Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For Council, Priorities Have Flown The Coop

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Nobody, I mean <em>nobody</em>, calls me disengaged from the body politic.
  • Nobody, I mean nobody, calls me disengaged from the body politic.

With more than 2,000 years of Western civilization under their wings, the 40 members of Nashville's Metro Council engaged in an awesome debate last night concerning one of the most pressing issues facing modern society.

After approximately 60 minutes of impassioned rhetoric, representatives of your municipal government narrowly approved a bill that would address systemic income equality undertake a massive jobs program to employ all out of work Nashvillians provide universal health care for all Davidson County residents send the first guitar to the moon permit the raising of chickens in certain council districts within Davidson County.

Passions flamed on both sides of the issue to the point where it had seemed all oxygen had been sucked from the room. Even Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors seemed to roll her eyes as council members regaled those assembled with stories of wild animals (mainly in the Antioch area) that would eviscerate the chickens; talk of exorbitant costs to animal services; the decibel level emitted by hens; fecal-based animal diseases; and other tales of (ahem) foul play.

As you can imagine, a solid hour of this produced some memorable sobriquets. District 16 Councilman Tony Tenpenny said he gets "chicken calls" on a weekly basis, and oftentimes has to "wrangle" them into submission, such is the state of poultry-related anarchy in the Radnor area. (More interestingly, Tenpenny was one of six council members who voted against the bill yet refrained from including their district in the so-called "opt-out" amendment.)

Yet when the issue of granting the city $280 million of bonds was presented before the legislators, debate was nowhere to be found. As it turns out, serious discussion of complex financial instruments like interest rate swaps, the part they play in the fiscal health of Davidson County and the rationale for their issuance does not possess the same allure as Foghorn Leghorn.

The same goes for the finalization of the LifePoint deal, which garnered a mere 10 minutes of discussion over Davidson County's drinking of Williamson County's proverbial milkshake.

Councilmen Josh Stites and James Stanley had the audacity to question the speculative, closed-door nature of the deal.

While praising the efforts of the economic development team that executed the deal, Stites worried that it sets a dangerous precedent for future corporate tax breaks — especially when non-corporate Davidson County residents might face a tax increase.

"We shouldn't give them money when we'll have to ask for tax increases for taxpayers," he said to his largely disinterested colleagues. "Any incentive package needs to be based on jobs created and the quality of those jobs."

Regardless, the deal passed as expected, 31-5. The dozens of chicken-bill supporters had already left the chamber, celebrating their victory in the hallway outside. But we may only be starting to watch the feathers fly.

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