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Council members question Mayor's parking plan

parking meters.jpg
Posted at 7:04 PM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 23:21:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Let the debate begin.

Mayor David Briley's plan to outsource operations of Nashville's metered parking goes before the Metro Council Tuesday night on first reading.

Signs of a bumpy road ahead for Nashville parking privatization plan

Bills on first reading usually pass with no discussion.

The debate often comes on second reading which would come at the next council meeting in two weeks.

Bills do not become law until they pass on third reading.

Councilman Freddie O'Connell is one of the sponsors of the bill which the Mayor's Office says will modernize the city's metered parking so that spaces will turn over more quickly.

It will also add two thousand metered parking spots as well as increase rates and fines.

"This will be one of the more difficult votes of this term based on where this conversation is right now," O'Connell said.

O'Connell said he will support the bill on first reading so that it can be more fully debated, but at this point could not vote in favor of having a private company take over day to day enforcement of the city's meters.

"I couldn't vote yes on it in the state it is in right now," O'Connell said.

He says he wants more information on things like its impact on residential parking permits, and he is concerned about having to buy back infrastructure from the private company if the city wants to do something with transit in the future.

Mayor Briley is counting on $30 million from the parking deal to balance next year's budget which currently includes a 3-percent raise for Metro employees.

But O'Connell said it is not right to support the plan simply to fund next year's budget.

"There is this underlying question of what do we do if this does fail, and I don't have a great answer for that one," O'Connell said.

Council members are getting power point presentations from a PR firm hired by the company that Metro awarded the contract.

It emphasizes the 30 year deal is not a sale of Nashville's metered parking because Metro's Traffic and Parking Commission still must approve rate increases and the location of additional spaces.

It also argues Nashville needs to modernize its street parking.

The new plan would allow people to pay on their phones and use their phones to find open spaces.

Councilman Steve Glover said the plan is bad for residents.

"Codeword 'we are going to modernize.' Translation, we are going to take your money," Glover said.

He said, "A short-term gain for the city and a long-term loss for the taxpayers."

As part of the deal the Traffic and Parking Commission has already recommended eliminating free parking on Sundays and extending the hours of operation until 10pm every day.

It also voted to raise rates by 25 cents an hour, and to more than double fines from $11 dollars to $25 dollars.

O'Connell said unlike past issues with lots of opposition like the soccer stadium or transit, there is no vocal group supporting parking privatization.

"The people that I was hearing from were basically encouraging me to vote against it," O'Connell said.

The Mayor hopes the council will approve the bill before the end of the fiscal year next month.