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Council meeting will be delayed, may be canceled

Thursday, February 3, 2022 by Amy Smith

If you’re planning to speak at today’s City Council meeting, don’t go to City Hall. That’s the word from Mayor Steve Adler, who announced on the City Council Message Board that today’s meeting will have a delayed start time of noon, and may be canceled entirely.

Adler said he will confer with City Manager Spencer Cronk this morning to determine whether the meeting will be canceled or start later, and that updates will be posted on the message board.

If the meeting does go forward, Adler has urged everyone who signed up to speak to do so remotely, considering the winter storm warnings issued for today. He confirmed that, as of yesterday afternoon, the city clerk had contacted “almost all” of the in-person speakers and helped them move to virtual testimony if they wanted.

The mayor made the plea at both Tuesday’s work session and at the end of the meeting of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee.

“We’re asking everybody who’s signing up to speak, to speak remotely, whether they intended to speak in person or not,” Adler said. “We know that if someone is not here on Thursday … it means we have less staff that have to come down. We’re asking people to do that not only for their safety but for the safety of our staff.”

The AE Oversight meeting also provided an opportunity for the mayor to ask AE General Manager Jackie Sargent about the prospect of power outages during the freeze. Last year’s outages that left thousands of Texans without power were due in large measure to the state’s failed power grid system.

“All the indications that we have from ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), the (Public Utility Commission) and the state of Texas is that we are in a good position … for the weather that’s coming in,” Sargent said.

But Sargent avoided making any assurances of a perfect performance. “There’s no way to make a guarantee or promise because it’s situational and those situations could change,” she said. Still, she added, “Austin Energy is well prepared. We’ve already established our incident command and we are having our teams prepared and in standby mode.” Operational lessons learned from Winter Storm Uri have also been implemented, she said.

Operational lessons have also been learned from the pandemic. After an emergency order that allowed city meetings to be held remotely expired, the city enshrined the option to hold meetings virtually. That means Adler can convene and run the meeting even if he is the only one physically present today.

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