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TipSheet: City Council, 6.11.20

Thursday, June 11, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

We’re anticipating another long meeting today. Though there aren’t that many items up for discussion, the police reform items have more than 300 speakers signed up, which we’re guessing will translate to about six hours of public testimony. Once again, Council will be taking all of the speakers at the beginning of the meeting, though this time they will make comments on the police reform items prior to that (instead of at a now-canceled press conference). As usual, we have opted to highlight a few agenda items of interest, but you can find the whole agenda and the full text of the resolutions here.

Item 4: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with Travis County granting the County a license to design, construct, operate, and maintain a hike and bike trail across a parcel of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport property for a period of 20 years as part of the Onion Creek Greenway.

Monitor’s Take: Though we don’t know too much about this trail out by the airport, according to the backup it will be just under two miles long and will pass by Moore’s Cabin, a historic site.

Item 44: Authorize negotiation and execution of a contract with Jane’s Due Process, to provide logistical support services for abortion access, for a term of one year for a total contract amount not to exceed $150,000.

Monitor’s Take: City Council has passed a number of symbolic resolutions that support access to abortion throughout the years. This contract provides more concrete support like transportation, hotel accommodation, translation services, counseling or child care for those seeking medical services.

Item 45: Approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 12-4 (Speed Limits) to add definitions of neighborhood street, downtown street, and urban core arterial street, and to establish a maximum speed limit of 25 miles per hour on neighborhood streets, a maximum speed limit of 25 miles per hour on downtown streets, and a maximum speed limit of 30, 35, or 40 miles per hour on urban core arterial streets.

Monitor’s Take: As we’ve reported, Council will vote on this item to reduce some speed limits in the city in an effort to make streets safer for everyone.

Item 50: Approve a resolution setting a goal of zero racial disparity in certain metrics under the Safety strategic outcome in Strategic Direction 2023 other racial equity metrics and baseline analyses.

Monitor’s Take: This is the first of several items aimed at police reform in the wake of nationwide protests against police violence. As with the others, this resolution is sponsored by all 11 Council members, so it’s really not a question of whether it will pass. There are a lot of elements to this resolution (find the full text here), but probably the biggest takeaway is that it calls for eliminating racial disparity in traffic stops and citations and arrests resulting from traffic stops, and eliminating use-of-force incidents and “deaths at the hands of APD officers” by 2023.

Item 51: Approval a resolution relating to the creation of temporary protected bike lanes on Congress Avenue north of Riverside Drive

Monitor’s Take: A side effect of the pandemic appears to be an increase in bike infrastructure, albeit temporary. That trend could continue today, with the construction of temporary protected bike lanes on the downtown section of Congress Avenue.

Item 72: C14-2020-0046 – Jollyville Apartments -Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 12182 Jollyville Road (Walnut Creek Watershed). Applicant Request: To rezone from single family residence-standard lot (SF-2) district zoning to multifamily residence-medium density (MF-3) district zoning.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported today, the Zoning and Platting Commission was split over this case. Neighbors against the project argue it is much too dense and will interfere with their privacy.

Item 84: NPA-2019-0015.02 – 3500 Pecan Springs Residential -Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending Ordinance No.021107-Z-11, the East MLK Combined Neighborhood Plan, an element of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, to change the land use designation on the future land use map (FLUM) on property locally known as 3500 Pecan Springs Rd., (Fort Branch Watershed) from Single Family to Higher Density Single Family land use.

Item 85: C14-2019-0164 – 3500 Pecan Springs Residential – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property locally known as 3500 Pecan Springs Road (Fort Branch Creek Watershed) 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: There is a valid petition against this project, which will require a supermajority of Council members to support it. Much like the objections in the above case, nearby residents object to the density of the project and say it doesn’t fit their “vision” of the neighborhood, but the developer says the project will not be more intense than the existing use of the property.

Item 89: Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with The Cook’s Nook to provide emergency food access for caregivers of students in Del Valle schools in an amount not to exceed $700,000 for the term June 15, 2020 through August 31, 2020.

Monitor’s Take: Like the agreement with AISD that Council approved last week, this agreement will allow Del Valle and its partners to serve food to students’ caregivers through the summer.

Item 90: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with the University of Texas at Austin-Dell Medical School, to design and conduct a study of seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in Austin in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a term from August 1, 2020 through September 30, 2022, in an amount not to exceed $1,449,999.03.

Monitor’s Take: This Item is pretty much as it reads, if you know what seroprevalance is. For those that don’t for some reason, it refers to the level of virus (in this case Covid-19) in blood serum. In plain English, this will basically allow local officials to model the spread of the disease locally in order to make more-informed decisions about reopening (and plasma donation).

Item 93: Approve an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 2 relating to City Council committees and the Municipal Court; creating a Public Safety Committee; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s Take: The remaining items, starting with this one, are a bundle of resolutions sponsored by the entire Council that take an initial swipe at police reform in the city. This resolution, led by Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, revives the Public Safety Committee by expanding the existing Judicial Committee to include oversight of policing issues, criminal justice, emergency medical services, fire services, emergency management and code compliance.

Item 94: Approve a resolution relating to tenant selection policies and procedures for individuals with prior convictions or evictions.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which comes from Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, focuses on fair housing and barring discrimination against those with a criminal history.

Item 95: Approve a resolution relating to City of Austin policies on police use of force; on police munitions, equipment, and technology; on policing tactics; and on the upcoming cadet class.

Monitor’s Take: Council Member Greg Casar’s resolution, which unambiguously opens “Whereas Black Lives Matter,” starts the process of limiting police force with a noted caveat that it “is not an exhaustive list and will require future additions.” As it stands now, the resolution prohibits the use of tear gas and impact munitions (rubber bullets, beanbags) against protesters. The resolution also limits the use of deadly force, prohibits chokeholds and restricts “no knock” warrants and facial recognition technology. It also bans the purchase of equipment described as “military grade” without approval by Council.

Item 96: Approve a resolution relating to Council direction for the FY 2020-21 budget and creating reporting requirements for Austin Police Department General Orders.

Monitor’s Take: This resolution, which also comes from Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, focuses on the police budget. It asks that the upcoming budget does not include additional sworn police staff positions and eliminates some current APD vacancies that can be filled by other departments. It also eliminates funding for militarized equipment. In addition, the expansive resolution requests audits of past police misconduct and its costs and lays the groundwork for changing current protocols.

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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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