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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 3.3.22

Thursday, March 3, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

Mayor Steve Adler will miss today’s meeting to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors. That typically means dramatic things are put on hold out of respect, but nonetheless, the show – and this TipSheet! – must go on, so we will. As usual, we’ve collected the items that have sparked our interest, but the entirety of the agenda may be found online.

Just in time for the apparent return of “spring festival season,” the Safer Sixth Street Initiative is set to take a significant step forward today, with a resolution from Council Member Kathie Tovo that aims to make Dirty Sixth a little less dirty through street activation, better infrastructure and a host of safety planning.

Coming out of a handful of hearings aimed at the city’s spate of boil-water notices, Council will vote to approve a resolution that hopes to mitigate the financial impact of last month’s boil notice. That might ultimately come in the form of a one-time credit, excluding the dates in question from bill averaging, or something else entirely. 

In transportation news, Council members will seek to begin spending $300 million in anti-displacement funding associated with Project Connect. The resolution allocates $21 million to affordable housing development and $20 million to anti-displacement initiatives this fiscal year and confirms the commitment of $23 million in land acquisition this fiscal year. It also asks for an analysis of areas that could see increased displacement and proposed strategies to address that for 2023’s (fiscal year) allocation. Council will vote on safety improvements at the Interstate 35 frontage road at Seventh and Eighth streets that has been identified as a dangerous intersection by ATD and anyone who has ever navigated it. 

Today the city will also consider doing away with a taxi franchise system that has been in place since 1950. Instead, it would license taxis as an operating authority. The transportation department “recommends that taxicab companies no longer be regarded as public utilities, but rather as a valuable part of a diverse and ever-evolving network of competitive mobility options,” and says that operational standards would remain the same and taxi service would not be interrupted by the switch. However, a petition signed by taxi drivers argues that the change would cause more harm to a foundering industry, so we’re expecting to hear more on this debate today. 

Council Member Paige Ellis has indicated she’ll postpone the proposed Rowing Dock contract renewal for a second time. The last time it came up, a representative for the business owner indicated that some new details (such as the short length and mandated infrastructure improvement cost) were worrying. We can guess that Ellis, who identified herself as a fan of the concession, is still working through those details. 

And finally, Council may vote to make Austin a “Bee City USA,” committing to all of the pro-bee initiatives that accompany the honor. 

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