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TipSheet: City Council, 7.29.21

Thursday, July 29, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

After a summer break and more than a year away from meetings held from the physical dais, City Council is back to a (more) regular meeting. Like the work session Tuesday, Council members can participate remotely or in person. The same holds true for speakers. Though the speaker sign-up rules remain slightly modified (speakers need to sign up by noon the day before the meeting), the public can participate remotely or in person, at City Hall. This first meeting back is predictably a doozy. With the upcoming budget, various homelessness issues left to tackle and more than 180 items on the agenda, we’re expecting it to run long. 

In terms of budget-related things, Council is set to adopt the maximum tax rate with Item 8, though this doesn’t mean that the 8 percent increase is what Council will ultimately adopt. In fact, the budget recommended by the city manager represents a 3.5 percent increase; the higher rate just offers some flexibility in how the budget is set. Council will also hear public comment on the proposed budget under Item 130. After today, they will have another budget work session on Aug. 3, with the final budget and tax rate adoption set for Aug. 11, 12 and 13. (It’s possible that not all these meetings will take place if they can decide on something earlier.)

The other big topic that Council will tackle is (once again) homelessness. On Tuesday, the vibe was that Council would not be moving forward with its plan to create sanctioned encampments. Though that plan isn’t explicitly on today’s agenda, it might come up during discussion on items 54 and 55, which lease out hotels at 4200 S. Interstate 35 and 3105 N. I-35. In addition, Item 118, which comes out of Mayor Steve Adler’s office, is a resolution asking the city manager to work with stakeholders, including nonprofits and other local governments, to address the issue. 

Also up today: Council will be able to execute an agreement to develop the former Home Depot, known as the St. John Site, with Item 26. Council members didn’t get around to discussing the long-anticipated deal on Tuesday, so we’re guessing they might today. In other news, Council Member Pio Renteria is expanding the food forest at Festival Beach with Item 115! Along similar lines, Council Member Leslie Pool is extending her Shop the Block program, which allows for more outdoor commerce, with Item 116. And along different lines, Council Member Kathie Tovo is looking for ways to make Sixth Street safer and asking whether adding cars to the mix is a possible solution. That’s Item 175. Finally: new park alert and new park name alert.

And with an estimated 11 percent of Travis County residents behind on rent, Council will also vote to disburse more than $41 million in rental assistance and $500,000 in mortgage assistance with items 46 and 50.

In terms of zoning, there’s also a lot. We expect that Item 141 will be worth paying attention to. The zoning change on Springdale Road is near the historic Bethany Cemetery, which the city is set to take control of with Item 117, which is delightfully complicated. Item 142/143/144 is the rezoning of 7113 Burnet Road, which sparked a discussion about renters at the Planning Commission. We’re also looking forward to seeing if neighborhood concerns have resolved with Item 137/138. Council might also take up the Plaza Saltillo Fair Market rezoning, which left Planning Commissioners conflicted. That’s Item 150/151 on the agenda. Stay tuned for what actually ends up worth covering for the clearest picture because, like we said, it’s a lot.

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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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