by Steven Hale
Chickens may soon be spreading their influence to every corner of Nashville.
The Metro Council advanced a bill Tuesday night that would end exemptions to a 2012 law allowing residents to keep chickens in their backyards. At the time, eight council districts — 12, 20 and 28 through 33 — opted out of the law, meaning that chickens were not welcome there. The new bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Karen Bennett would remove those exemptions and allow chickens throughout the city.
A scheduled public hearing on the bill went by without any speakers, after 10 or more supporters identified themselves, but no opponents did. The bill does have its detractors though. It passed on the second of three readings by a vote of 24-10, over an attempt by Councilman Fabian Bedne to defer it.
Bedne, whose southeastern district includes swaths of undeveloped land and wooded areas, told Pith after the meeting that some of his constituents fear that backyard chickens will prove to be a nuisance and attract predators like bobcats and coyotes. (Indeed, such fears were at the root of much of the opposition to the bill in 2012, along with other concerns such as the potential smell and noise of a neighbor's fowl friends.) Bedne said he didn't personally believe that backyard chickens would be a problem, but that he wanted more time to arrange a public meeting for his constituents to have questions answered. If they remain convinced that chickens will do more harm than good, he said his vote would follow suit.
In other news, the council advanced a bill on second reading that will allow Sunday beer sales to begin at 10 a.m., and deferred a resolution from Councilman Bo Mitchell that would allow Metro Nashville Public Schools to use $13.1 million from its reserve fund for laptops, teacher training and a universal screener assessment necessary to prepare for the Common Core testing. Use of the funds has been approved by the school board, but opposed by Mayor Karl Dean, who has said the move would be "fiscally irresponsible."
After the resolution was deferred in committee Monday, Mitchell deferred it Tuesday night — but not without comment:
"When I first came into this council, I was told 'Hey, our Convention and Vistors Bureau folks, our tourism folks, don't have the tools for success. We're a destination city,' is what they told me.'Our tourism folks need the tools for success. We need a $600 million convention center.' Hey I agreed with them. We didn't have the tools to succeed. We didn't have what we needed for those folks to be a success. I supported that."
"You know, we have a lot of things that come in here. I think the last meeting we had a baseball stadium that we approved. A whole lot more money that we didn't have sitting in a bank account than we have here right now for the 8,600 computers that our children need. The tools our children need to succeed with these state-mandated tests."
Mitchell closed by promising the resolution would come back up, and suggesting that it might be well-paired with economic incentives for HCA expected later this month.
"When this got deferred in finance yesterday, and that's well and good," Mitchell said. "That's fine. It's going to come back up in two weeks. I hope it comes back up on the agenda when we're giving, say, $50 or $60 million away to some corporation of money that we don't have. I hope it's on the same agenda as that."