Saturday, April 28, 2018

What's on the 5-1-18 agenda: Keeping Auto Emission testing, trying to move the Soccer stadium, taking property along the river. attempt to regulate Airbnb type websites, pet stores could only sell pound pups.

By Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, May1, 2018 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  or you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

The order of business is the call to order, prayer and pledge. The next order of business on this agenda is a proposed amendment to Rule 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the Metropolitan Council. Rule three concerns the standing committees of the Council.  I do not know what is proposed. The agenda does not say. It is probably nothing very important.  The next order of business is consideration of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions. There are nine mayoral appointments to boards and commissions on this agenda for Council confirmations. These are all reappointments. The council normally rubber stamps whomever the mayor appoints. 

Public Hearing
There is one resolution and 14 Bills on Public Hearing. 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. At public hearings almost all opposition come down to (1) concern about traffic, (2) water runoff and potential for flooding, (3) overcrowding of local schools and impact on infrastructure, (4) detrimentally changing the character of the neighborhood. You will hear the same arguments over and over. I only call attention to bills that I think will have an impact beyond the immediate neighborhood or are bills disapproved by the Planning Commission or  for some other reason are of interest. Here is the only one of interest.

Bill BL2018-1157  establishes a 50 foot floodway buffer along the Cumberland River and
A House on a cliff on the Tennessee River
prohibits variances.
The floodway is the river channel and adjacent low lying areas that would be underwater in a 100 year flood. No new construction could occur in this area and no existing building could be expanded. My initial reactions is opposition. Suppose within the fifty foot buffer, the property sit on a high cliff a hundred foot drop to the river. Should that property not be allowed to be developed?  That property could have less impact on the river than a property miles away.  Also, building in the area adjacent to a 100 year floodway does not add to the potential for flooding if displacement is applied. Displacement means that if any capacity for the land to hold water is decreased on one part of a parcel, then more capacity must be added elsewhere. As an example, if a home is build and near the front of the property, the lot is build up by adding so many cubic yards of dirt to a low area, then the same amount of earth would have to be removed elsewhere.
This would also appear to be a  "taking" property. If someone has a right to develop their property and that right is taken from them,  that is a "taking" even if the owner retains legal title. If property is taken the owner should be compensated and it should only be taken for a public purpose. The public purpose may be to reduce flood risk. That may be a valid public purpose, but the owner should be compensated if his land is now worth less because it cannot be developed. Also, there is a proposed development of a boat-oriented development along the Cumberland with canals and boat docks. This type of development could not occur if this rule was in place and if there were no variances permitted. 
There are 26 resolution on the agenda and all are on the consent agenda at this time. 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. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. Here are the resolutions of interest: 
Resolution RS2018-1158  is and an attempt to decouple the development of a soccer stadium from the location of the Fairgrounds. This resolution authorizes the city to issue bonds for construction of the major league soccer stadium but does not specify the location. There is an effort which I approve of to have the soccer stadium build in Metro Center instead of the Fairgrounds.  The staff analysis says there are several things wrong with this resolution.  If you want to know what they are click here. I would assume this resolution will have to be substituted or deferred to correct the deficiencies, but don't know that.  The owners of the soccer franchise say that building the stadium anywhere other than the fairgrounds would jeopardize the soccer deal. 

Resolution RS2018-1165   is even more money for the Metro General Hospital money pit. It is half a million from the 4% fund for equipment and building repairs. A half million here and a half million there and pretty soon you are talking about real money. 

Resolution RS2018-1171  would continue the auto emissions testing program in Nashville even though the State says we may discontinue it. This needs to be defeated.

Resolution RS2018-1180  proposes three amendments to the Metro Charter, all related to the procedure for succession when a mayor leaves office prior to the end of his term. I think what occurred when Mayor Barry was forced to resign worked pretty smoothly and do not see the need for revising the charter, however it is no big deal. It will take 27 votes of the Council for this to pass and then the proposed changes would be decided in a referendum. If I had a vote I would vote "no" but might be persuadable.

Resolution RS2018-1182  honors "James Shaw, Jr. whose heroism, prompt action, and selfless disregard for his own safety spared numerous lives" in the Antioch Waffle House shooting.
Bills on First reading: There are 13 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. This is one of those rare occasions which if I had a vote I would vote against a bill on First Reading. The bill is Bill BL2018-1173  by Councilman Davette Blalock which would ban the sue of plastic grocery bags.

Bills on Second Reading: There are eleven. Here are the ones of interest:  
Bill BL2018-1056 would regulate the on-line market for Short term rentals, that is it
would regulate websites such as Airbnb.   It would require these sites to  require a Metro permit number for each STRP application prior to placing the property on the online marketplace site. It would also require the sites to provide a detailed quarterly reports to Metro. I would oppose this if I served in the Council. The development of the quarterly report could require new computer programs or lots of man-hours for the sites. While the staff analysis does not address the issue, I would like to know by what authority Metro had to require this of a company that is not physically located in Nashville and is simply a go between facilitating the interaction of people who want to provide a place to stay and people seeking a place to stay.  What if Metro required Airbnb to have agents who were locally licensed real estate agent? Could Metro do that?  If Airbnb simply ignores this law, what can the city do about it? How would they enforce it? The Internet does not stop at the county line. Could Metro ban gambling sites or porn sites from doing business in Nashville?  Could they ban advertising of wine for sale online?  Also, as noted in the staff analysis, Tennessee General Assembly has very recently enacted legislation that impacts the ability of local governments to regulate short-term rental properties. I don't know if that would apply since this is an attempt to regulate the websites not the properties, but it might. This bill needs to be defeated. 

Bill BL2018-1159 would prohibit pet stores form selling any cats or dogs except those obtained from the pound or other such animal rescue organizations. What! Have we gone nuts! Not everyone wants a pound pup. Some people want pure bred dogs. Bad bill. 
Bills on Third Reading: There are six. None of them are of much interest. Bill BL2018-1111 (as amended)  would put under the purview of the Board of Ethical Conduct and the Standards of Conduct those who violate executive orders regarding rules of conduct. This was controversial when introduced but as amended, according to the staff analysis, this really doesn't do much. 

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 and you can watch it live on Roku. 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 on this blog the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Councilman Davette Blalock proposes banning plastic bags.

Councilmen Davette Blalock and Mike Freeman want to ban plastic bags. I am very disappointed in

Davette Blalock
Proposes banning plastic bags
 Republican Davette Blalock for sponsoring this legislation. I have supported her candidacy for Metro Council and state representative when she ran for office. This is a bad bill and needs to be defeated.

Bill BL2018-1173  will be on first reading on May 1. The bill provides that, "Beginning January 1, 2019, no retail establishment may provide single-use plastic carryout bags to its customers or to any person." The bill provides a $10 fine for the first time a store gives a customer a plastic bag, $25 fine the second time and a $50 fine for the third time and thereafter.

First reading is a formality and only rarely is a bill discussed or voted against on first reading.  A bill is not assigned to a committee until after first reading. Normally, if I were serving in the Council I  would honor the council tradition of voting for all bills on first reading, but this is one I would vote against on first reading.

If this should pass, maybe the state legislature needs to take away from local governments the power to ban plastic bags. I don't want a nanny-state that bans plastic bags, plastic straws, cigarettes, or sugary soft drinks or does a whole lot of other things to micromanage and inconvenient my life.  I like the convenience of plastic bags and don't want to be forced to carry my own totes or use paper bags.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tennessee Passes Bill to Allow In-Home Beauty Services

Press Release, Nashville, Tenn., April  25, 2018 —Late yesterday afternoon, the Tennessee a bill to allow in-home beauty services across Tennessee.  State Senator Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, State Representative Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, and State Representative Jason Powell, D-Nashville, were the primary sponsors of the bill.  Once signed by Governor Haslam, the reform will allow Tennesseans to purchase beauty services in the privacy of their own homes and businesses.
General Assembly completed the final step in passing

The bill follows The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners’s 2016 decision to issue a cease-and-desist letter and file a formal complaint against Belle—a popular Nashville-based technology company that provides on-demand health and beauty services—for bringing “highly disturbing” competition into Tennessee’s beauty industry.  The Board initially alleged that Belle was violating the state’s cosmetology laws, but withdrew its complaint after Belle formally contested the Board’s allegations.  The Board’s decision to withdraw its complaint was covered widely in local, state, and national media, including ForbesYahooReason, the Nashville Business Journal, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and the Daily Signal, among others.

“With the passing of this bill, Tennesseans will now have the right to enjoy concierge cosmetology services just like many other Americans,” said Armand Lauzon, CEO of Belle.  “Beyond that, it grants tens of thousands of cosmetologists access to the American dream by legalizing entrepreneurship in the industry. The General Assembly should be very proud of this needed reform.”
“Passage of this bill represents another step in our state to remove barriers that interfere with Tennesseans achieving the American Dream,” added Senator Dickerson.

The reform passed unanimously in the Tennessee State Senate, and it succeeded by a margin of 81-6 in the Tennessee House. Along with the bill’s sponsors, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, was instrumental in its passage.  “I was proud to support this legislation repealing a burdensome regulation. Entrepreneurs across the state will now be able to provide convenient services to Tennesseans, and create prosperity for themselves and their families,” said Speaker Harwell.

“In 2016, the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology unlawfully attempted to shut down one of Nashville’s most exciting new tech companies for the sole purpose of protecting an outdated industry competitor from competition,” said Daniel Horwitz, Belle’s attorney and lobbyist.  “This important reform ensures that the Board of Cosmetology will be prevented from engaging in such lawless behavior ever again.”

Rod Williams' comment: Congratulation to Daniel Horwitz, Belle, and all those involved in this fight. It is worth keeping in mind that often the biggest enemy of free enterprise are not socialist but those engaged in commerce who want to use the power of government to protect themselves from competition. The way the Belle service works is like this. If, for example, a women is preparing for a wedding or some special occasion and wants a make-up artist to come to her home and make her beautiful, she could use the Belle app to connect to a make-up artist. Much the way Airbnb or Uber works, Belle simply connects the person wanting the service with those wanting to provide the service. Licensed cosmetologist complained and the Board of Cosmetology tried to put Belle out of business.

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Maybe the "Blue wave" will be more like a Blue ripple.

The closely watched Arizona congressional special election where Republican Debbie Lesko was running for a vacant seat against Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni was won by Lesko. The vote was 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent for Lesko, a 5 point margin.  Lesko was expected to win the seat in a heavily Republican district that Trump won by a 21 point margin. Pundits had said that is Lesko did not win by double digits then Republicans were in trouble for the fall election. She did not win by the margin Republicans hoped for but I am pleased she didn't lose.  While five points is not the 21 point margin Trump won by it is not a close election.  I think this signals that the "blue wave" may not be a tsunami after all but a blue ripple. If Democrats take the House, of course, they still pick the speaker, chair all the committees, can start the impeachment of Trump, and hold up the Republican agenda.  A less strong win, however, will not carry all the way to governor offices and city council races across the nation the way a massive Democrat win would do.

If Tipirneni had won that would have created euphoria and contagious enthusiasm among Democrats. Tipirneni outspend Lesko in Arizona.  A Tipirneni win would caused Democrats to pour even more money and volunteers into races across the country and Republican money and enthusiasm would have been suppressed.

Closer to home, Marsha Blackburn has gained 7 points on Phil Bredesen in the past week. And, this is after Bredesen spend a ton of money. Bredesen has been presenting himself as a moderate and touting his record as mayor of Nashville and Governor of Tennessee.  While Bredesen is not Mr. Personality and is not very good at glad-handing and back-slapping and kissing babies, he is an attractive candidate and was a good governor and mayor. He is probably the best candidate the Democrats could possibly find.  According to a recent poll by Mason-Dixon Polling, 46 percent of voters support the Democrat Bredesen, while 43 percent support Marsha Blackburn.

I don't know the number of undecided in the recent poll, but I would assume this early it must be high.  This early, a 4% margin is not significant. If you are reading this blog, you probably care a lot about politics; most people don't.  Most people don't even think about who the candidates are or who they will vote for this far out. A lot of people don't start thinking about how they will vote until about 30 days before the election.

It is a long time until November and a lot can change.  More dirt could emerge on Trump, he could do something really stupid, and his trade war could materialize and cause the economy to tank. On the other hand, it could look like we have finally reigned in North Korea, nothing of significance has still not been proven on Trump or maybe the investigation has come to a close without any evidence of Trump- Russian collusion, and people may be enjoying their fatter paychecks.

I still expect Democrats to gain in the fall and Republican to lose. We may lose the House, but the Blue wave may be a Blue ripple.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bob Corker's endorcement of Marsha Blackburn

by Rod Williams - Admittedly, Bob Corker's endorsement of  Marsha Blackburn was lukewarm. I would have have liked to have seen him exhibit a little more enthusiasm and at least use her name rather than refer to her simply as "the nominee." However, I am not jumping on the hate-Bob-Corker bandwagon.  Phil Bredesen was a good mayor and a good governor as Corker has said. Bredesen's  biggest accomplishment was ended the out of control TNCare program created by a Republican governor. Corker was a fellow mayor of a major Tennessee city at the same time as Bredesen. They had a cordial working relationship. Maybe they became good friends. Both are honorable men. With the partisan divisions so strong, many think we have to hate the other side. Maybe it is because I have siblings and a mother who are Democrats that I realize that Democrats are just mistaken; not evil.

I would not vote for Bredesen, simply because he is a Democrat and will vote like a Democrat including electing the next speaker. That does not make him a bad person. I just prefer Republican policies over Democrat policies and that is why I prefer Blackburn over Bredesen. In an interview, that is essentially why Corker said he preferred Blackburn.  I respect Bob Corker for not demonizing Bredesen. While I wish Corker would campaign for Blackburn, I respect his decision not to do so.

Corker, in my view, has occasionally rightly criticized Donald Trump's intemperate and crude behavior and White House disorganization, but has praised Tump when appropriate.  Marsha Blackburn has been an uncritical Trump cheerleader.  I have always liked Marsha Blackburn but would have liked her to be a less enthusiastic Trump loyalist.  The difference between Corker and Blackburn has been obvious. The press wanted to magnify that difference and create a division between the two. Corker was goaded by the press to say something. He was pushed into making a statement. There are those who love to see  and create division. Democrats are looking to exploit any divisions within Republican ranks and right wing talk show pundits with hours of broadcast time to fill each day, thrive on creating controversy. If not for the mainstream press allied with Democrats looking to exploit Republican divisions, and conservative pundits concerned with ratings urging  people to fight each other and magnifying every slight difference, this would not be news. 
Corker has long been a target of the extreme right. I think it is less for what he does than that he has a thoughtful calm demeanor.  Some on the right are looking for bomb throwers, not calm thoughtful statesmen.  Corker has said he is voting for Marsha Blackburn and he contributed the maximum allowed contribution to her campaign. That is good enough for me.

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Republican post Cinco de Mayo Social Tuesday, May 8th 5-7

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Auto Emmissions testing is coming to an end!

My comment: Good work. It is about time!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Metro spends over $1million a year to lobby the State and Federal for more money. Should they?

by Rod Williams - According to an article in The Tennessean on March 2, Nashville increases lobbying contract by 58 percent to more than $1 million, it was reported that on Feb. 8th the Barry administration approved a $409,000 increase to the large multi-state law firm of Adams and Reese. This firm lobbies the state and federal government on behalf of the city. That increased the annual payout to the firm to $1.1 million.  Part of the justification for increasing the lobbying expenses is that the firm will be working to secure federal funding for the mayor's $9 billion transit proposal.

Controversy was generated relating to the law firm when a partner in the law firm wrote a letter asking District Attorney Glenn Funk to recuse himself from the criminal investigating into Barry's affair. That is highly inappropriate. A legal firm hired to represent the city should not be coming to the assistance of the mayor facing criminal charges. Thanks to Councilman John Cooper for raising a stink about it. By the way, I want to say that I think John Cooper is one of the best three or four members of the Metro Council. I did not vote for his election, but if he runs again I will. I watch every Council meeting and often watch meetings of the Budget and Finance Committee as well and Councilman Cooper often ask probing questions and looks out for the interest of the taxpayers. When he talks he knows what he is talking about. To stay as informed and on top of it as John Cooper one has to be doing a lot of homework. Now, back to the topic at hand.

The inappropriateness of the firm advocating on behalf of Mayor Barry aside, should the city hire lobbyist? I think not. We have state representatives and state senators to represent the interest of the citizens of the city at the state level, and U. S. representatives and senators to represent the interest of the citizens at the federal level.  A mayor can pick up the phone and call any of them and I am sure they will take his call. A mayor can write a letter explaining his logic of why the basic education funding formula should be changed to benefit the city or why the city needs a federal grant to fund a transit program. And, the mayor has staff to help compose the letters.  The Metro Council can pass memorializing resolution asking for funding or policies that benefit the city. Citizens have the right to partition their government, but it seems inappropriate for one unit of government to lobby for increased funding from another unit of government. In effect, Metro lobbying the state or federal government is Metro lobbying for greater state and federal taxation of the citizens.

Also, I think it would be inappropriate for a school board to hire lobbyist to lobby a mayor and a council for more funding.  I think it would be inappropriate for The University of Tennessee to have a lobbyist to lobby the state legislature or the governor. Not only is in inappropriate, I think it should be illegal. Since it is not illegal, as the Metro Council considers the budget I think they should take a long hard look at the amount of money the city pays for lobbyist and make sure it is appropriate and justified.  A million dollars paid to a lobbyist if instead was added to the school budget, could go a long way in restoring the social worker positions cut from the school budget.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Tennessean endorsements for May 1 Nashville election

The most important item on the ballot of May 1st is the referendum on a $9billlion transit plan. The Tennessean favors it.  I urge you to vote against it. It will make Nashville have the highest sales tax rate in the nation, relies on antiquated fix rail and will do little to relieve traffic congestion. By reducing roadway capacity it may make traffic congestion worse. It will not make trips faster than by car.  At a time when technology is making other options available and when nationwide mass transit ridership is on the decline we do not need to be building a massively expensive system more suited for the 19the century than the future.

In addition to the transit referendum, this election is a primary election. There is both a Democrat and a Republican primary but there are no Republicans candidates running in the Republican primary. One may vote just for the referendum question and skip the primary or vote in the Republican primary with no candidates or vote in the Democrat primary. Just because you may self identify as a Republican does not mean you cannot vote in the Democrat primary. We do not have party registration in Tennessee. In Tennessee there is no such thing as a "registered Republican" or "registered Democrat." 

To vote for any of the candidates seeking office you will have to vote as a Democrat, which is probably what I am going to do. I may however, vote in the Republican primary and write my own name in each slot. I am unsure at this point. The winners of the May 1st election will have their name appear on the August 2nd ballot but will most likely run unopposed.  If you ever intent to run for office as a Republican or as an officer in the Davidson County Republican Party you may not want to vote in the Democrat primary. I don't, so I probably will vote in the Democrat primary.

Today, Sunday April 22, The Tennessean made their endorsements for the May 1st election.  Here is whom The Tennessean is recommending:

  • Circuit Court Clerk: Richard Rooker
  • Davidson County clerk: Brenda Wynn
  • Trustee: Charlie Cardwell
  • Public Defender: Martesha Johnson
  • Chancery Court Part II: Anne Martin
  • Criminal Court Division II:  Angie Blackshear Dalton
  • General Sessions Court, Division III: Ana Escobar 
  • General Sessions Court, Division X: Joyce Grimes Safle
  • Criminal clerk of court: Howard Gentry
  • Juvenile clerk of court: Lonnell Matthews Jr.
  • Register of deeds: Karen Johnson
  • Sheriff:  Daron Hall
The first four candidates are running unopposed. For a sample ballot on the referendum question follow this link, for the empty Republican primary ballot follow this link, for the Democrat primary ballot follow this linkThe Tennessean article explains the function of each office and why they endorsed the candidates they endorsed. To read The Tennessean article follow this link. My recommendations do not differ much from those of The Tennessean, to read my commentary on the candidates and see my recommendations follow this link.


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