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TipSheet: This week with City Council

Monday, September 21, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

As part of our ongoing effort to keep readers up to date with all that is going on at City Hall, we present our tipsheet for Austin City Council committees. As usual, we will be offering highlights of meetings, with links to entire agendas.

Planning and Neighborhoods Council Committee

Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, 2 p.m.

3. Consider and develop recommendations regarding a resolution directing the City Manager to initiate code amendments to Title 25 of the City Code to add requirements for neighborhood plan contact teams.

Monitor’s take: Recommended by the Zucker Report, this resolution proposes some changes to how the city’s neighborhood plan contact teams are run. According to the draft resolution, the code amendments are intended to add oversight and compliance requirements. Though there will be a stakeholder process to discuss the changes, the resolution asks the city manager to develop recommendations for changes to planning boundaries and “reorganization of contact teams into a larger, geographically coherent, and more manageable number of entities which may provide greater community representation and participation.” The resolution also explores requirements for contact team meeting postings, allowing the city to “rescind recognition of a contact team” if it isn’t in compliance, and contemplates a process to handle contact-team grievances. Given the amount of investment Austinites have in their neighborhood plans, this should be an interesting conversation – for a while.

5. Discussion and possible action on recommendations related to amendments to City Code regarding secondary dwellings.

Monitor’s take: Accessory dwelling units continue to languish in committee. According to the schedule put forth by committee Chair Greg Casar, “In September, the committee plans to take on the more contentious aspects of the ADU debate. Those include short-term rentals, parking and driveway requirements and how they relate to impervious cover, and lot-size and unit-size regulations.” (Quote from the Austin Monitor‘s earlier coverage, in this article.)

City Council, Special-called meeting.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

1. Approve an ordinance adopting and levying a property (ad valorem) tax rate for the City of Austin for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.

2. Approve an ordinance amending the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Council Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20140908-001) as requested to direct funds from council offices to other city departments for municipal purposes.

Monitor’s take: Sad that the city’s budget process was over all too soon? Fight against the dying of the light with these two (somewhat meager) budget offerings. The first item officially sets the city’s tax rate. With the heavy lifting of approving a budget in the past, there’s not much to fight over here. But, yet, one never knows these days.

The second item is somewhat more interesting, in that it might be an opportunity to discuss the expanded Council office staff (and expanded Council office staff budget). But it seems like everyone is content to let things stand as they are now. For the curious, the rather vague posting language mostly explains what’s going on. (There was a lot of budget talk a few weeks ago, but we hazily recall a couple of offers from Council members to fund smaller items with their office budgets.) Here’s the language from the backup: “This amends the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Council Operating Budget to allow for unexpended Council Office funds to be directed to other city departments for other municipal purposes. This reduces the transfer in to the Support Services Fund from the General Fund and reduces departmental requirements by the same amount to free up funds within other city departments to be directed for municipal purposes.”

3. Approve a recommendation regarding short-term rentals.

Monitor’s take: For reasons that remain really, really unclear to us, City Council opted to stop its conversation about short-term rentals in the middle of Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo’s suggested amendments. Then it ran out of time. We assume Council will pick up the conversation where it left off, but honestly… As a reminder, this recommendation would kick off the code amendment process for short-term rentals. Any ordinance coming out of this will have to go through the boards and commissions and committee processes before returning to Council for another discussion.

Audit and Finance Council Committee

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, 9 a.m.

9. Office of the City Auditor Fiscal Year 2016 Audit Plan, which identified projects the City Auditor intends to conduct for the fiscal year, along with their rationale and required resources (City Auditor.)

Monitor’s take: What’s coming up in audits this year? Let’s find out together!

11. Draft resolution regarding lobbyist reform, including proposed changes to City Code, Chapter 4-8 pertaining to regulation of lobbyists, and City Code, Chapter 2-7 pertaining to the Ethics Review Commission (Committee).

Monitor’s take: The details of this proposal, which would change the city’s lobbying ordinance, are still being worked out in the Ethics Commission, so it seems like this discussion will likely be postponed for now.

12. Draft resolution regarding relocation of the Travis County Civil Courthouse (CM Don Zimmerman and CM Ora Houston).

Monitor’s take: Hmmm, okay. It looks like the unorthodox proposal that would have the city tell the county where to build its Civil and Family Courthouse will be moving forward, despite its lack of popularity with those who are in support of the November courthouse bond.

Open Space, Environment, and Sustainability Council Committee

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, 2 p.m.

3. Public accessibility to healthy food options in each City district.

Monitor’s take: Food deserts are always a hot topic – this briefing on how each Council district is faring in that regard should be interesting.

4. Shoal Creek riparian restoration in the vicinity of 45th and Bull Creek, including The Grove at Shoal Creek Planned Unit Development.

Monitor’s take: Though one might be tempted to assume that any discussion about the Shoal Creek PUD will be interesting, a quick glance through this presentation showed that this will mostly focus on education about riparian zones – which is a more specific form of interesting.

Housing and Community Development Council Committee

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, 3 p.m.

4. Briefing on the 2015 Affordable Housing City Council District Analyses by HousingWorks Austin.

Monitor’s take: Earlier this month, the Monitor reported on this HousingWorks study. It remains to be seen how Council will use the data, but the discussion could offer some insight into that.

5. Update on affordable housing goals and targets, an affordable housing plan, and community scorecard to address housing gaps in Austin.

Monitor’s take: Paired with the above item, the idea of a scorecard that would take a look at the housing gaps in the city could be useful – and illuminating.

Austin Energy Utility Oversight Council Committee

Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, 9 a.m.

3. Discussion and possible action regarding negotiation and execution of a contract with 1ENERGY SYSTEMS INC., for the purchase of a 1.5 megawatt energy storage system to be installed at Austin Energy’s Kingsbery Substation, in an amount not to exceed $3,000,000.

Monitor’s take: This energy storage system is part of the community solar program. Tyler Whitson wrote about the program – and the reception the community has given it – here.

4. Briefing on assumptions used by Navigant Consulting in the independent study of the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025.

Monitor’s take: This looks not to be the Gen Plan Report but a description of that report’s methodology? Though it may serve as a preview for the actual report, the chances of this being fairly dry are high.

5. Briefing and discussion regarding a proposed electric rate schedule for primary voltage customers with an average load of at least 20 megawatts.

Monitor’s take: During the city budget process, City Council passed on the opportunity to extend the contracts for two of Austin Energy’s three top energy customers, and said it would address it another day. It looks like this might be where those contracts are given a closer look.

6. Briefing, discussion and possible committee recommendation on purchases of utility scale solar.

Monitor’s take: Once again, the prospect of buying 600 Megawatts of utility scale solar will be the topic at hand. For a handy primer on the subject, the Austin Monitor recommends this memo or our past coverage.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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