Thursday, January 31, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Who’s serving on City Council committees?

It’s finally time for the first City Council meeting of the year – and consequently, time to reconstitute Council committees. But anyone expecting big changes in the membership of those committees would probably be mistaken, though there will be some new committee chairs and vice chairs.

Under city ordinance, “Council committee membership will be determined at the first council work session of each calendar year. Council members will select the council committees on which they will serve.”

The ordinance also states, “the mayor in consultation with the council shall designate a chair and a vice chair. Council may consider changes to Council committee membership at any Council work session.”

After a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s work session, Mayor Steve Adler said he would name the committee chairs and vice chairs after consulting with Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza. He told the Austin Monitor on Wednesday night that he had not yet had time to consult with Garza on the matter.

When asked whether he would announce the chairs and vice chairs at today’s meeting or at one of next week’s meetings, Adler said he thought it would be more appropriate to post the information on the City Council Message Board.

Each committee is supposed to have three to five members, but if more than five members want to serve, the ordinance indicates that the committee will include the entire Council. During Tuesday’s work session, the following committee lineup emerged:

Audit and Finance: Council members Alison Alter, Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo and Jimmy Flannigan and the mayor. Pool and Tovo, who have served on the committee for several years, are willing to let Alter take the chair, which is vacant with the retirement of Ellen Troxclair.

Austin Energy: This is a committee of the entire Council. Although Pool has been the chair of the committee, she said that she would like to let Tovo have that honor. Adler, who has served as vice chair, is mostly interested in legislative matters as they might impact the utility. But Pool, who would like to be vice chair, argued that as mayor, Adler does not really need any other title when appearing at the Legislature.

Health and Human Services: The previous chair of this committee was Ora Houston, who just retired. Natasha Harper-Madison, who was elected to the District 1 seat, will join the committee along with Council members Ann Kitchen, Tovo and Garza. Garza was the vice chair of the committee and is the obvious choice to become chair, since Kitchen chairs the very busy Mobility Committee and Harper-Madison is new to Council. However, Garza said on the City Council Message Board that she would be willing to leave this committee if someone wanted to take her place. Garza is also the vice chair of the Capital Metro Board of Directors. Tovo said this particular committee should meet when it has business to conduct, but probably does not need to meet even every other month.

Housing and Planning: Council Member Greg Casar is the chair and would like to continue that service. Council members Harper-Madison and Paige Ellis would like to join that committee and Council members Kitchen and Pio Renteria indicated that they would like to continue service there. However, Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said he would be willing to get off the committee.

Judicial: Flannigan chairs the committee and Casar is the vice chair. Garza is also on this committee and Harper-Madison indicated that she was interested in joining.

Mobility: As noted above, Kitchen is the chair of this committee, with Alter, Garza and Flannigan also serving. Ellis has indicated that she would like to join the committee.

There was a short discussion about membership in outside entities, such as Capital Metro. Kitchen, Garza and Renteria all serve on the Capital Metro board. Garza and Renteria are Council appointees and Kitchen was appointed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Kitchen told her colleagues Tuesday that issues facing Capital Metro are particularly complicated and she urged her colleagues not to change appointees. While the argument could appear to be self-serving, she was really talking about Garza and Renteria, because she was appointed by CAMPO.

Photo by John Flynn.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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