Friday, May 30, 2014

What's on the June 3rd Council Agenda, with Analysis and Commentary

The June 3rd Metro Council agenda is available now at this link: Agenda. The staff analysis is available here: Staff Analysis. Council meetings are really boring if you do not know what the Council is voting on. With an agenda and analysis they are just boring instead of really boring.

Here are the highlights:

Confirmation of Appointments: Four people are on the agenda for confirmation of appointments to boards and commissions. Appointees to these post are never questioned and the Council automatically rubber stamps whomever the mayor appoints.  The Council misses an opportunity to influence the direction of these agencies by not taking an active roll in the confirmation of appointees. Appointed to the Planning Commission is Jessica Farr who works for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, sits on the Board of The Housing Fund and active in affordable housing issues. Jeff Yarbro, Democrat candidate for the State Senate in the 21st district is up for reappointment to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. 

Public Hearing: There are twenty bills on public hearing. Most are zoning bills which would interest no one but the nearby owners of the properties.  Here are the bills of more general interest. 

  • BILL NO. BL2014-774 is The Budget Ordinance. Last year there was a line of pro and con people that wanted to speak on the budget and it stretched about thirty or forty deep. A tax hike is not proposed this year so don't expect a lot of people to speak on the budget.  It seems tax opponents never advocate for efficiency and elimination of waste in years in which there is not a proposed tax increase. They never advocate for a tax cut, they only oppose tax increases. Expect for people to ask more for schools, libraries, mass transit, sidewalks, employee raises, parks and a few other agencies and causes. The same agencies have a constituent of supporters who always ask for more spending. I will be surprised is over twenty people speak and all of them will be for more money for their cause. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-788 is the Capital Improvements Budget, which is not a budget but a planning document that prioritizes capital improvement projects. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-747 defines "communications hut." This is necessary to move forward with the proposed Google network, which everyone supports.  
  • BILL NO. BL2014-769  modifies the definition and conditions of “Accessory dwelling, detached.” Basically what this would do is allow someone to build on a lot zoned for for single family homes or duplexes, a smaller detached housing unit of up to 1000 square feet footprint (700 sq ft living space) on lots of 10.000 sq ft. and 500 sq. ft. living space on smaller lots. There has been a lot of chatter about this on neighborhood websites and a lot of people have concern. While I could be open to persuasion, at this point I think this is a good proposal. It may result in fewer tear-downs and overbuilt lots and we need more affordable housing. A small detached house on the same lot would be great for aging parents, or one's graduated college student who can't find a job, or an extra source of income for the homeowner.  Greater density will make mass transit and commercial service entities such as coffee shops and restaurants more likely and new smaller units will provide affordable housing for young people just starting their careers and people of modest income. 
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-77 changes the definition duplex.  In zones now, where you may have a duplex, one will see homes that are only connected by having two protruding rooms, such as a utility room, share a common rear wall. They are almost detached.  This would allow them to actually be detached. I support this.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-776  would create the Music City Cultural Heritage Overlay District which would apply to property on Broadway, Second Avenue North, and Printer’s Alley. It would require any new businesses in those areas to offer live music or "contribute to the cultural fabric of the district," which means they must sell cowboy boots or hats or tea shirts or tacky music city souvenirs. This bill is in response to Walgreen's interest in opening a drug store on Broadway. While I am a big fan of honky tonks and love lower Broadway, I have reservations about this bill. Tourist in the hot sun attending out door Music events might benefit from a place to buy Tylenol, sunscreen and bottled water, or maybe a folding lawn chair or whatever. I don't wont to destroy the things that make Nashville unique, but maybe some upscale antique shops, or art galleries or places to eat that don't have music, or a sports memorabilia store could enhance the area rather than destroy it.
Resolutions on the Consent Agenda: A resolution is on the consent agenda if it is assumed to be non-controversial and stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Bills on the consent agenda are considered as a group instead of voted on individually. A bill may be taken off of the consent agenda by any single councilman. There are 21 resolutions on the consent agenda. Here are the ones of interest:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1052, RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1087, and RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1088  are all proposed Charter amendments. One proposed amendment would prohibit Metro Council members from serving any other elective office while serving in the Metro Council, another would reduce the size of the Council to 27 members, one would increase the number of terms a council member could serve to three, and one would prohibit Metro Government from asking a potential employee about his criminal record and one would remove protections for the Fair Grounds. The Council can only pass one resolution for charter amendments but that resolution may contain several proposed amendments, so one of these will pass and if any of the other resolutions contain a proposed amendment the council wants to pass then it will be amended into the one resolution. Any proposed amendments that pass the Council will go to the public for a referendum.

Bills on First Reading almost always pass as a group without discussion. First Reading is simply allowing the bill to be on the agenda. The bills are not analyzed by staff until after First Reading.

Bills on Second Reading: Second reading is where any debate takes place, generally.  Here are the bills of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-698 attempts to curtail those free Tennessean newspapers that litter the neighborhood. Due to First Amendment protection, the press has a greater right to litter than other people so this bill can't do a lot but it is an attempt. According to this bill one could opt out of receiving the free newspaper if they sent a registers letter notifying the distributor not to drop one at their house and it provides for legal action if the request is ignored. This is a good attempt and I would vote for it, but it wont do much because a lot of those freebee newspapers are left where people don't care and won't pick them up or at vacant homes, but it is an attempt.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-775 establishing the tax levy. This will be deferred. Since a tax increase for Metro is not proposed, the levy will not change from what is in this bill.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-779  This is the metro benefits for same-sex couples bill. Here are the requirements to be eligible:
Domestic partners means two (2) adults who meet all of the following requirements:
1. Both adults have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring that is intended to be lifelong;
2. Both adults currently share a primary residence;
3. Both adults have shared a primary residence for the preceding three hundred sixty-five (365) days;
4. Both adults are jointly responsible for basic living expenses, as demonstrated by a signed declaration of financial interdependence and by providing three (3) of the following as proof of joint responsibility:
a. Joint ownership of a primary residence or joint tenancy of a residential lease;
b. Copy of a utility (water, gas, or electric) invoice listing both domestic partners;
c. Joint ownership of an automobile;
d. Joint bank or credit account;
e. Joint liabilities (e.g. credit cards or loans, etc.);
f. A will or trust designating the domestic partner as beneficiary;
g. A retirement plan or life insurance policy beneficiary designation form designating the domestic partner as beneficiary;
h. A signed durable power of attorney to the effect that the employee and the domestic partner have granted powers to one another;
i. Copies of each domestic partner's driver's license that indicates the same address;
j. Other acceptable proof of joint financial responsibility as determined by the department of human resources.
5. Both adults have been jointly responsible for living expenses during the preceding three hundred sixty-five (365) days; and
6. Neither adult is in a lawful marriage recognized by the State of Tennessee or is in another domestic partnership.
This bill will cost Metro between $450,000 and $900,000 a year.

We should not be normalizing perversion. I would as soon approve polygamous threesome relationships or adult incest relationships as homosexual relationships. If the bill authorized an employee to name their mother with whom they share a house as the beneficiary of his or her metro benefits, or two sisters, or any two friends who share a house to name the other as a beneficiary, then we would not have to care if the relation ship was "intimate and committed," Why should two homosexuals get to share Metro employee benefits but not a son who looks after his aging mother? 
 This bill should be opposed! Let us see who the real conservatives are on the Metro Council. Is Nashville already the San Fransisco of the South?
Bills on Third Reading: There is nothing important on third reading.

Memorializing  Resolutions:  
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.

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