Update From 3/15 Council Meeting

My TIF ordinance passed 2nd reading last night. Two veteran Councilmembers told me (nicely) that I made a rookie mistake by not taking the opportunity to talk about the ordinance so that constituents in the audience and watching on tv would have a better idea of what the new law will do.  My bad – I’ll try to talk more…

At the March 1 meeting, the Rules & Confirmation Committee deferred the appointment of Dr. Feng Li as the County Medical Examiner. The main issue was that he didn’t live in Davidson County, and the Committee wanted to know more about the efforts to recruit a qualified doctor who would live in Nashville. After the March 1 meeting, Dr. Li decided to move into Davidson County. The Committee was pleased with this commitment and approved his appointment yesterday.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Rules & Confirmation Committee deferred two nominees for the Planning Commission for one meeting. These might be the most important appointments that we consider all year, and they deserve careful consideration. I expect the nominees to appear before the Committee at our next meeting. If anyone has questions they’d like us to ask the Planning Commission nominees, please let me know.

The media covered two bills.  One was CM Glover’s ordinance that would have required the Fair Board to reserve 17 weekend dates per year for gun shows until there is either a court ruling or Attorney General’s opinion about whether the Fair Board legally can stop having gun shows.  This ordinance got indefinitely deferred under the Council’s new “Rule 24.”  Under this rule, a committee can indefinitely defer a bill – this effectively kills a bill (with a one-time chance to bring it back to life.)  To bring it back, CM Glover would need to make a written request of the Clerk to place it back on the agenda.  If he gets a majority of CMs to vote at the next meeting to bring it back, it goes back on the agenda for further consideration.

Honestly, I was surprised that the indefinite deferral procedure was used. Practically, I am not sure it makes much difference. If there hadn’t been an indefinite deferral, CM Glover would have needed a majority vote to pass the bill on 3rd reading.  And, now that it has been indefinitely deferred, it still needs a majority vote to bring it back to life.  Either way, if a majority of CMs like it, it will become law.  But setting aside the practicality, using the procedure yesterday definitely stirred up some raw feelings. I’m not sure we need that…still processing…

The other bill that got media coverage was the Lifeway incentive package.  Other than the headline, I think the Scene did a nice job of capturing the difference in perspectives.  CM Cooper was pretty bothered by the developer getting paid to provide additional park space.  His view was that Metro is paying the developer for what is essentially an amenity park largely for their future residential owners.  CM O’Connell, who represents downtown, felt strongly that the incentives were appropriate and that downtown needs green space badly. I liked what CM O’Connell said in the Scene about the Council needing to focus on long term strategy because that will create more change in the long run that trying to re-negotiate individual deals that the Mayor’s office has already made.

(The Scene headline said that this measure “sailed through Council.” I bet the folks pushing for the incentives didn’t feel that way. There was a specially called Budget & Finance Committee meeting about this on March 7 to address a list of concerns raised by multiple CMs in addition to CM Cooper. And, there was also a Council site visit on March 11 to see the site of the proposed park land purchase.)

I voted in favor of this package. It had a $2.5 incentive that went to benefit Lifeway, a 125 year fixture in Nashville that provides lots of high quality jobs and is a good corporate citizen. Compared to what Metro has done for other significant corporate moves, this is not a large incentive.  And, regarding the additional $990,000 to the developer for the park land – it has been reported that the developer told everyone, “We already gave Metro more than an acre of land for green space…we are selling this additional land to Metro at a discount because Metro has asked to get more land…we will not donate it.”  Given this, the Council either could approve the purchase of discounted park land, or play a game of chicken with the developer to find out if the developer would donate the land even though they said they wouldn’t.  I didn’t think daring them to not sell the land for a downtown park was the right choice.  This whole analysis brings me back to what CM O’Connell said in the Scene.  Citizens win the incentives game by setting the long term ground rules, and not by haggling over individual deals that have already been negotiated.

I typed this update pretty late in the evening…please forgive any typos…

Bob Mendes

Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.