Thursday, February 20, 2014

Common Core, mass transit fundng, the Gulch sidewalk bridge and more. Council meeting of 2-18-14 w/ commentary and timestamp.

This is a 2 hour and 20 minute-long meeting. I thought this would be a short, boring meeting but I was wrong; it is a more interesting meeting than most. Speaker Pro Temp Chris Harmon serves as Chair of this meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor. To follow the meeting and see the agenda and the analysis, follow this link.

All appointments to Board and Commission are approved without discussion.

Consent Agenda.
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. The Consent Agenda also includes memorializing Resolution. 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. Almost all of the resolutions on the agenda this time are accepting grants. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law but express the will of the Council. None of the resolutions still on the Consent Agenda at the time of the Council meeting are pulled so everything passes unanimously.

Resolutions not on the Consent Agenda.

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 is substituted to remove the money for other things except the money for the training and software for Common Core testing, reducing the bill from $13.1 million to $4.3 million. Last Council meeting the Council approved issuing bonds for funding the purchase of computers. Councilman Maynard, rightly I think, makes the point that this is premature and should wait until budget time and until after a meeting that the Council Budget and Finance Committee will have with the School Board Finance Committee. As substituted, the resolution is deferred to the second meeting in March by a vote of 29 to 6. To view the debate see time stamp 11:43-28:47.
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-988 and Resolution RS2014-989 and BILL NO. BL2014-689 are all bills which are part of another one of those deals to provide incentives to businesses to locate or expand in Nashville. These bills transfers money from one fund to another and then appropriates money and tax incentives to subsidize HCA for a development on the north end of the gulch. The total amount of the subsidy is $4.9 million. Usually Councilman Josh Stites takes to the floor and is the lone voice against this type deal but does not do so on this bill and it passes without opposition. I hope Stites had not given up the fight. I am conflicted about this type deal myself. On the one hand, I do not think we should do it, on the other hand as long as other cities are doing it, we lose if we don't. See 28:54-35:05 to see the explanation of this deal. 
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-984 requests the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to provide a dedicated funding source for local mass transit. The mayor has come out against this resolution saying it is unnecessary. it is deferred at the request of the sponsor to the second meeting in May. 
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1001 endorses Common Core and opposed all state action that would discontinue the use of the standards or delay the implementation. I support Common Core and if I were in the Council, I would have no problem supporting this resolution. However, many conservatives, especially the more tea party aligned conservatives, have objections to Common Core. Also, for reasons other than those of tea party conservatives, some educators also oppose Common Core. After some lively discussion the motion passes 25 to 9. Those voting "no" are Bennett, Standley, Tenpenny, Moore, Blalock, Dominy, Duval and Mitchel. See time stamp 38:06-51:36.

All bills on First Reading pass without discussion by a single vote, as is customary.

Bills on Second Reading
  • Bills 665 and 666 which address establishing a dedicated source of funding for mass transit are deferred until the second meeting in May. The sponsor, Councilman Tygard, takes to the floor and explains his bills. "Mass transit is not free," says Tygard, "Somebody has to pay for it." Councilman Stein argues against the bill and moves to table it. The tabling motion fails. Great presentation by Tygard! He explains how other cities have funded mass transit and the financial choices facing the city. To understand the logic of these bills, watch the presentation. See timestamp 53:15- 1:22:54
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-670 authorized the acquisition of property for the Gulch Pedestrian Bridge. The Council pleasantly surprised me by rejecting this bill. The Council finally says "no" to a major new spending project. They vote 30-2 to defer indefinitely. This is a great turn of events. It is not that I do not think a pedestrian bridge connecting SoBro to the gulch would not be a nice thing but we can't afford every nice thing. After the debt of the Music City Center, the Sulphur Dell Ball Park, the east riverbank development, the planned west bank riverfront expansion and amphitheater, and the proposed AMP, the city is pushing its debt capacity. We are even borrowing money to buy laptop computers. At the same time, we are facing a budget shortfall next year and we are ignoring other needs such as new sidewalks in neighborhoods and roadway improvements. Councilman Clairborn does a great job arguing against the bill as does Robert Duval and Tygard. Please watch it. To see the debate see timestamps 1:24:30- 1:54:16.

Bills on Third Reading are almost all zoning bill and would interest no one except those near the property being rezoned.

Below are local media reports on the Council meeting.

From the Nashville SceneCouncil Burns a Bridge in the Gulch, Advances HCA Incentives 

From The Tennessean Council slows mayor's progress on Gulch-SoBro pedestrian bridge

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