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TipSheet: City Council, 5.7.20

Thursday, May 7, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today Austin City Council will convene for its regular Thursday meeting. Once again the meeting will follow the procedures put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19. That means it will be held remotely, with public testimony taken at the beginning of the meeting at 10 a.m. As usual, the full agenda for the meeting can be found online and the meeting will be streaming online at ATXN.

Item 7: Approve ratification of an agreement with Sustainable Food Center to provide food access points to low-income households in an amount not to exceed $112,541 for an eight-week term beginning April 5, 2020, with two, two-week extension options.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported Tuesday, this agreement would allow restaurants to operate as “micro food-distributors,” especially in communities that have limited food options at the moment. On Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza expressed concern that the measure was a weak substitute for a more permanent fix in food deserts, and Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison pointed out that areas without grocery stores often don’t have restaurants either.

Item 15: Authorize an amendment to an existing contract with GCA Services Group Mountain States LP D/B/A GCA Services Group, for continued janitorial services, for an increase in the amount of $1,636,000, for a revised total contract amount not to exceed $4,088,932. (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 this contract, there were no subcontracting opportunities; therefore, no subcontracting goals were established).

Monitor’s Take: While most cities are talking about furloughs, Austin is wondering whether janitorial services – which are procured through this contract – could be made into in-house positions.

Item 22: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to develop recommendations for the implementation of comprehensive community resilience planning and potential funding for a Chief Resilience Officer to coordinate resilience planning with other entities.

Monitor’s Take: We wrote about this issue today, for the curious, and the City Council Message Board also has a pretty good rundown of the proposal. Essentially, this position is intended to help underserved communities recover from things like the pandemic, though the city has been thinking about this position/topic since before the crisis.

Item 23: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to develop an initial program directed towards sustaining small and local non-profit organizations and businesses using a portion of federal dollars designated for pandemic-related relief, and partner in the creation of a regional Economic Response Dashboard.

Item 60: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to return to Council with a proposed spending framework for use of all federal and state funding that leverages and maximizes the benefit of COVID-19 relief funding.

Monitor’s Take: The city is getting and distributing a lot of money in an attempt to repair some of the economic damage done over the past few months, and these two resolutions seek to make sure that relief is distributed fairly, and in an organized fashion. Right now, Council is anticipating a plan for allocating money on May 21.

Item 28: Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance concerning a change to gas rates proposed by Texas Gas Service Company.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported previously, staff is against this gas rate hike, and the issue will probably move on to the Texas Railroad Commission for an appeal after this hearing.

Item 43: Ratify the execution of an agreement with DBG Austin Hotel, LLC, for the City to occupy the real property located at 3105 North Interstate Highway 35 for emergency housing, supportive housing and isolation of individuals related to the COVID-19 pandemic for a 60-day term, with an option to extend for two additional 30-day terms, for an amount not to exceed $234,000.

Monitor’s Take: This item represents another hotel lease that will give the city space to house people who need to be in isolation but not hospitalized, due to Covid-19. (This lease is for the Days Inn near Star Seeds.)

Item 44: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Austin Area Urban League to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $500,000 for the term of April 20, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 45: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission to provide direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $500,000 for the term of April 20, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 46: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Catholic Charities to provide direct relief services to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $1,600,000 for the term of April 20, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 47: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Saheli, Inc. dba Asian Family Support Services to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $1,000,000 for the term April 20, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 52: Authorize ratification of an agreement with Austin Voices for Education and Youth to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $450,000 for the term of May 4, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 53: Authorize ratification of an agreement with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $1,255,487 for the term of May 4, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 54: Authorize ratification of an agreement with Nineveh Ministries dba Jail to Jobs to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $278,630 for the term of May 4, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Item 55: Authorize ratification of an agreement with The ARC of the Capital Area to provide direct relief and direct financial assistance to Austin/Travis County residents impacted by COVID-19 in an amount not to exceed $250,000 for the term of May 4, 2020 through September 30, 2020.

Monitor’s Take: Last month, Council created the Relief in a State of Emergency (RISE) fund, which will distribute $13 million to social service and relief agencies in town. As a city memo (and math) notes, the current agenda allocates about half ($7,069,180) of that money. Here’s the bad news, from that memo: “Currently there are 44 applications awaiting review, representing an additional $25.4M in funding requests. For the remaining funds, Austin Public Health is utilizing the RISE resolution as a guide and will be seeking input from the Social Services Arm of the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This partnership will help identify gaps in services or reaching target populations to allocate the remaining $5.9 M.”

Item 56: Approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 20200326-090 that relates to providing notices of proposed eviction; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: The moratorium on evictions was passed by the city almost two months ago (!), and without this ordinance, would expire on May 8. This changes that so it “expires the 61st day after the day the local disaster terminates,” which is a date not yet known.

Item 57: 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 $2,200,000 to support emergency food access for caregivers of students in Austin-area schools who are experiencing food shortages due to COVID-19; and declaring an emergency.

Item 58: Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to take the actions necessary to allocate up to $2.2 million for caregiver meals to be delivered through Austin-area school district school meal distribution sites, and to discuss with additional local school districts and Travis County the coordination of caregiver meals to assist with COVID-19 public health precautions.

Monitor’s Take: Currently, local ISDs are distributing food to students even though on-site learning is no longer taking place. This resolution, which comes out of Council Member Kathie Tovo’s office, would expand that service to provide meals for caregivers at a cost of approximately $5 per meal. The backup indicates that Austin and Del Valle ISDs are interested in this expanded program, which would use $2.2 million from the city’s Emergency Reserve Fund.

Item 59: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to plan and collaborate with outside entities, develop, fund, and implement programs, and report status updates to Council regarding efforts to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and other vulnerable persons.

Monitor’s Take: In Austin, as in other parts of the county, nursing care facilities have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, and remain some of the most at-risk communities. This resolution, which comes out of Council Member Ann Kitchen’s office, seeks to increase the response to such facilities with more testing, strike teams and supplies.

Item 61: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to create an Austin Civilian Conservation Corps, to employ Austinites who are economically impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency to complete conservation and other beneficial projects, and directing the City Manager to update the City’s telecommuting policies and consider other conservation lessons learned from the pandemic.

Monitor’s Take: As nerds, we are very excited by the prospect of reviving the CCC in an effort to help those who are facing unemployment and financial distress due to the pandemic. The Civilian Conservation Corps was famously a public work relief program that was part of the New Deal and responsible for some really neat public infrastructure. Council Member Alison Alter’s resolution would create an Austin CCC with the intent of paying people to work on parks, invasive species management and other work that needs doing, financed with relief funding.

Item 62: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to create a Healthy Streets program that will facilitate safe, socially distanced outdoor exercise and active transportation on neighborhood streets during the COVID-19 pandemic while still allowing local traffic.

Monitor’s Take: We recently reported on a community call to prioritize public streets for pedestrian and bike use. This resolution is an implementation of that plan that would reduce the car-centric nature of some city streets in favor of offering a safe place for pedestrians and cyclists to exercise during a time when recreation space is at a premium.

Item 65: Discuss legal issues related to the officer involved shooting that occurred on April 24, 2020 (Private consultation with legal counsel – Section 551.071 of the Government Code).

Monitor’s Take: Though we don’t always note executive sessions, which are not heard by the public, we will note that this one is about the recent APD shooting that resulted in the death of Michael Ramos, 42. We will be watching to see if any public comments, or actions, are made following the closed session.

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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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