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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 9.17.15

Thursday, September 17, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

The Austin 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.

20. Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to award cultural arts services contracts for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 in an amount not to exceed $6,365,587, authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute such contracts, and further authorizing payment in the amount of $60,000 for Zachary Scott Theatre Center maintenance under a separate current operations agreement.

Monitor’s take: As we noted in our Whispers Wednesday, this seemingly innocuous item caught the eye of Council Members Ora Houston and Pio Renteria. Both Council members expressed concern about unequal distribution of the city’s resources and saw this allocation (and the lease agreement between the city and the theater) as symbols of this inequity.

21. Approve a resolution authorizing negotiation and execution of federal representative services contracts for a total combined amount not to exceed $270,000.

22. Approve a resolution authorizing negotiation and execution of state legislative representative services contracts for a total combined amount not to exceed $860,000.

Monitor’s take: Normally this would be a pretty mundane item on the Council agenda – hiring people to pursue the city’s interests at the federal and state levels. However, this year things are slightly complicated by the new Council, which has made it clear that it wants its legislative program honored (not that of the previous Council), and is considering postponing this item until such a program can be adopted. On Tuesday, Council Member Don Zimmerman released a press release offering his own perspective on the matter and conveying his intention to postpone. In the statement, Zimmerman noted, “As the only former Texas State Representative on the Council … Council Member Ann Kitchen should draft policy guidelines which would limit and focus any lobbying efforts to what the current City Council has approved.” He went on to say, “I do not support the use of taxpayer funds for lobbying, whether State or Federal, but if tax dollars are going to be spent anyway for this purpose, over my objections, then I believe that the policy issues must be approved by a majority of the elected Council Members.”

39. Approve the Historic Cemeteries Master Plan, which includes recommendations for Oakwood Cemetery (District 1), Oakwood Cemetery Annex (District 1), Plummers Cemetery (District 1), Evergreen Cemetery (District 1), and Austin Memorial Park Cemetery. (District 7)

Monitor’s take: Council will now weigh in on the hefty Historic Cemeteries Master Plan, which has finally made its way through the boards and commissions process. For the curious, the plan is available for perusal here.

41. Approve an ordinance extending the expiration date of Ordinance No. 20141120-056 relating to requirements for non-peak hour concrete installation within portions of the Central Business District and Public zoning districts.

Monitor’s take: Blessed be, the concrete ordinance is back. It looks like this will be just an extension of the existing interim ordinance dealing with when concrete can be poured downtown, but given how riled up people have gotten about this before, we’ll keep an eye out just in case.

67. Approve a resolution relieving the Task Force on Community Engagement of strict compliance with the Open Meetings Act, while requiring it to conduct its meetings openly, and providing a deadline for its report.

Monitor’s take: As we noted in our Reporter’s Notebook, the Task Force on Community Engagement is hoping to be excepted from the Texas Open Meetings Act because its members say that would allow them to be “MORE open and transparent.”

68. Approve a resolution providing a 3.0% base pay increase to the compensation of the City Auditor on the same terms as the base pay increase provided to non-sworn employees in the City’s Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget.

69. Approve a resolution providing a 3.0% base pay increase to the compensation of the City Manager on the same terms as the base pay increase provided to non-sworn employees in the City’s Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget.

70. Approve an ordinance providing a 3.0% base pay increase to the compensation of the Acting Municipal Court Clerk on the same terms as the base pay increase provided to non-sworn employees in the City’s Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget.

71. Approve a resolution providing a 3.0% base pay increase to the compensation of the City Clerk on the same terms as the base pay increase provided to non-sworn employees in the City’s Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budget.

Monitor’s take: As we reported Wednesday, these raises will most likely be granted, as they were unintentionally left out of the budget process in the first place.

77. Discussion and possible action on a resolution regarding the procurement of solar generation.

Monitor’s take: At the last Austin Energy Oversight Committee meeting, Council members voted to move forward with the plan to buy 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar capacity and asked the city manager to return with a proposal before October.

78. Approve a recommendation regarding short-term rentals.

Monitor’s take: The short-term rental discussion continues. To get a sense of where things stand, it’s probably easiest to read our coverage from Wednesday. Simply: We are expecting a lot of talk about occupancy limits and inspections, but who knows.

79. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to initiate a code amendment related to the requirements of Multifamily Residence Highest Density (MF-6) district zoning.

Monitor’s take: Though this proposal is certainly interesting, it was pretty clear at Tuesday’s work session that Council intends to postpone it until another day.

84. C14H-2010-0006 – Castle Hill Historic District – District 9 – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance 2010930-038 establishing the Castle Hill Historic District to modify the Castle Hill Historic District Design Standards for property locally known as 614 Blanco Street.

Monitor’s take: Council will consider a slight change to the Castle Hill Historic District’s design standards. The change would provide an exemption from compatibility standards for historic landmarks and within historic districts. Both staff and those who wrote the design standards say that this change would correct an oversight, but the neighbor adjacent to a project that would move forward if the change is approved is very much against the whole thing. She has even hired her own architect to show how horrible the (otherwise neighborhood-supported) condo project would be.

86. Conduct a public hearing and consider an appeal by Libby Bernhard, representing the adjacent property owners and residents, regarding the Planning Commission’s approval of a conditional use permit (CUP) to grant the use of “transportation terminal” to the property at 1500 San Jacinto (District 1).

Monitor’s take: Judging by some action online, this appeal could get heated. The conditional-use permit in question is for a Megabus terminal, and some transportation advocates already see the restrictions placed on that permit as too restrictive.

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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 2012, 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 now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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