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Council to continue July vacation tradition

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 by Jo Clifton

Rejoice, city staffers. Your July vacation is probably safe — unless you are part of the budget staff. At Tuesday’s work session, City Council members agreed that they would continue the tradition of not scheduling meetings during July.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo brought up the issue during a discussion about scheduling Council and Council committee meetings, and there seemed to be no dissent on the issue. Council Member Ora Houston said, “I’m looking forward to it.” And Mayor Steve Adler joked, “Ms. Houston moves to make it March,” to general laughter.

City Clerk Jannette Goodall pointed out that the last meeting in June is June 25, and the next meeting, a budget session, is scheduled for July 30. So, everyone can make their plans accordingly.

There has been considerable angst over the scheduling of Council committee meetings and moving meetings of some boards and commissions, in particular the Environmental Board, out of the Council chambers.

In response, Assistant City Manager Robert Goode has addressed committee logistics as well as the Council committee agenda process in a memo to the mayor and Council.

“We have heard a few concerns regarding the relocation of existing boards/commissions meetings to accommodate Council committees that will be held City Hall,” Goode wrote. “With the premise that at least one evening Council committee meeting per month will be reserved in City Hall,” the committees would add nine evening meetings to an already booked City Hall facility schedule.

“Obviously, something has to give,” he continued, noting that some of the commissions and boards would be moved from Council Chambers to the boards and commissions room.

“For example, the Environmental Board meetings on the first and third Wednesday evenings will be shifted from chambers to the Boards and Commissions Room to accommodate the Mobility Council Committee set for the first Wednesday evening in chambers and the Public Utilities Council Committee set for the third Wednesday evening of the month in chambers.

“One suggestion is that we can flex the schedule depending on the predicted attendance for the Environmental Board and the Council committee meetings. In other words, if the Environmental Board expects a large crowd of citizens and stakeholders to attend the April 15 meeting and the Public Utilities Council Committee set for April 15 has a lighter agenda (in terms of citizen attendance), we can switch the meeting locations for that night.”

In an attempt to prioritize attendance and TV broadcasts of Council committee meetings, Goode points out, “The city can televise one meeting live and can stream two concurrent meetings on the Internet. So using the Environmental Board as an example again, that means the Mobility Committee or the Public Utilities Council Committee meeting will be televised and streamed live (or on-demand), while the Environmental Board will only be streamed live (and on-demand).”

All of this is subject to change depending on what Council really wants. Tovo and Members Ann Kitchen and Leslie Pool volunteered to be on the transition committee for the committees.

Environmental Board Chair Mary Gay Maxwell told the Monitor, “I am hopeful that the Council can come to a good resolution on when committees meet, and we can hopefully continue to broadcast from the Council chambers, because people watch the Environmental Board and it’s a service to the community to have it out there.”

Tovo, for one, did not make the assumption that the committee she is chairing would meet at night, announcing that the Audit and Finance Committee would likely be meeting on Wednesday mornings.

After some discussion with Council Member Don Zimmerman concerning meetings of the Public Safety Committee, it seems likely that that committee will meet on Monday night. As both Tovo and Zimmerman noted, the Public Safety Committee is more likely to attract public participation than the Audit and Finance Committee.

Council Member Pio Renteria, chair of the Housing Committee, did not like the idea of starting his committee meetings at 6 p.m., suggesting that it might be better to start at 4 p.m. And Pool, chair of the Open Space/Environment Committee, said she would prefer that her committee not meet at night. Kitchen, chair of the Mobility Committee, suggested that her committee could meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 5 p.m. to 7 or 8 p.m.

Kitchen also said she expects her committee to begin meeting in April. It was not clear exactly when the other committees would begin meeting.

Council Member Sheri Gallo, chair of the Austin Energy Committee, noted that her committee is scheduled to meet on the fourth Thursday of the month instead of a regular Council meeting. However, because of spring break during the third week of March, a Council meeting is already scheduled on the fourth Thursday. Goode said it is likely that the AE committee would meet on the same day as a Council meeting for that month.

Also, a brief discussion about zoning revealed that zoning Council meetings will be held on the second Thursday of the month. However, if the item is particularly time-sensitive or needs immediate attention, Goode said it could be scheduled for a regular Council meeting day.


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