Friday, September 22, 2023

Council members learn the facts of life.

by Rod Williams, Sept. 22, 2023- The Nashville Scene reports that on Thursday the new Council met for the first day of orientation, the first of several planned orientation sessions. In orientation, Council members will learn the nuts and bolts of how Metro government works and meet and mingle with each other and get to know department heads. They will learn about sunshine laws and learn about zoning and land use and budgeting and financial management constraints. 

For some members, I expect they will learn they cannot do the things they thought they might could do as a Council member. They will lean they can't actually ban AR-15's. Some, I am sure, thought they could simply stop development in their district or just refuse to allow rezoning in their district to occur or they thought they would stop "gentrification." They will learn they as not as powerful as they thought they would be and there are limits to what they can do. 

One good piece of advice that the Scene reports that Vice Mayor Angie Dickerson impressed upon the Council during Thursday's session was the judicious use of council meeting time. "If you're just kind of getting up to say what has already been said, that's not constructive and that makes the meeting go longer." she told members. 

Council meetings can sometimes last as long as six hours. It is frustrating to hear members drone on just to hear the sound of their own voice or be seen by their constituents when they have nothing to say of importance.  I hope Dickerson told them that the committee meetings are where the real hard work of the Council gets done. I hope that when Dickerson makes her committee assignments that she will make sure committees have a good diverse cross section of the Council represented, so members can be confident and put trust in committee recommendations. 

Having served in the Council myself and being a close observer of the Council for a long time, I think a lot of Council members think they are in the U.S. Senate or at least the State House, rather than the Metro Council. They want to legislate or expound on issues that are federal or state rather than local. Also, many seem to lack an understanding of the relationship between the different tiers of governments. The relationship of the Federal government to the state is not analogous to the relationship between the State and local government. States have sovereignty; cities do not. 

The Scene piece says council members were briefed on preemption. That is something they need to be briefed on. Preemption refers to the principle that certain matters are governed by federal laws, rather than any state or local laws to the contrary. This doctrine is based on the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which specifies that federal law preempts inconsistent state law.

Council staff attorney Hannah Zeitlin explained Metro’s legislative authority in relation to state and federal law and addressed five categories of law: guns, inclusionary zoning, landlord-tenant relations, sanctuary cities and immigration, and discrimination.  She explained that the State had largely preempted local action in these areas.  

"Zeitlin referred to the Tennessee General Assembly’s preemption on local gun laws as 'one of the broadest preemptions in the Tennessee Code,' and thoroughly explained 2016 state law that has stymied Metro’s attempts to require affordable housing from developers," the Scene reports. “That is just outside our authority now," Zeitlin told the chamber. 

I hope the Council Members were paying attention. 

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment