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TipSheet: Travis County, 1.31.17

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. In the interest of space, we’ve decided not to post the entire agenda here. The County Clerk’s office hosts a copy at its website.

1. Approve proclamation supporting reproductive choice in healthcare. (Judge Eckhardt & Commissioner Shea)

Monitor’s Take: This symbolic gesture got held up last week after Commissioner Gerald Daugherty expressed frustration that the word “abortion” appeared in the draft proclamation a full seven times. The court’s lone Republican offered to help rewrite the document in order to take the spotlight off of that particularly alienating issue. The compromise that has been cooked up has removed all seven instances of “abortion.” Instead, thrice does the phrase “termination of a pregnancy” appear. Presumably, all parties are pleased, but who knows what Tuesday will bring?

6. Consider and take appropriate action on a memorandum of support to the City of Austin regarding a contract for services between the Austin Fire Department and Emergency Services District No. 4. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Poor ESD No. 4 has been riven by annexations and now exists as several disconnected islands floating along the radial arch of Austin’s northern boundary. In such a state, the district has lost access to a significant chunk of its tax base, which has strained its ability to provide emergency services. The solution appears to be contracting with AFD to extend its coverage into the district, an idea that, with this item, the court will decide whether to endorse.

10. Consider and take appropriate action on the DNA testing issues in the Austin Police Department Forensics Services Division, DNA Unit, including: a. Recommendation to the Commissioners Court that a contract be entered into with the Capitol Area Private Defender Service (CAPDS) to complete the required materiality review of identified DNA cases. b. Request that the contract with CAPDS be exempted as professional service. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: This one is part of the much larger housecleaning mission in the wake of the mess at APD’s DNA unit. Whereas potentially thousands of cases that involved DNA forensics between 2004 and 2016 are now open to question, this item would approve a contract with CAPDS that would have that organization’s staff review cases where a second look has already been requested. CAPDS would then determine whether the DNA evidence in each case was material to any conviction.

20. Consider and take appropriate action to designate Travis County’s Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority for park and ride facilities. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: This lingering question is back. Again. Last week, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt voluntarily postponed it, a move that came two weeks after Commissioner Jeff Travillion requested a postponement of his own, a move that came two weeks after Eckhardt postponed it in the face of a divided court. So, hey, there’s a pattern here.

34. Consider and take appropriate action on issues related to the North Campus Development Project at 5325–5335 Airport Boulevard, including a resolution demonstrating that affordable housing at North Campus supports the North Airport Boulevard Revitalization Plan. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: The county is inching forward with its plans to create an affordable housing project at its North Campus site on Airport Boulevard. This procedural step will help the proposal score two extra points on its application with the state agency that awards decisive tax credits for such projects. As a staff memo makes clear, “In the highly competitive 9% (tax credit) allocation cycle, two points can be the difference between receiving an allocation and not being funded.”

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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