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Council to reconsider future of market commission

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 by Mark Richardson

The fate of the city’s Renaissance Market Commission, which has been in question for some time now, will hang in the balance again this week as the City Council is again scheduled to consider an ordinance dissolving the panel and assigning its functions to staff at the Parks and Recreation Department.


The commission oversees the 23rd Street Renaissance Market, a block-long space between Guadalupe and San Antonio streets set aside in 1973 as a permanent space for artisans and crafts sellers who began lining “The Drag” near the University of Texas in the late 1960s.


The commission was set to be discontinued at the June 19 meeting of the Council, following the recommendation of city staff, which reported that, for years, the panel has had difficulties finding people to serve on it, often held meetings without a quorum, and most recently, had balked at adopting the city’s new uniform bylaws for boards and commissions.


Council members granted the commission a short reprieve, strongly advising its existing members to approve the city’s bylaws. City staff reports that the commission met shortly after that June 19 Council meeting and approved the new rules.


According to City Clerk Shirley Gentry, the fact that the item goes up before the Council again this week is merely a legal technicality. She said at the last meeting, Council members – after giving the commission members an ultimatum – voted to postpone the matter until this week.


However, conformity with the new bylaws may not be enough to save the commission. Currently, only four of the seven positions on the panel are filled, and the terms two of those commission members, Chair Laura Wisdom and Michael Kleinman, are due to expire on July 31.


An internal memo from PARD staff to Acting Director Stuart Strong dated March 2 strongly recommended that the commission be dissolved. And a request by the commission in June to be moved from under the auspices of the PARD to the city’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Department doesn’t appear to be getting any real traction among Council members.


There appeared to be no real support for the commission among Council members at the June 19 Council meeting, though there will be two new members on the dais this week. A source in the City Clerk’s office said six persons have applied recently for the vacant positions on the commission, but it could be a few weeks at the earliest before their qualification can be verified.


One Council staff member told In Fact Daily that it is possible that oversight of the Renaissance Market could be folded into a new commission that would handle regulations in a different manner.

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