Tuesday, December 20, 2016

(update) What's on the Council agenda for 12/20/16: Seat belts for school buses, a contentious rezoning in Councilman Scott Davis's district and not much else.

This blog post was updated after reading the council staff analysis which was not posted until late Tuesday December 20th. Nothing significant changed from a previous version.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, December 20th,  at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel.

Council meetings are really, really boring.  I am sure this close to Christmas people who have a real life have something better to do.  So, if you will wait, I will watch it for you and post the video and point out the good parts so you can go to that point in the video and watch just those segments. Also, I will  tell you what I think about what happened.   I watch the Council meetings so you don't have to.

If you are going to watch a council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis, otherwise you will be clueless about what is going on.  Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis.Below is my commentary and analysis.

There is only one appointment to a Board or Commission on the agenda and it is insignificant and will be approved. There are three resolutions on public hearing, all to grant an exemption to the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit.

There are 16 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. If a resolution has any negative votes in committee it is taken off of consent.  Also any council member may ask to have an item taken off of consent or to have his abstention or dissenting vote recorded.  These are the resolutions of interest: 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-469  approves 750 South 5th Street as the location of the new administrative offices facility for the Sheriff. I do not expect this to be controversial. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-482  request the School Board to require all new school buses purchased be equipped with seat belts. This was deferred last meeting. This is a response to the tragedy in Chattanooga recently where six school children lost their lives. The contention that school buses need seat belts is in dispute. The Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration says school buses are designed to be safe with or without seat belts. Requiring seat belts in all new bus purchases could add as much as $12,000 to the cost of each new bus. One reason for that cost is that with seat belts each bus could hold fewer students, only two per bench seat, so more buses would have to be purchased.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-500  settles a personal injury claim against the city in the amount of $75,000.00, to  be paid out of the Self-Insured Liability Fund. The victims were hit from behind by a Davidson County Sheriff’s Office employee, who was transporting prisoners in a bus owned by the Metropolitan Government.  These type resolutions often generate some discussion but the only issue should be are we better off litigating or settling.  I have always trusted the judgement of Metro legal.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-501 honors Father Breen of St. Edwards.  A fitting tribute. There will most likely be scroll and ceremonial presentation at the start of the meeting.    
Bills on First Reading. There are 16 bills on First Reading but I usually don't review bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and usually pass by a single vote. Only rarely is a bill on First Reading considered separately.

Bills on Second Reading.
These are 19  bills on Second reading. One addresses  placement of handicapped parking spaces on public streets outside residential properties and one requires approval by the Metropolitan Council for obstructions or excavations which close or occupy any portion of the public right of way for a period in excess of one  year and one prohibits non-electric vehicles from parking in spaces designated as electric charging station. I don't expect any of them to generate controversy. Here is one bill of interest. 
BILL NO. BL2016-494 reestablishes the Metro Property Tax Relief Program assistance to low-income elderly residents of the county.  There is a State Property Tax Relief  Program and this bill increases the amount of that relief by matching what the State provides. Follow the link for more information. If you or someone you know are elderly and low income, look into this.  Due to escalating property values, many elderly low-income residents would be forced out of their home if not for this tax relief program.
Bills on Third Reading. There are 16 bills on Third reading. Most are zoning bills which do not interest me.  This is the only one of interest.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-414,  is a zoning bill in Councilman Scott Davis district. Last council meeting it was on public hearing and third reading and then deferred to this meeting. The only reason I am calling attention to this bill is because it is is a bill that is disapproved by the planning commission. I don't know anything about the merits of the bill and have no opinion, except I tend to take seriously the recommendations of the planning commission and the burden of proof would be on the sponsor to convince me to vote for it, if I had a vote.  It takes 28 votes in favor to pass a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission.This bill was on the agenda of the October 6th Council meeting on Public Hearing in a different form. Here is what I reported at that time:
It would change  from R6 to RM40-A zoning for various properties along Elvira Avenue, Maynor Avenue, and Keeling Avenue. This would allow 220 units of apartments to be build in a district that does not currently permit that. Quite a few people speak in opposition. Davis closes the pubic hearing and proposes substituting the bill by changing the the zoning from RM40-A to SP zoning which would still allow the development but impose additional restriction, and proposes the bill be referred back to the Planning Commission.  Several council members express concern and say that the bill should come back to the Council for a new public hearing after the substitute is considered by the Planning Commission.  After the discussion by council members, Davis says he will permit a second hearing after the PC considers the substitute. The substitute is passed by a roll call vote of 24 in favor and 18 against.  The bill as substituted is then approved 28 to 10, rereferred to the Planning Commission and the public hearing is reopened. For those who are interested in understanding what is permitted under different zoning classifications, this link is a good resource.  To view the discussion of this bill see timestamp 1:27:25-2:19:52 (at this link).  I am pleased with this outcome. Bills which are substantially changed, I think, should come back to the Council for a second pubic hearing.  Also, I think the Council should take the recommendations of the Planning Commission very seriously.
Last Council meeting when the bill was a again on Third Reading and again on public hearing, this is what I reported:
 There are a lot people in the attendance supportive and more people opposed to the rezoning. The proposed units would be units for sale that would be affordably priced.  It is much easier to turn people out in opposition than people in favor of something, so effort must have gone into turning out the proponents, but I don't know who was behind it.  Maybe it was not an organized effort but it is hard to believe that many people would turn out in favor without an organized effort. The proponents are for the bill because they support affordable housing and would like to be able to buy a home in east Nashville.  These are real people and not the normal affordable housing advocates. Opponents make the normal arguments about density, traffic, stress on infrastructure, and character of the neighborhood.

The Planning Committee of the council had recommended a deferral of the bill one meeting, so deferral is automatically deferred "by rule."  The sponsor can bring the bill back and will not have to have another public hearing. To see the discussion on this bill see timestamp 14:00 - 1:19:30 (at this link).

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