Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Council meeting of October 7, '14: The $18 Million Gulch Pedestrian Bridge meeting. (update)

Council meeting are less boring if you know what the Council is doing. To get your own copy of the agenda and staff analysis follow the links and to see my commentary on the agenda follow this link

The first 15 minutes of the meeting is taken up with pledge, prayer, awards and recognitions. All appointees to boards and commissions are approved. There are 15 zoning bills on public hearing but they generally interest no one except nearby neighbors so I don't even attempt to report on zoning bills unless they generate a lot of interest beyond the local community. The public hearings end 56 minutes into the meeting. All resolutions on the consent agenda pass without any "no" votes or any of them being pulled off of consent. All bills on First Reading pass. 

The discussion of the $18 million Gulch pedestrian bridge starts at time stamp 1:04:21. Finance Director Rich Riebling explains the financing. Don't be fooled by arguments that the method of financing this projects makes a lot of difference. I explained Tax Increment financing in my previous post on the agenda. By using TIF for this project, they are paying off this project by tax revenue generated off of seven parcels in the gulch before tax revenue from those projects start going into the general fund. This is the difference between "six" and "half a dozen." Sometime TIF does generate revenue that would not otherwise be generated but in this case it is a shell game. 

I think this project should have been put on hold. I am not opposed to the project on its merits, but with the $623 million Music City Center, the Riverfront park and amphitheater, the $80 million Sulfur Dale Ball Park, the $14 million Hickory Hollow Ice rink, the Parthenon Park redevelopment, the proposed AMP and metro's unfunded pension liability, I think we need to take a deep breath and let the next Mayor and Council decide the next big project. I fear we may be getting overextended. If revenue projections are off, if tourism falls off, we may be forced into a tax increase. We also need to keep growing or we may be forced into a tax increase, but we need to slow down and reevaluate.

I am actually pretty pleased with the way Nashville has developed over the years. I am not one who is automatically against everything. I was in the Council when we build the first Convention Center and the Riverfront Park. I voted for both of those projects at the time and think they were good for the city. I actually think the Music City Center was a good gamble. I think Nashville has more to offer than most cites and Music City Center will be a success.

I like the design of the Pedestrian Bridge. I think it will be a nice addition to the city. I also think the more attractive we can make Nashville, the more likely we will be successful. The more there is to see and do in Nashville and the more charming and pleasant the city is, then instead of visitors coming to town to see the Grand Old Opry or a Titans game and staying only one day, they may stay two, or they may plan a one-week vacation in Nashville instead of a weekend visit. With tourism being a major Nashville industry we need to work to make downtown attractive and we need to grow from the center out. I am not opposed to this project but I think it should have been put on hold for a while. I also think we should build some sidewalks and I share the frustration of those who are disappointed with our sidewalk program.

Councilman Glover is the only councilman who takes to the Council floor to argue against the bill and the bill passes with a voice vote. Why did not the opponents demand a machine vote?  A roll call vote is required if as many as five councilmembers request it. It sounded like there were at least that many "no's."  Sometime, even the majority will vote with the minority to allow a roll call vote simply as a courtesy.  I have been disappointed that this Council seldom uses parliamentary procedure to delay votes or at least put people on record. There should have been a lot more discussion of this issue and there should have been a recorded vote.

Memorializing RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1252 which request President Obama and Congress "to select public infrastructure improvements as the priority activity of the United States" is deferred one meeting. I am pleased to see this. I hope this is defeated when it comes back up. While our nation does have infrastructure problems, I don't think the Metro Council ought to be advising Congress of what the budget priorities should be.  We have elected Senators and Congressmen to make those decisions for us. So, unless the Council is going to evaluate the entire federal budget and become as knowledgeable as Congress about the choices we face, then the Council should focus on the Metro budget and let Congress focus on the federal budget.

Most of the important work of the Council is done in committee and the most important committee of the Council is the Budget and Finance Committee. If anyone wants an even deeper understanding of the issues facing the council, you may be interested in watching the B&F committee meeting.


Here is the Tennesseans's report on this Council meeting:  Gulch-to-SoBro pedestrian bridge takes big step

Here is the Nashville Scene's report on the meeting: Gulch Pedestrian Bridge Advances Toward Final Approval 

Local blogger Mike Byrd at Enclave has a lot to say about the pedestrian bridge vote last night in his post Nashville's most whipped, domesticated Metro Council ever.   He explains why there originally was opposition to the project, says the project is a project to help the rich, explains why this new method of funding is nothing but a shell game and is critical of the way the meeting was conducted saying, "It was remarkable to watch tonight. Much like the passage of ballpark proposal a few months ago: moving quickly to minimize questions and to steamroll any attempts to even express "no" by recorded vote. Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, ever Karl Dean's catalyst, asked only for a voice vote, which does not register no votes."  He is especially critical of CM Megan Barry saying, "Megan Barry has persisted in her support of the wealthy over 'hard-working men and women."'

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