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TipSheet: Travis County, 2.20.18
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 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.
7. Receive update on DNA issues related to the closure of the Austin Police Department Forensic Sciences Center’s DNA testing lab, and take appropriate action. (Judge Eckhardt).
Monitor’s Take: For the first time in 2018, the Commissioners Court will hear an update on the joint city-county effort to recover from 2016’s Austin Police Department DNA lab implosion. The presentation attached in the backup offers an overview of recent achievements, including the opening of an interim lab under the management of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In her State of the County speech, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt indicated her desire to ultimately remove DNA testing from the hands of law enforcement, a goal that doesn’t appear to be within immediate reach given the city’s five-year agreement with DPS.
9. Receive update on the Phoenix Court Program, which serves commercially sexually exploited persons in Travis County. (Commissioner Gómez)
Monitor’s Take: In September, the court discussed the underwhelming performance of the Phoenix Court, the special pretrial diversionary program catering to residents arrested for prostitution. So many months later, a rep from the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault will provide the court with her preliminary evaluation of the program along with potential recommendations to improve it.
13. Approve the Affordable Housing Policy Committee’s recommendations on programmatic and policy tools that help create affordable housing or support affordable and fair housing goals. (Commissioners Shea & Gómez)
Monitor’s Take: Tools everywhere! Linked to preserving the county’s continued eligibility for federal Community Development Block Grant money, the Affordable Housing Policy Committee’s recommendations spell out the implementation tools the county should prioritize to help low-income residents keep roofs over their heads. Among the tools identified are public improvement districts and the use of county-owned land for housing development projects.
19. Consider and take appropriate action on the following items regarding the County Executive of Transportation and Natural Resources (TNR) position: a. Accept Steven Manilla’s notice of retirement, effective July 1, 2018 b. Discuss the recruitment and hiring process for the County Executive of TNR position, and take appropriate action c. Approve tentative budget (not to exceed $6500 total) for travel-related reimbursements to candidates d. Approve the creation of a succession slot in TNR, effective for a maximum of two months (This item may be taken into Executive Session under the Personnel Matters
exception.) (Commissioners Travillion & Gómez)
Monitor’s Take: Wannabe county executives of Travis County’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department finally have the opening they’ve been hoping for. Incumbent Steven Manilla will step down this July, taking with him a wealth of institutional knowledge, but also sparing himself the hassle of overseeing the county’s accelerated effort to fulfill $185 million worth of bond projects approved by voters in November. Manilla’s pre-emptive heads-up gives the county plenty of time to find his successor, who, according to a proposed schedule, could be on the county payroll by late May.
37. Consider and take appropriate action regarding a real estate property in Central Austin. (Commissioner Gómez)
Monitor’s Take: Leave it to the Travis County Commissioners Court to ratchet up local suspense. The backup for this tantalizing executive session item isn’t giving away any clues about its nature. If we had to guess, we’d say it maybe has something to do with the effort to locate a site for a new civil courthouse. But please, for your own sake, do not rush out to the online betting markets and put any significant chunk of change on that.
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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.