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TipSheet: This week’s Council committees

Monday, April 11, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

As the Austin Monitor does weekly, we invite you to join our ongoing effort to keep readers up to date with all that is going on at City Hall by providing a tip sheet for City Council committees. As usual, we will be offering highlights of meetings, with links to entire agendas.

Audit and Finance Committee

Monday, April 11, 9 a.m.

3. City of Austin Utility Customer Care Audit, which evaluated the customer service provided by Austin Energy to City utility customers (City Auditor). [Notes: SPONSOR: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, CO 1: Council Member Ellen Troxclair]

Monitor’s take: According to the draft audit posted on the city’s website, Austin Energy fared pretty well on this audit. The water utility – which has faced recent criticism over “mysteriously” high water bills – didn’t do as well, though. As summed up in the report: “Changes made by Austin Energy in October 2014 have improved the time it takes the utility to address customer issues. In addition, Austin Energy has employed various methods for measuring customer satisfaction, such as after-call surveys that indicate satisfaction with the Contact Center’s services. However, escalations of customer complaints related to Austin Water have struggled to achieve a similar level of service. Factors delaying complaint resolutions include a lack of defined expectations between the departments and unclear roles in resolving water-related customer service issues.”

4. City of Austin Code Investigations and Resolutions Audit, which looked at how consistently Austin Code investigated and enforced code violations (City Auditor). [Notes: SPONSOR: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, CO 1: Council Member Ellen Troxclair]

Monitor’s take: Given the fact that we reported on this audit in advance of the meeting, it’s probably fairly obvious that we are excited about this one! And with good reason. The audit found issues with “about 77 percent” of the code complaints that were reviewed. It also found that assurances that 311 complaints had been synced with their system were … not true. Basically, the findings were much the same as those from a 2010 audit. (But you knew most of that from our story already, right?)

7. Recommendation from the Zero Waste Advisory Commission that Austin City Council seek an independent third party audit of the Austin Resource Recovery department. [Notes: SPONSOR: Mayor Steve Adler, CO 1: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo]

8. Recommendation from the Zero Waste Advisory Commission that Austin City Council prioritize Austin Resource Recovery in the performance and budget review by the Office of Performance Management. [Notes: SPONSOR: Mayor Steve Adler, CO 1: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo]

Monitor’s take: We recently reported on tensions between the Zero Waste Advisory Commission and Austin Resource Recovery. In short, the new ZWAC wants answers about the department’s budget that it feels it is not getting. ARR says it is answering the questions posed by the board – and doesn’t understand what it is ultimately looking for. Anyway, here are a couple of audits that are another approach to the thing.

Economic Opportunity Committee

Monday, April 11, 2 p.m.

4. Presentation by Parks and Recreation Department on the draft report for the Travis County Expo Center Market Study regarding potential future uses and facility improvement recommendations for the Travis County Expo Center. (Notes: SPONSOR: Council Member Ellen Troxclair, CO 1: Council Member Ora Houston)

Monitor’s take: We covered might-be plans for the Expo Center back in March. Those plans could involve tearing everything down or hosting a major sports team, and this is the first official, public look the city will have at them.

Housing and Community Development Committee

Wednesday, April 13, 2:00 p.m.

4. Update on tenant relocation assistance policy development process.

Monitor’s take: Though City Council supports tenant relocation assistance, the details of how that policy will be implemented have yet to be completely worked out. Here’s kind of a basic outline of what has happened since Council approved a resolution, in November 2015, that would create such a policy.

6. Update on Resolution No. 20160225-067 regarding the status of identifying additional homestead preservation districts.

Monitor’s take: During its last meeting of 2015, City Council approved three new homestead preservation districts, bringing the city’s total to four. The districts will allow the city to reinvest property taxes to help increase affordability in those areas, and now the city is looking for other areas that could be districts as well.

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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 Economic Opportunity Committee: The Economic Opportunity Committee reviews the city’s economic opportunities and matters related to fair wage and business contracting policies.

Austin City Council Housing and Community Development Committee: A City Council committee that reviews land use, housing and community development, and other concerns related to housing.

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