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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 4.21.16

Thursday, April 21, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council will hold its regular meeting Thursday. Below is a list of items we’re watching. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda. The Office of the City Clerk posts a copy on its website, here.

6. Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Austin Water Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20150908-001) to increase the transfer in from the Capital Improvement Program by $7,900,000 and transfer out $18,200,000; and amending the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Operating Budget Combined Utility Revenue Bond Redemption Fund (Ordinance No. 20150908-001) to transfer in from Austin Water Operating Budget by $18,200,000 and increase other operating requirement expenditures by $18,200,000 for debt defeasance. Related to Items #11 and #12.

11. Approve an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of tax-exempt City of Austin, Texas, Water and Wastewater System Revenue Refunding Bonds, Series 2016, in a par amount not to exceed $295,000,000, in accordance with the parameters set out in the ordinance, authorizing related documents, approving the payment of the costs of issuance, and providing that the issuance and sale be accomplished by January 31, 2017. Related to Item #6 and #12.

12. Approve a resolution authorizing the defeasance of certain outstanding Combined Utility System Revenue Bonds and Water and Wastewater System Revenue Refunding Bonds, including authorizing the execution of an escrow agreement, and related documents. Related to Item #6 and #11.

Monitor’s take: We’re expecting that this, and a larger discussion about the fiscal straits of the Austin Water utility, will be the big-ticket items of the day. For context, here is our story from Tuesday’s work session. And, as a fair warning, the Monitor inbox hints that this might be a chance for some to reignite the debate over Water Treatment Plant No. 4. Yippee!

13. Authorize execution of an interlocal agreement with the University of North Texas for collaborative research on use of robotics in emergency response.

14. Authorize execution of an interlocal agreement with the University of Texas’ Cockrell School of Engineering, for aerial robotics education and research in support of fire and water search and rescue.

Monitor’s take: Robots! Heck yeah! (See our KUT/Monitor story from today for more details.)

16. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to include a partial exemption from ad valorem taxes for certain historically-designated properties in budget calculations for the coming year; to provide this resolution to the Austin Independent School District; and to prepare an ordinance approving these partial exemptions to be considered by Council concurrently with the annual tax levy.

Monitor’s take: This is a standard, annual item that gives the go-ahead for historic tax exemptions for all of the city’s historic landmarks. There is hardly a chance that this won’t pass, but it’s also an opportunity for some political grandstanding/discussion about the city’s preservation programs in general Let’s see if anyone takes the bait!

17. Authorize award and execution of a 36-month contract with ATMOS RESEARCH AND CONSULTING to provide an evaluation of climate change impacts on hydrology in an amount not to exceed $116,000.

Monitor’s take: As we reported today, Council Member Don Zimmerman plans to propose equal funding for scientists that do not believe in climate change. Again, there’s virtually no chance that his amendment will be approved, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be discussion on the topic. (See also: Satanic verse.)

25. Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Austin Transportation Department Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20150908-001) to accept grant funds in the amount of $100,000 from the United States Department of Transportation; amending the Austin Transportation Department Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20150908-002) to transfer in and appropriate $100,000 from the Austin Transportation Department Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund for the Smart City Challenge.

Monitor’s take: Just a quick note here. Apparently the city is getting $100,000 to prepare for the Smart City Challenge, as a semifinalist.

35. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to include mobile home residents as part of the ordinance that is being developed in response to Resolution No. 20151112-027, relating to a Tenant Relocation Program for tenants displaced by development.

Monitor’s take: We reported on where things stand with this policy change earlier this week. At the time, legal staff was still working out the details of the ordinance language, so this item will most likely be postponed today.

39. Conduct a public hearing and consider second and third reading of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 and Title 30 of the Land Development Code to change the staff review time for development applications from calendar days to the equivalent number of business days, define review times in administrative rules, modify the life of a site plan or subdivision application from 180 days with an available 180 day extension to one year with no extension provision, establish a stop-clock provision for development application life for related applications that require a public hearing, and establish expiration dates for subdivision vacation and subdivision construction plan applications consistent with other development permit applications.

Monitor’s take: There was a brief discussion about this item at Council’s last meeting, when it passed on first reading. It seems like it will probably go through today without much fuss. The only opposition to the change came from neighborhood advocates who worry it will deny them an opportunity to protest contentious applications. Staff says the change will eliminate an unnecessary bureaucratic step.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2015, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and as of 2015, 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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