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Renaissance Market Commission gets Council reprieve

Monday, June 23, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Austin City Council is giving members of the commission overseeing the Renaissance Market at 23rd St. and Guadalupe one more opportunity to adopt the standardized bylaws the Council has approved for all the city’s boards and commissions. The Council had been set to dissolve the Renaissance Market Commission on Thursday, but postponed that action at the urging of Mayor Will Wynn after complaints from the commission members and vendors.


The commission so far has failed to adopt the new bylaws standardizing the size of the commission, setting a time limit on the years of service for members, and clarifying the definition of and need for a quorum. Acting Assistant City Manager David Lurie told the Council that establishing a quorum for that particular commission has posed a problem. “For the past eight years, Council has been unable to recruit enough members to fill the board. In 2007, the board met 8 of 12 times without a quorum,” he wrote in a memo to the Council and City Manager. Since the Commission reviews applications from vendors seeking licenses to sell their products at the market, Lurie noted, “there have been delays because the board did not have quorum and could not officially meet.”


Representatives of the commission told the Council on Thursday they had not realized they were facing a deadline to adopt the new bylaws. “We ask that you reject this bad idea of the abolishment of the commission and allow us to follow the process of getting good and legal bylaws that will allow our commission to function properly and effectively,” said Commissioner Michael Kleinman. He said the current members had several problems with the standardized bylaws, including the definition of a quorum, and had hoped to get an amendment after presenting their case before the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee. He also objected to the way the issue of the bylaws had been handled by the staff of the Parks and Recreation Department, complaining that Commissioners were given short notice that their group was to be dismantled. “Half of our commission is out of the country and staff knew this,” he said. “The least they could have done is tell us they were recommending abolishment.”


Some vendors also spoke up for the commission, telling the Council the group did much more than review permits for vendors. “They’ve done a great job for us in protecting and beautifying the market, and they help us resolve any issues we have,” said artist Jennie Bennett. “I feel like they give us the time attention and focus that I feel like the city staff wouldn’t have the time for.” Silversmith Randy Eckels concurred, telling the Council, “We need these people very desperately.  They have a lot of heart, they understand our problems, they have long experience with the market.”


The Council agreed to postpone action on dissolving the commission, but with a stern warning from the Mayor. “Over the last few months we have slowly been bringing all these boards and commissions into this uniform structure, having the same bylaws for example for all the boards and commissions. A handful of boards and commissions have refused to accept our uniform bylaws,” he said. “If a board or commission refuses to accept our uniform bylaws, we’re going to do away with them. We’re going to make sure that the citizens and this city are not liable for the way boards and commissions operate.”

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