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Reporter’s Notebook: The time she got to Arizona

Monday, December 7, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Ghosts of resolutions passed… Though city officials’ trips to Paris may have garnered all the headlines last week, City Council Member Ellen Troxclair’s trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the American City County Exchange Policy Summit sparked the most interesting question: Was it legal? Of course it’s fairly routine for Council members to travel for such conferences. But what isn’t routine is the fact that in 2010, Council passed a resolution that may ban such trips following the passage of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. The resolution, which was intended to ban travel to and business with Arizona, states: “The City Manager is directed to take steps to cease all business-related travel by City employees to the state of Arizona until such time as this legislation is overturned or changed and no longer potentially threatens City employees’ welfare, unless the travel is related to a police investigation, to provide humanitarian aid or to protect the health and safety of Austin residents.” Troxclair clarified to the Austin Monitor that she was previously unaware of the resolution. “It seems like it was more of a political statement than an actual expectation,” said Troxclair. “It didn’t specifically prohibit anything. … It’s an interesting thing to look back on, five years later.” As for whether the trip was in violation of the resolution, after reading it over, Troxclair didn’t really think that was the case. She explained, “I guess I would say that it’s a direction to the city manager and the staff that reports to him. I’m not sure it’s a direction that applies to Council members, since we don’t report to the city manager.”

Performance to be managed, soon… For months, Mayor Steve Adler has been talking about the idea of a “Sunset Review” process for the city. Last week, there was some news on that front, as City Manager Marc Ott announced the creation of a new “Office of Performance Management” in a memo to the mayor and City Council. The department will consist of five staff members who will review departments and city programs “for alignment with city priorities.” The duties of the new office will also include identifying gaps, inefficiencies and redundancies in service; evaluating staffing levels; and providing line-item budget recommendations, among other things. In his memo, Ott explains that the first year of the office will be considered a pilot program. Up for review in 2016 are the Austin Code, Public Works and Fleet Services departments. According to the memo, “The performance review process will include the completion of self-evaluation documentation by each department followed by an in-depth review and analysis by OPM in collaboration with a Performance Review Team. The Performance Review Team will consist of cross-departmental City staff with a broad range of backgrounds and service area expertise. I will utilize these department evaluations and any resultant recommendations to develop a report to the City Council during the annual budget development process.” Ott also notes that Deputy Budget Officer Kimberly Springer Olivares will be serving as the acting chief of the office.

Lyft hits the sidewalks… Up until this point, Uber has commanded most of the headlines in the great transportation network company debate of 2015. However, over the weekend, one of our readers let us know that Lyft has been at work drumming up support as well. Specifically, company reps have been going door to door asking how residents feel about proposed city regulations and distributing pink yard signs that read “Support Ridesharing, Lyft.”

Disappointment for Euphoria… After nearly a month of deliberation, District Judge Tim Sulak has dismissed the suit that organizers of the Euphoria Music and Camping Festival brought against Travis County over new permitting guidelines for music festivals. In his decision, Sulak noted, “While consideration of the ‘guidelines’ as requirements may not be legally permissible under the (Texas Mass Gathering Act), they may be under the (Occupations Code governing outdoor music festivals). Because it is unclear whether the conditional grant of the permit was under one or the other, or both, the Court is unable, on this record to make a determination as to validity of the actions.” His full ruling is embedded below.

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This week’s Reporter’s Notebook came from the notebook of Elizabeth Pagano.

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