Sunday, August 12, 2018

What happened at the Council meeting of Aug 7: Bird regs pass on 2nd, Donelson Transit deferred on 3rd, Proposed charter amendments deferred, Edge Hill overlay advances.

Above is the video of the Council meeting of August 8th.. To see my commentary on the agenda and a link to the agenda and the Council staff analysis follow this link.

At seven and half hours long, this is a long council meeting. The public hearing on zoning matters takes up the bulk of the meeting and the council does not get to the point of considering resolution until 5 hours into the meeting. I did not watch all of this meeting. I watched at double speed and skipped forward looking for the parts of interest. If you care that much and think I may have missed something important, then you may want to watch the meeting for yourself.

I am posting this report later than normally due to the video being posted later than normal and because I could not find the time to tackle watching this long meeting. By the time I got around to watching this meeting the minutes of the meeting were posted, so I consulted the meeting minutes to find out the outcome of some to the bills that interested me. To see the meeting minutes, follow this link.

Elections and Confirmation: There are 4 mayoral appointments to Boards and Commission before the Council for confirmation. They are all approved.

Resolutions and bills on public hearing: There are four resolution and seventeen bills on pubic hearing. The resolutions are requesting  exemptions from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit. The bills are rezoning request or related zoning bills. I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning.  I only call attention to bills that I think will have an impact beyond the immediate neighborhood or are bills that have already been to the Planning Commission and have been disapproved by the Planning Commission, or  for some other reason are of interest These are the ones of interest:

Bill BL2018-1245 which would apply a conservation overlay to 43 acres in the Edge Hill community is approved by a vote of 28 in favor, 5 opposed and 2 abstentions.  This is an attempt to slow the gentrification of this historically Black community near downtown west of 8th Ave., east of music row.  With this overlay in place most existing housing could not be torn down and where new construction was permitted, the new construction would have to comparable in style to the existing homes in the community. The community is deeply divided on this issue. The Planning Commission only approved this by a vote of 4 to 3 after two hours of heated public hearing. For more on the issue, read the Tennessean coverage, South Nashville community bitterly split over plan to restrict development and Metro Council back controversial plan.
To view the council deliberation and public hearing go to timestamp 12:37 in the video.  The first speaker in favor of this overlay is Walter Searcy, a prominent Black attorney with a checkered past. At timestamp 1:06:46 Carlos Deford Baily, grandson of iconic early Black county music artist Deford Bailey speaks in favor. One speaker admits and addresses that this community divide is a racial and socioeconomic divide to the dispute. She speaks with passion. At 1:10:34 those opposed to the overlay have their turn.While there may be a racial divide to this issue there were both Whites and Blacks speaking on both sides of the issue. A theme of those opposed is that the proponents distorted the degree of support and manipulated the appearance that the overlay is widely supported. One of the points that opponents make is that there are less restrictive overlay options to preserve the character of the community. The opponent end their time at the microphone at timestamp 2:36:18. A Planning Commission staff member then explains what is prohibited under the provisions of the overlay. After both sponsors Sledge and O'Connel offer there comments there is some limited Council discussion and then the vote is  taken.
Those voting in favor are Cooper, Mendes, Shulman, Hastings, Swope, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Pridemore, Hagar, Glover, Huezo, Syracuse, Sledge, O'Connell, Roberts, Kindall, Mina Johnson, Murphy, Pulley, Elrod, Karen Johnson, Bedne, Dowell, Lee, Henderson, and Rosenberg; Voting "NO" are Hall, Haywood, Pardue, Freeman, and Blalock and voting to Abstain are Gilmore, and Hurt. The action on this bill ends at timestamp 2:49:43.
Bill BL2018-1275 and  Bill BL2018-1276 (as amended)  are related and are bills applying a Neighborhood Landmark Overlay District on property located at 1431 Shelton Avenue and rezoning the property from  R6 to MUN-A. This would allow a recording studio to operate in what is a residential community. This is a tool used to save old large homes that are too big for normal residential use and the economic activity is of a type that is low impact but many neighbors oppose this type arrangement. Neighborhood activist and former Metro Councilman John Summers speaks against the bill. To see the public hearing look at about timestamp 3:14. It passed by a vote of 25 to 5 to 4. To read The Tennessean's report on this issue see, Obscure zoning tool could legalize home studio in historic East Nashville home.
Bill BL2018-1280 approves the plans for a non-hazardous liquid waste processing facility to be located at 2832 Whites Creek Pike. This proves controversial. I did not delve into the issue deep enough to have an opinion. To see the public hearing and council deliberation see timestamp 3:50:18 - 5:06:08 It was approved by a vote of 21 to 12 to 3.
Resolutions: There are 45 resolution on the agenda in addition to the resolutions on public hearing. Initially all resolutions except  resolutions on public hearing are on the consent agenda. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes unanimously the committees to which it is assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter-agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Here are the resolution of interest:
Resolution RS2018-1314 proposes six charter amendments to be submitted to the voters for ratification. This will take 27 votes to be approved.
  • Three of them are related the line of succession for the office of mayor and how a vacancy is filled. It also addresses how a district council vacancy would be filled and would shorten the time a district would go without having a council member. Some problems are pointed out with what is proposed related to the timing of elections. It is pointed out that the proposed amendment could mean someone is elected with only three months to serve and other people are pulling papers to run in the next general election.  Some change needs to be made to avoid an expensive runoff to fill the office of vice mayor as we are now experiencing.
  • The fourth proposed amendment would require oaths of office for mayor, vice mayor, and members of council to include an oath to uphold the Charter of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville. Currently, such oaths reference only support of the Tennessee Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.
  • The fifth proposed amendment would change the term limits for the offices of councilman and councilman at-large from two (2) terms to three (3) terms. It would also change “councilman” to “councilmember.” The attempt to expand term limits has been tried before and rejected by the voters.
  • The sixth proposed amendment would update the Metropolitan Charter with general neutral references in place of masculine-only pronouns. References to “he” would be changed to “he or she,” “his” would be changed to “his or her,” “him” would be changed to “him or her,” “councilman” would be changed to “councilmember,” and “policemen”would be changed to “police officers.” 
Each of the proposed charter amendments must be considered individually, and each must garner 27 votes, then the total bill is moved as amended and must get 27 votes. A lot of work has gone into the proposals before it reaches the Council floor.  There is a Charter Revision Committee that considers the proposals before they reach the Council. The Council discussion never gets past the proposed second amendment concerning the filling of a vacancy of a district council seat. After discussion, Council Member Pridemore moved to defer the resolution, and the motion was seconded and approved by a  roll call vote. Due to the time frame by which a proposal to amend the charter must be passed in order for the election commission to be able to place the proposed charter amendments on the ballot, when this comes up next council meeting, it must pass or no charter amendments can be considered this year. To see the council deliberations see timestamp 5:22:11 to 5:23:24.
Resolution RS2018-1319  appropriates $551,051.45 in Community Development Block Grant funds for sidewalk improvements in North Nashville. This is money that could instead be used to leverage the building of units of affordable housing. This passed on the consent agenda.
Resolution RS2018-1328  would issue General Obligation bonds in the amount of $50 million, $25 million of which would be for demolition of existing fairgrounds buildings and $25 million would provide infrastructure for the proposed MLS stadium. There are also three bills pending also related to the fairgrounds land giveaway soccer deal and this was deferred to track with those bills.
Resolution RS2018-1329Resolution RS2018-1330, Resolution RS2018-1331, Resolution RS2018-1332, and Resolution RS2018-1333  each appropriates $200,000 from various departments of Metro Government to various selected non-profits. Some of these, such as the Oasis Center and St. Lukes and Nashville Adult Literacy Council, I am familiar with. Others such as Nations Ministry Center and Moves and Grooves, I have never heard of.  I do not approve of giving Metro Tax dollars to non-profits. If it s contract for a non-profit to provide a service that is one thing, but to just give various agencies money, I do not think is appropriate.
Conexion Americas is slated to get $50,000. While Conexion Americas does some worthwhile things, they also provide services to illegal aliens and advocate on behave of illegal aliens.
All of these pass.  The "no"votes are  Swope, Glover, Huezo, Freeman, and Roberts. To see the discussions see timestamp 5:55:12
Resolution RS2018-1356  by Steve Glover expresses the intention of the Metropolitan Council to suspend action on any agreement related to any lease and redevelopment of the Nashville Fairgrounds until all necessary procedures have been completed. This was deferred "by rule."
Bills on First reading: There are 24 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading. They are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare circumstances. I normally don't read them until they get to second reading. On this agenda there are several bills on First Reading related to the fairground. As is the norm all bills on first reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.

Bills on Second Reading: There are eight. Here are the ones of interest.
Bill BL2018-1142  says that if a request for funds from the 4% fund is going to be spend in  single council district that that district councilman will be given advance notice. This sounds reasonable to me. It is approved by a voice vote.

Second Substitute Bill BL2018-1202 would regulate "shared urban mobility devices," such as bicycles and scooters, and if establish a permitting system for them. This was prompted by the arrival of Bird Scooter in Nashville. This would establish a one-year pilot program for the scooter, impose a lot of cost, including a $35 per scooter and a whole lot of regulation. My view is that this is overkill. There is a lot of discussion and then it is approved by a voice vote. To view the discussion see timestamp 6:15:35 to 6:56:30.

Bill BL2018-1281 would require sexual harassment awareness training of Metro employees and contractors. The staff analysis says we do not know how much this would cost and that HR does not have the resources to track compliance. It is deferred to the October 2nd meeting.

Bill BL2018-1283 essentially says that Metro cannot use the proceeds from sale of surplus property to balance the budget.  While it seems to make sense that one should not use one-time money to fund on-going cost, as we did this year, I am not sure that this flexibility should be taken away. There may be times when the city needs to do that. This was deferred at the request of the sponsor to the September 18th meeting.
Bills on Third Reading: There are 20. Most are approved zoning bills.
Bill 2016-219 to trample property rights and kill an affordable housing project deferred again.  I have posted separately on this issue. To learn more follow this link.
Substitute BL2018-1139 (as amended) is the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan.   This has been worked on for a long time and is a complex bill. It would guide redevelopment around the Music City Star Donelson train stop and contains an affordable housing component. New authority from the state provides for this type of designation and this will be the first time that authority has been used.  This development hit a bureaucratic snag explained in this Tennessean article: $300M Donelson development stalled by oversight dispute For more on this complex bill, see the lengthy staff analysis. This bill is  amended on third reading to change the composition of the advisory board. This bill was deferred by a roll call vote over the objection of the sponsor. To see the discussion see timestamp 7:07:55- 7:19:34
Bill BL2018-1182 is a disapproved rezoning bill in Councilman Karen Johnson's district.  I am only calling attention to the bill because it is disapproved and will require 27 votes to pass. It passes.

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