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TipSheet: This week’s Council Committees

Monday, June 22, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

As part of our ongoing attempt to keep readers up to date with all that is going on at City Hall, we will now be offering weekly tip sheets for City Council committees. As usual, we will be offering highlights of meetings, with links to entire agendas.

Public Safety Committee

Monday, June 22. Agenda here.

3. City Staff briefing regarding the transportation of hazardous materials through and around the City of Austin.

Monitor’s take: In June 2013, Council approved a resolution asking the city manager to assess the public health risk of transporting hazardous materials through the city. Soon after, they called for the city to designate routes for those materials in the city. This past January, a memo from Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar recommended that the city work through CAMPO and the Local Emergency Planning Council to establish the routes, and funds for Fiscal Year 2016 be set aside for the effort. This briefing will be an update on where things stand.

4. Staff briefing, invited testimony, and policy discussion regarding a plan for merging the EMS and Fire Departments for fiscal year 2016-17.

Monitor’s take: On Friday, Austin-Travis County EMS director and chief Ernie Rodriguez’s weekly newsletter included the following about this item:

“Both the EMS and Fire Departments were surprised to see this agenda item. Neither department was consulted on the matter. Neither department has been studying a merger and neither has any staff briefing to deliver on the topic. The system that we have now is the system that we have been working to develop. We have invested in this system for thirty years. Our performance is excellent and we remain an industry leader and innovator. Many of the things that we do become models for others across the nation to follow. Since its inception, our EMS department has faced challenges. And we have faced those challenges head-on. Right now we are facing a challenge to recruit, hire, and retain great people. We are also facing the challenge of work-related fatigue caused by shift work. We will face these challenges. We will find solutions. We will be better and stronger when we do.”

We expect it will be an interesting discussion.

Audit and Finance Committee

Wednesday, June 24. Agenda here.

3. Briefing on the Major Event Trust Fund and the Regular Event Trust Fund, including the role of the City and the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee

Monitor’s take: Council’s recent endorsement of the X Games application to the Major Events Trust Fund raised a lot of questions for them about how the fund operates. They will take a closer look at how it operates during this briefing.

4. The Sewer Overflow Prevention and Response Audit, which evaluated the Austin Water Utility’s efforts to prevent and respond to sewer overflows from pipes and lift stations (City Auditor).

Monitor’s take: We like audits, and the topic of sewer overflows is certainly timely, so we’re interested.

5. Options for providing tax relief to seniors and people with disabilities including tax limitations pursuant to Texas Tax Code Section 11.261 (b), level of property tax exemption for the over 65 and disabled, and other strategies.

Monitor’s take: A couple of weeks ago, Council Member Sheri Gallo tried to rush this proposition to City Council for a vote. However, that push was stalled over confusion about how her resolution was written and what the impact of such a freeze would be. Audit and Finance will take a closer look.

10. Consider and develop recommendations on a resolution to create, for purposes of public access, an online system consisting of a downloadable and searchable database, capable of standard querying, for campaign finance filings.

Monitor’s take:As a subset of the population that has pored over City Council candidate filings, we are quite interested in this proposed database. Currently, campaign finance filings are posted online but as unsearchable pdfs, which are just scans of the forms candidates submit.

Open Space, Environment and Sustainability Committee

Wednesday, June 24. Agenda here.

6. Consider and develop a recommendation on the Cemetery Master Plan.

Monitor’s take: The massive Cemetery Master Plan has been making its way through the city’s boards and commissions for a while, and now it’s headed to City Council for approval.

7. Briefing and discussion of: 1) construction staging, future use, and dedication for park and recreational purposes of 64 Rainey Street; and 2) future dedication for park and recreational purposes of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

Monitor’s take: People have been fighting over this piece of land for years. Earlier this month, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman, the MACC board and developer Sackman Enterprises struck a deal. The agreement would allow the developer to use the land for two years as a construction staging site and then, after their project is complete in two years, they will pay for a small park at 64 and 58 Rainey Street. Of course, the deal needs City Council approval.

8. Discussion regarding the proposed construction of State Highway 45 Southwest.

Monitor’s take: Always a good time. We most recently covered the SH 45 SW fight here, but we’ve tackled the fight over this road plenty in the past.

Housing and Community Development Committee

Wednesday, June 24. Agenda here.

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

6. Presentation and discussion on inclusionary zoning and affordable housing.

Monitor’s take: A look at this agenda seems to show it skewing toward education. Unsurprisingly, these two items will take a closer look at affordable housing. Inclusionary zoning, which refers to the practice of municipal governments requiring affordable housing as a condition of zoning, is prohibited under state law.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council Audit and Finance Committee: A sub-group of the Austin City Council whose members are charged with oversight of city fiscal operations and anything that falls under the purview of the Office of the City Auditor. Reports and documents for the committee can be found here.

Austin City Council Housing and Community Development Committee: A City Council committee that reviews land use, housing and community development, and other concerns related to housing.

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.

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