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TipSheet: City Council, 1.23.20

Thursday, January 23, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Welcome back! Today, City Council will convene for their first regular meeting of 2020. We’ve detailed the items we are most interested in below, but the entire agenda can also be found online. A few programming notes: Mayor Steve Adler will be out of town for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza will be leading the meeting in his stead. Also, though the agenda itself isn’t particularly long, the presence of an item that could essentially decriminalize weed in the city and a bunch of zoning cases means that this might actually be a pretty long meeting. Plan accordingly!

Item 20: Authorize the negotiation and execution of a one-year contract with Austin LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce to provide economic development recruitment and retention services in an amount not to exceed $153,750.

Item 21: Authorize the negotiation and execution of a one-year contract with Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to provide economic development recruitment and retention services in an amount not to exceed $212,500.

Item 22: Authorize the negotiation and execution of a one -year contract with Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce to provide economic development recruitment and retention services in an amount not to exceed $202,500.

Item 23: Authorize the negotiation and execution of a one-year contract with Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce to provide economic development recruitment and retention services in an amount not to exceed $171,000.

Item 24: Authorize the negotiation and execution of a one-year contract for the Opportunity Austin Campaign with the Greater Austin Economic Development Corporation for a total contract amount not to exceed $350,000.

Monitor’s Take: All of these are one-year contract extensions for the city’s chambers of commerce. Though an October report detailed how to make this funding more equitable, at the moment the contracts maintain the current levels, with plans to change that in the future.

Item 52: Authorize negotiation and execution of a contract with Colette Holt & Associates, to conduct an availability and disparity study of minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises and disadvantaged business enterprises, in an amount not to exceed $1,000,000. (Note: This solicitation was reviewed for subcontracting opportunities in accordance with City Code Chapter 2-9C Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program and subcontractor goals were applied to the solicitation. The subcontracting goals were exceeded and the resulting contract will include 7.00% MBE participation).

Monitor’s Take: Reading the city’s history of disparity studies, it’s hard not to notice a common theme: “significant barriers to full and fair participation on City contracts remained.” This time around, Council will decide whether to move forward with another study, to see if anything has improved since the last was conducted in 2015.

Item 55: Approve negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority to purchase transit passes in an amount not to exceed $700,000 for use in a pilot program to increase transit ridership.

Monitor’s Take: Here is another pilot program aimed at increasing transit ridership. This time, employees of Movability members (which can be found here) will be eligible for free or reduced bus passes, a program bolstered by the city’s $700,000.

Item 59: Approve a resolution relating to the enforcement of low-level marijuana and cannabis-related offenses and the expenditure of City resources for THC concentration testing.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which comes out of Council Member Greg Casar’s office, would effectively decriminalize marijuana in Austin. The resolution takes advantage of a state bill that inadvertently did the same thing – by legalizing hemp but not providing a means to test THC levels. This city-level change would enshrine and expand that loophole. It asks that the city not use resources to perform the tests that are now required to prosecute marijuana offenses, except in “investigation of high priority felony-level cannabis-related trafficking offenses” and that the city eliminate “the use of arrest or other enforcement action for cannabis-related possession offenses.”

Item 60: Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to participate in civil litigation and to negotiate and execute an agreement for legal services in an amount not to exceed $100,000 related to opposing the Permian Highway Pipeline.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which is incredibly likely to be approved unanimously, devotes money to the fight over a proposed pipeline in the Hill Country, which is already the target of much opposition. The city gave notice of its intent to join the fight in June.

Item 68: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance adopting a consent agreement for the Austin Green Improvement District No. 1.

Monitor’s Take: For more info on this municipal utility district (or MUD), which will be more than 2,000 acres in size, we recommend checking out the backup.

Item 98: C14-2019-0103 – 9100 US-290 East- Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 9100 US 290 East (Walnut Creek Watershed) from limited industrial-conditional overlay (LI-CO) combining district zoning to general commercial services-conditional overlay (CS-CO) combining district.

Monitor’s Take: Is it a good idea to put a charter school in an industrial park? This is the question that this case raises and that Council will be asked to decide. A note: This case has a valid petition against it, and will need a supermajority of Council support to pass.

Item 99: C14-2019-0137 – Delwau Campgrounds- Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 7715 Delwau Lane (Colorado River Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from single family residence standard lot (SF-2) district zoning to general commercial services-mixed use-conditional overlay (CS-MU-CO) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: A proposed campground has returned to City Council and, once again, the opposition to this plan centers on alcohol sales, which have been scaled back from the original proposal. (Our previous coverage can be found here.)

Item 105: C14H-2019-0148 – Edward, Sr. and Connie Rendon House – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 1705 Haskell Street Applicant: Historic Landmark Commission. Applicant’s Request: To rezone from family residence- neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to family residence – historic landmark – neighborhood plan (SF-3-H-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: Though some support historic zoning for the home of this Austin activist, the presumed owner does not, so zoning the home historic will take a supermajority of support from City Council. The Historic Landmark Commission and, more surprisingly, the Planning Commission met that threshold already.

Item 108: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to prepare a study with recommendations to improve the ecological health and safety of Austin’s rivers, lakes, and creeks by addressing litter problems, prevention, and abatement; and directing the City Manager to explore and pursue immediate action to address the dumping of electric micromobility devices into Austin’s watersheds and to mitigate the resulting environmental impacts.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported today, this resolution, which comes out of Council Member Paige Ellis’ office, asks the city to look into the problem of people ditching scooters and electric bikes in the city’s creeks. Specifically, the resolution calls for a study of the health of Austin’s water bodies, and also for “immediate action” to address the problem through outreach, fines, creation of a mitigation fund, and a move to prosecute offenses as “an illicit discharge of pollution.”

This article has been corrected to revise a statement about family support for historic zoning of the Rendon house. The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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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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