Friday, February 14, 2020

Mayor John Cooper Issues Statement on Finalized Soccer Stadium Deal

Metro Press release, 2/13/2020 - Mayor John Cooper today issued the following statement on the finalized soccer stadium deal:

Today is an exciting step forward for sports in Nashville. We’ve reached an agreement and I expect work to start on the soccer stadium project in a matter of days.
When I came into office, I inherited an incomplete deal that was not fully funded and did not provide for the success of all the uses of our historic Fairgrounds. I could not, in good faith, obligate taxpayers to more money or uncertainty around potential litigation.
This deal lives up to our commitments to soccer, the Metro Charter, the other uses of the Fairgrounds, and my commitment to put taxpayers first in negotiations.
I’m grateful to Nashville Soccer Holdings and John Ingram for understanding our city’s financial realities and for partnering on a better solution for our city.
Major League Soccer will be a great entertainment and economic asset to our city. I believe this is the best available implementation of the commitment Metro Council made to professional soccer.
We accomplished three things by taking a closer look at the soccer deal.
      1. We eliminated financial risk to taxpayers by removing the rent guarantee on the stadium. That is a savings worth up to $35 million over the next decade. 
      2. The soccer ownership group agreed to pay for infrastructure work that would have cost taxpayers at least $19 million. 
      3. And finally, in addition to saving $54 million, the result is a more unified, successful Fairgrounds, by providing open space between the soccer stadium and the historic speedway. 
This agreement allows for a better site plan, providing great civic space that connects the stadium, historic speedway, state fair and exhibition halls, and it will bring up to $650 million of investment to the Fairgrounds.
I’m proud to say that the Community Benefits Agreement has been preserved and confirmed by language included in this new arrangement. I’m also excited by Speedway Motorsports’ desire to partner in bringing NASCAR back to Nashville, and I will work to try to make that happen.
I’m ready for the first Nashville SC game on February 29, and I am excited to move forward with the rest of my policy agenda to create a city that works for everyone.

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Save Our Fairgrounds to file injunction to stop MLS stadium deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The city is facing another lawsuit from a local group after Mayor John Cooper and Nashville SC reached a deal to move forward with the construction of a Major League Soccer stadium. In order to build the stadium, facilities at the fairgrounds have to be demolished. The group Save our Fairgrounds say they plan to file an injunction Friday to stop the project.

Save our Fairgrounds say they need these buildings so they can host the state fair, and tearing them down violates the Metro Charter. (continue reading)

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Mayor John Cooper, Nashville SC reach new agreement on MLS stadium at Nashville fairgrounds

by Rod Williams - The mayor got a much improved deal for the city. However, I am disappointed. I wanted him to kill the deal.  This deal reduces the liability of the tax payers but it still gives away prime real estate to the soccer stadium investors and makes other uses of the fairground less viable.  Thankfully this is not over.  There is a lawsuit that may yet kill the deal. I am not against soccer but think it should be located somewhere other than the fairgrounds.

See The Tennessean: Mayor John Cooper, Nashville SC reach new agreement on MLS stadium at Nashville fairgrounds.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mayor John Cooper Announces Comprehensive Evaluation of Traffic Management Operations Throughout Metro Nashville. Maybe "smart traffic" is on the way.

Metro Press release, 2/12/2020 - Mayor John Cooper today announced the Mayor’s Office and Department of Public Works has kicked off a comprehensive evaluation of traffic management operations throughout Metro Nashville. An assessment of Metro’s traffic and signal management system, a modern traffic control center, and staffing required to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and safety for all traffic will be performed.

“Nashville’s traffic problems need smart, 21st century solutions, and smarter traffic management is low-hanging fruit to improve congestion on our roadways,” said Mayor John Cooper. “There’s no good reason that our drivers should be spending 20 percent more than the national average commuting. I’m confident that my transportation team, led by Faye DiMassimo, and Metro Public Works will determine a right-sized traffic management solution for Nashville.”

The evaluation will consider the capabilities and pain points of the existing Metro signal network, the benefits of an adaptive vs. responsive traffic signal control system, current IT infrastructure, and other existing signal equipment. Additionally, Metro’s traffic management operations will be evaluated against nine peer systems, including:

  • Georgia DOT, GA 
  • Cobb County, GA 
  • Los Angeles, CA 
  • Anaheim, CA 
  • Orlando, FL 
  • Utah DOT, UT 
  • Charlotte, NC 
  • Denver, CO 
  • DC DOT 
The goal of the traffic management operations evaluation is to provide the Mayor’s Office and Department of Public Works with both short-term solutions and a long-term roadmap to more efficiently control traffic flow, manage incidents, and provide traffic-related information to travelers. The evaluation will also be followed by a signal modernization/optimization demonstration project for a portion of the Downtown Nashville area.

Rod's Comment: I commend Mayor Cooper for taking this common sense step. Improving traffic flow is the low-hanging fruit of improving our traffic problem. From time to time Metro has, with some fanfair, announced the synchronization of traffic signals. That helps on major thoroughfares for a short while but only for a short while as traffic volumes and patterns change and soon the synchronized traffic lights need to be adjusted and are soon out of sync.

What is sometimes called "smart traffic" is much more sophisticated than just synchronizing traffic signals. With smart traffic, signals are adjusted in real time to most efficiently move traffic. Below are a couple article that explain the concept:
4 Ways Cities Are Using Smart Technology To Control Traffic Congestion
Smart traffic control: the Pittsburgh example
7 Smart city solutions to reduce traffic congestion

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Major League Soccer is squeezing out Nashville Fairgrounds events that voters supported

by Shane Smiley, Guest Columnist, The Tennessean, Feb.11, 2020 - ... Placing MLS at the Fairgrounds is attempting to stuff a large venue in a place that is utilized to build dreams for others. Many of our events utilize the entire property. MLS needs its own venue to grow and thrive. The Fairgrounds needs the same for our events to grow and thrive. Squeezing down the existing events to accommodate another large scale venue is counter productive to the potential and success of any of the entities.

Remember, The Fairgrounds was presented as the only option to the ownership group by past city leaders with a long term goal of doing away with the existing events and Fairgrounds needs the same for our events to grow and thrive. Squeezing down the existing events to accommodate another large scale venue is counter productive to the potential and success of any of the entities.

Remember, The Fairgrounds was presented as the only option to the ownership group by past city leaders with a long term goal of doing away with the existing events and redeveloping the property, in spite of the nearly 71% who voted against redevelopment in the 2011 referendum. The Fairgrounds proposal violates the charter in numerous ways. The new expo takes the Flea Market from 2,000 booths to 1,400: A 30% reduction with no room for growth.

Shane Smiley is a board member of The Nashville Flea Market Vendors Association. Read the full article at this link

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Dear Mayor Cooper, Walk away from the deal.

This campaign is an effort of Americans for Prosperity.

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Another win for quality education and school choice. State overturns MNPS decision, allows Nashville Classical Charter School to expand enrollment

The Tennessean - Nashville Classical Charter School will be allowed to expand its maximum enrollment by 77 students after the state's education board overturned a November local decision.

The decision by the Tennessee State Board of Education marks the third time in recent months that it has overturned a Nashville school board charter school decision. The state board unanimously voted on Friday to overturn the decision. (continue reading)

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Mayor's Op-Ed: A Stadium Deal That Works For Everyone

John Cooper
by Mayor John Cooper - Nashville is very much open for business, and we are in the business of stewarding taxpayer dollars and public assets. A mayor should negotiate for the whole city and be a voice for every resident.

Addressing the shortcomings of a financially unimplementable soccer stadium deal has taken longer than I would have liked, but a thoughtful process takes time. I’m committed to making soccer a success. I’m honoring Metro’s commitment to build a stadium. Now, we need a financially sustainable path forward for soccer that enhances and preserves the historical uses of the fairgrounds. I’d like to explain the process and my guiding principles as I serve as your mayor.

In my campaign’s policy platform book, I wrote: “Only a mayor can turn the page and usher in an era of good management. As mayor, I will put taxpayers first in negotiations.” I take that commitment to put taxpayers first very seriously. As a council member, I opposed the stadium deal because of cost concerns and the lack of any site selection process. As mayor, I’ve tried to put taxpayers first while being mindful of Metro’s prior commitments. Being a negotiator for the whole city doesn’t mean reflexively saying “yes” or “no”; rather, it means speaking up to say, “Not yet — let’s see if we can make this financially workable and beneficial to the county.”

I recognized the importance of keeping Metro’s commitment to soccer. Metro’s pledge of $225 million in revenue bonds for the stadium and $25 million for related infrastructure was never in question. But the previous arrangement included financial risk and cost overruns untenable for a budget-constrained city with urgent needs in education, transportation, affordable housing, public safety and neighborhood infrastructure. I could not, in good faith, commit to using additional taxpayer dollars on a private entertainment subsidy.

I’ve focused on controlling costs and creating a better site at our historic fairgrounds. I believe Nashvillians will be proud of the results. I’d like to unpack the $54 million in cost savings and explain my vision for the fairgrounds campus.

The historic fairgrounds campus deserves a master plan that works for all its uses and visitors. If we successfully integrate soccer and new development with enhanced historical uses, our fairgrounds will be one of Nashville’s signature public spaces. One historical use is auto racing, which is mandated by our Metro Charter. I’m working to find a path for racing’s success, and in these negotiations, I’ve secured additional space to allow for necessary speedway improvements. Higher-level auto racing will attract more visitors and ensure the long-term sustainability of the fairgrounds.

I’m hopeful that the 2.4 acres between the soccer stadium and the speedway (“Parcel 8c”) can be redesigned to create a public plaza worthy of the two great sports in neighboring 30,000-seat venues. A multi-functional plaza would address the operational needs of multiple fairgrounds uses, create open space on a campus home to Fair Park and Browns Creek Greenway, and shape a unified and beautiful fairgrounds for generations.

Negotiating for the whole city means making sure taxpayers are not responsible for covering private investors’ risk. The original financing arrangement for the stadium included a “Rent Reduction Guaranty” by Metro. That meant taxpayers would have paid up to $35 million in the event of soccer revenue shortfalls. As a result of our talks, this risk now falls on Nashville Soccer Holdings. That $35 million saved is $3 million more than the annual budget for all our public libraries. When reviewing updated cost estimates, I was concerned that stadium-related infrastructure would cost roughly $19 million more than expected. The private investors — not taxpayers — have agreed to pay this bill. That savings alone is enough to pay for two brand-new fire stations.

Throughout the process, I’ve remained fully supportive of the community benefits agreement between Stand Up Nashville and Nashville Soccer Holdings. Metro government was never party to that agreement, but I am working to support its enforcement by including reference to the CBA in the lease agreement.

We are an ambitious city that can welcome a new sport, save taxpayers millions and create welcoming public spaces. Nashville will keep growing, and I pledge to continue working to make sure our growth is people-centric, neighborhood-friendly and financially sustainable. And in so many ways — from our streets to our schools — Metro needs to catch up to the growth we have already experienced. I am excited to move forward with the rest of my policy agenda to create a city that works for everyone.

Rod's Comment: The above was an op-ed published in The Tennessean on Sunday, February 9, 2020. I commend Mayor Cooper for negotiating a better deal for the city.  However, it is my wish that none of the fairground land be given to private developers and that the city not participate in financing a soccer stadium at all.

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Sunday, February 09, 2020

Former Mayor Megan Barry preaches fidelity to commitments.

Umm, let me think about that.

Megan Marry wants us to honor the sweetheart deal that screwed the taxpayers by giving away some prime fairground real estate to some well-connected wealthy developers and violated the will of the people who went to the polls and voted to protect the fairgrounds.

First of all, I do not value advice from Megan Barry about fidelity to commitments.

See, Former mayor Megan Barry on MLS stadium: "They expect us to honor our commitments."

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What happened at the Feb.4 Council meeting: Most of the bad stuff deferred, including prohiting contracting for detention facilities. Anti short-term rental bill advances

by Rod Williams - This meeting is three and a half hours long. To access the agenda, agenda analysis and my partial commentary on the agenda follow this link. To see the meeting minutes follow this link. Below is my summary of the meeting listing what I deem the most important items on the agenda. This meeting includes public hearing on zone changes and related matters. If that concerns you, you are on your on.  Since all were approved by the Planning Commission and I am not very interested in rezoning bills, I skipped that part except for the bills regarding short-term rentals.

Following Pat Nolan's introduction, the call to order, the  prayer, pledge and some announcements the Council takes up elections and confirmations including appointments to the Community Oversite Board.  I do not know any of the candidates and the voting seems to show that there is no ideological division in the way council members voted. One of the candidates, Samuel X, is a student minister with The Nation of Islam and he got the votes of only two members that being Council Members Hurt and Suara. There were six candidates to fill three seats. If you care about who voted for which candidate, see the minutes at this link. Filling these seats is somewhat complicated. If you wants to watch the explanations and the process, see timestamp 15:53 - 37:35.

Special Committee Reports: At the start of this term of the Council, the Vice mayor appointed eight special committees to look at different issues facing the city.  The mayor has each chairman of one of these special committees to provide and up to a  three minute synopsis of the committee's findings. The chairmen of the various committees present some interesting findings and good suggestions. I recommend you watch this segment of the council meeting. To view these committee report presentations see timestamp 41:55- 1:13:13.  Also the Committee reports of each committee is posted online at this link. I plan to read these reports.

Public Hearing: 

BILL NO. BL2019-78 (SLEDGE) – This ordinance requires a minimum distance for a new Short Term Rental Property - Not Owner-Occupied from churches, schools, daycares, and parks. No new STRP permit could be located less than 100 feet from a religious institution, a school or its playground, a park, or a licensed day care center or its playground, unless, after a public hearing, a resolution receiving 21 affirmative votes is adopted by the Council. In my view this is uncalled for. I oppose this bill. I live on a street with several short-term rentals and have never had a problem.  I have one diagonally across the street from me.  Maybe some people do have a problem but that indicates a need for more enforcement not making it more difficult to have short-term rental.  There is a greater likelihood of complaints against owner-occupied housing and long-term rental housing that there is from short-term rental.  The bill is deferred  until March 5th.
BILL NO. BL2019-111 (PARKER, TOOMBS, & SLEDGE) – This ordinance creates new “NS” (No STRP) districts for all zoning districts, except single and two family residential (R and RS), downtown code (DTC), and industrial districts (IWD, IR, and IG). These new NS zoning districts would be identical to all existing standards and all existing uses, except that owner occupied and not owner occupied uses would be prohibited in NS districts. This is another unnecessary attack on short term rentals and an attack on property rights.  To see the discussion see timestamp 1:22:35- 2:07:22.  After some discussion it passes on a voice vote.
Resolutions: All were routine non-controversial resolutions.

Second Reading:
Bill BL2020-115 (as amended) requires a security plan prior to obtaining a building permit for a parking structure constructed near a stadium, arena, or racetrack. Under this ordinance, no parking structure, as defined by the zoning administrator, could be constructed within 100 feet of a stadium, arena, or racetrack that accommodates or will accommodate 1,000 people or more unless a security plan prepared by a professional sports/entertainment facility security consultant is approved by the fire marshal and the department of codes administration. The security plan must, at a minimum, include mitigation mechanisms to protect spectators from attacks associated with explosives contained inside motor vehicles located on or within the parking structure. It is my understanding that this would be another obstacle in the way of the proposed MLS Fairground stadium. Also for security purposes, it does sound reasonable. I support this bill. It is deferred one meeting.
BILL NO. BL2020-148 (BENEDICT, WELSCH, & OTHERS) – This ordinance would amend Section 4.12.240 of the Metro Code pertaining to future contracts with private operators of detention facilities. Ordinance No. BL2017-542 established Section 4.12.240 to require future contracts for correctional facility management services to be approved by the Metro Council, and to require reports to be submitted by the contractor to the Council regarding contractor performance for future contracts. This ordinance would delete those requirements from the 2017 ordinance and substitute with new provisions that would prohibit Metro from entering into a new contract, or renewing an existing contract, with a private contractor to manage a Metro detention facility after June 30, 2022. The ordinance would also prohibit Metro from entering into or renewing a contract with the state for the detention of incarcerated persons if the contract permits a private contractor to manage the facility. "Profit" has become a dirty word for some people in recent years. For-profit prisons and schools have especially come under attack by progressives. I think government contracting for services is often, not always-but often, more cost-effective than government providing services directly, whether garbage collection, janitorial services, road construction or owning and managing prisons. I oppose this bill. Contracting for detention services should not be banned as an option. This is deferred one meeting.
BILL NO. BL2020-149 would require landlords to provide at least 90 days’ written notice to tenants before increasing the tenant’s rent. This is likely to reduce the availability of affordable housing and raise rent prices. This type interference in the market hardly ever achieves the desired result. There is already the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) which requires a 30-day notice. Nashville should not have a more restrictive rule than other places in Tennessee. This needs to be defeated. If it does pass, I hope the State invalidates it. It is deferred two meetings
Bills on Third Reading 
Bill BL2019-3 authorizes Metro to opt into the historic properties tax abatement program under state law and would establish a historic properties review board. I support this concept. I don't want to require property owners to preserve historic properties but I support incentives that encourage historic preservation. Apparently, according to comments by the sponsor,  a study found there would be a significant loss of tax revenue if this bill was enacted. I am surprised that enough properties would qualify to make the tax loss significant.  The sponsor defers the bill indefinitely which means it is dead.  The sponsor says he plans to continue working on the issue and will bring something similar back before the Council. Bill BL2019-49 was related to 2019-3 and it is also deferred indefinitely. 

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