Monday, March 02, 2015

What's on the March 3rd Council Agenda? Stopping a swingers club, dog chains, and standing with Israel.

Council meetings can be really boring if you don't know what's going on.  With an agenda and a staff analysis of the agenda you will know what is going on. The meeting will still be boring but not really, really boring. Follow the indicated links to get your own copies of the agenda and staff analysis.

The Effort to stop a swinger's club from opening in Madison.

The big item of the night will be the pubic hearing on BILL NO. BL2015-1036 which would prohibit private clubs from being in certain zoning districts  where there are now permitted.  The aim of this is to stop The Social Club from being able to open in Madison.  The Social Club is a swingers club that is currently located downtown at 700 Division Street across from Frugal McDougals. They have been at that location for a number of years but have been in Nashville for 35 years.  With downtown property values soaring, the private club sold their property and looked to relocate. A think a hotel is going in at the current location.

The Social Club is a private club and as such does not come under the same restrictions as do adult entertainment businesses such as strip clubs which can only locate in the central business district. If there were allowed to locate in Madison, there would be no flashing lights saying "Girls, Girls, Girls," and no pictures and scantily clad women.  There would probably be nothing more to indicate it was even there than the initials "THC" on a door. Unless someone asked, probably no one would know what was going on behind the closed doors.

The location where THC plans to relocate is near Good Pasture Christian School. If anyone wants to see pictures and maps for a better understanding of  proximity of the school and the proposed club, follow this link and click "pictometry" and "view metro map."  I think that the proximity to a school is simply and excuse to oppose the club. If no one told students at Good Pasture, they would never know it was there. The club has already received most, but not all, of the necessary approvals to open. The lawyer for the club says if the zoning is changed to prohibit the club from opening at that location, then he will sue the city. The staff analysis does not address the probability of the city prevailing if this bill passes and the club does sue. That should be an important factor in determining how one votes. I hope someone ask that question at the Planning and Zoning committee of the Council when this bill is discussed.

The Planning Commission approved this bill which changes permitted uses on property zoned such as this property is zoned and several other zoning categories.  The churches in the Madison community have been active in generating opposition to the club  and promise to pack the court house with proponents of the text change to the zoning ordinance. I expect several pastors will speak in favor of this bill. Sponsors of the bill are Karen Bennett, Bill Pridemore, Duane Dominy, Larry Hagar, and Karen Johnson.

The first item on the agenda is BILL NO. BL2015-1008. This passed last council meeting but then Councilman Duane Dominy, in a rarely used parliamentary procedure, moved to have the bill reconsidered so that is why it is back on the agenda this meeting. This is my commentary on the bill and my report of what happened to this bill last meeting:

BILL NO. BL2015-1008 regulates how one could tether their dog such as how long the
cable must be and how heavy and also prohibits keeping a dog tethered when it is too hot or too cold and prohibits tethering a dog with a chain. If the dog has water and shade I do not see that a heat index of 90 is excessive. Also some dogs, such as Alaskan Huskies, can tolerate being outside in a well-strawed dog house at 20° below for up to 8 hours (link). Some dogs are bred for cold weather. This bill treats all dogs the same, and they simply are not. I do not want to see any dog mistreated but I am not sure why a light-weight chain is banned. What is wrong with a chain?
Councilman Karen Bennett, the lead sponsor of the bill, makes a pitch for her bill. Councilman Duane Dominy gets recognized and ask for a suspension of the rules in order to offer an amendment of the bill. On third reading council rules prohibit amendments to bills, but the council may suspend the rules in order to entertain a proposed amendment. There was an objection and Duane was unable to offer an amendment. He then spoke on the bills itself. Councilman Dominy says his 40 pound dog Lucy has chewed through four cables, one rated for a 250 pound dog. Dominy has the chains and holds them up and shows them. He says as currently drafted the bill endangers animals. Dominy asks for the bill to be deferred but does not make that in the form of a motion. In a wise, seldom used, parliamentary move, Dominy voted in favor of the bill, then moved to reconsider. He got five people who supported him in that request, so the bill will be back on third reading next Tuesday. To see the floor action on this bill see time tamp 36:48 - 45:56. (See video)
I don't know what will happen to this bill this time. I think Dominy may have been doing some lobbying and maybe negotiating with the sponsor and I hope his concern can be addressed, but I would hope the whole bill could be killed.  A Greyhound and an Alaskan Husky have different tolerances for heat and cold. In my view, we should not be micromanaging how people care for their dogs.

There are four appointments to Board and Commission on the agenda but the Council never examines these appointees and they always pass.

There are 18 resolution on public hearing including the text change aimed at stopping the location of the swingers club in Madison. Most rezoning bills interest only those people in the neighborhood of the rezoning and I don't event attempt to keep track of them or  form opinions on them, so if you want to see if a rezoning bill interest you, look at the agenda.

BILL NO. BL2015-1004  is a bill that rezones massive swaths of the county to single family where as now they are zoned for duplexes. Almost everyone gives lip service to affordable housing and support for mass transit. Bills like this are contrary to those objectives. To have viable mass transit and a stock of affordable housing we need greater density, not less.

BILL NO. BL2015-1032 by Councilman Weterholm  applies a contextual overlay plan to lots of properties in east Nashville. What this really does, I cannot tell from reading the bill and the staff analysis does not tell us, but because it effects so many parcels it may be something important.

There are six resolutions, all on the consent agenda. None of them are of much interest except this resolution which was deferred from last meeting:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1389 is interesting. It involves the settlement of a lawsuit brought  by an employee who sued the city when fired. It is somewhat complex.  The fired former employee was a Metro Parks Police officer with the Parks Department who is a lesbian and one of the first females hired by the Parks Department for a Parks police position with the department. The department fired her for inefficient performance of duties, insubordination toward a supervisor, violation of written rules and dishonesty. She claims she was discriminated against. This resolution would settle the suit for $295,000. I understand those who may not want to settle this suit, but my view is that the Council should settle lawsuits when defending them would be more costly than settling and when there is serious doubt if we would win  if it went to trial. I tend to trust the legal department when they propose settling a suit. This resolution is deferred one meeting. Why, I don't know.
There are 12 bills on First Reading. I have not examined them. First reading is a formality that allows a bill to be considered. No serious attention is paid to bills until after first reading.

There are only two bills on Second Reading and neither are of interest.

There are eleven bills on Third Reading.

BILL NO. BL2014-948  was on the agenda last meeting and deferred. Why it was defered I do not know. Here is what I said about it at that time:

BILL NO. BL2014-948  amends the Five Points redevelopment plan, changing some permitted uses and it would provide and additional $670,000 in Tax Increment Financing. TIF lets the taxes from a project first go to pay for improvements in the area of the project before any tax from the project goes to the general fund of the city. I am not opposed to TIF but think it must be used cautiously . If TIF causes a project to be built that most likely would not be built then it makes sense. If however, it is just a giveaway in a popular area where development would occur anyway then it is a misguided policy in my view. I would like to know how much money has been diverted from the general fund over the past few years due to TIF and if this development tool is being overused. This bill is deferred one meeting at the request of the sponsor.
None of the other bills on Third Reading are of much interest.

There are four memorializing resolutions on the agenda. Two of them are non-controversial; two others may be.  A memorializing resolution has no force in law, but simply expresses the opinion of the Metro Council. These should be taken seriously however. Sometime these bills are part of a nationwide effort to influence Congress. Unless the memorializing resolution gets a "no" vote in committee or someone objects from the floor, a memorializing resolution becomes part of the consent agenda. The Council has from time to time has passed some very liberal memorializing resolution without any discussion or dissent.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1398  by Council member Megan Barry puts the council on record supporting HB317/SB496 prohibiting short-term lenders from charging an interest rate for any short-term lending transaction that exceeds 28 percent per year. Short-term lenders are normally referred to has "payday" lenders. Here is how these lenders operated. Assume a person gets paid every two weeks and he needs to borrow money, say to keep the electricity from being cut off. He borrows $300 and on pay day he pays back $340. Do the math: 40/300= 13.3% x 26 two-week periods in a year = 347% interest. Some people end of with four or five of these. It is terrible. However, when you compare the cost of this loan with the cost of being without electricity and then paying a reconnect fee, it is not so bad. Or if you compare this cost with the cost of being overdrawn by $1 in in your checking account which then causes a lot more checks to bounce and you have to pay a insufficient funds fee for each check and a daily over draft fee, then the pay day fee is not so bad.  People should not let their electric bill go unpaid or bounce checks. People need to learn good money management skills, but pay day lenders are no more predatory than the Nashville Electric Service or First American Bank.  This memorializing resolution needs to be defeated.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1400  by Council member Josh Stites declares  May 14, 2015 as Stand With Israel Day in Nashville.  Israel is our long time ally in the Middle East and shares our democratic values. I stand with Israel and would vote for this resolution.

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