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TipSheet: City Council, 10.1.20

Thursday, October 1, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today City Council will once again convene virtually for its regular Thursday meeting. As has been the practice during the pandemic, Council will take public comment on the main agenda at the beginning of the meeting, followed by zoning speakers around 2 p.m. As usual, we’ve highlighted the items on the agenda that we found interesting, and the entire agenda can be found online.

Item 10: Authorize negotiation and execution of Amendment No. 4 to the interlocal agreement with the Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center D/B/A Integral Care for the Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, which offers a first response team for mental health crises in collaboration with City first responders, to increase funding for the three remaining renewal options by $1,350,000 per renewal option, for a total increase in an amount of $4,050,000, for a total contract amount not to exceed $12,692,145.

Monitor’s Take: With this item, Council will approve an increase of more than $4 million for the Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, in line with the recommendations made by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. According to a memo included in the backup, “The additions will include expanding the staff to ensure 24/7 access, increasing access to telehealth resources by deploying 500 tablets to first responders, which provides access to one full-time advanced psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist to bring specialty psychiatric care to people in the community. … The goal for the first year is that at least 75 percent of all appropriate calls will be diverted to an alternative care focused response.”

Item 11: Approve a resolution initiating code amendments to City Code Title 25 (Land Development) to establish a contractor registration program for building and demolition permitting.

Item 40: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Title 25 related to demolition permits, including notification requirements.

Monitor’s Take: As we have reported, a change to the city’s demolition process has been underway for years, but was recently delayed at Council. It now looks like the amendment and ordinance might move forward, with some suggested changes from Council Member Paige Ellis.

Item 12: Ratify a contract amendment with the Better Business Bureau to administer a total of $25,890,750 in emergency funds through the Austin Small Business Relief Grant, the Austin Non-Profit Relief Grant, and the Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant programs to small businesses, non-profits, and creative workers in need of relief as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an option to amend and extend the term and administrative fee should additional grant funds become available to administer.

Monitor’s Take: The Better Business Bureau was recently tasked with administering Austin’s Small Business Relief Grant, Non-Profit Relief Grant and Creative Worker Relief Grant. As we reported today, Council now has questions about how those grants have been administered.

Item 14: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with the Austin-Travis County Collaborative for the provision and coordination of Census 2020 outreach services in an amount not to exceed $75,000, for a total agreement amount not to exceed $275,000.00.

Item 15: Authorize negotiation and execution of an amendment to the interlocal agreement with Travis County to coordinate Census 2020 outreach and education services by hiring a program manager to increase the amount contributed by the City by $25,000, for a total agreement amount not to exceed $125,000.

Monitor’s Take: As has been widely reported, the pandemic and the abbreviated timeline that was forced on it by the White House has not been great for the 2020 U.S. Census. With these two items, the city hopes to increase participation levels. There’s a lot at stake – many forms of federal funding rely on the count, and an undercount of hard-to-reach populations could mean a loss of millions in funding for the region.

Item 18: Approve an ordinance amending Section 4-9-1 of the City Code related to restrictions on consumption of alcoholic beverages in certain areas.

Monitor’s Take: Though this item is likely to pass without much discussion, it represents some of the incremental work that’s being done to undo racist laws in the city. In this case, Council will likely move to erase bans on public consumption of alcohol in areas of the city that have historically been home to people of color.

Item 43: C14-2020-0038 – 508 Kemp Street – Conduct a public hearing and approve second and third readings of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 508 Kemp Street (Country Club East Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from family residence – neighborhood plan (SF-3-NP) combining district zoning to townhouse and condominium residence – neighborhood plan (SF-6-NP) combining district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: A few months ago, a slew of zoning cases in Montopolis hit the Planning Commission at once. This one, on Kemp, has a valid petition against it, with neighbors arguing the change from single-family to a lot that will have more than 20 units is too much. That means nine Council members will have to vote in favor for it to pass. The last time around only seven did, with Council members Alison Alter and Kathie Tovo voting against and Council members Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchen abstaining.

Item 52: Approve an ordinance amending certain Fiscal Year 2020-2021 department budgets to fund the Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES) Fund to support COVID-19 emergency relief as follows: the Financial Services Department Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $6,000,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; and the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Building Services Department Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $500,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; the Pay for Success Reserve Fund Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $4,800,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; and the Austin Transportation Department Mobility Fund Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $3,700,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; and declaring an emergency.

Item 53: Approve an ordinance amending Exhibit ‘A’ of Ordinance No. 20200812-002 (Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Fee Schedule) to increase the amount of the Transportation User Fee; and declaring an emergency.

Item 55: Approve a resolution creating the Austin Economic Development Corporation (Corporation), a Local Government Corporation under Subchapter D, Chapter 431, Texas Transportation Code; approving and adopting the corporation’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws; and appointing the initial Board.

Monitor’s Take: These three items, which focus on funding to rescue music venues, bars, restaurants and child care facilities, will take up most of the discussion today. The first allocates $15 million to the program. The second increases a utility fee to help pay for it and the third will create an EDC that will help preserve cultural spaces in the city.

Item 57: Ratify Amendment No. 2 to the agreement with the Austin Public Education Foundation, dba Austin Ed Fund, to provide emergency food access for caregivers of students in Austin-area schools, increasing funding in an amount not to exceed $369,728 and extending the current term through December 30, 2020, for a revised total agreement amount not to exceed $2,689,078.

Monitor’s Take: Since the beginning of the pandemic, the city has been chipping in to help fund meals for Austin-area caregivers. This represents the new total spent on that aid – just under $2.7 million since May.

Item 61: Approve a resolution relating to Austin Resource Recovery staff and resuming regular Austin Resource Recovery services.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which comes out of Council Member Alison Alter’s office, explores the possibility of raising pay for sanitation workers in addition to initiating a possible return to normal trash collection, which was disrupted due to the pandemic.

Item 64: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20200812-002 to set the Fiscal Year 2020-21 power supply adjustments, community benefit charges, and regulatory charges for Austin Energy.

Monitor’s Take: Though it doesn’t look like these changes will affect residential customer bills, those wanting to get into the details of these passthrough charges are welcome to do so by reading this Austin Energy memo.

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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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