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Reporter’s Notebook: Pardon

Monday, January 30, 2017 by Austin Monitor

Vote kills Entrada annexation for now… City Council voted 10-1 on Thursday to indefinitely postpone annexation of the Entrada property, approximately 246 acres in northeastern Travis County south of Wells Branch Parkway, with Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo opposed. Mayor Steve Adler said the current Council needs to reconsider the city’s annexation policy. That policy has been guided by the Imagine Austin plan and by a recognition of the fact that people who live just outside the city frequently benefit from city services but do not pay city taxes. Council members Jimmy Flannigan and Ora Houston led the charge on declining to annex. There are currently no homes on the parcel, but a developer has asked Travis County to create a public improvement district, or PID, for the property. Because it lies within Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, if the county approves the PID, the city will have 30 days to decide whether to object. The property was part of the city’s annexation plan for 2016, and Council approved the annexation on first reading in November. The indefinite postponement means, however, that if Council decided it did want to annex this year, staff would have to start over with notification, newspaper ads and public hearings before Council could vote on it. The developer has promised the city that he would not build homes on the property before the end of 2017. According to staff projections, the city would lose more than $23,000 in ad valorem taxes by failing to annex this year. If annexation is deferred to 2053 to coincide with the retirement of the proposed PID bonds, “(T)his equates to a loss of $35.7 million ad valorem city taxes (based on the developer’s build-out assumptions and the current city tax rate),” according to a memo from city staff.

Adler states the city… Mayor Steve Adler was still recovering from an illness and was discernibly hoarse as he delivered his State of the City address on Saturday. Despite that struggle, he laid out an expansive agenda for the coming year that included the nagging affordability problem, housing, the upcoming land use code rewrite and incentives. He earned goodwill in the room by declaring his intent to keep working on improving the fortunes (and tips) of local musicians. Adler also laid out a lengthy defense of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has been embroiled in a standoff with Gov. Greg Abbott over her decision to limit county cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In reference to President Donald Trump’s executive order putting a temporary hold on refugees entering the U.S., Adler briefly went off-script. Austin took in 600 refugees last year, he said, who were mainly from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “You should know that 70, 80 percent of those refugees are women and children,” he added. Austin plans to take in the same number of refugees next year. “I just want the immigrant and refugee community in this city to know that we are a welcoming and supportive community and that they are an important part of our community,” he said. “And in this community, they should feel welcome and safe.”

Excuse us… If someone burps at City Council and no one acknowledges it, did it really happen? Yes. And we have the audio to prove it. On Thursday night, during the tail end of the final discussion of the weekly meeting, someone – we don’t know who – let out on a hot mic some clear and audible throat thunder. Of the 14 possible suspects, including the city attorney, city manager and Planning and Zoning Director Greg Guernsey, we can only rule out Council Member Alison Alter, who was in midsentence when the brazen belch bolted across the chamber. Alter didn’t skip a beat, suggesting perhaps she either did not hear the gaseous eruption or she is possessed of an inhuman level of self-control and decorum. Nor did the rest of Council acknowledge the bizarre burp, leaving the two reporters in the room struggling to trust their own ears. Luckily, ATXN recorded the wacky moment, and the record lives on forever. Forensic analysts, it’s your time to shine.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notes of Jo Clifton, Caleb Pritchard and Nina Hernandez.

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