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TipSheet: Travis County, 12.13.16

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 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.

2. Approve resolution honoring State Representative Elliott Naishtat on his retirement after 26 years of distinguished service in the Texas Legislature. (Judge Eckhardt & Commissioner Shea)

Monitor’s Take: Naishtat’s moment of glory was temporarily delayed two weeks ago when his office had to reschedule his planned appearance before the Commissioners Court, but now the wait appears to be over. Look for us in the back waving our homemade “Yea-shtat” foam finger for the retiring state rep.

4. Approve resolution of appreciation for Belinda Powell for her 24 years of dedicated service to Travis County. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Strategic Resource Planning Manager Belinda Powell has spent 24 years with the county, 18 of which saw her tirelessly pushing plans for a new civil courthouse up a steep, politically fraught hill. Even after voters rejected last year’s bond proposal by a hairline margin, Powell managed to resuscitate the effort and put the county back on track to replacing the 85-year-old Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse sooner rather than later. Powell has also been a handy source for nosey journalists, so, really, her retirement is a true blow to democracy.

8. Consider and take appropriate action on the DNA testing issues in the Austin Police Department Forensics Services Division, DNA Unit. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: County Judge Sarah Eckhardt appears to be wasting little time in cobbling together a damage control plan to deal with the fallout surrounding APD’s shuttered DNA Unit. On Tuesday, the court will consider a proposed interlocal agreement between the city and the county that will spell out their roles and responsibilities during the effort to review the unit and consider future steps. Staff will also present a draft document that could be used to solicit outside experts to help in the effort.

9. Receive presentation on probate court future needs. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: According to the backup material on this item, the county could need a new probate court to meet growing demand by 2025. Interestingly, it’s the existing probate courts that could be relocated into the old U.S. Courthouse at West Eighth and Lavaca streets should the county win its bid to take over the property from the federal General Services Administration. Maybe – just maybe – we might hear an update on that effort during this presentation.

18. Consider and take appropriate action on an appointment to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Last week, at the request of Precinct 1 Commissioner-elect Jeff Travillion, Eckhardt opted to set aside the staff recommendation that the court reappoint Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain as the county’s representative on the CAMPO policy board. Travillion urged the court to consider a diverse pool of candidates, including those who are more familiar with underserved communities. This week, the court will likely vote to formally issue a call for applications, a call that Bain of course is free to answer.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

CAMPO Transportation Policy Board: CAMPO's governing body. It consists of elected representatives from the region's cities and counties.

Travis County Civil and Family Courthouse: The Civil and Family Courthouse is currently planned for a redesign with a bond proposal for a 14-story, 511,000-square-foot building with 28 courtrooms.

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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