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Monday, November 17, 2014 by Austin Monitor

Reporters Notebook: Last dance with Austin Energy

Current Council to get one more shot at Austin Energy . . . For those of you worried that the days of the current Council Committee on Austin Energy had ended: Fear not. The committee plans to have another meeting before the last Council meeting, set Dec. 11. Council Member Chris Riley pointed out that it would make sense to have another meeting, and suggested at that meeting the committee could discuss the future of the Council Committee and potential third-party review of the generation plan, for starters. “I expect there will be plenty to talk about,” said Riley. Council Member Kathie Tovo said she had an item on next week’s Council agenda to hire a consumer advocate to assist with the rate process, and the scope of that role would require some “hashing out” at the AE committee. Though Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis said it would be “extremely challenging,” he added, “but I try anything.” As the meeting closed, it looked like he would be trying another meeting of the Council Committee Dec. 4. “As Samuel Johnson once said: ‘Depend on it, sir, nothing focuses a man’s attention so much as the knowledge that he shall be hanged in a fortnight,'” surmised Council Member Bill Spelman. “Given that many of us will not be here next year, I suspect this is our last chance to get our licks in on Austin Energy. And this is one of the reasons we are asking for a meeting as soon as this.”

Runoff candidates share in public funds . . .  Tomorrow, almost $84,000 will be split among District 3 runoff candidates Susana Almanza and “Pio” Renteria and District 7 candidate Leslie Pool. The windfall is the result of the three candidates signing a Fair Campaign Finance pledge and agreeing to limit their spending to $75,0000 before Election Day. Of course, as the city’s regulations are written, candidates don’t have to abide by that rule if at least one of their opponents does not take the pledge. In that case, candidates who sign the pledge get money for a runoff without abiding by fair campaign restrictions. Tuesday, after the results of the election have been canvassed, the three candidates will receive $27,789 each for their runoff campaigns.

Eckhardt to endorse in City Council race . . .  Travis County Judge-elect Sarah Eckhardt is planning to announce her support today for four City Council candidates. Unsurprisingly, like Eckhardt, they are all Democrats. Three of them are running against self-identified Republicans. According to a release, Eckhardt will endorse Greg Casar in District 4, Jimmy Flannigan in District 6, Ed Scruggs in District 8 and Mandy Dealey in District 10. Casar is running against Laura Pressley, who supported Ron Paul for President in 2012 but backed President Barack Obama in 2008. Flannigan’s opponent is Don Zimmerman, a well-known Republican. Scruggs is facing Ellen Troxclair, who is known to be a tea party favorite, and Dealey is running against Republican Sheri Gallo. The 10 a.m. news conference will be at a house at 1604 E. 11th St., close to Holy Cross Catholic Church. Eckhardt, who comes from a distinguished Democratic family, will be sworn in as Travis County’s first female county judge on Jan. 2, 2015.

Reporters Notebook items were contributed by Monitor reporters Jo Clifton and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council November 2014 Elections: The November 2014 Austin City Council elections marked a shift from an all-at-large City Council to one elected based mostly on geographic districts. The city's Mayor remains elected at-large.

Austin Energy: As a municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy is a rarity in the largely deregulated State of Texas. It's annual budget clocks in at over $1 billion. The utility's annual direct transfer of a Council-determined percentage of its revenues offers the city a notable revenue stream.

Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee: The Austin City Council committee on Austin Energy was created in May 2013 to provide oversight of the city's electric utility. It's creation was marked by political maneuvering that ultimately resulted in a committee comprised of every member of the Austin City Council.

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