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TipSheet: City Council, 8.18.16

Thursday, August 18, 2016 by Nora Ankrum

City Council will hold its regular meeting Thursday. Below is a list of items we’re watching. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda. The Office of the City Clerk posts a copy on its website, here.

12. Authorize negotiation and execution of an agreement with Austin-Bergstrom Landhost Enterprises, Inc. (ABLE), Austin-Bergstrom Acquisition LLC (ABA), and UMB Bank, N.A. for the refinancing of ABLE’s debt and the funding and performance of certain repairs to the Airport Hilton Hotel located at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in an amount not to exceed $3,000,000. (District 2)

13. Authorize negotiation and execution of an amendment to a reimbursement agreement with Austin-Bergstrom Landhost Enterprises, Inc. for atrium and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system (HVAC) repairs to the Airport Hilton Hotel located at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in an amount not to exceed $3,000,000. (District 2)

Monitor’s take: This one is complicated, and discussion at a Council work session earlier this week generated a lot of questions from the dais. The short-ish version goes like this: Austin-Bergstrom Landhost Enterprises Inc., or ABLE, leases and operates the city-owned Airport Hilton Hotel, which was originally constructed with bond money. According to a memo from Aviation Department Executive Director Jim Smith, “Since 2004, ABLE has not generated sufficient cash flow to pay debt service on the Airport Hotel Bonds when due and owed due to the large debt issuance, high interest rates, and other economic factors.” Conditions at the hotel have deteriorated in recent years due to damage sustained during a hail storm. The proposal up for consideration today would, among other things, buy out the current bondholders, issue new bonds and commence badly needed repairs, including mold remediation.

21. Approve an ordinance repealing and replacing City Code Chapter 4-8 relating to the regulation of lobbyists, setting fees related to the regulation of lobbyists, amending City Code Chapter 2-7 relating to the Ethics Review Commission, and amending City Code Section 2-2-62 relating to funding for the Austin Fair Campaign Finance Fund.

Monitor’s take: Last year, City Council Member Leslie Pool ruffled feathers with lobbying regulation changes that greatly expanded the number of people considered to be lobbyists, much to the dismay of many land-use professionals. Now she’s back to tinkering, but this time around she’s introducing changes that are likely to appease a lot of those critics.

23. Approve third reading of an ordinance ordering a general municipal election to be held in the City of Austin on November 8, 2016, for the purpose of electing City Council Members for District 2, District 4, District 6, District 7, and District 10; ordering a special election for the purpose of authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds for transportation and mobility; providing for the conduct of the election; authorizing the City Clerk to enter into joint election agreements with other local political subdivisions as may be necessary for the orderly conduct of the election; and declaring an emergency.

Monitor’s take: This is the last hurdle Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 mobility bond proposal has to clear before it officially stands on the civic podium to be poked, prodded and judged by Austin’s discriminating voters. Several City Hall sources indicated to the Monitor on Wednesday that the appetite for further debate on the plan’s provisions is minimal, which means we’ll just have to look elsewhere for our Thursday night drama.

25. Authorize the negotiation and execution of a five-year agreement with one five-year extension option with the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau for convention and tourism promotion services in an estimated amount not to exceed $16,472,944 for Fiscal Year 2016-2017.

Monitor’s take: According to backup materials, this agreement commits the ACVB to “market and sell Austin as a premier business and leisure destination, enriching Austin’s hospitality industry and the community’s overall quality of life” – all for a cool $16 million and change. This money comes out of the Hotel Occupancy Tax, aka, the HOT tax. More on that below.

54. Authorize negotiation and execution of a 36-month contract with SOLIX, INC., to provide automatic enrollment administrator services for the Customer Assistance Program in an amount not to exceed $3,900,000, with two 12-month extension options in an amount not to exceed $1,300,000 per extension option, for a total contract amount not to exceed $6,500,000.(Notes: This contract will be awarded in compliance with City Code Chapter 2-9C Minority Owned and Women Owned Business Enterprise Procurement Program through the achievements of Good Faith Efforts.)

Monitor’s take: This is a new contract with a company that runs Austin Energy’s Customer Assistance Program, which offers discounts on electricity to certain residents. Currently, any household with a resident who receives any one of a range of benefits geared toward the poor, such as food stamps, is automatically enrolled in the program. Longtime activist Paul Robbins has complained that the automatic enrollment has resulted in discounts for those whom the program is clearly not intended to benefit. Expect another PowerPoint presentation featuring photos of sprawling mansions that currently benefit from utility discounts.

73. Approve a resolution related to the 2016 Mobility Bond Program. (Notes: SPONSOR: Council Member Ann Kitchen CO 1: Council Member Delia Garza CO 2: Council Member Sheri Gallo CO 3: Council Member Leslie Pool)

74. Approve a resolution relating to the 2016 Mobility Bond Program. (Notes: SPONSOR: Mayor Steve Adler CO 1: Council Member Gregorio Casar CO 2: Council Member Leslie Pool CO 3: Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria)

Monitor’s take: Here then are two resolutions competing to be the formal directions to the city manager regarding the mayor’s $720 million bond proposal. The only problem: Despite the different sponsors, as of Wednesday afternoon, the drafts in the agenda backup seemed largely identical. Adler himself posted an altogether different version on the City Council Message Board on Tuesday, and the Monitor has been told that it’s this text that will be at the center of discussion on Thursday.

75. Approve a resolution creating a Visitor Impact Task Force to study and make recommendations regarding the City’s use of Hotel Occupancy Taxes; directing the City Manager to consider creating special funds with Hotel Occupancy Taxes; and directing the City Manager to begin conversations with downtown hotels regarding a Tourism Public Improvement District. (Notes: SPONSOR: Council Member Ellen Troxclair CO 1: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo CO 2: Council Member Sheri Gallo CO 3: Council Member Don Zimmerman CO 4: Council Member Ora Houston)

Monitor’s take: As we reported earlier this week, even though Austin has a plethora of popular tourist destinations, revenue from the HOT tax goes to only three places: the Austin Convention Center, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Cultural Arts program. The idea behind this proposal is to spread the HOT tax love to other hot spots – such as parks – that are popular with Austin’s ever growing stampede of out-of-towners.

87. Conduct a public hearing to receive public comment on proposed changes to Austin Energy’s fees and pass-through charges as part of the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Proposed Budget.

Monitor’s take: Stakeholders reached a tentative settlement agreement with Austin Energy earlier this week as part of the drawn-out negotiating process (aka, rate case) to determine how much each customer class will pay to keep the lights on. Today’s hearing may be largely a formality, but then again not everyone is pleased with the agreement, so some critics might emerge.

89. Conduct a public hearing to receive public comment on the City of Austin Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Proposed Budget.

Monitor’s take: Budget season is in full swing. For a look at some of the most salient issues of the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget, see our recent coverage here.

94. Conduct a public hearing and consider an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 to establish requirements for tenant notification and tenant relocation assistance for certain multi-family and mobile home projects.

Monitor’s take: As Jo Clifton reports today, this item would establish mechanisms for protecting and relocating apartment and mobile home tenants who are displaced when a landlord decides to redevelop or demolish a property. Despite being a renter-dominated city, Austin has few safeguards for displaced tenants relative to other cities. This issue came to light recently due to media coverage of the Lakeview Apartments, where residents were given short notice that they needed to leave to make way for the property’s redevelopment as part of the campus for tech company Oracle.

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