Thursday, April 06, 2017

What happened on the April 4th Council meeting: anti-Trump bill dies, sidewalk bill passes, controversy over honoring Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III, water rates increase.

The meeting does not start until timestamp 33:50. The first part of the video is announcements which occur before the start of the meeting. If you are going to watch the meeting, you really need a copy of the agenda and the staff analysis. To access those documents as well as my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Following the pray and pledge of allegiance, there is a special presentation honoring Tommy Lynch a retiring long-time metro employee who served with the Parks Department.  Confirmation of appointees to Boards and Commissions pass without descent.

The Vice Mayor announces the vacancy of the seat on General Sessions Court due to the resignation of the disgraced Judge Casey Moreland. The Council will fill this seat and nominations must be submitted by the nominating Council member by Tuesday, April 11 at 4PM. At the May 16 meeting the Council will select the new judge.  Metro Council is often a stepping stone for service as a General Session Judge.  Do not be surprised if several of the lawyers on the council vie for this seat. Councilman Sam Coleman is one councilman running for this position. There can be a lot of intense politicking to win this coveted appointment.  Usually the Council has filled these vacancies with one of their own. For more on the process of filling this appointment see, Who will replace Judge Moreland?

Bills on Public Hearings. Much of the meeting is public hearings on zoning matters and I watched much of it in double speed and skipped over some of it.  Most zoning matters are only of interest to a few nearby neighbors.  I try to point out the bills on public hearing that are particularly controversial or are disapproved by the Planning Commission or have policy implications. If, you want to be sure I didn't miss something important to you may want to watch the meeting for yourself.  Here 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.  This requires a developer to build a a sidewalk even when there are no other sidewalks on the street. One opponent of this bill points out that streets will have pieces of sidewalks to nowhere.  That is my understanding of what this bill would accomplish. It is also pointed out that due to grading slopes and drainage issues, that it is difficult to build sidewalks 50 feet at a time, that in the end all the pieces may not fit and that sidewalks need to be engineered corner to corner. This has been worked on for a long time and deferred about three times before. There is still another version of this bill pending. Several people speak on the bill. It passes by voice vote and is amendable on Third Reading. To view the discussion see timestamp 52:36-1:21:12.
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. It appears the developer has done his homework and accommodated neighbors concerns, including setting aside part of the property as green space.  To pass a disapproved bill requires 26 votes on third reading whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. This passes on Second Reading. 
Resolutions. There are not any resolutions of particular interest, most are routine things. RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  which proposes several housekeeping amendments to the Metro Charter is deferred indefinitely and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-642  which ask Judge Moreland to resign is withdrawn. Judge Moreland has already resigned.

Bills on First Reading pass by a single vote as is the norm.

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 passes on a voice vote with no opposition and is deferred to the second meeting in may and made amendable on Third. 
 BILL NO. BL2017-643 by Councilman Cooper 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."   This is a good bill. It passes on a voice vote.

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. At the request of the sponsor it is deferred indefinitely. There is no public discussion and I do not know what went on behind the scene.
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. The brand name "Styrofoam" is changed to "foam"and the bills is deferred one meeting.
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.  This is deferred one meeting.BILL NO. BL2017-656 would name the bridge over I-40 / I-65 between 11th Avenue North & 12th Avenue North along the 1100 block of Jefferson Street in honor of Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III. Surprisingly this proves controversial. Metro has a policy of not naming streets after living persons but can name structures. It looks like there is some sort of petty jealousy among the Black members of the Council. There is a failed attempt to defer the bill and it then passes on a roll call vote of Council member Sharon Hurt voting "no," 29 voting "yes," four abstentions and six not voting. For the discussion see timestamp 2:47:30- 3:08:08.
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 ones of interest.  
BILL NO. BL2016-483 requires 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. This information is already available upon request. This appears to serve no purpose other than to show sympathy for the concern of Black activist. It passes on a roll call vote of 26 yes, 6 no, and 2 abstentions.
BILL NO. BL2017-581   grants 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. It passes on a voice vote.
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. They pass on a voice vote.
BILL NO. BL2017-588  raises water rates. It amends 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. It passes without discussion.

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Mayor Barry to Deliver State of Metro Address at Bridgestone Arena

Address will be open to the public Wednesday, April 26 at 10:00am

Press release, 4/5/2017- On Tuesday night, the Metro Council passed a resolution filed by the Mayor’s Office announcing that the 54th Annual State of Metro Address will be held at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

“Over the past year, Nashville has been celebrated as one of the most successful and promising cities in the United States—a diverse, forward-thinking, vibrant hub for culture, business and more,” said Mayor Megan Barry. “Yet, with new economic opportunity and growth comes a responsibility to ensure we continue to support the long-time residents and businesses that make up the heart of Nashville. At this year’s State of Metro, I look forward to sharing my vision for how we can harness this growth and ensure that we continue this momentum in an equitable and sustainable way that will improve the quality of life for all of Nashville.”

The State of Metro Address will include important details about the Mayor’s budget proposal, which will be presented to the Metro Council following the event. In addition to remarks from Mayor Barry, the event will include performances by the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands Marching Band, the city’s youth poet laureate, and a special musical guest.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend. For counting purposes only, attendees can RSVP at Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Anyone requesting accommodations due to disabilities should contact Jerry Hall, ADA Coordinator, at 615-862-8960 or

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Monday, April 03, 2017

State legislature to stop Nashville's rental price-fixing policy from taking effect.

Thanks to the State legislature, Nashville again is being stymied in becoming the beacon of liberalism it would like to be. It we are not yet the San Francisco of the South, it is thanks to the State legislature. In September of 2016 the Metro Council passed SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-133  which  was a rental housing price-fixing measure often called "inclusionary zoning." The bill passed unanimously.  While there is a small handful of self-identified Republicans in the Council, they almost always vote just like everyone else.  This would have been an opportunity for those Republicans to take a principled stand against a very liberal proposal, but they did not. The "conservatives" in the metro council routinely vote for things like limousine price-fixing and rental price-fixing and corporate welfare and seldom take a stand against Nashville's liberal policies.

Proponents of the Council's inclusionary zoning bill will tell you that it is really not inclusionary zoning, because technically it does not mandate that a developer build affordable housing.  Before Nashville passed its version of inclusionary zoning, the State legislature had already passed a bill to prohibit cities from mandating that a portion of any new construction had to be set aside as "affordable."  The law tried to make it clear that a city could not mandate directly or indirectly that a portion of housing had to be set aside for work-force or affordable housing.

Nashville's mayor and metro council and planning bureaucrats thought they would work around the intend of the State legislature.  The plan devised by Nashville did not mandate directly but set conditions that made it almost impossible to develop rental housing without  sitting aside affordable units. Nashville's version of inclusionary zoning, scheduled to take effect in June of this year, said that any developer seeking to build five or more rental units and who requested a zoning variance of any kind would have to include a percentage of affordable housing.  A variance may allow greater height, for instance, than allowed by the standard zoning.  In order to make the math work and the development possible almost all developers of rental complexes have to get a variance.

Glen Casada is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit Nashville's version of inclusionary zoning. Below is the bill summary from the State legislative website.

Bill Summary

Present law:

(1) Prohibits a local governmental unit from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing any zoning regulation, requirement, or condition of development imposed by land use or zoning ordinances, resolutions, or regulations or pursuant to any special permit, special exception, or subdivision plan that requires the direct or indirect allocation of a percentage of existing or newly constructed private residential or commercial rental units for long-term retention as affordable or workforce housing; and
(2) Authorizes a local governmental unit to create or implement an incentive-based program designed to increase the construction and rehabilitation of moderate or lower-cost private residential or commercial rental units.

This bill rewrites (1) and (2) above as follows:

(1) Prohibits a local government unit, or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof, from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing any ordinance, resolution, regulation, rule, or other requirement that:

(A) Requires the direct or indirect allocation of existing or newly constructed private residential or commercial rental units to be sold or rented at below market rates;
(B) Conditions any zoning change, variance, building permit, or any change in land use restrictions or requirements, on the allocation of existing or newly constructed private residential or commercial rental units to be sold or rented at below market rates; or
(C) Requires a person to waive the person's constitutionally protected rights related to real property in order that the local government unit can increase the number of existing or newly constructed private residential or commercial rental units that would be available for purchase or lease at below market rates within the jurisdiction of the local government unit; and

(2) Authorizes a local government unit to create or implement a purely voluntary incentive-based program designed to increase the construction or rehabilitation of workforce or affordable private residential or commercial rental units, which may include providing local tax incentives, subsidization, real property or infrastructure assistance, or any other incentive that makes construction of affordable housing more economical, so long as no power or authority granted to the local government unit to regulate zoning or land use planning is used to incentivize or leverage a person to develop, build, sell, or rent housing at below market value.

This bill declares as void and unenforceable any local regulations that are in conflict with this bill.
I have spoken with Glen Casada about this issue from time to time and am pleased that he has taken the action he has taken.  If there is one person who gets the credit for keeping Nashville a relatively sane city, it is Glen Casada. 

I was never convinced that Nashville's version of inclusionary zoning would take effect.  Even before the Council passed the plan, Casada and other legislators where aware of what was happening.  Also, if the State would not have acted, a law suit would have likely been filed challenging the legality of the measure. State legislation is a much more certain way to resolve this than a lawsuit. Casada's bill seems likely to pass.  It has already passed the house and is scheduled for a Senate committee action tomorrow.

For everything I have posted reporting on this issue follow this link.

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