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TipSheet: City Council, 4.9.20

Thursday, April 9, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

This week, City Council will hold its second virtual meeting, as Council members and staff stay home to slow the spread of Covid-19. This meeting will run much like the last one – those hoping to speak on an agenda item were required to sign up by noon yesterday (April 8). All public testimony except for zoning cases will be heard at the beginning of the meeting at about 10 a.m., with Council discussion to follow. Unlike the last meeting, there are quite a few non-crisis-response items we’re keeping our eye on. Read more about that below and check out the entire agenda online.

Item 16: Authorize ratification of an interlocal agreement executed with the University of Texas at Austin-Dell Medical School, and other state institutions, to share data, manage and monitor individuals, trace contacts, model data, and make recommendations for the purpose of understanding, responding to, and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at no cost to the City.

Monitor’s Take: Though the city has been working with UT and Dell Medical during this pandemic, this makes the collaboration official by ratifying the agreement to share data that was made during the disaster declaration in March.

Item 22: Approve ratification of an amendment to an existing contract with WorkQuest, for emergency cleaning services in the amount of $100,803; and authorize an amendment to an existing contract with WorkQuest, to provide continued cleaning services for overpasses, under bridges and in the transportation right of way, for an increase in an amount of $1,800,000 and to increase the term by three years, for a revised contract amount not to exceed $2,290,803. (Note: This contract was awarded in accordance with City Code Chapter 2-9C Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program. For the services required for these contracts, there were no subcontracting opportunities; therefore, no subcontracting goals were established).

Monitor’s Take: Though Council has been, of late, more focused on slowing the spread of the coronavirus, this item reminds us that the city is still responsible for cleaning underpasses, as per a somewhat recent change at the state level. This contract allows that necessary work to continue for three more years at $1.8 million.

Item 30: Approve a resolution related to magistration services provided by Austin Municipal Court judges, and reforms to end wealth-based detention and improve equity in the Travis County justice system.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Wednesday, this resolution intends to reform a process that allows people who can afford bail to spend less time in jail. Council Member Leslie Pool had a lot of questions at the work session about the cost, and we expect to hear more of those concerns today.

Item 32: Approve a resolution relating to the creation of loan and tax abatement programs for the construction of accessory dwelling units.

Item 80: Approve a resolution relating to funding, construction plans, and tax-related relief for accessory dwelling units.

Monitor’s Take: Reading through this resolution that comes out of Tovo’s office (80 replaces 32), it looks like it lays the groundwork for making the construction of ADUs easier and less costly and provides incentives for those building affordable units on their land in the form of tax relief. Read for yourself!

Item 33: Approve a resolution relating to assistance for and protections of customers of financial institutions.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution is clearly aimed at protecting vulnerable residents from mercenary bank practices and unscrupulous lenders. Right now, as a resolution there is an array of suggestions about how to accomplish that, so we’ll check on the ordinance to see what this looks like when fully baked.

Item 36: Conduct a public hearing and consider a request for a waiver from the 300 foot minimum separation distance required by City Code Chapter 4-9, Section 4(A) between a business selling alcoholic beverages and a public school from Neighborhood Goods, a proposed retail store with accessory restaurant use at 1007 S. Congress Avenue, situated on property that is within 300 feet of the Texas School for the Deaf, a public school located at 1102 S. Congress Avenue.

Monitor’s Take: In a brief return to normalcy, this waiver would allow a business near the Texas School for the Deaf to sell alcohol for consumption on premises (remember that????). Unlike AISD, the school has not in the past taken a strong stance against these waivers, and the South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association has followed their lead, so we’re guessing this will probably be approved by Council.

Item 38: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance concerning a change to gas rates proposed by Texas Gas Service Company.

Monitor’s Take: If you’re looking for the latest on this gas rate case, Jo Clifton has you covered.

Item 40: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 25-12 (Technical Codes) to adopt and amend the 2015 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code.

Monitor’s Take: For years, disaster forecasters have predicted that wildfires were the greatest threat to this city, and have sought implementation of this code in order to fight the natural foe. This item would at long last do just that – even though we are currently battling another foe.

Item 60: C14-2020-0001 – Colton Bluff Springs Road -Conduct a public hearing and approve second and third reading of an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 6917 Colton Bluff Springs Road (Marble Creek Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from rural residential (RR) district, single family residence – small lot (SF-4A) district, single family residence – small lot – conditional overlay (SF-4A-CO) combining district and neighborhood commercial – mixed use (LR-MU) combing district zoning to multifamily residence – medium density (MF-3) district zoning for Tract 1, and community commercial – mixed use (GR-MU) combining district zoning for Tract 2. First Reading approved multifamily residence – low density (MF-2) district zoning for Tract 1 and community commercial – mixed use (GR-MU) combining district zoning for Tract 2

Monitor’s Take: Today we caught up with zoning and ran our take on the previous time this zoning case was up before Council, so if you are curious about the issues here, we recommend you click over to today’s edition.

Item 61: Approve an ordinance waiving unstickered extra trash fees for the period from March 23, 2020 until the Mayor’s Stay Home – Work Safe Order No. 20200324-007 has been lifted, or until otherwise directed by City management, to encourage Austin Resource Recovery customers to stay home and to dispose of their trash in a manner that reduces the risk of nuisance conditions from trash that may be improperly disposed.

Monitor’s Take: The city has waived fees on extra trash for a couple of weeks now. This enshrines that practice for the duration, which makes sense as “extra trash” stickers are available at HEB.

Item 64: Discussion and possible action regarding Acuna et al v. City of Austin et al, Cause No. D-1-GN-19-008617, in the 201st District Court, Travis County, Texas.

Monitor’s Take: The ruling against the city on this most recent attempt to rewrite the Land Development Code came out just as worries about Covid-19 took over, well, everything. We reported on the ruling, of course, but since then we haven’t heard too much about how the city is going to handle the prospect of starting over and the idea of the rewrite carrying standard petition rights. Today, we might hear something about that. Or we might hear a terse declaration that the city will appeal the decision. Stay tuned!

Item 65: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Hotel USA Partners, LLC, for the City to occupy the real property located at 6121 N. Interstate Highway 35 for emergency housing, isolation, and support services related to COVID-19 for a 60-day term, with an option to extend for two additional 30-day terms, for an amount not to exceed $2,804,760.00.

Item 66: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with DBG Austin South LLC, for the City to occupy the real property located at 4200 South Interstate Highway 35 for emergency housing, isolation, and support services related to COVID-19, for a 60 day term, with an option to extend for two additional 30 day terms, for an amount not to exceed $541,800.00.

Item 67: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Pleiades Hospitality, LLC, for the City to occupy the real property located at 8010 North Interstate Highway 35 for emergency housing, isolation, and support services related to COVID-19 for a 60 day term, with an option to extend for two additional 30 day terms, for an amount not to exceed $222,500.00.

Monitor’s Take: Though hospitals are currently at less than 50 percent capacity, the peak of the coronavirus is expected to hit Austin in late April or early May. This is one of the ways in which the city is preparing for that peak – leasing hotels that will serve as places to isolate those who have the virus in the hopes of slowing its spread.

Item 71: Approve a resolution authorizing amendments to the articles of incorporation and bylaws of the Austin/Travis County Sobriety Center Local Government Corporation.

Monitor’s Take: Like the above resolutions, this will also reallocate space for future coronavirus sufferers. Since people are doing their drinking at home now, the sobriety center will be used as a shelter, quarantine space or whatever else may be needed in weeks to come.

Item 78: Approve a resolution imploring the Texas Governor and the Texas Secretary of State to protect the voting rights and the public health of all Texans during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic by permitting voting-by-mail for all voters eligible to vote in Texas elections and directing the City Manager to send this resolution to the appropriate state leaders.

Monitor’s Take: In an effort to prevent a Texas version of the bizarre Wisconsin primary Tuesday, this resolution begs state officials to implement vote-by-mail for upcoming elections. As we’ve reported, that may not be so simple, but it’s technically possible.

Item 79: Approve a resolution relating to the expanded Family and Medical Leave Act and emergency paid sick leave coverage under the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act for City of Austin employees.

Monitor’s Take: This is a correction for city employees and an expansion of what “emergency sick leave” is during a pandemic. This resolution increases the pay associated with such leave retroactively, in a recognition of the current crisis and the extreme wisdom of staying at home.

Item 81: Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute amendments to existing social services contracts and to negotiate and execute new emergency contracts funded from the Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) Fund to offer immediate support services and direct financial assistance to residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

Item 87: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund (Ordinance 20190910-001) to appropriate an amount not to exceed $15,000,000 for the Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) Fund to support COVID-19 emergency relief; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: If you want to read more about this plan to allocate $15 million to residents in need of relief during this pandemic, here’s some background.

Item 83: Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance adopting a moratorium on city utility disconnections, waiving city utility late fees, extending the deadline for commercial and multifamily energy audit and benchmark reporting, reducing certain city electric and water rates, expanding eligibility for the city utilities’ customer assistance program to include individuals experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amending the fiscal year 2019-2020 budgets of Austin Water and Austin Energy to appropriate up to $10,000,000 for the utilities’ Plus-One payment assistance programs, and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: In another swing at helping the many who have been laid off and suffered financial hardship over the past month, Austin Energy presents this bundle of relief options. Here’s the ordinance, for the curious.

Item 86: Approve a resolution related to the use of the Live Music Fund for Emergency Assistance grants for musicians.

Monitor’s Take: And finally, from Council Member Kathie Tovo’s office, here is a proposal that would distribute things like Hotel Occupancy Taxes and transform the Live Music Fund into an Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund in an attempt to help music industry folks who have been hit particularly hard over the past month, starting with the cancellation of SXSW.

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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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