With the Metro Council expected to approve a new baseball stadium at Sulphur Dell tonight, a letter to Mayor Karl Dean signed by 24 council members outlines "important considerations" regarding jobs and workers on the project.
The letter, dated Dec. 3 but released to media today, highlights three specific areas the members "would like to see addressed before ground is broken" on the ballpark:
— "We support a stronger commitment to employ local construction workers with clear measurements of local hiring on this project."
— "We support the use of non-profit training partners on this project to give more local residents a construction career ladder."
— "We support fair treatment of employees on this project by contractors and Metro."
After a public hearing and another lengthy discussion on the proposed new Nashville Sounds stadium at Sulphur Dell, the Metro Council approved the plan, sending it on to a third and final vote next week.
The council voted 28 to 7 to approve a $65 million bond issue for the ballpark, along with several other bills related to the plan, all of which passed with even larger majorities. Perhaps the most crucial hurdle for ballpark proponents was a bill which amended the Capital Improvements Budget to include $65 million for the project, as that legislation required 27 votes to pass the council. It passed 30 to 2 and will not require another vote.
The council will give final consideration to the plan at a special called meeting Dec. 10.
Immediately following the council's votes Tuesday night, a Mayor Karl Dean celebrated the news.
“This investment north of downtown returns baseball to its historic home in Sulphur Dell and will spur further redevelopment of the Jefferson Street area, and that’s great for our entire city," Dean said. "Tonight’s vote moved the project one step closer to reality, and I thank all our partners in the deal, including Gov. Bill Haslam, the State Building Commission members and their staff, the Nashville Sounds, Embrey Development Corp. and the members of the Metro Council and Nashville Sports Authority. I also want to thank the Metro Council for meeting next week to take their final vote on this important and exciting project.”
A meeting of Nashville's Metro Council Tuesday night, which was to be headlined by a procedural first vote on a trio of bills related to Mayor Karl Dean's proposed ballpark at Sulphur Dell, produced the most dramatic, albeit brief, scene in the chamber in recent memory.
On the first of three required votes, the Council typically passes legislation without discussion, sending it into the committee process. But on Tuesday, At-Large Councilman Charlie Tygard — who had already played the troublemaker earlier with a proposal to take $10 million from the reserve fund and put it in the city's pension fund — took the unusual step of pulling all three Sulphur Dell-related bills aside, for discussion, and asking that they be deferred for two meetings.
According to Metro documents, plans to audit Nashville Schools’ operations look to include everything from the district’s hiring and firing practices to how officials evaluate whether their programs are working.
Council members are expected to approve the scope of an audit of the 83,000-student school district at an audit committee meeting today. The district last saw an audit of this magnitude 12 years ago. School board members have said they’re on board with a large-scale audit of the district, although they said they didn’t want the school system to pay for it.
According to a draft of the audit request, the inspection would comb through various aspects of the school system such as organization and management, education service delivery, human capital, financial and facilities management, food services, transportation, safety and security and technology.
The probe would also examine staffing, spending, the efficiency of sharing resources with the city, along with inspecting the district’s methodology determining whether initiatives are effective.
The deep dive into the school district comes as a series of challenges face MNPS, such as the system struggling to absorb the costs of charter school growth and the city’s booming student population. The request for an audit also comes about six months after the school district cancelled a contract with an firm focused on evaluating the district’s Central Office and most struggling schools.
Although there is support among members of the Metro Council and mayor’s office for such a report, Metro officials have yet to decide how to pay for it, although Councilwoman Emily Evans — who has spearheaded the effort — says there appears to be consensus the government will foot the bill.
Though the rhetoric leading up to its completion may have given such an impression, it seems the Music City Center — the half-a-billion dollar undulating structure that spans three city blocks down Demonbreun Street and represents the largest public investment in Nashville's history — is not quite a "build it and they will come" proposition.
The Metro Council Tuesday night approved a .25 percent — a quarter of a penny on the dollar — on the sale of some goods and services within the central business improvement district, a 90-block area downtown. At-Large Councilman Ronnie Steine explained more about the fee, before the council approved it by a vote of 32-4.
"This fee, contrary to a few folks' belief, doesn't go to pay for the Music City Center," he said. "It goes into a fund to bring business to our community in the broadest sense. It will be used to recruit these kinds of conventions in an environment where other cities like Atlanta, Indianapolis and others have already instigated this kind of funding and fund."
Steine said that while a number of downtown businesses had indicated that they intend to assume the fee themselves, "no one should be misled" about the fact that some will indeed pass it down to customers.
Some form of sponsorships will be allowed in city parks after the Metro Council approved a bill last night that amends the longstanding prohibition on them.
The specific rules and regulations, including "the types of events and facilities that can be sponsored, the size and number of signs, the use of logos and the types of businesses and products that are not eligible for sponsorship" according to analysis of the bill from council attorney Jon Cooper, will be established by the Board of Parks and Recreation. Councilmen Charlie Tygard and Scott Davis, who sponsored the legislation, have offered examples of the type of sponsorships they envision: a vendor of dog-waste bags contributing to the cost of the bags at dog parks in exchange for putting their logo on the bag dispensers, or a local company paying for new playground equipment and putting their sign on the park's fence.
Some council members has raised questions about how the Parks Department could be sure that revenue from sponsorships ended up back in the Parks budget the following year. As it stands, the revenue would have to go into the General Fund, with no legal requirement for it to be allocated to Parks in the next fiscal year. However, the bill's sponsors and Parks Director Tommy Lynch have said they have no doubt that the funds would remain with Parks. The loudest opponent of the bill was Councilman Bo Mitchell, who had raised the aforementioned concern and also said the change would lead to improvements in the city's best parks while struggling parks and underserved areas would fall further behind.
As expected, the Metro Council approved an incentive deal for UBS Tuesday night that will pay the global financial services firm $500 for every new job they bring to Nashville.
UBS announced plans last month to invest $36.5 million to establish a Business Solutions Center downtown that would create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years. Earlier this month, the company confirmed that they would be moving into the Regions Center, which will become the UBS Tower.
Councilman Ronnie Steine, chairman of the council's Budget and Finance committee, told council members last night that there was no cap on the number of jobs UBS could add under the deal. Steine also said that Finance Director Rich Riebeling had committed to providing an update on this and other incentive packages as part of the budget process.
The Metro Council approved a $500,000 incentive grant to ABC's Nashville Tuesday night, finalizing the city's contribution to a $13 million package for the show, which begins its second season in two weeks.
The state's Department of Economic and Community Development has already approved a grant of up to $12.5 million for the show, and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. and the Event Marketing Fund will each contribute a cash grant of $125,000. The ECD grant is based on “qualified expenditures,” defined as “those incurred in the state for goods or services purchased from a Tennessee vendor or paid to a Tennessee resident in connection with the production.”
Metro officials say they expect the show to generate more than $40 million in local spending.
Before council members unanimously approved the incentives, At-Large Councilman Ronnie Steine said he didn't think the city could get a better bang for its buck. (He also threw out a spoiler of the show's season one cliffhanger, which we'll spare you.)
Amidst another flare-up in the debate about the present state and future course of Nashville's public schools, Councilman Steve Glover says he will defer a Metro Council resolution calling for a moratorium on the approval of new charter schools in Metro.
Glover tells Pith he agreed to delay the memorializing resolution after House Speaker Beth Harwell reached out to him, through an intermediary, with concerns about the measure, which would be non-binding and, thus, largely symbolic.
"I got a phone call from an individual asking for me to meet with the Speaker of the House," Glover says. "She requested I pull it, according to this individual, but I'm not going to pull it. I will defer it, until we have a conversation. But I will be kind enough to meet with the speaker and have a conversation about my concerns."
Harwell confirms to Pith that the two are planning to meet and says she wants to hear his "legitimate concerns." She says that although the non-binding resolution has no legislative teeth, she worried about the message it would send.
"My concern was that it sends a negative message to potential public charter schools that may want to open here in Nashville," she says.
The Metro Council advanced two jobs-related bills Tuesday night, as expected. Councilwoman Erica Gilmore's proposal for a Community Benefit Agreement, which passed on first reading, would require a certain number of jobs on publicly funded development projects go to local workers with employment barriers, who live in low-income zip codes. The Workforce Development Program proposal from Council members Jerry Maynard and Lonnell Matthews which, generally, aims to provide job training and placement for local residents in projects that have received economic incentives from Metro. It passed on second reading.
Below is the play-by-play from last night:
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