Monday, August 19, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: At what cost

Where’d you go, Harper-Madison?… After District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison filed her mid-year campaign finance report in July, it turned out that she raised $3,695 in campaign funds in January, February and March and spent $3,589. As Council members are prohibited from raising money outside a one-year window that ended in December, she was in violation of the ordinance. Despite her office previously telling the Austin Monitor it was an “innocent error,” Matthew Mackowiak, the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, filed a complaint against the Council member, which was scheduled to come before the Ethics Review Commission on Wednesday night. However, due to travel conflicts, the commission was forced to reschedule the hearing. In order to accommodate Council’s already scheduled budget meetings, the commission voted to hear the preliminary case at a special called meeting on Sept. 18 when both the complainant and the respondent will be available.

Travis County MIA case leaves BOA members miffed… For months, the Board of Adjustment has kept the case for the redevelopment of the county tax office site at 5501 Airport Blvd. on its agenda. Yet for the last two months, the county’s representative on the project, Jason Asbury, has not made an appearance before the board. “Can we propose indefinitely? It’s bad form to keep not showing up,” said Board Member Rahm McDaniel. Other board members said they felt it was “disrespectful,” especially considering Asbury’s silence via email. Staff liaison Elaine Ramirez noted that she had reached out nine times to keep tabs on the status of the variance request and has yet to receive a response. “If this was important to the county … I would hope at the very least they would respond to city staff,” said Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell. Unsure how to proceed, the board made a motion once again to postpone the case, this time for two months. Board members Leighton-Burwell and Darryl Pruett voted against the motion. Ramirez did say that the last time she spoke with Asbury, when he appeared at the May meeting, he mentioned he was “probably going to withdraw” the case.

Budget trivial pursuit… At the moment, City Council is deep in the weeds of budget season. While setting the city budget is inarguably Council’s most important annual task, it is arguably pretty boring in terms of sitting through meetings. However, one of the best dividends of the dry meetings are the numbers and trivia that are revealed. And this year, the questions about the budget posed by City Council members are as revealing as ever. First, let us note that of the 32 questions posted, 28 are from Council Member Kathie Tovo. Thanks to Tovo, enterprising City Hall snoops now know a host of budget facts (with most questions still awaiting answers). Here’s what we’ve learned: About $1.09 million is earmarked for the four city chambers of commerce and $2,851,576 is the amount set for funding the new Land Development Code rewrite in the upcoming fiscal year (2019-20). Oh, and how much was collected in Hotel Occupancy Tax? Without July, August and September, almost $78 million. Which explains all of the recent HOT tempers.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Jessi Devenyns and Elizabeth Pagano. It has been corrected.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

city budget: The city’s plan for expenditures based on income.

Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison

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