The budget is passed, the land acquisition for the new convention center is set to begin and, apart from a critical May Town Center vote, Metro Council members are free to work on new issues for the first time in months.
In essence, the shackles have been removed.
Among the issues expected to be pursued by Council members are a new nondiscrimination policy for Metro workers, a new living wage policy, an application of a new Light Emitting Diode sign policy and the creation of a menu-labeling requirement for Davidson County chain restaurants.
“Now Council is free to work on issues to improve the lives of Davidson County citizens,” said at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry.
Barry figures to be one of the noisemakers on Metro Council in the coming months. She already has promised to pursue a nondiscrimination policy to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Metro workers, and also has vowed to tackle the issue of a living wage for Metro workers.
Already there are social issues on the Council agenda. A bill to opt Metro out of the newly passed state law allowing gun carry permit holders to have their weapons in public parks has advanced to second reading. The bill has received intense debate both when it was in the form of a nonbinding memorializing resolution and on first reading at the June 16 meeting.
District 35 Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell agreed the passing of the budget opened the door for new issues to be tackled, but worried about the pursuit of too many hot button social issues that could be divisive.
Mitchell also cautioned Council members to be careful their pet issues don’t have an unintended cost for Metro during a sagging economic climate.
“I want people to be aware we can do things and pass things, but there is a cost to things when you bring up different projects or different programs,” Mitchell said.
One issue that figures to gain importance for Metro is menu labeling.
Metro’s board of health passed a requirement mandating chain restaurants to list calorie information on their menus. The state legislature passed a law near the end of its session requiring such mandates to come from a county’s legislative body and not an appointed board.
Mitchell said the issue seemed to have support on Council and guessed it would be pursued in the coming months.
“I think that’s going to be brought by someone once [Metro Health Director Dr. Bill Paul] is comfortable with that,” Mitchell said.
The LED sign issue has been hotly contested and it figures to be rehashed soon. Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors appointed a special sign task force, which submitted recommendations to allow LED signs by special exception in almost every Davidson County zoning district.
Neighborhood groups have opposed LED signs like the ones often seen at chain pharmacies from coming into residential areas. Council members have also worried about sign code enforcement, should the ordinance be expanded.