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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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TipSheet: This week’s Council committees
Monday, November 30, 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 tip sheet for Austin City Council committees. As usual, we will be offering highlights of meetings, with links to entire agendas.
Health and Human Services Committee
1. Approve Health and Human Services Committee meeting schedule for 2016.
2. Discussion of process and review of applications for the Central Health Board of Managers (Deena Estrada, Business Process Specialist, Jannette Goodall, City Clerk, Clerk’s Office).
Monitor’s take: This meeting looks to be mostly an administrative affair, with the possibility that discussion of an appointment to the Central Health Board of Managers could be somewhat worthwhile. On the other hand, that discussion could take place behind closed doors in executive session, so we aren’t guaranteeing that the meeting will be particularly interesting.
Public Safety Committee
5. 4:30 PM Staff briefing, invited testimony, and policy discussion regarding sign ordinance for electronic billboards and Public Safety.
Monitor’s take: At today’s meeting, the Public Safety Committee will take a look at proposed changes to the city’s Digital Sign Ordinance. Most significantly, the committee will consider new regulations for digital billboards that include rules for maximum brightness and for restriction of movement on the signs. According to the online backup, “These regulations also mandate that any billboard can be made into digital billboard, but for every billboard converted to digital, one other billboard must be permanently removed.” In addition, the proposed changes will mandate that the city of Austin and the Austin Police Department can use billboards for public announcements and alerts.
6. 4:50 PM Staff briefing, invited testimony, and policy discussion regarding Austin taxpayer funded Syrian refugee relocation.
Monitor’s take: This resolution, which would ban Syrian refugees in alliance with Gov. Greg Abbott, received little to no support at City Council’s last meeting. But Council Member Don Zimmerman wrote it, so as chair of the Public Safety Committee, he can put it on the agenda.
7. 5:05 PM Staff briefing, invited testimony, and policy discussion regarding metrics for Police, Fire, and EMS.
Monitor’s take: From the backup, it looks like the committee is going to take a close look at the metrics used to evaluate the effectiveness of the city’s police, fire and emergency services departments. That certainly could be interesting.
4. Discussion and possible action on the expansion of the parking benefit district in West Campus.
Monitor’s take: According to a city memo from Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar, “The proposed expansion of the Parking Benefit District (PBD) would encompass the area from Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd to 29th Street and from west of Rio Grande Street to Lamar Blvd.,” and is intended to address parking concerns in the area.
5. Briefing on the status of a proposed taxi cab co-op.
Monitor’s take: Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft may not be on the agenda, but taxicab co-ops are back! For those who need a refresher, City Council directed staff to explore the creation of a cooperative taxicab franchise back in May.
8. Monthly briefing on City and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority joint work on the Loop 1 South MoPac Express Lane Project alternatives evaluation study.
Monitor’s take: The Mobility Committee will also take its monthly look at the South MoPac project and the alternatives evaluation study. The Monitor last reported on the project here.
Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee
4. Austin Energy Low-Income Weatherization Program Audit.
Monitor’s take: Though the Audit and Finance Committee already had its chance at this, now the entire Council will have an opportunity to take a look at the recent city audit of the Low-Income Weatherization Program.
7. Discuss issues related to the selection and hiring of an independent consumer advocate for Austin Energy’s current rate review process.
Monitor’s take: As we reported last week, City Council expressed doubt over a plan to hire Oxford Advisors LLC to serve as an advocate for Austin ratepayers. Council members postponed their decision to this meeting to give Austin Energy time to answer their questions about why the firm was selected as the consumer advocate and to clarify whether there are other bidders interested in the contract that were missed by previous solicitations for the position.
Open Space, Environment and Sustainability Committee
4. Recommendation regarding authorization of the negotiation and execution of all documents and instruments necessary or desirable to purchase in fee simple 25 properties at risk of flooding in the 25-year floodplain located within the Williamson Creek Watershed as per City Ordinance 20150604-021.
Monitor’s take: In June, City Council thought it approved the purchase of 63 properties recommended for city buyout due to flooding in the Williamson Creek Watershed. However, due to restrictions Council placed on that buyout, only 38 of the properties it intended to purchase were eligible. Council is now being asked to consider the 25 properties remaining.
6. Briefing on Parks & Recreation Department’s Fiscal Year 2016 block grant funding for parks.
Monitor’s take: The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has $1.15 million in added Capital Improvement Project funding as a “Block Grant” for park improvements. Now it just has to decide how to spend the money.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council Health and Human Services Committee: An Austin City Council committee charged with looking at such issues as income disparity, the regional SNAP program, and healthcare.
Austin City Council Mobility Committee: A City Council committee that reviews matters related to all modes of transportation.
Austin City Council Open Space Environment and Sustainability Committee: A City Council committee that reviews environmental matters, including climate change and protection, water, trees, and parks.
Austin City Council Public Safety Committee: A City Council committee that reviews safety issues, including code enforcement, disaster preparedness and criminal justice.
Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee: The Austin City Council committee on Austin Energy was created in May 2013 to provide oversight of the city's electric utility. It's creation was marked by political maneuvering that ultimately resulted in a committee comprised of every member of the Austin City Council.