Remote start bill may launch larger discussion

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 11:45pm

Drivers of remote-starter vehicles can now warm up their automobiles with the assurance they won’t be slapped with a fine from Metro police.

Metro Council last night approved an ordinance sponsored by Councilman Buddy Baker that grants drivers of vehicles with remote starters the right to leave their unoccupied cars or trucks running on private property as they wait inside their homes.

The practice had previously infringed on Metro law, with the police department issuing 22 citations over the past year to punish violators.

But Tuesday’s vote may be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of car-warming legislation, as Councilman Robert Duvall said he plans to sit down with Council attorney Jon Cooper to draft an ordinance that would give drivers of all vehicles — not just those with remote starts — the authority to warm up their automobiles without penalty.

“We’ve got a right to make our own minds up whether we want to start a car up and warm it up or we don’t,” Duvall said. “If we’re worried about our car being stolen, we don’t have to go outside and start our car. It’s that simple, folks.”

The existing Metro law — which still prohibits drivers of standard vehicles from leaving their unoccupied cars running — seems to have struck a nerve with others as well.

“We’re penalizing the average, ordinary citizen from being able to warm up their car before they put their children in it to take to school, daycare, or before they go out to their job, because they don’t have special technology,” Councilman Bo Mitchell said.

“We need to extend this to all parked cars,” he said. “If it’s in your own driveway, on your own property, you should be able to start your car without being fined.”

Fairgrounds preservation bill deferred

As reported yesterday by The City Paper, Metro Councilman Eric Crafton opted to defer a bill that would restrict Metro’s 117-acre property off Nolensville Pike to uses that would include a Tennessee State Fair, racetrack and other current functions.

The bill is now slated to go before the Council on second reading in March.

Crafton said he delayed voting to afford more time to work with his fellow Council members to come up with a plan to save fairgrounds events such as Christmas Village and the Nashville Lawn & Garden Show.

“I think the Council has enough talent here to come up with our own viable plan,” Crafton said. “We don’t have to be reactive. We can be proactive on this. It’s time for us to take the lead.”

Crafton also asked Council attorney Jon Cooper to provide explanations in the coming weeks regarding some fairgrounds expenditures that seem on the high side. They include expenses of $33,000 attached to telephone services; approximately $300,000 for building protection; a $7,000-per-month fleet management fee; $88,000 for office supplies; and $85,000 for computer services.

Crafton told his colleagues events at the fairgrounds create an economic impact of $60 million each year, while not costing the taxpayer anything.

Councilman Duane Dominy, co-sponsor of the bill, said more than 13,000 people have signed a petition in support of saving the fairgrounds, with “more signatures coming in daily.”

Mayor Karl Dean in the fall announced plans to cease holding the annual state fair, citing years of financial losses accrued by the event. He’s indicated he would like the fairgrounds property to be redeveloped to accommodate some type of mixed-use development.

Dean also recommended that the fair board allow vendors to continue other scheduled events — expositions, flea markets, etc. — through the end of 2010.

While the Council unanimously followed Crafton’s request for deferral, Councilman Jamie Hollin made it clear his vote doesn’t signal disagreement with the way Dean has handled the fairgrounds issue.

“Work is underway to relocate events currently held at the fairgrounds, especially the flea market, to other locations,” Hollin wrote in a statement he handed reporters following the Council meeting. “I would ask that we support the administration’s effort to look for private/nonprofit solutions for these events. Keeping something in its current form simply because of the passage of time is not compelling.”

2 Comments on this post:

By: bfra on 2/17/10 at 9:55

Where did these council people go when GOD said brains? So if I can't afford a remote start car and have small children in 0 to 25 degree weather, they just have to ride in a cold car. Where as my neighbor does have a remote start car, so her children get to ride warm. Where is the logic?

By: kennyj on 2/17/10 at 12:19

bfra,
Actually, since we are not rich enough to afford the $300+ for a remote start system (I wanted to add one, but didn't), we are not important enough for the council members to take us into consideration.

I do it anyway. If I get a ticket (I don't know the price), but warming up the car and defrosting the windshield in sub-freezing weather is worth it. This law, like all "well-intentioned" laws isn't, and is an example of big brother (or are local politicos pee-wee brother) at its worst.

They can't educate our children, balance budgets, or maintain infrastructure but they sure can meddle.