Saturday, December 22, 2018

What happened at the 12-18-18 Council meeting: Good discussion on how capital improvements get build, NES bill "round-up" deferred, aggressive affirmative action program passes 2nd reading.

by Rod Williams - Above  is the video of the Council meeting of Tuesday, December 18, 2018. It is just short of three hours long. If you are going to watch it, it will make a lot more sense if you can follow along with an agenda. To access a copy of the agenda, the agenda staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Six council members were absent from this meeting. They are Erica Gilmore, Bill Pridemore, Holly Huezo, Mike Freeman, Mary Carolyn Roberts and Ed Kindall.

Following the call to order, invocation and pledge of allegiance, Alan D. Valentine, Director of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra addresses the Council  and introduces the Symphony Brass Quintet which performs some Christmas music for the Council. Nashville is fortunate to have a symphony of the quality we have.  Not many cities can boast of a symphony that has won multiple Grammy's. We also have one of the most highly acclaimed symphony halls in the country.  I have not attended many performances of the symphony, but before my wife became home bound, we would go on occasion.  I get of sense of civic pride from living in a city with such a renowned symphony.

Following the musical performance there is the presentation of a resolution honoring the retiring Speaker of the House of Representatives Beth Harwell and then she addresses the Council.  Following that is a presentation honoring some Parks Departments employees for their accomplishments.

The Council then hears from Council Committees reporting on matter other than legislation.  This is something new the Council does. There are several committees tasked with examining different issues. The only report is form Council Member Rhoten of the Budget Subcommittee which reports on expenses and revenues from the first quarter of fiscal year 2019. Nothing of significance is reported but I think it is good that the financial status of the city is getting this ongoing additional scrutiny. Next is confirmation of mayoral appointments to boards and commission and they are approved. Following that, is the public comments period and the Council hears from two individuals, but there is nothing of significance to report.

Public Hearing on West End Avenue rezoning bill Bill BL2018-1398.
This is a  zoning bill approved by the Planning Commission that would change from MUI-A to SP zoning on property located at 2004 and 2012 West End Avenue, to permit 360 multi-family residential units, 6,500 square feet of retail or restaurant space, short term rental property (STRP), owner occupied, and short term rental property (STRP), non-owner occupied. People speak both in favor and in opposition and it is approved on a voice vote.  This is in the vicinity of 20th Ave.  This is not the more controversial rezoning further out West End near I-440 which is pending which has proved very controversial and has united several neighborhood groups in opposition. I have no opinion on the merits of the zoning bill and simply point out those that appear to generate controversy or for some other reason I find of interest.

Resolutions. There are 18 resolutions most of which are on the consent agenda.  Below are the resolutions of interest.

Resolution RS2018-1455  would approve the issuance of $25 million in General Obligation bonds to fund certain projects.  Some of the projects are not listed in the Capital Improvements Budget adopted by the Council. The Council cannot approve funding of projects not in the CIB. The CIB can be amended however, but that would take a separate action.  Also, to put this in the CIB, something else would have to be taken out or the amount of money allocated to debt service would have to be increased.  One cannot simply issue new bonds without the money to pay the debt service. The debt service could be increased if we had excess revenue but that is not the case. This issue is resolved however. The sponsor offers an amendment to take out all of those projects not in the CIB. The amendment passes. With those projects out my primary objection to this bill is removed. However, problems remain. There are many more projects in the CIB than can be funded with available debts service.
Normally, the administration initiates resolutions like this and determines which projects in the CIB get funded. Normally, resolutions like this do  not originate with the Council. However, the timing of the actual sale of the bonds would not be impacted by this resolution and simply authoring the funding for these projects would not mandate that these were the projects that got built. The administration could bring forth a resolution authorizing different project, I assume.  This could also create disorder as other council members may bring forth resolution to do the same for projects in their district if this would have passed. In the end, I am not so sure a little disorder would be a bad thing.  I have often felt that some districts were favored over others and the executive branch had too much power despite the Council controlling the purse strings.  Some good discussion ensues.  If I served in the Council, as amended, I would probably vote for this. Maybe it would be a good thing to change the way decisions are made as to which projects get funded. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:01:40-1:34:53.
The resolution fails on  roll call vote. Here is how members voted:  Yes (10): Cooper, Mendes, Hurt, Hall, Hastings, Haywood, Swope, Scott Davis, Pardue, and Glover; No (22): Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Hagar, Rhoten, Syracuse, Sledge, Allen, O'Connell, Weiner, Mina Johnson, Murphy, Pulley, Elrod, Blalock, Vercher, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Lee, Henderson, and Rosenberg; Abstain (0).
Resolution RS2018-1508 would encourages a change in the NES policy of collecting contribution to its weatherization program for low income property owners from an opt-in policy to an opt-out policy. Currently if your electric bill is so many dollars and so many cents, you may select to have your bill rounded up to the next dollar and that odd cents amount goes to a fund to pay the cost of low income property owners to have work done on their home such as insulation to improve energy efficiency. This would change that policy so that your bill was automatically rounded up unless you opted out of that process. I adamantly oppose this.  I contribute routinely to causes and charities I support, but I don't want someone automatically rounding up my bill without my specific informed consent. This is memorializing.  It "encourages" NES to adopt this policy; it would not have to do so but if this passed, NES would probably do it. This was on the agenda last meeting and deferred to this meeting. It is discussed and Councilman Rosenberg raises objections. See timestamp 1:35:05- 1:45:15. It was deferred again on a roll call vote.

Resolution RS2018-1530  by Councilman Bedne ask the Tennessee General Assembly to establish a fund to cover property owners’ losses from diminished property values following the preemption of Ordinance No. BL2016-234. This is meaningless. The state is not going to do it. BL2016-234 was a bill from year 2016 that would add “natural gas compressor stations” to a list of facilities regulated as a “major source” of air pollutants which require a local permit and would do some other things. This was a part of an attempt to stop a proposed natural gas compression stations planned for Joelton and Antioch.  Federal law says that local government can not stop these developments and the Federal government has the right to permit them. Council passed 234 anyway and then the State nullified it. I wish the Council would reject these meaningless feel-good pandering measures but they won't. This worthless resolution passed on the consent agenda.
At timestamp 1:54:48 the Vice Mayor announces he will be reading the names of all of the people nominated for position on the Police Citizens Oversight Board. This would have been done at the start of the meeting but this whole time the Clerk has been checking names to make sure she had a complete list. Councilman Swope ask, why to we need to read the names. The Vice Mayor says because we said we would and we are trying to be transparent. Then, all the names are read. It looks like many of the council members take a break while the names are read.

Bills on Second Reading:  There are 8. This is the only one of interest.
Bill BL2018-1419 is a new aggressive affirmative action program for minority and women contractors doing business with the city. I addressed this issue in this post: Briley proposed a new aggressive affirmative action program for minority and women contractors. For details of this issue, read what I previously wrote and the staff analysis.  This passes on a voice vote.
Bills on Third Reading: There are 16. Most are zoning bills approved by the Planning Commission. I skip through zoning bills rapidly because most of the time they do not interest me and most of the time only are of interest to nearby neighbors. If you think I may have missed something that interest you, you may want to watch the meeting for yourself.
Bill BL2018-1288 (as amended) is intended to stop the owner of a commercial establishment from giving away or leasing their parking spaces.  One of the causes, perhaps the major cause, of sparse development along major corridors and for urban sprawl is the requirement that owners provide parking for their customers. The codes require so many parking spaces per so many seats in a restaurant and so many parking spaces per so many square feet of different types of retail. Some developers of  commercial property have met the requirement and then turned around and leased out their parking spaces, defeating the purpose of the requirement. This is an attempts to stop that. My view is that we should give up on this attempt to cater to the old model of car-oriented development and let the market work it out. If someones wants to open a restaurant with 2O tables and only supply five parking spaces, let them. It passes on a roll call vote of 28 in favor and two opposed.
Bill BL2018-1399 (as amended) is a disapproved zoning bill in Councilman Bedne's district. I know nothing about the merits of the bill and simply pointing it out because it is a disapproved bill and would have required 27 votes to pass. Council Member Bedne offered a substitute ordinance and moved that it be accepted for filing, which motion was seconded and it was approved by a voice vote of the Council. The substitute then passed by a vote of 29 to zero.There was some discussion but it does not interest me much.  Since it was still a  disapproved bill, it still required 27 votes to pass but it passed.

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