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TipSheet: City Council, 9.3.20

Thursday, September 3, 2020 by Elizabeth Pagano

This week, Austin City Council will hold its regular meeting for the second week in a row. The week looks a bit dull, to be honest, but we’ve noted the agenda items that stand out below. It’s worth noting that the meeting will still be held virtually and speakers will be taken up in two groups. The first group will be up at 10 a.m. and will address the consent agenda. The second group, which will speak about zoning cases, will be heard at 2 p.m., or whenever Council gets back from its executive session. As always, the entire agenda can be found online.

Item 5: Approve an ordinance authorizing the negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to purchase in fee simple or acquire other real property interest in properties throughout the City that are necessary to construct mobility improvements for the Corridor Construction Program in a total amount not to exceed $23,000,000 establishing acquisition and relocation guidelines, and waiving requirements of City Code Chapter 14-3 (Relocation Benefits).

Monitor’s Take: While this item isn’t terribly interesting, it caused quite a bit of distress online for Austinites worried that the city was seizing properties like the Saxon Pub. To dispel the confusion, city staff explained what is going on here in a memo. In reality, this item allows the city to move forward with mobility projects like bike lanes and sidewalks along corridors, and only a small slice of any of the listed properties will be impacted.

Item 7: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $157,222 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department project entitled Air Support Improvement Program.

Item 8: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $310,000 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department project entitled Rifle-Resistant Body Armor.

Item 9: Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Austin Police Department Operating Budget Special Revenue Fund (Ordinance No. 20190910-001) to accept and appropriate $310,000 in grant funds from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, BG-Rifle-Resistant Body Armor Grant Program for the Rifle Resistant Body Armor Project.

Item 40: Approve a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of grant funding in the amount of $128,019 from the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division to implement the Austin Police Department program titled Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Monitor’s Take: Last week, City Council began the process of thinking through how Austin Police Department grants will be handled in conjunction with “reimagining public safety” and proposed police budget cuts. That thought process/conversation continues this week with this crop of grants.

Item 12: Authorize negotiation and execution of two multi-term contracts with RS&H, Inc. and Ricondo & Associates Inc., to provide aviation planning services, each for up to five years for total contract amounts not to exceed $7,500,000, divided between the contractors.

Monitor’s Take: Air travel may have taken a bit hit in 2020, but this contract is an indicator that no one thinks that will be a permanent state of affairs. According to the backup for this item, the average U.S. airport grows at a rate of 2.5 percent. In Austin, that rate has averaged 8.3 percent over the last nine years and 5.4 percent over the past 27 years, and the FAA will soon categorize ABIA as a “large hub airport.” To prepare for that, the city continues to plan for future growth, even with this year taken into account.

Item 18: Authorize negotiation and execution of an interlocal agreement with the Capital Area Council of Governments to conduct air quality studies to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on regional air quality, for a 12 month term in an amount not to exceed $35,000.

Monitor’s Take: This little contract should yield some interesting results. Though it has been a tumultuous year, the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed for some unusual data collection and this money will go to study the impact that the Stay Home-Work Safe Order has had on regional air quality. As a preview, the backup notes, “In a memo released on April 24, 2020, CAPCOG noted that a 50% reduction in regional vehicle traffic in March showed a reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), oxides of nitrogen (NO+NO2), and ground-level ozone (O3). However, during the same period evaluated, local monitors showed higher concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxide (NO), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5)”

Item 22: Approve an ordinance related to the compensation and benefits for the Municipal Court Clerk.

Item 23: Approve a resolution related to the compensation and benefits for the City Clerk.

Item 24: Approve a resolution reappointing Corrie Stokes as City Auditor and establishing the compensation and benefits for the City Auditor.

Monitor’s Take: Each year, City Council reviews its few direct reports, and while that is done during a closed executive session, these items have been pulled because the resulting salary is public record.

Item 26: The Mayor will recess the City Council meeting to conduct a Board of Directors’ Meeting of the Austin Housing Finance Corporation. Following adjournment of the AHFC Board meeting the City Council will reconvene.

Item AHFC001: Authorize negotiation and execution of a one-year service agreement with the City of Austin to manage and operate various housing programs on the City of Austin’s behalf during Fiscal Year 2020-21 to be funded by United States Department of Housing and Urban Development funds and local housing funds in an amount not to exceed $75,604,657.

Monitor’s Take: Each year, the city is responsible for managing a big pile of money from HUD. Those who are curious about how this year’s $75 million is going to be spent can check out the backup, which is on a separate agenda.

Item 27: Conduct a public hearing and consider an amendment to Chapter 25-4 (Subdivision) to allow a parcel of land that has obtained a minimum lot width variance from the Board of Adjustment to satisfy the minimum frontage requirement for a platting exception under Section 25-4-2.

Monitor’s Take: Reading the agenda, it’s almost impossible to tell what this item is about. That’s where we come in! Jo Clifton has the complicated, fascinating backstory on this item, which was sparked by a single Clarksville property.

Item 34: C14H-2020-0069 – Rogers Washington Holy Cross Historic District – Conduct a public hearing and approve an ordinance amending City Code Title 25 by rezoning property within the proposed boundaries of the Rogers Washington Holy Cross Historic District, roughly bounded by E. 21st Street on the north, Cedar Avenue on the east, E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south, and Chestnut Avenue (to E. 20th Street) on the west; by adding historic area (HD) combining district overlay to all existing base zoning, but making no other changes to base zoning.

Monitor’s Take: Could a new historic district be coming to the east side? In order for that to be the case, Council will have to approve this item, which would establish a 57-home district in Central East Austin. Here’s some backstory of the issues at play.

Item 39: Approve the adoption of the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park Vision Plan as developed in conjunction with Halff Associates and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

Monitor’s Take: As we reported, after Tuesday’s work session, it doesn’t look like Council will be voting on this massive vision plan anytime soon.

Item 44: Approve a resolution expressing City Council’s intent to include Key Performance Indicators related to equity and displacement in a Performance Dashboard for Project Connect implementation.

Monitor’s Take: This item is fairly nuanced, so thankfully, we’ve already covered it. Basically, along with the massive transportation bond that will be on the ballot in November, will be a consideration of how new transit might impact existing residents. This item refines that further to ensure that the consideration gets feedback from the potentially impacted neighborhoods themselves.

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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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