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TipSheet: City Council, 2.17.22

Thursday, February 17, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

Austin City Council will once again convene for its regular meeting at 10 a.m. Of note today is the fact that this is Council Member Chito Vela’s first official meeting as the representative of District 4. Everything else of note that we have prognosticated is detailed below. For a more thorough read of the agenda, head over to the city’s website, which has the whole thing laid out for civic-minded minds. 

The potential relocation of the downtown community court is back up for consideration today, after a few delays to talk to downtown constituents. As we reported earlier this week, the Downtown Austin Alliance opposes the move to Eighth Street that is currently under consideration, so this should be interesting! Also potentially interesting is the Austin Pets Alive! lease agreement, which is Item 17 on today’s agenda. Though it may pass without incident, the politics between APA and the city’s shelter can be a little tricky – especially in terms of how much the two shelters cooperate and how far APA can extend its rescuing reach while it remains on city property. And, though it’s likely to be postponed today, the spectre of a new marshal office continues to loom over City Council in the form of Item 24. 

In a continuation of a discussion that began Tuesday, Council will also take up a proposed audit of Austin Water, which was called for in the wake of the recent boil-water notice. As was the case earlier this week, the discussion is expected to focus less on the particulars of the outside audit and more, instead, on a chance for Council members to get their questions for the utility answered in public. 

Council will also consider a settlement for Justin Howell, after opting to pursue settlements in two lawsuits against the city after police injured protesters in May 2020. 

Council Member Kathie Tovo, who has yet to announce her run for mayor, has sponsored three items on today’s agenda. The first would rename “citizen communication” to “public communication” for obvious reasons that are, nonetheless, outlined here. The second would move forward a unanimous Library Commission recommendation to eliminate library fines. Advocates for the change (including the American Library Association) argue fines disproportionately impact low-income patrons in a system that has more of an impact on equity than revenue. Tovo has also sponsored a resolution to rename Confederate Avenue (!!!) to Maggie Mayes, who founded the first school in Clarksville in her home. 

In other Council-sponsored resolutions, Mackenzie Kelly has put together a plan to address vacancies in the various public safety departments as part of ongoing contract negotiations with EMS, AFD and APD. And none other than Council Member Leslie Pool is spearheading a move to allow vehicular access on Morrow Street by removing the infamous Crestview Gate

Today Council will also vote on new incentives for landlords and developers who set aside space for those experiencing homelessness. And, the city’s EMS department could have a new chief, if the appointment of Robert Luckritz is confirmed. 

Finally, in terms of zoning, Council could take up the preservation/demolition of 301 San Jacinto St., which could emerge a historic landmark or a completely different, much taller building when this is all through. During its first vote on the case, Council seemed inclined toward preserving the building, though the idea of trading development rights seemed to be on the table as a compromise. Council will also consider a multifamily project on Menchaca and a 16-acre project on Regiene that promises to be one of many transforming the area. 

Also up is what could be the last request to build an ADU on an SF-2 lot. The request was in process when the city opted to allow accessory buildings by right in December.

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