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TipSheet: City Council, 6.4.20

Thursday, June 4, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

Today Austin City Council will convene for not one, but two meetings. The first, regularly scheduled meeting will start at 10 a.m. The second is an emergency called meeting scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. The second meeting is expected to be a long one (334 people have signed up to speak) and will address the Austin Police Department’s response to ongoing protests about police brutality. A programming note about the two meetings: Speakers will be heard at 10 a.m. for the regular agenda, 2 p.m. for zoning cases and 3 p.m. for the special called meeting. Because there was initially no way to sign up to speak at the second meeting, speakers for Item 7 will also be heard at 3 p.m., as some used that as a proxy during the time when there was no other option. According to a post on the City Council Message Board, Mayor Steve Adler plans to carry the bulk of the discussion about the emergency item into Friday. As usual, the entire agenda can be found here, and here, and we’ve highlighted the agenda items we are keeping an eye on below.

Item 7: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of $430,685 in grant funding from the Texas Motor Vehicle Crime Prevention Authority to continue the Austin Police Department Auto Burglary and Theft Interdiction Project.

Monitor’s Take: As we noted above, this item isn’t particularly notable on its own. However, because the system did not initially allow speakers on the special agenda (because it’s a briefing), this became the default signup for many who wanted to talk about the police and protests, simply because it is connected to the Austin Police Department.

Item 16: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority related to expansion and management of Bike Share of Austin and B-Cycle Austin, a station-based bike share system, for an initial term of four years, and a renewal term of up to three years.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported last month, Capital Metro is considering expanding bus passes to include use of B-cycles, which would greatly expand the city’s transit network. From Ryan’s story: “To get the program started, Capital Metro is proposing a shared capital investment with the city to purchase the bike-share’s 200 electric assist bicycles currently on loan and eventually electrify the entire fleet. The agency also partnered with the city to apply for a grant through the Federal Transit Administration last week that would fund the entire electrification of the B-cycle fleet.”

Item 40: Approve a resolution adopting the Covid-19 proposed spending framework for the use of all available federal and local funding that leverages and maximizes the benefit of federal Covid-19 relief funding and local funding.

Monitor’s Take: Before the Austin protests, we expected this to be the biggest discussion item of the day. It’s still likely to take up a chunk of time, as it will define how the city divides the millions in federal and local funding intended to aid those impacted by the pandemic. If you want a preview, here’s a presentation of staff recommendations, and here are some changes proposed by Council Member Greg Casar.

Item 41: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Austin Fire Department Capital Budget (Ordinance 20190910-001) to increase appropriations by $400,000 for land acquisition for the Travis Country fire station. Related to Item 20-2135 and 20-2150.

Item 42: Approve a resolution declaring the City of Austin’s official intent to reimburse itself from proceeds of certificates of obligation in the amount of $400,000 to be issued for the land acquisition for the new Travis Country fire station. Related to Items #20-2134 and 20-2150.

Item 43: Authorize negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to acquire the fee simple title to approximately 1.426 acres of land (62,117 sq. ft.) being Lot 1, Block A, Oak Hill Technology Park Subdivision, a subdivision in Travis County Texas, recorded in Document No. 200000208 of the Official Public Records of Travis County, Texas at 5408 US Highway 290 West, Austin, Texas 78735 from AAW Oak Hill LTD, and authorize an additional $400,000, for a total purchase contract not-to-exceed amount of $2,945,000 including closing costs. Related to Items 20-2134 and 20-2135.

Monitor’s Take: These three items are movement toward building a new Oak Hill Fire Station in one of the areas that is currently underserved by the department. It’s one of five planned stations – and overall progress on that plan can be found here.

Item 45: Authorize the ratification of an agreement with Austin Public Education Foundation to provide emergency food access for caregivers of students in Austin-area schools in an amount not to exceed $1,319,350 for the term May 21, 2020 through August 31, 2020.

Monitor’s Take: This is part of an ongoing effort by the city, in cooperation with the Austin Public Education Fund, that will provide meals to caregivers of local students who are experiencing food shortages. This time, the money will provide access from May 21-Aug. 31.

Item 46: Authorize ratification of an interlocal agreement with University of Texas at Austin-Dell Medical School to conduct a study to analyze, evaluate, and identify approaches for system improvements to protect residents and reduce the risks of the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other long-term care facilities in an amount not to exceed $210,000 for the term June 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Monitor’s Take: As has been widely reported, nursing homes and senior care facilities have been particularly hard-hit by Covid-19. This agreement will establish “system improvements” to reduce the spread of the virus and protect residents. Specifically, the funding will finance the first two phases of a study that will be completed at the end of the year, with reports coming to the city by the end of this month and again in July.

Item 47: Approve an ordinance creating a pilot program that would authorize specific businesses to use private parking lots and public right-of-way for expanded business operations.

Monitor’s Take: We’ve only had time to briefly comment on this code amendment so far, but it’s neat. Basically, Council Member Leslie Pool is looking for a way to help local businesses that have been hamstrung by the pandemic. The pilot program will use the special events ordinance to allow businesses to do more stuff outdoors, in public space, essentially. Here’s a post about it on the City Council Message Board. And look for upcoming coverage from the Monitor as well!

Item 48: Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to analyze and consider the funding necessary to acquire a hotel and fund a service provider to operate and manage the property as a protective shelter from family violence.

Monitor’s Take: Recently, the city has been in the business of purchasing or leasing hotels to serve the homeless and to function as places to quarantine. Council Member Casar has taken that idea and expanded it to serve those seeking refuge from domestic violence.

Item 49: Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to review the process for providing direct financial relief to underserved communities based on the RISE Fund framework and to adjust that process to streamline the intake and management of the funding for the benefit of the individuals being served; and directing the City Manager to return with a budget amendment if necessary to add funding to the RISE Fund.

Monitor’s Take: From Council Member Delia Garza’s office, this resolution is an adjustment to how the city develops recently established RISE funds. Crucially, the resolution seeks to get away from the “first come, first served” model in favor of something more equitable.

Item 1: Briefing on protests in the city, including protocol and practices employed.

Monitor’s Take: Council has called an emergency meeting to talk about the days-long protests in Austin sparked by the killings of black people at the hands of police throughout the country and in Austin. What does that meeting look like? Today it looks like a briefing on the protests and police response. That means there won’t be any action taken, but we are expecting a wide-ranging discussion that will continue after the meeting. We’re also expecting a lot of speakers; the last we heard, 334 people had signed up (which would be more than six hours of public testimony).

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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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