Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What's on the Council Agenda for Nov. 18th? Endorsing Obama's EPA Carbon Emission Rules, Bribing Bridgestone and Regulating Pedal Pubs.

Council meeting are really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on, with an agenda  and council staff analysis the meetings are not quite as boring. Follow the highlighted links for you copy.  

The big item on this agenda is a move by Westerholm to put the Metro Council on record endorsing President Obama's controversial job-killing EPA Carbon Emission Rules which will raise electricity rates, $50 million is subsidy to Bridestone to stay in Nashville and expand, and new regulation of Pedal pubs and Pedicabs.  Here is the agenda summary.

There are five appointments to Boards and Commission on the agenda, and they will all be approved without question or dissent as is always the case.

There are two resolutions on public hearing, both for restaurants that already have a liquor license but not a beer license. They are within the Metro beer code prohibited distance limit of a home or other type facility such as park, school or church.  It seems silly to me that one can sell tequila  but not beer in a restaurant.  I think the metro code should be changed so that any restaurant that has a liquor permit, automatically has the beer code distance requirements waived but that is not the case.

There are ten resolutions on the agenda, all on the consent agenda at this time.  A bill is placed on consent if it is assumed to be non-controversial and stays on consent it it passes the committee to which it was assigned unanimously. However, on the floor, any Councilman may ask to have a bill moved off of consent and considered separately or may ask to have himself recorded as abstaining or voting "no."  Here are the resolutions of interest:

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1269 extends the term of the Study and Formulating Committee for a year. It is slated to expire on March 1, 2015. Every five years the mayor has to appoint such a committee to study and make recommendations on employee benefits. The work of the committee is not finished and the staff analysis says this extension is needed. This resolution was deferred last time, why I don't know.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1289  is the bill to offer incentives (bribe) to Bridgestone to get them to stay in Nashville.  Actually, if I were in the Council, I would vote for this but I wish that was not the way business was done, but if we don't bribe them to stay, some other city will pay them to relocate so we have to play the game. They will bring 1700 jobs to downtown and build a new 30-story tower in SoBro. They already have about 1100 employees in Nashville but the lease on their location near the airport is expiring and they were looking at relocating.  The metro incentive is about $50 million, mostly in a exemption on paying taxes for some years on the new building they will build downtown. In addition to the Metro incentive the State is also offering an incentive. You can read The Tennessean's story about this deal at this link
Please note that Westerholm's pro Obama EPA bill may slip though on the consent agenda, if no one opposes it. Memorializing resolutions get added to the Consent agenda if they pass the committee to which they are assigned unanimously. Memorizing resolutions only go to the Rules committee.

There are fifteen bills on First Reading but I usually don't pay much attention to them until Second Reading. First Reading is a formality that allows a bill to be considered and it is bad manners to vote against a bill of First reading unless it is really atrocious. Here are some to watch however:  
  • BILL NO. BL2014-951  regulates short-term vacation rentals in homes
  • BILL NO. BL2014-952 regulates non-taxi livery services such as Uber and Lyft.  Someone in the industry tells me these regulations are reasonable and do not include price-fixing. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-953 is part of the Bridgestone deal and approves the 20-year tax abatement.
 There are nine bills on Second Reading. These are the ones one of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-925 would regulate pedicabs and pedal pubs. Pedicabs are the three wheeled non-motorized vehicles that travel in the 2nd Ave and lower Broad area. Pedal pubs are those traveling taverns powered by the customers, about eight on each side. These regulations would require a certain amount of insurance and certain safety requirements. I am OK with that. What I don't like is that Metro would allow them only after they prove a necessity for the vehicles.  Metro can say "we have enough" and not allow new providers to get in the market. I don't think any business should have to show a need to enter the market.  Let whoever wants to try to make a go at it, have a shot. No one should be protected from failure or competition.  What if one had to show a need before one could open a new restaurant? We would not have the great restaurant we have today, but we would have some really mediocre restaurants. There is probably never a "need" for a pedal pub.  One pedal pub may succeed because of the type of beer they sale or the price of the beer or the bartender tells good jokes or the barmaid is cute and shows cleavage. Let them compete and let the market determine which ones survive.   If I were in the Council, I would vote against this bill.   
  • BILL NO. BL2014-926 will subsidize the cost of a rain barrel purchased form a company Metro will contract with to provide them. The justification for this program is that it will help with storm water management.  It sounds like a waste of money to me.
There are 16 bills on third Reading, most of them are zoning bills which would interest no one but the near by neighbors. Here are the ones of interest: 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-896 rezones 238 acres in east Nashville to allow accessory dwelling units on properties in the rezoned area. I think rezoning like this is a positive development, we need to promote affordable housing but not use the heavy hand of government to mandate it. Accessory dwelling units on a lot can provide more affordable units of housing and increase density which is necessary to have successful mass transit and it combats urban sprawl. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-908  imposes proximity limits on what are often called predatory lenders, places like check cashing businesses, title loan businesses and and payday lenders and pawn shops. These  businesses, except for pawn shops, could not be located within 1/4 a mile of each other and pawnshops could not be located within 1/4 mile of another pawn shop. I think this is a misguided effort and if I were in the council, I would have opposed it. To see my commentary on this, follow this link. When the bill was on public hearing, I was surprised that no one showed up in opposition.  Those in support did not speak and there was no discussion and the bill passed unanimously by voice vote.  I oppose this bill.
  • BILL NO. BL2014-922 would prohibit the throwing of free newspapers or advertising into the yard or on the right of way by classifying it as litter.  This bill is hardly worth the effort because the biggest offender, The Tennessean, will be exempt from its application because regulating these free throws, if they contain any news, would be considered an infringement on the freedom of the press.

There are three Memorizing Resolutions on the agenda. A memorializing resolution is an expression of the will of the council and has no legal impact. The first two are not important. Here is the one of interest:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300 expresses support for President Obama’s "Clean Power Plan" to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. I do not think the Council should be opining on matters like this.  The Council has enough to do to solve local issue. Let Congress deal with nations issues. If members of the Council want to opine on national issues, let them blog.  If we are going to consider matters like this, then I think the handful of Republicans on the Council should sponsor a memorizing resolution urging the president do follow the constitution and a resolution urging the President to not use an executive order to grant amnesty to five million illegal immigrants. Each council meeting could be devoted to memorialize the Congress on national issues. 

The new Congress plans to go after these new rules and overturn them. It is a certainty that the new rules will cause higher electric bills and they will most likely slow the recovery.  This is not a simple matter where all of the positives are on one side. The Council should vote against this.  There are about eight members of the Council who are identified as Republicans. They should vote against this. The Republicans on the Council have in the past voted for memorializing resolutions endorsing otherliberal position. These memorializing resolutions do not come out of no where but are part of a national effort to influence the Congress.  Council members who would argue against this resolution don't have to argue that global warming is not real or argue in favor of dirty air, they just need to say that this is not an issue the Council should be debating. To read more about this issue follow this link and A Dangerous Plan - EPA Proposal Perilous for State  and a story form the Tallahassee Democrat Mike Murtha: EPA’s Clean Power Plan would hurt Florida.  

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