Saturday, April 01, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for April 4th, 2017? Anti-Trump bill, sidewalks, surveillance cameras, driving while Black, animal protections.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you can be a well-informed citizen of our city and still not have to watch them. If, however, you are going to watch the 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.

There are seven appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously.  There are 29 bills on First Reading but bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare cases. I usually do not read bills until they get to Second Reading. There is one bill on First that needs watching; BILL NO. BL2017-586 (as amended)  would curtain the rights of people to rent their home for Short Term Rental such as Airbnb.

There is one resolution and  20 bills on Public Hearing, and most of them are zoning bills.  Public Hearings are real boring unless the property under discussion is next door to you.  Opposition to rezoning usually boils down to (1) impact on the capacity of infrastructure such as roads and schools, (2) potential to cause flooding, or (3) negative impact on the quality and character of the neighborhood.  I don't even try to gain an understanding of every zoning bill or form an opinion of its merits. I try to point out those that have wider implication than one neighborhood or that I have reason to believe will be particularly controversial or has already been to the Planning Commission and been disapproved. Below are the Public Hearing items of interest.

SECOND SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  is the sidewalk bill which tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks. This makes it more difficult for a developer to pay money into a fund rather than build sidewalks.  I am unsure if this requires a developer to build a a sidewalk when there are no other sidewalks on the street. This has been deferred about three times before. Since then more work as been done on the bill and it is expected that this substitute will be substituted yet again. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest you read the staff analysis. 
BILL NO. BL2017-641   and BILL NO. BL2017-642  are two bills disapproved by the Planning Commission. The first one cancels a PUD on a property and second rezones the property for a self-storage facility. I do not have an opinion on the merits of the bills but am simply pointing out that they are disapproved bills. To pass a disapproved bill requires 26 votes whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. The sponsor has to count votes to pass an unapproved bill. If a couple council members are not present and a couple are not in the room or paying attention, it can be difficult to pass a disapproved bill. The press generally and some community activist and some Council members take a view that a disapproved bill should never be approved.  Voting for a disapproved bill is often called "councilmanic courtesy," meaning the council follows the will of the council representative of a district when it comes to zoning issues in their district. While I think the recommendation of the Planning Commission should be taken very seriously, I do not think they should never be overridden. If the Council was to always just rubber stamp the Planning Commission, then why not just make the Planning Commission the final authority? 

There are 19 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.  Most of the resolutions are routine things like accepting grants. Here are the couple resolutions of interest. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  proposes several amendments to the Metro Charter.  If approved by the Council, the proposed charter amendments would go on the ballot to be voted on by the public in August 2019.  This would do nothing substantial. Anywhere were the term “tax assessor” is used in the Charter it would change it to “assessor of property.” This is to conform to a State change. The staff analysis says this should be deferred.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-642  ask Judge Moreland to resign. This is a little late;
he has already resigned.  If you have not kept up with the sordid scandal involving Judge Moreland, it involved having sex with women who was before his court for DWI, then dropping the charges, a suicide of one of the women, bribery attempts, planting of evidence, getting fines dismissed and more. For more, read Nashville Judge Casey Moreland resigns amid federal corruption charges and Judge Casey Moreland Arrested, Charged With Witness Tampering.
Bills on Second Reading. There are 15 bills on Second Reading. Most of them are abandoning unneeded sewer easements and water easements and other routine business. These are the bill of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-498   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 (1) year. This seems reasonable to me.  I am all for accommodating growth, but the right of the public to use public streets needs to be balanced with that accommodation.
BILL NO. BL2017-643  would set a standard for awarding economic incentive grants. It says, "the amount of the economic and community development incentive grant during any year will be determined by multiplying the average number of new full time equivalent employees of the qualified company within the boundaries of the metropolitan government during the preceding year by an amount up to five hundred dollars."  I am tired of corporate welfare but the reality is that companies have got cities to engage in a bidding war and they will go to the city offering a good incentive. While  I do not like this way of doing business, it is hard to stop competing. We almost have to play the game.  However, their needs to be a standard as to when the incentive is worth it. This may not be a perfect standard but as of now, we have no standard. I support this.
BILL NO. BL2017-644  is a bill aimed at President Trump. It would prohibit the use
Metro Council to the President: Do not come to Nashville without
three years income tax returns
of any public facility or property by a President or candidate unless that individual has made public their income tax returns for the three (3) most recent taxable years. The Council has no business getting involved in this controversy. I oppose this bill.
BILL NO. BL2017-645   would allow passengers in horse-drawn carriages to drink and ride as long as the beverage was in a plastic or Styrofoam cup. This sounds reasonable to me.
BILL NO. BL2017-646   would prohibit a company from installing surveillance equipment, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology that captured activity on a public sidewalk or street without prior Council approval.  I understand the civil
liberties implication of constant surveillance.  On the other hand, a lot of crimes have been solved by private cameras that have captured illegal activity.  I do not see much difference between what a camera may capture and what a security guard may witness. However, this is one of those issues about which I am conflicted and as of now, I do not have firm position. 

Bills on Third Reading: These are 24 bills on Third Reading and not much that is of interest. Most are rezoning bill and they have all been approved by the Planning Commission. Here is this one of interest.  
BILL NO. BL2016-483 would require the police department to provide a quarterly report to the Council on how many traffic stops were made and what happened as a result of the stops. such as how many pat downs and how many searches and the race of the person stopped. This has been deferred a couple times before.
BILL NO. BL2017-581  would grant full investigative authority to the Metropolitan Auditor in order to allow for independent audits and reviews of all Metropolitan Government departments, boards and commissions as well as the performance of contracts by entities that contract with the Metropolitan Government.
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2017-585 and  BILL NO. BL2017-586 (as amended) expands animal protections. 585 adds protections for pregnant animals, nursing animals and young animals from extreme cold or hot weather. 586 expands existing protections for animals, county-wide where as now the protections only apply in the USD.
BILL NO. BL2017-588  would amend the graduated storm water user fee schedule. This fee is part of one's water bill and pays for the handling of storm water runoff. Those with larger homes or other impervious surfaces greater than 2,000 feet would pay more under this change. This passed on a voice vote on Second reading and no one speaking  against it. To read The Tennessean coverage of this issue, follow this link.
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.   If can stand the suspense and just wait I will post the video here and provide commentary.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Lamar Alexander proposes Obamacare patch

Senator Lamar Alexander has proposed a common sense piece of legislation that would provide a temporary fix to Obamacare for those who live in areas where there are no insurers selling policies on the Obamacare exchanges. The proposed legislative would do two things. First, it would let people who get subsidies use that subsidy to purchase any state-approved insurance plan.  The insurance plans not sold on the exchange may offer less coverage than those sold on the exchange.  As an example, a plan not sold on the exchange may not offer maternity coverage.

The second thing Alexander's plan would do is remove the tax penalty for failing to buy a policy when there is no policy offered on the exchange.  Currently 16 counties in Tennessee have no insurer for 2018.  Currently, one in three counties in the nation have just one insurer in the local market.  The number of counties with only one insurer and the counties with no insurer are expected to increase in 2018.  While Alexander's plan sounds like a very reasonable proposal to me, I expect it to be be met with opposition.

Liberals will see any accommodation as a retreat from Obamacare and will argue that instead of retreat that the government needs to poor more money into the system to entice more insurers to participate in the exchanges.  I also would suspect that some conservatives will hold out for a full collapse of Obamacare and will view any modification as propping it up. We will see. Action must take place soon to avoid a crisis. Insurers are now setting rates and designing plans to meet a June deadline.  Alexander is to be commended for being the adult in the room. (For more see this link and this one.)

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April 5th is deadline for property tax relief.

Nashville has experienced steady growth for a number of years but rapid growth in the last three years that continues.  Something like 30,000 people a year move to Nashville.  This is pushing up property values.  One may drive down a street that one haven't been on in a while and hardly recognize it.  As a home goes on the market, it is purchased, the existing house torn down and a larger very expensive home goes up in its place. I am shocked at some of the places they are building homes and the prices the sellers are getting.

Nashville is currently undergoing a reappraisal. Property is reappraised not to bring in more tax revenue but to equalize taxes so that those with more expensive property pay more taxes than those in more modest homes. Some people will get a shock when they discover what their property is worth.  Mayor Barry, to her credit, has said she will not raise taxes this year.  By law, a reappraisal can not increase revenue to the government. Following the reappraisal, the local government must approve a new lower certified tax rate that raises no more money than the old tax rate.  Often however, politicians see this as an opportunity to slip in a tax increase, and immediately after adopting the new certified tax rate, they adopt a tax increase tax rate.  Citizens often do not understand what has happened and blame the increase in property taxes on the reappraisal.

So, who will see a tax increase due to the property mass reappraisal?  If you live in an area that has had property values increase greater than the average increase in values, you can expect a property tax increase.  If property values increased at rate less that the average, you should expect a decrease in property taxes.  The already highly desirable areas to live saw increases but more modest increases in value than in the newly "gentrifying" neighborhoods, like The Nations, Woodbine, Englewood, and parts of East Nashville. If you live in a modest neighborhood but every time a house goes on the market it is torn down and replaced by a much larger expensive home, you are likely to have big tax increase.

I don't have much sympathy for those who recently purchased a $275,000 house in Woodbine; they can afford the taxes.  For those who paid $36,000 for their Woodbine home in 1990, they may have a whopper of an increase. I have sympathy for those whose income did not increase as property values were increasing. I especially have sympathy for those on a fixed income.  There is however relief for many of these people. Here are three programs that may help many of those people:

  • Tax freezeA tax "freeze" means the homeowner would continue to pay the same taxes they are paying now even if the reappraisal determines they should pay more. Any homeowner who is 65 or older and earns less than $41,660 may be eligible for a tax freeze. 
  • Tax relief: Tax"relief" is reimbursement from the state for some or all of the property taxes a homeowner paid in a given year. Metro may match the state relief. Homeowners who are 65 and older or disabled and earn less than $29,180 a year may be eligible for tax relief. 
  • Tax deferral: Homeowners may be able to defer payment on their taxes until they die or they sell their property. To be eligible, homeowners must be 65 or older or disabled and have a combined income of less than $25,000. 
The deadline for applying for these programs is April 5th. Apply in person at the office of the Metro Trustee, Charlie Caldwell. The office is located at 700 Second Avenue South, Suite 220,
Nashville, the old Howard School location.  Applications must be filed by April 5th each year. New applicants must go in person to the Trustees office  but no appointment is required. There are certain documents one must bring with them. Go the the website of  Office of the Trustee or call that office at (615) 862-6330 to know what to bring. The office is open from 8AM to 4:30PM but applicants need to arrive at the Trustee's office by 3:00PM. Charlie Cardwell is nice man and runs a good office and people in his office are very nice and helpful.

If you think you may be eligible, don't hesitate to apply.  If you have employees or friends or relatives who may be eligible, tell them about these programs.

In my other existence, when I am not a political blogger, I am a housing counselor with a non-profit, HUD-approved housing counseling agency.  If you are making house payments and worried you may not be able to afford your home and need advice about what to do, give me a call.  There are often solutions to avoiding foreclosure and sometimes there is a possibility of getting mortgage payments reduced to  lower payments. Call me for a phone consultation or an appointment. There is no cost to the client for the service I provide. Call Rod Williams 615-850-3453.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

1st Tuesday guest is Senator Mark Green

From Tim Skow:

1ST TUESDAY Members and friends,
A ''dream come true'' for a former college basketball player ... [even if was just on the Freshman

Senator Mark Green
team] is your school to become the next to team to win it all! [GO GONZAGA!]

A ''dream come true'' for a West Point graduate is to be nominated by the President to become the next Secretary-of-the-Army.

On Tuesday, April 4th our next 1ST TUESDAY speaker will be President Trump's choice for the next Secretary of the Army, TN State Senator MARK GREEN! [see link below] WHAT TIMING! This will be a historic day at 1ST TUESDAY. Need I saw more?

As usual, doors at Waller Law [511 Union Street -27th floor] open at 11am. Event lunch is at 11:30, $20 for Members -- $25 for Guests. Lunch must be pre-ordered Monday. A large crowd is expected. Soooo, if you too would like to ''JOIN US'' please DON'T hesitate. Secure seating at 1st Tuesday Nashville and click on ''JOIN US''.

Pass the word and share with those you know. See you on Tuesday, April 4th for 1ST TUESDAY with the Secretary-to-be !!

 Tim Skow Host of 1ST TUESDAY
PS -- 1] TN Senator Bob Corker is our next guest on Monday, April 24
2] Parking under the building is just $7 for 2 hours. Space is limited
3] article link is

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