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Reporter’s Notebook: Chopped

Monday, April 15, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Bueller?… Council Member Alison Alter took time from Tuesday’s work session to highlight a concern that current appointees to some city boards and commissions have been racking up absences, creating an issue of making quorum at several points. During discussion on a consent agenda item to approve some new appointments, she noted that the city’s Bond Oversight Commission had to cancel five of its monthly meetings last year in part because of quorum issues, and that after a change to bimonthly meetings for 2019 the group has still been unable to convene a quorum. “This is a particularly important commission given the amount of bonds we have out there, and they need to be able to do their job. They canceled five of their 12 meetings in 2018, three because of quorum. Have yet to make a quorum in 2019. There are more than four other Council members who have to take action. Please make sure that you have a commission member or that your commission member will be there for the May 15 meeting.” Having gathered attendance information on Council appointees who have exceeded the number of allowed absences on various commissions, Alter noted that “more than four” current Council members need to take some kind of action to replace an appointee.

CodeNEXTNEXT… Those who have their ears to the ground at City Hall have likely heard the term “CodeCRONK” floating around in an obvious reference to the late, great CodeNEXT that was abandoned last fall. Well, CodeCRONK is its resurrection. In March, City Manager Spencer Cronk issued a directive to City Council that has restarted the now-familiar processes of overhauling the city code. However, this time, instead of an $8.5 million, six-year-long wish list that no one can agree on, Cronk asked Council members to give their opinions on five questions that have led them generally to agree that rewriting the code is preferable to amending the existing one. While the pet name for this massive undertaking is amusing, having his name attached to a multifaceted project puts a lot of weight on the city manager’s shoulders. Curious if he was ready to shoulder the burden, the Austin Monitor reached out to ask him just that. However, the city manager didn’t respond directly. Instead, a spokesman for his office emailed to say, “We think ‘Land Development Code revision’ has a certain ring to it! Honestly, the City Manager is more concerned with making this process work and less concerned about what it’s called. Right now, his goal is to secure Council direction to clarify the extent of code revisions.”

Asking for a friend: Will this new ordinance address musical taste?… Saturday’s community input session on the Music and Entertainment Division’s ongoing sound compatibility effort took a turn toward specific nightlife nuisance issues being experienced by residents of recently constructed condominium towers near the nightclubs at Fifth Street and West Avenue. While the “agent of change” policy concept that the city has been pursuing for the past four years was launched in large part to alleviate friction between live music venues and residential developments throughout the city, the Fifth/West attendees spent roughly half of the meeting sharing their frustrations and calling for better enforcement of the city’s sound ordinance to reduce bass noise and other issues caused by dance clubs that operate until 2 a.m. on weekends. City staff on hand said it’s possible that new sound monitor technology could be positioned on or near the residential buildings, and Council Member Kathie Tovo met with many of the frustrated residents after the session to discuss how to alleviate the issue. Acknowledging that the wide scope of the meeting had been in effect hijacked around the halfway point, David Colligan, manager of global business expansion for the city’s Economic Development Department, earned some laughs by thanking the audience “for attending this Fifth and West neighborhood meeting,” and noting that the number of neighborhood residents in attendance showed the group clearly has one of the most effective newsletters in the city.

‘Chop’ dropped… If all goes according to (Austin Strategic Mobility) plan, the wildly controversial “pork chop” on Morrow Road will soon be a thing of the past. The change was brought forward by Greg Casar and opposed by Leslie Pool, two Council members who have disagreed over the traffic calming device for years. Opponents of the chop say it is an unnecessary barrier between neighborhoods, and those who would like it to stay in place worry that unchecked traffic will pose a safety threat to the neighborhood. Following approval of Casar’s amendment, he celebrated with a joke on Twitter, where the battle promptly reignited.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki, Jessi Devenyns and Elizabeth Pagano.

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