The Metro Council gave initial approval Tuesday night to legislation establishing a workforce development and diversity program that would apply to private construction projects that receive economic incentives from the city.
The ordinance, sponsored by Councilmen Jerry Maynard and Lonnell Matthews, and supported by Mayor Karl Dean, passed without discussion on the first of three readings.
“I believe this is historic,” Maynard said of the proposal, in an interview earlier this week. “If we pass this legislation, it will be one of the first times that a local municipality says, ‘Hey, if you receive taxpayer dollars, we want you to use local residents and we’re just encouraging you to work with the program to find those great qualified workers, who are local and eager to work.’ ”
Companies would not be required to meet certain benchmarks, but the program sets a goal of seeing those receiving economic incentives spend 20 percent of their construction budgets with “small, minority-owned and women-owned” businesses. The legislation also states that companies should “utilize” the workforce development program — which would assess skills and provide training for local workers — ”to ensure that reasonable efforts are made to hire or utilize residents of Davidson County.”
The program is meant to replicate the one used during the construction of the Music City Center and the Omni Hotel.
In other council action:
• After an attempt to defer it failed, the council advanced a proposal for new zoning along Gallatin Pike that is attracting strong opposition from some in the area.
The proposal would institute an Urban Design Overlay meant to replace the Gallatin Pike Specific Plan that was ruled invalid by the Tennessee Court of Appeals last month. Opponents have started a petition against the proposal, saying it would take away their property rights.
East Nashville Councilman Scott Davis took the rare step of pulling the bill on first reading, and made a motion to defer it for one meeting. Typically, bills on first reading are passed together with a single vote, in order to move them into the committee process. Davis said he wanted to slow the process down, to allow for more public input.
“I do this because I have to listen to my property owners in my district,” he told the council. “The process is moving too fast.”
Davis’ fellow East Nashville council members, Anthony Davis and Peter Westerholm, encouraged the council to advance the proposal, noting that the public could raise concerns at upcoming Planning Commission meetings and when the legislation comes up for public hearing before the council.
• The council approved the final pieces of legislation needed to allow for the construction of a new hockey facility in Antioch at the former Hickory Hollow Mall. The facility, which will include two ice rinks that will be open to the public, will be owned by Metro and managed by the Nashville Predators.