Tuesday, January 06, 2015

(UPDATE)What's on the Council Agenda for Jan.6th: Bailing out the Neighborhood Resource Center, regulating peer-to-peer vacation rentals and low speed vehicles, and No Name Calling.

There are two very important things on the agenda that need to be stopped: (1) The council should not fund the Neighborhood Resource Center. (2) The Council should not confirm Eric Malo, nominee for Fair Board Commissioner (link

As I have said before, Council meeting are really, really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on, with an agenda and council staff analysis the meetings are still boring but not really, really boring. Follow the highlighted links for you own copy of the agenda and the staff analysis.

There are four appointments to boards and commission on the agenda for Council confirmation. None of them are to the controversial or troubled boards or commissions. It wouldn't matter anyway; the council rubber stamps whomever the mayor appoints.  Eric Malo an appointee to the Fair Board has said the race track needs to be demolished and the Fair Grounds closed and converted into a mix used development as has been advocated by the Mayor.
There are two resolution and five bills on public hearing. These would interest no one but nearby neighbors, so I am not commenting on them. 
There are ten resolution, 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 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."
 Below is the only resolution of interest. I suspect it will be pulled off of consent and considered separately.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1316 approves $100,000 to the Neighborhood Resource Center.  This was on the Council agenda last time and was deferred. This non-profit has fallen on hard times recently having lost their United Way funding and some other things. Some of the things the NRC does I do not disagree with but I think the city should not bail them out.  There are many worthwhile non-profits that need funding. The NRC is essentially a political organization teaching political activism with leaders of the organization trained in the Saul Alinsky tradition. From time to time the NRC promotes a leftist agenda such as they did in 2011 when they hosted a  Contract for the American Dream workshop. You can learn more about this leftist project here. If I were in the Council, I would vote against this resolution.
There are eight 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 normally all bills on First reading pass unless something is really atrocious.
There are ten bills on Second Reading, but none of them are of much interest. These are the one's of interest:
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909  and BILL NO. BL2014-951 regulate peer-to-peer short-term vacation rentals. These short-term rentals are where people rent a room to someone, usually in their home. Those with rooms to rent and those seeking rooms are put in contact through a phone app. These room rentals function much the same way Uber or Lyft function for transportation services. There are about a thousand people in Nashville renting rooms in their home through services such as AIRBNB. This type service is different than a bed and breakfast or a boarding house. Follow the highlighted link to learn more about this service. This service is not regulated in Nashville at the present time.  
Among the things these bills would require are these:
  • Collection of taxes
  • Proof of insurance
  • An annual permit through Metro Codes
  • Regulation of signage, noise, parking and food service
  • Limit guest stays to 30 days or less
  • Limit the number of guests to twice the number of sleeping rooms
  • Require that principal owners be at least 21 years old.

  • All of this seem reasonable to me. There is one provision that would limit to 3% of the properties in any census tract to non-owner-occupied short term rentals. That would artificially create value for those who are already non-owner-occupied operators of these short-term rental properties since they would be able to continue operating their facility and others could not. I would like to see that provision removed from the bill, but otherwise I think these regulations are reasonable. If I were in the Council I would attempt to amend that restriction out of the bill but would not let that one provision keep me from supporting the bill.  
I have been pleasantly surprised that their has not been more opposition to this bill. I would have assumed some neighborhood activist types and hotel and motel owners would have attempted to outlaw these short-term vacation rentals entirely.
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-990 modifies the eligibility requirements for obtaining small business economic development incentive grants. You are probably aware of the incentives we have provided to companies like Bridgestone and HCA. Metro also has a similar program for small business but it has been little used since most small businesses can't meet the requirement. This lowers the requirements. If a small business creates ten new jobs that pay at least 80% of the salary of the annual average salary for all occupations in Nashville, the city will pay the company $500 per job created.  I really do not like this, but since we do for big business it is argued we should do it for small business.  I am not sure I could support this.
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-991 modifies the metro code to remove the requirement that public construction projects pay Davis-Bacon prevailing wages.  This is to comply with a State law that prohibits paying that wage.  It is about time! We should not have been paying higher than market wages anyway.  This will save some money on future pubic construction projects. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-993 is more unnecessary regulations and restraint of trade. There is service downtown that moves people in vehicles that resemble golf carts. While this bill has some non-objectionable things like insurance requirement, it requires new people who want to enter the business to get a "certificate of necessity," as if there is ever a "necessity" for such a vehicle. My position is that anyone who wants to should be allowed to compete and let the market sort them out.
There are 25 bills on Third Reading. Most of them are either zoning bills that would only interest nearby neighbors or bills that abandon or acquire easements which would interest almost no one. Here is the only one I find 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. This bill was deferred from November.
There are a couple of harmless memorializing resolutions on the agenda and they will probably be included on the consent agenda. One of them, while harmless, is kind of silly and recognizes, "No Name-Calling Week."  Next month we will recognize "No Talking with Your Mouth Full Week," and then the next month, "Leave Your Sister Alone Week,"  and then, "Keep Your Elbows Off the Table Week," and then ....... 

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