Friday, August 19, 2016

Humor break: Donald & Hilary joke

Donald and Hillary go into a bakery, while on the campaign trail. As soon as they enter the bakery, Hillary steals three pastries and puts them in her pocket. She whispers to Donald, "See how clever I am?" The owner didn't see anything and I don't even need to lie." Then she says "I will definitely win the election."

The Donald says to Hillary, "That's the typical dishonesty you have displayed throughout your entire life, theft, trickery and deceit. I am going to show you an honest way to get the same result."

Donald goes to the owner of the bakery and says, "Give me a pastry and I will show you a magic trick." Intrigued, the owner accepts and gives him a pastry. Trump swallows it and asks for another one. The owner gives him another one. Then Donald asks for a third pastry and eats that, too. The owner is starting to wonder where the magic trick is and asks, "What did you do with the pastries?" Trump replies, "Look in Hillary's pocket."

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An Alternative plan for Transit

Nashville now has a proposal for a plan for mass transit. The nMotion plan has been in the works for a long time and is now in. It is a $6 Billion Plan (that's billion with a "b", $6,000,000,000 or 6 thousand million). It will build the transit system of the past for the Nashville of the future. For more on the plan read The Tennessean's The $6B plan

An Alternative plan for Transit
I have an alternative view of transit. I want to see Nashville develop a system of mass transit that uses the private sector to the largest extend possible.  I would like to see us transition from a public mass transit system to a private mass transit system.  I would like to see us do things never done before. We should break new ground. We should be known as the city with a great transportation system primarily dependent on the private sector to provide the service.  We should privatize mass transit. 
By “privatized” I mean both fully privatized non-governmental transit, and public-private-partnership and out-sourcing, private companies hired by government to provide transit services.  As an example, Uber is a fully private operation with no government subsidy and minimal regulation.  Airport-hotel express bus service is private form of mass transit. A private-public partnership may be that a company builds a light rail line and operates it, say from the airport to downtown, and we lease the rail line for 75 years.  Some turnpikes are built like this.  Hiring a private firm to provide a service is the way the state often houses prisoners and the way we pick up most of the city’s garbage and the way we provide janitorial and grounds services for our schools.
Seek a unique solution:  If I were mayor I would seek out consultants who have experience in successful cost effective mass transit relying on private providers.  If we cannot find a consultant with a track record of doing this, we could do it ourselves.   I would call Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, Grayline, Megabus, and others to the table and ask for RFP’s for moving masses of people efficiently.  These app-dispatched type companies like Uber and Lyft are relatively new.  They have made lots of money and have lots of money to invest and they may be looking for opportunities to grow.  Brainstorm with them. Invite them to help us solve our transit problem.
Look at Megabus: For $10 one can go from Nashville to Atlanta on a Megabus.  Would Megabus want to take over a Nashville Express bus services?  Or, maybe Grayline?
Remove prohibition against private companies competing with the MTA. At this time probably no company would want to provide a purely private bus service but we should remove the impediment if one did want to.  We should change the environment to one that welcomes private solutions, competition and innovation instead of a climate that penalizes private solutions. 
Remove the requirement for a 'certificate of necessity' before one can operate more cabs or start new cab companies.  The only logic for restricting supply of taxis is to protect those already in business from competition. Taxis are not mass transit, but they complement mass transit.  For one thing, they get people out of their private car and once one has become accustomed to not driving their private car, then other forms of transportation may also become more attractive.  Also, if one takes a bus from Murfreesboro to downtown, often one must still get somewhere else.  Taxis can take you the few blocks or miles from the end of the bus line to where you need to be.  Also, taxis do not need to park downtown for 8 hours at a stretch and if we had more taxis in use there would be less demand for more parking. 
Look at how we pick up garbage:  I was in the Metro Council when we changed the way we pick up garbage. The city picked all up of it, it was a more labor intensive process and garbage cans were manually lifted instead of mechanically lifted and service was twice a week instead of once a week. We transitioned to a once-a-week, mechanical-lift, uniform-garbage-can system.  Metro still designs the routes and supervises quality but most garbage is now picked up by private companies.  This has saved metro a lot of money.  Garbage workers were some of the lowest paid employees in the city but disability claims and retirement was very expensive. Metro employees and the public resisted the transition to private companies collecting the garbage but the transition to the current system happened and it has worked well.  During the transition, Metro public works “competed” with private companies. The cost of metro picking up garbage was established counting all cost in order to measure and compare the deal we were getting from private firms.  If Metro could “bid” lower on a route than a private company, Metro continued the route.  Eventfully, private companies took over most to the routes. The city simply could not pick up garbage as cheap as a private company. 
My Thai observation #1: It doesn’t matter the color of the bus.  I did not know what I was observing at the time but as a young man I spent 15 months in Thailand. I was in the Air Force and I lived off base and enjoyed my experience.  I learned how to take the local buses and get around.  I noticed that on a bus route that I used, I sometimes caught a brown bus and sometimes a green bus, but the bus followed the same route and regular schedule regardless of the color of the bus.  It was only years later when doing some research on transportation that I realized that the local government set the routes and allowed private companies to bid on the routes.  On the same route,  one time the bus may be one owned by one company but the next bus may be a bus owned by another company.
My Thai observation #2:  It is not a taxi and it is not a bus. Often instead of catching a bus, I would catch another type service.  In Thailand, they were often mini- pickup trucks that had a top but open sides with benches facing each other on each side of the truck bed.  Later I realized this type service is called a “jitney” and operates in many countries, but we do not have it in America.  It is a service that operates on a relatively fixed route but can deviate a block or two off the route to drop someone off at their home or place of work.  With modern phone apps and almost everyone having a smart phone, I think an Americanized version of jitney service could work in Nashville.  Obviously, Instead of pick-up trucks however I would envision vans or very small busses. 
The Nashville Star has been a failure and not a model to follow. This 30-mile line starting in Lebanon was projected to move 750 per day but on average it only moves 550 people a day.  The fare box only covers only 15% of the cost of a trip on the train.  With an operating budget of $5.1 million, that is not a sustainable model.  Also it gets very few cars off the road.  If  550 people a day are taking the train, some of those would be riding with a spouse, or car pooling or riding a bus or not working downtown. So if we consider 75% of those riding the train would be driving a car that is only 413 cars taken off the road in that 30 mile stretch of I-40 or Lebanon Pike.  That is an insignificant number.
We do not need to widen roads. There may be bottle necks that could be improved, but widening roads is like solving a weight problem by buying a bigger belt.  Sitting in traffic is one of the “cost” that will result in people being willing to use mass transit and also influence people’s decision about where they live and work.
Not everyone minds their long commute. People like to talk about their horrible commute, but some people are accustomed to it and value the independence of their car and do not want to ride mass transit.  I think I would hate it myself, but some people have told me the ride home gives them time to unwind. They do not find it nerve wracking. They want to listen to their music or choice of talk show or sports and do not want to share that choice and they want to stop off at the grocery store on the way home.  Don’t assume people want to give up their car.  We are not now maximizing the use of vanpools and car pools and the express bus services. If we are not now maximizing alternative options, they why should we assume other options would get people to give up their car? There may not be as much demand for mass transit as some assume. Equal to the challenge of how we move people is selling people on the idea of using mass transit.  Don’t assume that if we build it, they will use it. 
Not every bus has to be the same.  Some millennial and young professionals may want luxury seats and Wi-Fi and a smooth ride. Recent immigrants living out Nolensville Rd may be happy with a school-type bus and lower priced service and greater frequency of service may be more important than a luxury ride. Let entrepreneurs have a chance to provide different models and see what works. What works on one route may not be the same as what works on another route.

Mass transit and planning for development should coincide.  I have traveled quite a bit in Europe and in some other countries. A visitor to Europe may think the walled cities with big cathedrals and cobble stone streets are quaint and that everyone lives like that. If you take a train from one city to another in many of these countries, however, you will find that much of the population live clustered around railway stops at different points along the route.  One may pass through miles of sparse development or pasture and farmland and then come to a railway stop and there will be a population center with multi story apartment buildings around the train stop.  Should we build a light rail line or develop a Bus Rapid Transit route down Nolensville Road or some other major corridor, then land use planning should allow high rise, high density development of apartments clustered around the transit stop. 
We need greater density to make mass transit successful.  We should discourage rezoning of neighborhoods to single-family-only, should encourage zoning that allows auxiliary living units on residential properties (mother-in-law apartments) and increase density along major corridors, at mass transit hubs, or major transit stops.  This would also increase the supply of affordable housing. 
Express bus service is a “public good. “ It is a given that getting more people to take buses from Murfreesboro to Nashville, or Gallatin or Clarksville to Nashville is a public good.  When someone takes the bus it makes the road less congested for the rest of us.  It reduces the demand for widening roads, reduces commute times for other drivers and cuts pollution by reducing idling cars.  It reduces poverty by making it possible for low-skilled workers to get to jobs, it increases disposable income and spurs economic growth by allowing people to spend more of their money on other goods rather than transportation.  Yet ridership is low. (I do not know the number, but know it is low. We need the numbers in order to say:  “X number of people commute from Murfressboro to Nashville everyday, yet only X percent takes the express bus service.”)  
Regional transportation is also a State public good. Metro should not pay the lion’s share for regional transportation. The more people who take the Murfreesboro to Nashville bus, the more it helps the State, since it reduces traffic on the interstate highway. We need regional support and state financial support for efforts to increase mass transit.  Our Nashville legislative delegation should advocate for regional transit to get TDOT support for every vehicle that is taken off a state road due to someone using mass transit.
Express Bus service is a bargain.  One can take a bus from Murfreesboro t o Nashville for $4 for one trip or 20 trips for $70. That is only $7.50 a day!  To park at the 701 Church Street garage is $5 for one hour, $8 two hours, and a $13 daily maximum if one can find a place to park.  So to take the bus for a month is $7.50 x 20 days= $150 a month; to take a car is $150 parking (assume one leases a space by the month), gas $200 (assume a tank a week at $50 x4= 200) maintenance and oil changes assume $50 a month, and assume the wearing out of a car used mostly for work $400 a month. (Assume a $20,000 car for 5 years plus interest). So the cost of taking the bus is $150 a month and the cost of driving is $800.
So, how do we get more people to take the bus? Assuming it is a pubic good and we want more people to take the bus, and it is a bargain, why won’t people take the bus? It could be that it is inconvenient to be at the bus stop on time, one may want to stay in town to have dinner, one may have to pick up the kids or stop at the grocery store and the bus does not take you to the door of your business.  Other people may not take the bus because they just love their car, and you would have to pay them to take the bus.  However, many people do not know of the option of express bus service or have never even considered it.  One thing government does not do well is advertise its services and most of the time with good reason.  Most government services do not have to be advertised because people have to have them, want them or not.  Other services are government monopoly and people have no choice of provider. For other services, if more people use the service such as libraries or parks we will have to build more libraries or parks. However, getting people out of their cars can save money and solve a problem. We need to “sell” people on using the bus.  We need billboards and ads touting the benefit of taking an express bus service. Any RFP for a private company to take over an express line should include a proposal for advertising and increasing ridership and perhaps provide an incentive for increasing ridership.  Even if we do not privatize the line, we still need to advertise.  
Use Technology, synchronize lights, and build roundabouts and pedestrian passageways: My favorite bad example of uselessly sitting at a traffic light is Craighead and Bransford.  The light takes forever to change with traffic going neither direction.  Often I have been tempted to run the red light. This would be a great place to build a roundabout or turn the light to flashing red and flashing yellow after 8PM unless there is a function at the Fairgrounds.  I am sure this is only one of a thousand examples in town. I have traveled in Europe and I know roundabouts take some getting used to but they are safe and keep traffic moving. Also, by reducing idle time, they improve air quality and reduce air pollution.  All lights should be automated to be timed to move traffic most efficiently.  On super busy roadways with pedestrian traffic, we should construct pedestrian bridges or tunnels.  This will increase safety of pedestrians and reduce the light timing necessary for pedestrians to cross the road.  This would not be something for downtown where we want to encourage pedestrian traffic and slow traffic, but I am sure there are some areas where this would be beneficial, such in Greenhills. I have seen these used European cities. It works.
Make the city more walkable by stopping building sidewalks stupidly. Stop tearing up an replacing very serviceable sidewalks and instead build new sidewalks. Require new developments to have a “pedestrian plan,” just as they must now have a traffic plan, a lighting plan and a storm water plan. I have examples of poor planning and building sidewalks stupidly that I could show you.  It seems as if some streets were designed to ensure people never walk. 
Most people do not work downtown.  A lot of people do, but I have never worked downtown.  If we moved masses of people from Murfreesboro to downtown, then how we would they get them to their jobs which are scattered throughout the city and the region?  Before we focus on a massive investment of a Murfreesboro to Nashville route or similar routes we need to figure out how to get people where they want to go once they get downtown.  Private paratransit could help accomplish this. 
We must realize that it is difficult to retrofit a city build mostly after the advent of the car to accommodate mass transit.  Cities with really good mass transit are cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.  These are all cities that had large populations and were built prior to the advent of the automobile.  We should not over promise on mass transit. Atlanta has a large rail system but its job centers are not clustered, making that rail system less useful.  
Realize the future may be here before you know it and needs may change. It was not that many years ago that everyone did not have a smart cell phone. That technology has changed much of how we live from how we find places, connect with people, and decide the routes we take.  The demand on our roads and use of one’s own car may decrease. More people may work from home. UPS, Federal Express, pizza delivery and running to another office to deliver a set of document may be done mostly by drones in five to ten years.  To go somewhere, you may click an app on your phone (or key bob type device or whatever) and a driverless pod rushes to your house and takes you where you want to go. We will still need roadways but some problems may take care of themselves and it is difficult to plan for a future 75 years down the road when technology we have not even dreamed of yet, may appear at any time.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What happened at the 8-15-16 Council meetng: Pot bill survives rare First Reading challenge, Affordable Housing bill advances, Google Fiber bill deferred.

For a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.  If you are going to actually watch the meeting, you really need to follow along with the agenda.

If you are going to watch the meeting you may want to watch it in double speed. That is usually what I do with council meeting and most meetings and speeches. I can watch it in double time and not lose much content and I slow it if something is interesting. To watch it in double speed, hover your cursor over "YouTube" and click it. The video will then open in another screen. Then click "setting" which is indicated by a gear icon. When that opens change speed from normal to the desired speed.  If you are not given that option, then follow this link for instructions.

Below is a summary and the highlights of the meeting.

All of the resolutions pass except the resolution to approve purchasing land for the new Cain Ridge school and it is deferred one meeting, apparently to track with a zoning bill not because there is any opposition. To see which of the resolutions were of significance see my commentary.

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. It does happens but is rare that anyone votes against a bill on First Reading. It is almost considered rude to vote against a bill on First Reading. All bills on first, pass lumped together with a single vote except for one that is with drawn and the bill that would  substantially decriminalized pot possession in Davidson County.

  • The bill that is withdrawn is a bill that would have imposed a 120-day moratorium upon the issuance of building and grading permits for multi-family developments on property within Metropolitan County Council Districts 28, 29 and 32.  This was a bad bill and should have been withdrawn.  We can't function as a city if we have different rules for different council district.  There is concern that those districts are seeing so much rapid growth that infrastructure cannot keep up with it. The concern may be valid but a moratorium on new development is not the way to deal with it.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-378 is the bill that would substantially decriminalized  possession or casual exchange of small quantities of marijuana in Davidson County. I favor this bill. To see my commentary follow this link.  The motion for a roll-call vote was made by Councilman Dour Pardue. In addition to Pardue others voting against the bill were council members Steve Glover, Holly Uezo and Bill Pridemore. Council member Karen Johnson abstained. It passes First Reading by a vote of 34 to 4. To see the discussion see timestamp 21:22 - 28:21.

Bills on Second Reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-334 is an expansion of the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) for use as a tool to develop more affordable housing. This will be a new use for this program.  It is normally used by the Industrial Development Board as a tool to incentivize companies to locate in Nashville. This would allow MDHA to use this tool to encourage development of affordable housing. This passes by voice vote.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-342  is an Affordable Housing Grant program to encourage developers to develop affordable housing.  This is not the Council's version of the inclusionary zoning; this is the mayor's plan which really would be a voluntary plan. Before being amended it was to be a two year trial program capped at $2 million dollars. It is amended to make the cap $2.5 million. The sunset date is also extended. I do not have copies of the amendment and am not sure how long the trial period last, but it would not come up for review until the next council takes office. Both of these changes make the bill less desirable in my view.  Apparently the builders wanted the longer trail period and I can understand why they would, but it means a new council would be evaluating the bill rather then the council that passed it. While I was previously of the view that I would support this bill, if I were serving in the council, I am now less inclined to be supportive.  If this passes, however, then the much worse inclusionary zoning plan could still pass but this may lessen the likelihood of that bill passing. The only way I think I could support this bill as amended was if I believed that passing this bill would result in the inclusionary zoning bill not passing. This bill however would work with the other bill, if the other bill also should pass, so that those who are required to build affordable housing under the inclusionary zoning proposal could also get this grant and lessen the pain.
 Background and more information on this proposal is in the press release from the mayor's office which you can find at this link.  Both developers and housing advocates support this bill, for the most part, or at least they did before it was amended. The bill will still be amendable on third reading. For those who want a deeper understanding of this bill, you may want to watch the meeting of the Ad hoc Affordable Housing Committee found at this link and the Budget and Finance Committee meeting found at this link. The bill is amended as noted above and then passes by a voice vote. To view the discussion see timestamp 33:57 to 44:14.

  • BILL NO. BL2016-343 would change the rules for how companies may use utilities poles to string cable. This may sound mundane but it is important. It is also not as simple as it sounds. As readers probably know, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville promising to bring cheaper and faster internet access.  This was announced in January 2015. What is taking so long?  What is taking so long is that it is a slow process to string cable. Before Google can string cable, Comcast must move their cable, but before Comcast can move their cable, ATT must move their cable, or who ever is below on the pole must wait for the provider with cable above to move their cable. The other providers and users of the utility poles are in no hurry to do what they must do so Google can do what they need to do.  This bill would apply a“One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) approach for connections to utility pole. One company would be authorized to move all of the wires on the pole. The complexity of this is explained in  articles you can find at these links:
Google Fiber warns it could pull plug over Nashville impasse  
Council attorney raises legal issues with Google Fiber proposal  
"Google One Touch" plan: Solution in search of problem
The bill is deferred one meeting. 
 Bills on Third Reading 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-298 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres now with various zonings including commercial zoning to a multi-family zoning.  I would like to know if this has the approval of the property owners.  I don't know.  To downzone property without the consent of the owner is a "taking" of property. This is deferred one meeting.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-309 changes some of the rules regarding signs in order to conform to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the First Amendment prohibition against regulating content of signs. It passes.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-319  by Councilman Davis is subject to a last minute attempt to amend that generate some discussion and controversy. It is a rezoning that attempts to change properties that now has various zonings "to  permit all uses permitted by the MUL-A district except for alternative financial services uses." I am not even going to try to explain the nuances involved, but if you want to see the discussion see timestamp 1:01:55 to 1:17:09.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-329  which makes 60 "housekeeping" changes to the regs governing taxi cabs passes on a voice vote without discussion. 
The council passed the resolution and the bill that was necessary to facilitate "Marine week" in Nashville without any opposition.

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Liberty on the Rocks meets Thursday, August 18, 2016 starting at 5:30 PM

Liberty on the Rocks meets Thursday, August 18, 2016 starting at  5:30 PM at Smokin Thighs, 611 Wedgewood Ave, Nashville, TN.  This is a always an enjoyable event.  While the majority political persuasion of those who attend tends to be libertarian there are always a few of we mainstream conservatives in attendance to provide some balance.  Actually, I think we are making converts.

Stop by, have a beer and enjoy some good, stimulating conversation.  There is no formal program and attendance usually runs about twenty people and the big group just naturally breaks into several smaller groups and people often float from one group to the other. It starts winding down about 8:30 but sometimes last much longer and you can come and go whenever it suites you.  You don't have to RSVP but the organizers would like for you to, but you can just show up at the last minute if you would like to stop by. By attending, you are not "joining" anything and you will not get a lot of unwanted email or solicitations for political contributions. Liberty on the Rocks is just a bunch of liberty-loving people getting together to drink, talk, argue, and explore ideas. I hope to see you Thursday.

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Bill to substantially decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, in a rare move is challenged on 1st reading. Passes 32-4.

While it is rare that a bill on First Reading is discussed or voted on separately, it happened last night with the bill that would substantially decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Nashville.  Usually all bills on first reading are considered together and pass by a single vote. It is almost considered bad manners to oppose a bill on First Reading.  Bills are not analyzed by staff, or discussed in committee until after First reading. First Reading is a formality that gets a bill on the agenda. The marijuana bill survived a roll-call First Reading vote in the Metro Council by a vote of  32-4, with one abstention.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Vandy pays $1.2M to rename Confederate Hall

The Daughters of the Confederacy is going to get a windfall of $1.2 million from Vanderbilt University as payment for allowing Vandy to change the name of Confederate Hall. The Daughters of the Confederacy contributed the sum of $50,0000 in 1933 to build the building and there was a stipulation that it be named "Confederate Hall" and that name is in a stone mantel over the door. The $1.2M sum is today's equivalent of the $50,000 the  Daughters of the Confederacy paid back in1933.

$1.2 million will allow the Daughters of the Confederacy to do a lot to keep alive the memory and to honor the southern civil war dead.  Instead of paying off the Daughters of the Confederacy in order to scrub history, Vanderbilt could have used the $1.2million to provide scholarships to disadvantaged African-American students. $1.2 million is a lot of money to pay so students will not be traumatized by seeing the word "confederate."

The next time alumni get a solicitation from Vanderbilt to contribute to their alma marta, maybe they should ask themselves if Vanderbilt University is a good steward of their charitable giving.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

On the Council Agenda for August 16th: Pot, Affordable Housing, welcoming the Marines, and Google Fiber.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, August 16th at 6:30 PM. To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, if you are so inclined, but unless you are trying to influence a Council member and think your presence in the audience will exert an influence, I don't know why you would want to.

Meetings are broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and are streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch them the next day on the Metro YouTube channel. 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 that segment. Also, I will also tell you what I think about what happened.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them 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 or you won't even have a clue about what is going on. Here is my commentary and analysis of the agenda.

There are three appointments to boards and commission which are never opposed and they will be approved.  There is one resolution on public hearing to allow a business that already has a license to sell hard liquor, the right to sell beer.  I don't know why the Council just does not make this an automatic right rather having to have a hearing each time one of these situations come up.

There are eleven 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.  I don't find any of the resolutions to be controversial but these are several of interest.

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-339  extends a grant to provide financial education at various
    locations throughout the city.  Most of the money for this program comes from  Bloomberg Philanthropies. This is a great program. I have spend most of my career working with low-income people or people in crisis and it is amazing how little people know about money management.  People really do stupid stuff when it come to managing money.  Some of it is a question of values like never learning delayed gratification or simply being irresponsible and having the wrong priorities, but some of it is simply not understanding simple math and interest terms.  Values can be changed once people learn they do not have to live a life of poverty and money management skills can be taught. There are lots of resources for those who want to stop being broke and poor and running from bill collectors and who want to get control of their finances.  This program is one of the best and it is available to anyone in the county.  To learn more about The Financial Empowerment Center, follow the link.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-340  moves forward with purchasing property for a Cain Ridge school.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-341is an agreement to allow the United States Marines to use metro parks for an annual community outreach and recruiting event.  I am going to take this opportunity to commend Mayor Barry.  Some cities with a mayor and council as liberal as that of Nashville, also have an anti-military attitude and have rejected welcoming Marine recruitment. An anti military positions is often part of the progressive package. It could be worse. Nashville is not Berkeley yet. Here is an excerpt and link to the story of the upcoming Marine week activities:
More than 700 Marines are set to descend on Nashville in September.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, along with Marine Corps leadership, announced the details Wednesday for the service branch's annual showcase event outside the downtown courthouse.
Marine Week, running Sept. 7-11, will showcase 80 events open to the public to get familiar with the Corps and its technology, aircraft and other vehicles. The week will conclude Sept. 11 with a 9/11 remembrance ceremony and events at that Sunday's Tennessee Titans game. (link)
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-346  settles a claim of inverse condemnation suit.  Sometimes paying to settle claims proves controversial, but in any case I have ever looked at I think the city only settles when it is in the city's best interest to settle rather than litigate. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-348  honors Jane Eskind, the only woman elected to a statewide office in Tennessee.

Bills on First Reading. There are seven bills on First Reading and I usually don't review bills on BILL NO. BL2016-378,  may prove controversial. For my commentary on this bill follow this link.
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. It does happens but is rare that anyone votes against a bill on First Reading. I don't think anyone would vote against it on First, but the bill to substantially lower the penalty for pot possession,

There are only nine bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-334 is an expansion of the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) for use as a tool to develop more affordable housing. This will be a new use for this program.  It is normally used by the Industrial Development Board as a tool to incentivize companies to locate in Nashville. This would allow MDHA to use this tool to encourage development of affordable housing.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-342  is an Affordable Housing Grant program to encourage developers to develop affordable housing.  This is not the Council's version of the inclusionary zoning; this is the mayor's plan which really would be a voluntary plan. It would be a two year trial program capped at $2 million dollars.  If this passes then the much worse inclusionary zoning plan will likely not pass. If I was in the Council, I would support this bill. Background and more information on this proposal is in the following press release from the mayor's office"

Mayor Barry Announces Affordable Housing Incentive Pilot Program

Program will focus on incentivizing developers to build or maintain affordable and workforce housing within mixed-income properties
NASHVILLE, TN, 7/12/2016 – Mayor Megan Barry is pleased to introduce a program that will incentivize developers to create more affordable and workforce housing within existing and new construction. The incentive pilot program has been developed after months of research and conversations with the stakeholders in the community by the Mayor’s Office.
“This will serve as another tool in the toolbox for the community and developers to help us achieve our shared goal of creating more high-quality affordable and workforce housing for Nashvillians,” said Mayor Barry. “We want to target this growth in urban core which has seen the greatest impact of soaring housing prices in recent years, as well as along our pikes and corridors which are targeted for mass transit options now and in the future.”
The announcement of the pilot incentive program comes on the heels of other efforts by Mayor Barry to increase Metro’s focus on affordable housing. In June, the Mayor signed into law a budget which includes an increase of $10,000,000 for the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, bringing the total to $16M for FY16-17. Additionally, the Metro Council approved on second reading a private-public partnership with Elmington Capital Group to create 138 units of affordable and workforce housing on a Metro-owned lot at 12th and Wedgewood. Metro has also worked with the Barnes Commission and local non-profit developers to re-use other city-owned infill lots around Nashville and Davidson County to build affordable housing properties.
Affordable housing, as defined in the proposed ordinance, is affordable for households making 60% of Median Household Income (MHI) or less, and workforce housing is designated at 61-120% of MHI. According to the latest U.S. Census figures from 2014, the MHI for Davidson County for a family of four is $60,074.
Under the proposal, developers wishing to take advantage of the incentive program would need to provide affordable or workforce housing at a rate that is equal to or less than 30% of household income. For example, utilizing the 2014 figures, the maximum monthly rental for a family of four making 60% of MHI would be $901, or $1,802 at the 120% workforce level.
Developers who meet these terms would then be able to seek a grant, subject to staff review by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Empowerment (OEOE) and Metro Council approval, capped at 50% of the increase in value of property taxes from the new development. The grant would cover the difference between the price of market-rate housing and the price of the affordable or workforce housing units. For example, a developer who has market-rate apartments at $1,500 a month and offers comparable workforce-level affordable units for $1,200 would get a grant for the difference of $300 per unit, total not to exceed the cap of 50% of the increase in property tax value.
“There is no silver bullet to the affordable housing crisis we face in Nashville and across America,” said Mayor Barry. “But this proposal is a great step forward in creating more affordable and workforce housing options so that teachers, construction workers, service employees, artists and hundreds of thousands of other Nashvillians can afford to live, work and play right here in Davidson County.”
The program will be launched with a 24 months sunset provision and FY17-18 cap of $2,000,000 in order to collect data and give developers and rental managers time to become acclimated with the new program.
In addition to incentives for new construction of rental properties, the pilot program also has options for owner-occupied units and existing rental. The incentive grants for owner-occupied units outside of the UZO will be capped at $10,000, and they will be capped at $20,000 for properties within the UZO or along a multimodal corridor. Owners of existing rental properties can also apply for grants in the event that increases in the market will displace current residents, subject to rules and limitations.
Representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development and OEOE will be on hand at the Metro Council Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday July 13 at 5:00PM in the Jury Assembly Room of the Historic Metro Courthouse to discuss the details of the proposal and get feedback from members of the Council and the public.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-343 would change the rules for how companies may use utilities poles to string cable. This may sound mundane but it is important. As readers probably know, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville promising to bring cheaper and faster internet access.  What is taking so long?  What is taking so long is that it is a slow process to string cable. Before Google can sting cable, Comcast must move their cable, but before Comcast can move their cable, NES must move their wires. Sometimes many other companies may also have wires hung on the same pole. The other providers and users of the utility poles are in no hurry to do what they must do so Google can do what they need to do.  This bill would apply a“One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) approach for connections to utility pole. One company would be authorized to move all of the wires on the pole.  If this passes, we may finally get Google Fiber.   
  • BILL NO. BL2016-344 is another piece of legislation to facilitate Marine week, allowing Navy aircraft to land and take off from The Green, the park in front of the courthouse.

There are 34 bills on Third Reading, most of them zoning bills. Be aware that I do not even attempt to form an opinion on every zoning bills. Unless you live nearby, zoning bills are pretty boring. These are the ones I am watching:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-298 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres now with various zonings including commercial zoning to a multi-family zoning.  I want to know if this has the approval of the property owners.  I don't know.  To downzone property without the consent of the owner is a "taking" of property. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-309 changes some of the rules regarding signs in order to conform to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the First Amendment prohibition against regulating content of signs. Anytime the city messes with the sign ordinance it proves controversial but this really does not seem like that big of a deal. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-329  makes 60 changes to the regs governing taxi cabs. The staff analysis calls these changes "housekeeping," but anytime you make that many changes it causes concern. Last council meeting concern was expressed about this bill. 

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To stop Nashville from becoming "the San Francisco of the South," conservatives must engage and get organized.

The following is a report from an organization supporting inclusionary zoning urging their supporters to be ready to spring into action to advance the inclusionary zoning bill that is on tomorrow night's council agenda, should the bill appear to be in trouble.  I think it is worthwhile that those on the right, know what their adversaries on the left or up to, so that is why I am posting the below communications.  A VOICE is a progressive activist group and one of the leading agents responsible for Nashville's leftward tilt in the last few years.  

While the Chamber of Commerce and some others will work to oppose inclusionary zoning and while ad hoc groups spring up from time to time to do things like save the fairgrounds or stop the AMP, there is no consistent conservative activist group working day in and day out to stop the progressive agenda and advance a conservative agenda. 

When a mayor proposes a tax hike, conservatives will rally for one council meeting.  That is only about once every four or eight years. Conservatives contributed and worked for the election of David Fox, during the last mayoral election and some conservatives ran for council and worked in council campaigns, but liberals work day in and day out without ceasing, always campaigning for more government interference and more government spending. Every year at budget time, numerous advocates for greater government spending take to the podium and not a single conservative speaks for lower taxes and cutting government waste.

Notice that the communication below says "hundreds" of emails and phone calls were made to support inclusionary zoning.  That has an impact.  I doubt there were not half a dozen calls in opposition.  By our inactivity, we kind of get the type of government we deserve. 

Luckily conservatives hold the seats of power at the state legislature and some of what Metro Nashville might like to do can be thwarted at the state level.  Even if inclusionary zoning is passed locally, there is a chance it will be ruled to violate a state law.  The State can only protect Nashville from its leftward tilt so far, however.  If we really want to stop Nashville from becoming "the San Francisco of the South," conservatives must engage and get organized.

A VOICE Steering Committee …
 Sent this out tonight … hope you can do the same to your own professional/social lists … if not tonight early AM.
 A VOICE For the Reduction of Poverty
Affordable Housing Campaign Update

With so much happening on the Affordable Housing front, thought we would send this summary out just to circle the wagons a bit.  While there are several pieces of legislation A VOICE has called for and helped influence … what we are immediately concerned with is Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133 (which addresses where affordable and workforce housing will be placed) and Incentives Bill 342 (which legislates incentives to builders to create housing for working people in need).   Both bills address workforce housing, are now tracking simultaneously for adoption, and if adopted represent a significant first step to addressing our housing dilemma.  Soooo … here are some bits and pieces just to keep you up-to-date:

1.    First of all … applause/applause and much appreciation goes out to you, our membership, for responding so robustly to last week’s Call to Action.  Last week we asked you to contact members of City Council in support of Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133, as well as join us at its Second Reading and Public Hearing.  You response was significant and overwhelming … a good part of the reason the bill moved forward with unanimous affirmation from the Council floor.  Council members reported that they received literally hundreds of emails and phone calls in support of this measure and were impressed that 100+ were in attendance at the Hearing in support of this bill and 40 among us spoke in favor.  Registering your voice with ours most certainly sent a strong message.  Thank you!!!

2.    Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133 now heads to Council for a third and final reading on Tuesday, September 6th.  The A VOICE Steering Committee will monitor any significant changes recommended between now and this final vote.  We remain concerned that forces opposed to this bill (primarily developers and the Nashville Regional Chamber of Commerce) will continue to petition Council to water it down, something we will continue to oppose.  Should we need you to share your voice again on this bill later this month we will let you know. 

3.    Inclusionary Zoning Bill 133 is now tracking on the same schedule as the Incentives Bill 342 – the incentives based bill Council asked the Mayor’s office to take a lead on.  The City Council Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee will be meeting tomorrow (Monday) to review and perhaps modify this bill before sending it to Council for a full vote on Tuesday.  If we find there are substantive changes we do not favor … we may be reaching out to you late on Monday evening to raise your voice regarding Bill 342 as you did for Bill 133.  We are hoping that doing so will be unnecessary but wanted to put you on hold “just in case” we need you again.  If we do … expect another email from us tomorrow night to immediately act on.

4.    There are a few other pieces of legislation you should be aware of that will hopefully move forward, as part of an Affordable and Workforce Housing package.  First of all, earlier this month Council passed a resolution calling for the Ad Hoc Task Force and the Mayor’s Office to prepare a Comprehensive Plan for Affordable and Workforce Housing.  A VOICE will continue to participate in this process as it unfolds.  Other legislation being considered by Council will allow for the creation of PILOT grants to encourage the development of affordable and workforce housing and modification of the rules that govern the Barnes Housing Trust Fund.

While the steps Council is considering are definitely movement in the right direction, much work lies ahead for us.  We need to continue to lobby for aggressive funding of the Barnes Trust Fund and assure that dedicated monies for affordable housing are devoted to that purpose.  We must continually keep the demand for housing for those with the least among us at the top of our city’s agenda.  We will keep you informed of these issues as well as other issues related to the reduction of poverty.  In the meantime … please be on the alert for other Calls for Action.  Please know how much we appreciate partnering with you. 

Thank you …

The A VOICE Steering Committee

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