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TipSheet: City Council, 4.23.20

Thursday, April 23, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today Austin City Council will convene for its regular Thursday meeting. Once again the meeting will be following the irregular procedures put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19. That means the meeting will be held remotely, with public testimony taken at the beginning of the meeting, at 10 a.m. While testimony for zoning cases would normally be taken at 2 p.m., our understanding is that all of the zoning this meeting will be postponed. As usual, the agenda for the meeting can be found online and the meeting will be streaming online at ATXN.

Item 20: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Austin Public Health Department Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001) to accept and appropriate $838,004 in additional grant funds from the Texas Department of State Health Services to support the Coronavirus 2019 response in alignment with the Public Health Crisis Response Cooperative Agreement for Emergency Response.

Monitor’s Take: Though getting this money from the state to aid the pandemic response is probably as uncontroversial as it gets, we are noting it here to point out that it comes with strings. According to the backup, taking the money means the city agrees to conduct surveillance to identify and track cases and develop a plan to a) slow transmission of the virus; b) minimize deaths; and c) preserve health care functions and minimize social and economic impacts. You may read more about those terms here.

Item 22: Approve a resolution that adopts a newly updated list of projects approved for Quarter Cent funding.

Monitor’s Take: Each year, Capital Metro sends over a fraction of its profits which are then divided among City Council districts for use on small transportation projects. For some reason we find it endlessly fascinating, and if you are cut from the same cloth, our apologies, and here is the list of recommended projects.

Item 36: Authorize award and execution of a construction contract with PGC General Contractors, LLC, for the 2016 Bond Intersections Safety Improvements Construction project in the amount of $3,590,991.00 plus a $359,099.10 contingency, for a total contract amount not to exceed $3,950,090.10. [Note: This contract will be awarded in compliance with City Code Chapter 2-9A (Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program) by meeting the goals with 43.65% MBE and 2.01% WBE participation.]

Monitor’s Take: Oh, good! More small transportation projects. These projects come out of the 2016 mobility bond and all of them will improve city intersections to make them safer. Here’s a list of maps of the intersections for the curious.

Item 38: Approve a resolution directing staff to establish a fund within the proposed Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget to address displacement related to transit infrastructure investments.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Wednesday, this item from Council Member Ann Kitchen seeks to mitigate displacement in advance of Project Connect, should the regional transportation plan actually happen.

Item 40: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to use the Creative Spaces Assistance Program funding, or such other funds as may be available, to assist Austin artists with necessities such as rent during the duration of the Covid-19 emergency.

Monitor’s Take: This item is also from Kitchen. It’s an effort to reallocate funds from the Creative Spaces Assistance Program to emergency assistance and grants for artists who have been impacted by the pandemic.

Item 67: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001), or such other fund as the City Manager determines is appropriate and available for this purpose, to appropriate an amount not to exceed $1,500,000 for the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund to support COVID-19 emergency relief; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: Like the resolution above, this is an attempt to reallocate money to help artists in immediate need. It would take up to $1.5 million of the approximately $61 million in the emergency reserve fund and transfer it to a place where it could aid musicians and music venues. At the work session, this idea got a little heat, so we are expecting more conversation today.

Item 68: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Ashford TRS Austin LLC, a Texas Corporation, for the City to occupy the real property located at 9505 Stonelake Blvd., Austin, TX 78759 for emergency housing, isolation, and support services related to COVID-19 for a 31-day term, with an option to extend for two additional 31-day terms, for a total amount not to exceed $2,101,510.50, including costs for meals for patients and staff.

Item 69: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001) to appropriate an amount not to exceed $2,101,511 for COVID-19 emergency relief; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: In this agreement, the city would lease another hotel (the Embassy Suites near Dave & Buster’s) that could be used to isolate people who have contracted Covid-19 but do not require hospitalization. This would be (at least) the fourth hotel the city has leased over the past month.

Item 70: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Austin Public Health Department Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001) to accept and appropriate $2,354,866 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Emergency Solutions Grant to serve homeless individuals and those at risk of homelessness who have been economically impacted by COVID-19.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will allow the city to expand existing services for those experiencing homelessness in Austin. According to the backup, the city is still working on how the money will be used.

Item 77: Conduct a public hearing to receive public input on community needs for the City’s Federal Action Plans for Fiscal Years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 that relate to federal funding opportunities, as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Texas Local Government Code, Chapter 373.

Monitor’s Take: And in the one public hearing not postponed today, the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department will take comments on its fiscal funding plan today, which will determine how it spends about $20.8 million from the federal government. Here’s a memo about the plan.

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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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