40 Jealous Whores

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Metro Council Approves $500K Incentive for Nashville, Defers Charter Moratorium

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 8:47 AM

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.)

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Glover to Defer Council Resolution Calling for Moratorium on Charter Schools

Posted By on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 10:07 AM

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.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Metro Council Advances Jobs Bills

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Council Preview: Community Benefit Agreement, Workforce Development and Divvying Up Reserves

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 9:30 AM

It's the first or third Tuesday of the month, which means the Metro Council convenes this evening at the Metro Courthouse. You can read the whole agenda here.

— A resolution on tonight's consent agenda would appropriate $14 million from the reserve fund known as the 4 percent fund. The money will go to various Metro departments to be used on maintenance, repairs and equipment.

We reported on this resolution over at The City Paper (RIP) when the mayor's office filed it earlier this month. The analysis provided by council attorney Jon Cooper offers more details on how the funds will be used by each department (after the jump):

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Little Known Fairground Victory

Posted By on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 5:11 AM

Over at The City Paper, Steven Hale has the story about Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper announcing that the state fairgrounds can't be redeveloped without amending the Metro Charter:

“The Charter amendment approved by the voters in August 2011 included two provisions,” Cooper explained in a follow up email to The City Paper. “The first provision requires all of the activities that were taking place at the fairgrounds as of December 2010 (expo center, flea market, racetrack, etc.) to continue on the property in perpetuity. This means that no redevelopment of the fairgrounds that would involve stopping any of the existing activities could take place without approval of the voters through another amendment to the Charter.”

The general understanding — reflected in, and likely perpetuated by, local media coverage of the issue that was incomplete, at least — had seemed to be that 27 votes from the 40-member council would clear the way for redevelopment. But strictly speaking, that would only be enough to demolish any existing facilities.

This is good news for the supporters of the fairgrounds, but I'm actually more interested in the second paragraph. I think Hale is right that most people have been operating under the assumption that the council could vote to redevelop the fairgrounds. And I would guess that if you asked voters who actually voted on the amendment, this would have been the understanding of most of them.

I mean, I feel like I'm a fairly smart, informed person, and I'm sure I didn't get the distinction Cooper is outlining when I voted.

I think it goes to show the importance of making sure these things are clearly and plainly written to begin with. Voters can't actually do our jobs if we don't understand what we're voting on. And if even the media can't make heads or tails out of it, that's a problem. I'm glad Cooper clarified, but it shouldn't take a lawyer three years to decide the meaning of something ordinary people only had a few minutes to look over in the voting booth.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Metro Council, Shrink Thyself

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 9:21 AM

In his Weekly Obsession, J.R. Lind suggests the 40 Jealous Whores might function better if there were only 20 of them.

It’s time for the council and the people of Nashville to consider a smaller legislative body. Among the nation’s largest cities, the average council size is one member per 50,000 or so, which would give Metro a 12-member council. That level of contraction is unnecessarily dramatic, but a cut to 20 members would, without any budgetary change, allow for twice the pay — which might be enough of a carrot to encourage members to pay more attention to massive initiatives — while also increasing the value of each members’ vote and, just maybe, providing a more effective check against an increasingly imperial executive.

Of course, as Lind notes, that would require council members to vote for their extinction. Don't hold your breath.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Council Approves Dean's Capital Spending Plan, OKs Initial Amp Funds

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 12:16 PM

As expected, the Metro Council last night approved Mayor Karl Dean's $300 million capital spending plan without making any changes. The plan included $7.5 million for final design and engineering on the proposed bus rapid transit project, the Amp.

That probably won't end the debate about the chosen route for the Amp — along the West End corridor — but it will render it effectively moot. On the way to giving its first stamp of approval to the Amp as proposed, the council balked at opportunities to require a study on the feasibility of alternative routes, such as Charlotte Avenue, or to remove BRT funds from the Capital Improvement Budget altogether, which would have stopped the Amp in its, er, tracks.

If the project comes to fruition — which will require federal funds and future council approval of local funding — it will be on West End. What's left for community members and council members along Charlotte Avenue, who have raised questions about and objections to the project, is to push for additional transit upgrades on that corridor — Dean has told council members and the media that he'd be open to implementing a BRT-lite line on Charlotte, a la Gallatin Pike, sooner than later — and to lobby for a Community Benefit Agreement, which North Nashville activists and council members say would spread the benefits of the project to lower-income areas.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stites' Amendment Would Require Study of Charlotte Avenue as BRT Route

Posted By on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Metro Councilman Josh Stites has filed an amendment to Mayor Karl Dean's capital spending plan that would require the Metro Transit Authority to study Charlotte Avenue as an alternate route for The Amp.

The $300 million spending plan includes $7.5 million for future engineering work on the mayor's proposed bus rapid transit project, which would travel along the West End corridor. The funds would only be used, however, if the project is accepted by the federal government.

From The City Paper:

“My concern,” Sites said, “is we’re going to spend $7.5 million to consider the East-West connector down West End, and when they bring back the study and it’s going to say that it’s going to cause a lot of headaches, it’s going to cannibalize one of our main thoroughfares, but we think it’s good for Nashville to have rapid transit.”

Stites added, “[The] council is going to ask, ‘Did you look at other routes? Did you look at Charlotte? Did you look at Gallatin Road?’ And they’ll say ‘No, we just looked down West End.’ So the purpose of this amendment is to avoid that. So that they understand that the council’s intent — if the council in fact passes the amendment — is that we want to consider everything. We don’t just want tunnel vision going down West End.”

The mayor and transit officials have made it abundantly clear they're not abandoning the West End route, which makes it hard to imagine 21 council members thumbing their nose at him. But if there are a few yet-undeclared skeptics among them, this could be their chance to announce themselves.

The council votes on the capital spending plan tonight.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Josh Stites: The Metro Council's 'No' Man

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 10:49 AM

In this week's issue of The City Paper, I profile Metro Councilman Josh Stites, a young conservative who has made a name for himself as one of the only consistent opponents to Mayor Karl Dean's economic incentives deals.

While his conservative social stances — pro-life, pro-gun rights, etc. — often show up on his Twitter feed, those issues don't come up on the council. What does show up is a mix of property tax increases, corporate tax breaks, and public funding for large civic projects like The Amp — all of which he has opposed. On those issues, Stites seems to be following through on the reason he ran for office in the first place.

From The CP:

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Council Approves $1.8B Budget, Hears Public on The Amp

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 10:52 AM

The Metro Council last night passed a budget and held a public hearing on Mayor Karl Dean's $300 million capital spending plan.

The final $1.8 billion budget is the mayor's proposal, plus $702,200 in additional funding added by the council. Those additional funds include a $200,000 subsidy for the Tennessee State Fairgrounds — the first time the property has ever taken taxpayer dollars — that is contingent upon the council taking action on the Fairgrounds Master Plan.

That sets up another debate on the fate of the beloved property, which is more than a century old but has struggled in recent years. The master plan contains a variety of scenarios for implementing one of two options: tearing down the fairgrounds to allow for private redevelopment, or revamping the facility to continue its current uses. In 2011, after the mayor abandoned a plan for redevelopment, 71 percent of voters in a county-wide referendum voted to maintain the current use of the property.

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