Staff does not analysis them and unfortunately many in the Council will excuse a vote by saying, "Its only a memorializing resolution." They are important however. When they memorialize congress, they are telling congress that this is the official view of the Metropolitan Nashville government. They should be taken seriously.

There have been several instances where the Council passed memorializing resolutions endorsing very liberal policies and not a single one of the so-called conservative council members objected. On this agenda, there is another one. Watch to see again if our "conservative" council members vote for an extremely liberal policy.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-824 by Councilman Gilmore calls "on the United States Congress to end Sequestration and balance the federal budget in a way that will create jobs and strengthen our communities." It calls for "Restructure our tax system so that wealthy Americans and corporations pay their fair share."

Here is the bill in its entirety:
A resolution calling on the United States Congress to end Sequestration and balance the federal budget in a way that will create jobs and strengthen our communities.

WHEREAS, the United States government is currently confronting major decisions regarding our nation’s budget and fiscal policies; and

WHEREAS, the American economy continues its slow and inadequate recovery from the Great Recession; unemployment stubbornly remains at more than 7 percent; and a weak economy undermines the nation’s social fabric and deprives future generations of the opportunity to live rich and fulfilling lives; and

WHEREAS, according to statistics compiled by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the June 2013 unemployment rate increased in 91 of the 95 counties, and the unemployment rate for Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County increased from 6.7 percent to 7.1 percent; and

WHEREAS, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are central to the vitality of the middle class and keep millions of Americans out of poverty; and

WHEREAS, federal investments in education, child care, infrastructure, and services for the elderly and vulnerable are essential to the nation’s future prosperity; and

WHEREAS, unwise federal spending cuts inevitably shift costs to states and municipalities, which, unlike the federal government, must operate within a balanced budget, thus forcing cuts to vital services that all Americans depend on; and

WHEREAS, real median family income has been nearly stagnant for four decades despite continued growth in productivity; economic inequality has expanded to levels unseen since the 1930s; the wealthiest Americans, including corporations, receive an ever-larger share of national income and pay an ever-smaller percentage of taxes; and millions of families are unable to afford basic necessities.


Section 1. The Metropolitan Council hereby goes on record as calling upon the United States Congress to:
1. Adopt Federal budget policies that prioritize the revitalization of the economy, the creation of millions of new jobs, and a return to broadly-shared prosperity;
 2. Avoid cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits, or the shifting of costs to state and local governments;
 3. Resist cuts to the safety net or to vital services for the most disadvantaged members of society; and
 4. Restructure our tax system so that wealthy Americans and corporations pay their fair share.

Section 2. The Metropolitan Clerk’s Office is directed to send a copy of this resolution to U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and to Representatives Marsha Blackburn and Jim Cooper.

Section 3. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it. 

Basically this resolution says, don't cut spending and raise taxes. It says, ignore the deficit.

If Congress cannot agree on how to solve the budget crisis, why should our Metro Council? The Council has its hands full with what it does. The Council should not be telling the Congress how to solve the budget crisis. This bill needs to be defeated.

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