Sheriff’s office powers, school crossing-guard terminology and the qualifications of the Metro public works director are among areas Davidson County voters will decide during the Nov. 6 election.
The Metro Council on Tuesday voted to add five Metro Charter amendments to the November ballot — the most in recent memory — taking advantage of two opportunities the council has to bring potential changes to Metro’s founding document to voters during each council term. Each proposal collected the required 27 council votes to make it to the ballot.
Among the most comprehensive areas voters will consider is an amendment, backed by Mayor Karl Dean’s administration, meant to “clarify” the roles of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office currently under the leadership of Daron Hall.
The Metro Department of Law introduced the changes to authorize the sheriff’s office to carry out certain duties and responsibilities that attorneys say were long ago transferred from the police department to the sheriff: the ability to provide courthouse security, book people after they’re arrested and take DNA samples of inmates.
A separate amendment — borne out of an effort to update antiquated language during the ongoing 50th anniversary of Metro — would rename the “school mothers’ patrol division” of the police department to the “school crossing guard division.” Councilwomen Emily Evans and Sheri Weiner sponsored the proposal.
“This terminology is obviously outdated,” states an analysis that the council’s attorney Jon Cooper compiled.
A third charter amendment would remove the requirement that the Metro public works director be a licensed engineer. Neither the current nor former head of the public works director has this credential.
Another proposal set for voters’ consideration would rename Metro’s water department to the “Department of Watershed Management,” as recommended by Dean’s 2009 Green Ribbon Committee. The fifth charter amendment would allow Metro workers to also serve as part-time poll workers for the election commission.
Councilman Charlie Tygard opted to withdraw his controversial charter amendment to align future Metro election dates with presidential election cycles.
In other business:
• The Metro Council gave final approval Tuesday to sweeping, urban-inspired zoning changes to 455 acres in the Midtown neighborhood aimed at attracting more mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly development.
“This bill is about managing growth,” lead sponsor Councilwoman Burkley Allen said, adding that the altered ordinance allows for the future creation of an urban design overlay to create new design guidelines and incentives for historic preservation.
Allen called the rezoning a “phased approach,” one that allows only mixed-use zoning for now without increased development rights such as increased height for future development.
“The second phase, which will take place through future legislation, will include this UDO [urban design overlay], once it’s complete, and the actual ‘upzoning.’ ”
The two-phased approach pleased Councilman Jason Holleman, who had raised concerns the previous night during committee. He said the result would be a “better product in the end that we can all be proud of.”
• The council Tuesday also voted to replenish the Davidson County Election Commission with $400,000 that it plans to use to complete the purchase of controversial electronic poll books that came under fire following the August election.
The council had withheld the dollar allocation two weeks before, but Metro attorneys later advised that the city was contractually obligated to complete the purchase with the poll books’ manufacturer.
The election commission has opted against using the electronic poll books in November’s elections after some Democratic voters saw their ballots defaulted to the Republican ballot during August’s primaries.
Despite appropriating the funds Tuesday, some Democratic-leaning council members blasted the performance of the Republican-controlled election commission during the August election. Other council members called for an audit of last month’s election.