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TipSheet: This week’s Council committees

Monday, January 25, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

It’s the last week of January, and the holiday break is officially over! In celebration, we invite you to join our ongoing effort to keep readers up to date with all that is going on at City Hall, by reading our tip sheet for Austin City Council committees. As usual, we will be offering highlights of meetings, with links to entire agendas.

Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee

Monday, Jan. 25, 9 a.m.

3. Briefing regarding cost of service/rate review procedures and rate design recommendations.

5. Update regarding the procurement of a consumer advocate to participate in Austin Energy’s rate review process.

Monitor’s take: This month, Austin Energy begins its rate review process by releasing its recommendations and presenting them to the Council oversight committee and the Electric Utility Commission. The process is scheduled to last until June. The Austin Monitor published a preview, of sorts, here. Of course, a consumer advocate was supposed to be part of that process. That procurement has been held up as the city weighs whether the candidate for the position, Oxford Advisors LLC,has violated the Anti-Lobbying Ordinance, which should be determined today.

4. Briefing regarding results of the Navigant Consulting study of the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025.

Monitor’s take: At last the independent review of the city’s resource generation plan is here for Council consideration! For those who want to get a jump on it, the study is available online here.

Public Safety Committee

Monday, Jan. 25, 4 p.m.

4. 4:20 PM – staff briefing, invited testimony, and policy discussion regarding classifications and positions in the classified service of the Emergency Medical Services Department, including eliminating and creating certain positions, establishing pay rates, and repealing Ordinance No. 20150908-006 relating to Emergency Medical Services Department classifications and positions.

Monitor’s take: At the end of December, City Council delayed action on this item, which proposes to clear up a staffing issue by eliminating an employee classification to allow some EMS employees to be promoted (and free up hiring space for entry-level positions).

6. 5:00 PM – staff briefing, invited testimony, and policy discussion regarding “Sanctuary City” and booking facility policies.

Monitor’s take: In October, the Austin City Council took a strong (though largely symbolic) stance against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and asked the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to stop reporting undocumented detainees to immigration authorities. At the time, the chair of this committee, Council Member Don Zimmerman, voted against the measure and tried unsuccessfully to get the item referred to this very committee.

7. 5:20 PM – invited testimony from constituents regarding the Austin Code Department.

Monitor’s take: Well, if this doesn’t promise to be fun, then we at the Austin Monitor don’t know what fun is. Zimmerman has had an ax to grind with the Code Department since taking office, and we very much look forward to seeing who he has invited to this party.

Audit and Finance Committee

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 9 a.m.

6. The Three Year Follow-Up Audit, which evaluated implementation status for select high-risk recommendations issued in the past three years (City Auditor).

Monitor’s take: Although at the time this TipSheet was written there was not yet backup posted for this item, the Austin Monitor is firmly interested. There has been a lot of talk about follow-up on city audits and the idea of checking in on how recommendations for city departments have actually been implemented. Throw in the word “high risk,” and you have our attention.

7. The review process for potential real estate sales of City-owned land (Real Estate Services).

8. Consider and develop recommendations regarding an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Austin Resource Recovery Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20150908-001) to increase revenue by $1,450,001; increase transfers out by $1,450,001; and amending the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Austin Resource Recovery Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20150908-002) to transfer in and appropriate $1,450,001 from the Austin Resource Recovery Operating Budget for facility development and construction. Related to Item 9.

9. Consider and develop recommendations regarding the negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to sell approximately 9.405 acres of land, located at Lot 1, Block “E”, Missouri-Pacific Industrial Park, Section One, a subdivision in Travis County, Texas, according to the map or plat thereof, recorded in Volume 52, Page 21 of the Plat Records of Travis County, Texas, and locally known as 4711 Winnebago Lane, to Jimmy Nassour in the amount of $1,450,001 for the land (District 2). Related to Item 8.

Monitor’s take: And here, the ongoing saga of Winnebago Lane. Though the Zero Waste Advisory Commission recently endorsed the sale of the Winnebago Lane property in order to help finance the [re]Manufacturing Hub, the whole situation raised larger questions about the way the city manages its real estate (as shown here), and that’s something the Audit and Finance Committee is going to take a look at.

10. Financial update for Fiscal Year 2015 summarizing financial status for the year ending September 30, 2015 for the General Fund, Austin Energy, and Austin Water (Financial Services).

Monitor’s take: It’s always pretty fun to snoop through the finances of others and to check in on just where all of those taxes and fees are going.

Open Space, Environment and Sustainability Committee

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2 p.m.

3. Discussion and recommendation on policies regarding the renaming of City facilities.

Monitor’s take: The naming of city facilities has been a topic of consternation for quite some time now, and official rules intended to eliminate stress continue to work their way to Council; meanwhile, namings in Austin remain on hold in anticipation of their implementation.

5. Discussion and recommendation of an ordinance amending City Code Chapter 25-1 and Ordinance No. 20070621-027 relating to parkland dedication requirements and associated fees imposed as a condition to development approval.

Monitor’s take: Last month, Council Member Leslie Pool successfully pushed to have this item delayed at the City Council level, much to the frustration of some stakeholders who had worked hard to hammer out a deal everyone could live with. Frankly, the Monitor is a little confused to see the item on a committee agenda, since Council voted to postpone the item to its January agenda, but here we are.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council Audit and Finance Committee: A sub-group of the Austin City Council whose members are charged with oversight of city fiscal operations and anything that falls under the purview of the Office of the City Auditor. Reports and documents for the committee can be found here.

Austin City Council Open Space Environment and Sustainability Committee: A City Council committee that reviews environmental matters, including climate change and protection, water, trees, and parks.

Austin City Council Public Safety Committee: A City Council committee that reviews safety issues, including code enforcement, disaster preparedness and criminal justice.

Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee: The Austin City Council committee on Austin Energy was created in May 2013 to provide oversight of the city's electric utility. It's creation was marked by political maneuvering that ultimately resulted in a committee comprised of every member of the Austin City Council.

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