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TipSheet: City Council, 1.27.22

Thursday, January 27, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today marks the first regular Council meeting of 2022, after an extended holiday break. Despite that, today’s agenda seems pretty manageable, though that may be the recharge of optimism from the extended break talking. As usual, this is just a rundown of the things your friendly neighborhood City Council obsessives find interesting, and the entire agenda can be found online.

After a series of postponements, Council is slated to take up the rezoning that will allow the Austin Opry/Opera venue to move forward on Academy Drive, just off of South Congress. We’ve covered the case as it has moved through the Planning Commission, and The Austin Chronicle recently did a great job of outlining the issues surrounding the case, which is a sign that it promises to be a long and complicated discussion today. That’s items 69 and 70.

And, while it may be a complicated discussion someday, today is not the day to talk about the proposed relocation of the Downtown Community Court to Eighth Street. As we reported today, the Downtown Austin Alliance asked for a little more time for public outreach, with Council Member Kathie Tovo indicating she will be asking for a postponement of at least a week, possibly longer. Likewise, a decision on creating a marshal’s office will be postponed until Feb. 17, amid questions about its necessity.

Speaking of court, Council will consider two settlements that concern the Austin Police Department, items 43 and 44. The first is an excessive force suit, detailed by the Austin American-Statesman. The second is a sexual assault class-action lawsuit, which was covered by The Austin Chronicle in September 2020.

Council Member Mackenzie Kelly has a resolution asking the city to implement the recommendations of the Central Health Pandemic Equity Committee, which include establishing a defined role for the city’s Equity Office in emergency operations and exploring creation of an advisory panel that would provide feedback to emergency management response on the topic. That’s Item 51. Council Member Ann Kitchen has a resolution (Item 53) that seeks to discourage wage theft and help employees who are victims of it. The resolution has a lot going on, and you might want to read it for yourself, but we will note it proposes the creation of a “publicly available, searchable database on the city of Austin website of final determinations of criminal violations related to nonpayment of wages or other employment-related crimes.”

And, in a resolution from Council Member Kathie Tovo, Council will consider renaming Lamar Beach at Town Lake Metro Park to “Volma Overton, Sr. Shores at Town Lake Metro Park.” It’s not shorter, but the new name will honor a civil rights leader (which is a lot better than the original namesake!), and it has the support of both WANG and OWANA. 

In vaccine news, Council will consider a $1.5 million program to distribute $100 gift cards in an effort to encourage the still-unvaccinated to get Covid vaccines. 

Finally, in the department of vestigial amendments, Item 57 is being dropped after a memo enshrined the location of land use commissions at City Hall. (For “fun,” though, you might want to take a look at the extensive backup on the item as a window into how much pressure was exerted upon those in charge of making such decisions.) 

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