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TipSheet: Travis County, 8.11.15

Tuesday, August 11, 2015 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.

Items of interest include:

4. Consider and take appropriate action regarding revisions to the Mass Gathering Permit Application process including recommendations to streamline the Application Process. (Commissioner Shea & Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: This could be the long-anticipated final vote on the reform of the County’s mass gathering permitting process. Ostensibly aimed at making it easier for promoters to blast through the red tape, it also sets what Judge Sarah Eckhardt calls a “baseline expectations” for, among other things, a curfew for amplified noise. A revised proposal for the new application now includes language that spells out the power authorities have to pull the plug on events that don’t meet the new “requirements,” an addition that could cause some heartburn in the local music industry. Opponents of the change are once again trying to organize online. As of Monday afternoon, more than 150 people have pledged to attend tomorrow’s meeting to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the proposal (in early July, a fraction of the 70-pledged opponents showed up).

10. Consider and take appropriate action on City of Austin proposal to eliminate the County’s exemption from drainage fees. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Amid the City of Austin’s ongoing effort to restructure drainage fees came a brief suggestion from Council Member Don Zimmerman that Council remove the current exemption enjoyed by both Travis County and AISD. That could cost the county as much as $250,000 per year, according to county staff. Even though the notion didn’t appear to score too much traction, the price tag is enough to inspire county staff to take it seriously. They’ve written up a letter addressed to Mayor Stephen Adler and City Council urging them to keep the exemption in place and a majority vote by the county commissioners on Tuesday would affix Judge Eckhardt’s Jane Hancock to the bottom of it.

11. Consider and take appropriate action regarding FY 2016 salaries for elected officials: a. Proposed elected officials’ salaries; b. Proposed calendar for setting elected officials’ salaries; and c. Public hearing on advertised salaries. (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: After going through the most recent budget cycle without a raise, most of the county’s elected officials could take home a little extra bank next year. Budget staff have recommended that the electeds enjoy the same three-percent raise proposed for most county employees. That means an additional $4,942 for County Attorney David Escamilla, $3,551 for Judge Eckhardt, and $4,077 for Sheriff Greg Hamilton. The commissioners will vote on Tuesday to set a public hearing on the proposed salary hikes on Sept. 1.

13. Consider and take appropriate action on the proposed Civil and Family Courts Complex project update, including approval of the project budget and the amount to be included in the November Bond Election. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Remember how we’ve been talking a whole lot about the proposed $291.6 million Civil and Family Courts Complex that voters will decide on come November? There could be a slight change of plans after Tuesday thanks to some more numbers-crunching from county staff. The final number that will likely end up on your ballot will be $287,275,000. Expect the commissioners to both spotlight the new number as well as ask staff members to show their work.

14. Consider and take appropriate action on proposed proposition and ballot language for a Bond Election for the new Civil and Family Courts Complex. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Like smashing a bottle of bubbly on a new boat, this will be the last act the commissioners take on the CFCC before launching out onto the electoral sea. However, since they don’t have to make a final commitment to the ballot language until next week’s voting session, it’s likely that this week they’ll take this item into executive session to continue to perfect its sea-worthiness.

27. Consider and take appropriate action to direct staff to study and recommend best practices on County public information activities, including response to requests under the Public Information Act. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: To chagrin of at least one reporter on the beat, Travis County has no dedicated public information office, but some sort of change could be on the horizon. An informal group has been taking a look at how different departments have been handling public information requests and is now proposing that the commissioners give the effort their formal blessing by creating an official committee to continue the analysis and eventually offer recommendations to standardize the county’s public information operations.

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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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