Whispers

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by Michael Kanin

More meetings

The Council Audit and Finance Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . The Urban Transportation Commission meets at 6 p.m. in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road . . . . The Ethics Review Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2016 at City Hall . . . The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in Chambers at 700 Lavaca St. . . . The Williamson County Commissioners Court meets at 9:30 a.m. in the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown . . . The Hays County Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. in the Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos. . . .


Monday, August 11, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Notables named to city commissions

Austin City Council members made two notable appointments as part of their regular consent agenda Thursday. Council Member Laura Morrison put former Council Member Jackie Goodman on the city’s Zoning and Platting Commission, and Council Member Mike Martinez sent former Austin Energy honcho Michael Osborne to the Electric Utility Commission. Both selections are marked by the level of experience carried by each of the new commissioners, ahead of what could be extreme change brought on in the wake of the coming 10-1 system.  Other appointments include Meredith Walker, nominated by Council Member Spelman, to the Downtown Austin Community Court Advisory Committee; Shubhada Saxena (Tovo) to the Asian-American Quality of Life Advisory Commission; Heather Dalby (Tovo) to the Animal Advisory Commission; Rebecca Webber (Morrison) to the Public Safety Commission; and Robert Shaw (Spelman) to the Animal Advisory Commission.


Monday, August 11, 2014 by Michael Kanin

More confirmed candidates

With the addition of Randall Stephens on Thursday, there are now four mayoral candidates on the ballot. The others of course are Mike Martinez, Steve Adler and Ron Culver. We can expect Mayor pro tem Sheryl Cole to add her name to the ballot any day now… There are three official candidates on the ballot in District 1 with the addition of Andrew Bucknall on Friday. Ora Houston and Sam Osemene had already filed… Delia Garza remains the only candidate in District 2 to have achieved ballot status… District 3 candidates on the ballot officially include Susana Almanza, Mario Cantu and Sabino Renteria… Of a large number of candidates filing campaign treasurer designations in District 4, only Laura Pressley and Roberto Perez Jr. on the current ballot list… In District 5, likely front runner Ann Kitchen put her name on the ballot last week, joining Mike Rodriguez and David Senecal… In District 6, only Jimmy Flannigan and Jay Wiley are currently set to be on the ballot… In District 7, new candidate Leslie Pool joined Jeb Boyt, Ed English, Jimmy Paver and Melissa Zone on the ballot list… Eliza May joined Rebecca Bray on the District 8 ballot list on Friday. Council Member Kathie Tovo filed the appropriate documents to be on the ballot for District 9 on Friday… No one new joined the list for District 10 last week. Margie Burciaga, Sherri Gallo and Matt Lamon remain on that list.


Monday, August 11, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Meetings

The Sign Review Board/Board of Adjustment meets at 5:30 p.m. at Town Lake Center721 Barton Springs Road . . . The Waterfront Planning Advisory Board meets at 6 p.m. in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board meets at 6 p.m. at the Joe C. Thompson Center on the University of Texas Campus, Red River and Dean Keeton streets.


Friday, August 8, 2014 by Michael Kanin

TxDOT refuses to withdraw draft EIS

The Texas Department of Transportation has refused to suspend or withdraw the draft environmental impact statement, called an EIS, for the roadway design of SH45 Southwest, as requested by Austin City Manager Marc Ott July 23. The agency has also declined to extend the period of time during which citizens can comment on construction of the disputed roadway, as Ott requested. The deadline for comment is Aug. 13. Ott expressed disappointment but said “we want to continue to be part of the process and will submit comments that will allow us to be part of their record.” For more information, read this.


Friday, August 8, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Casar backs push for Municipal IDs

At a news conference called in support of potential new City of Austin municipal identification cards, District 4 City Council candidate Greg Casar got a prime spot next to sitting Council Member Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole. Casar, as did all assembled before the mic, spoke in favor of the IDs, citing a number of public safety concerns. The politics here are also worth noting. Morrison, after all, was forced to quash a rumor (in these pages) that she’d be support Casar opponent Laura Pressley in the November elections. Though she didn’t indicate her favorite in her part of that statement, she did say that there was a candidate that she preferred.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Beth Cortez-Neavel

Travis County to vote on Charles Schwab incentive agreement

Charles Schwab, a San Francisco-based brokerage and banking corporation, wants an $8.5 million economic incentive agreement from Travis County to expand its offices in Austin. If the Travis County Commissioners Court approves the motion at Tuesday’s meeting, the corporation will also get $4.5 million from the state. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce support the agreement, while local taxpayer organizations like ChangeAustin.org oppose. Under the agreement, the corporation would invest $210 million, build 250,000 to 300,000 square feet of office space on a 50-acre plot and hire 823 new employees.

 


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Short-term losses, long-term tax gains

As part of the budget process, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole asked for a breakdown of revenue collected and fees assessed for the city’s Short Term Rental registration program this past year. So far, the results have been less than lucrative for the city. As of May 31, 2014, the city projects that its total revenue from licensing the 929 Type I, Type II and Type III rentals will be $255,210 for Fiscal Year 2014. The estimated cost of administering the program is $301,462 for that same year. That’s a loss of $46,252. However, a question from Council Member Chris Riley showed that those rentals generated more than $1.4 million in hotel/motel/STR occupancy tax revenue in 2014, so maybe it’s not as bad as all that.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Beth Cortez-Neavel

TCAD asks for $2.9 million budget increase

The Travis Central Appraisal District’s request to increase its Fiscal Year 2015 is on the schedule for the county’s annual budget hearings. TCAD will get the last slot of the hearings on Aug. 11, when Travis County Commissioners will discuss amendments to the Planning and Budget Office’s preliminary FY 2015 budget. Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler appeared at the court’s regular session Tuesday to ask that the county contribute $2.9 million more to their budget than last year, out of a total $3.2 million needed from all the taxing entities that contribute to TCAD’s budget. The money would go to fund district court litigation on appraisal protests from commercial properties, hire new appraisal staff to handle the increased work volume and hire an impartial expert to research sales information.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Send in the Aggie drones

At Tuesday’s Council works session, the Austin City Council discussed a proposed interlocal agreement between the city and the Texas A&M University System that would investigate potential future uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (better known as drones) and other robotics in emergency response situations. Austin Fire Department Assistant Chief Richard Davis stated that the agreement would have no fiscal impact on the City, and that “the technology has promise.” Davis explained that the goal of the four-year project is to have developed a plan for implementing the technology by its end. Council Member Bill Spelman, who requested that the item be discussed, expressed concern about the way that such a project may be perceived by the public. He suggested that the Fire Department split the program into four, year-long projects, with progress reports at the end of each year.

 


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Leffingwell stumps for transportation bonds

Although he said he is happy not to be running for elective office again, Mayor Lee Leffingwell says he is indeed campaigning – for the transportation bond on the November ballot. He will hold a news conference at 9:30 this morning right before the Council meeting begins to explain how the bond election will be framed. Leffingwell said that in addition to the $600 million for rail, the ballot proposition would outline $400 million in bonds to fund the strategic mobility plan. The ballot language, he said, will specifically name the highways to be upgraded, such as I-35. In addition, he stressed that the ballot language would also contain the proviso that the city not borrow any money for the rail project until matching funds have been secured from the Federal Transit Administration.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Michael Kanin

TCAD asks county for $2.9 million budget increase

The Travis Central Appraisal District’s request to increase its Fiscal Year 2015 is on the schedule for the county’s annual budget hearings. TCAD will get the last slot of the hearings Aug. 11, when Travis County Commissioners will discuss amendments to the Planning and Budget Office’s preliminary FY 2015 budget. Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler appeared at the court’s regular session Tuesday to ask that the county contribute $2.9 million more to their budget than last year, out of a total $3.2 million needed from all the taxing entities that contribute to TCAD’s budget. The money would go to fund district court litigation on appraisal protests from commercial properties, hire new appraisal staff to handle the increased work volume and hire an impartial expert to research sales information.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Council members back Municipal ID

A resolution sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and co-sponsored by Council Members Laura Morrison and Bill Spelman seeks to explore the feasibility of a municipally issued identification card for Austin. Council will consider initiating a stakeholder process at today’s Council meeting. Cole said there are critical barriers to housing, banking and other basic services that can be addressed with proper access to identification. “We believe that a program like this would also help address the under-reporting of crimes of public safety and personal injury, such as domestic violence, by those without state-issued documentation,” she said. Austin would join cities like New Haven, Connecticut, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and New York that are exploring or have implemented a Municipal ID program. Cards in other cities have also consolidated additional services such as library cards, bus passes or pre-paid debit cards. The sponsors, along with community supporters of the plan, will outline the program in a news conference at 9 a.m. at the County Commissioners chambers.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

South Austin park remains nameless

The park at 3000 Del Curto Road remains unnamed today. City Council took up the naming of the park for a third time and second vote on Thursday. Council members remained split, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Members Mike Martinez, Chris Riley and Bill Spelman voting in favor of naming the park Tom Lasseter Park after one-time owner and notable Austinite Tom Lasseter. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo voted in opposition. Because the vote was 4-3, the name was approved only on second reading, and will require a third vote to pass. Tovo said that she appreciated all of the conversation about the park naming. She explained that while Tom Lasseter might be worthy of an honor in the city, the hard work of the neighborhood in building this particular park made her favor naming the park South Lamar Neighborhood Association Park.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Another traffic record set at ABIA

Austin Bergstrom International Airport continues to set records for passenger traffic. June was the busiest month in the airport’s history, with a 6 percent increase in traffic to 968,545 passengers. That tops the previous record of 942,825, set in March 2014. It marks the second time the monthly record has been broken this year and sixth time in the past 16 months. Almost all of the airport’s carriers showed year-to-year traffic gains in June, while three new airlines — British Airways, Allegiant Air and Aeromar — began service in recent months. Air cargo tonnage continued to drop in June, off 6 percent.


Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Council meeting reminder

If you are going to the Austin City Council meeting at any time today, remember that it is being held in the Commissioners Chambers on the first floor of the Travis County Building at 700 Lavaca Street. Austin City Hall’s Council Chambers are being renovated and are not available.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014 by Michael Kanin

New Group Opposes Rail

A well-known rail opponent, Jim Skaggs, has been appointed treasurer of a PAC to be known as “Citizans against Rail Taxes.” Seriously, that’s what it says on the front page of the filing. Citizens is spelled in the more traditional way on Page 2 where he declares the group is opposed to whatever rail proposition appears on the Nov. 4 ballot.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Endorsement meeting set today

Mayoral candidate Steve Adler may not have a very good time at Austin Environmental Democrats today since the Austin Bulldog published a story Tuesday outlining how Adler and his law partner, SteveMichael Barron, benefited from an old restrictive covenant on land within the Barton Springs zone of the Edwards Aquifer. The group plans to endorse one of the mayoral candidates today, as well as either Kathie Tovo or Chris Riley for District 9 in the November election. According to the Bulldog, Adler and Barron’s property carries a restrictive covenant allowing development at an impervious cover level more than twice what the SOS ordinance would allow. The story is long and complicated but the Bulldog reported, “Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, slammed Adler for using the restrictive covenant to avoid compliance with the SOS Ordinance, saying, ‘He is trying to say building under the restrictive covenant is different from grandfathering. It is not.’” The meeting begins at 11:30 a.m. at the El Mercado Restaurant on South First Street. (Whisper corrected to reflect the correct name of Adler’s law partner. It is Michael Barron not Steve Barron.)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council candidate update

There was some news on the City Council campaign trail this week. District 3 candidate Frank Guajardo told the Austin Monitor that he was “seriously dropping out of the race” after filing his campaign treasurer report on July 15. As far as we can tell, Guajardo managed to run his three week campaign without letting it slip why, exactly, he was running. However, despite Guajardo’s withdrawal, the field of City Council contenders has expanded. Mayoral candidate Stephen Fabian and District 7 candidate Zachary Ingraham both filed their treasurer designations on Monday. Fabian, a financial analyst by trade, told us that he was running for mayor because he loves Austin, but not the direction in which the city is going. Ingraham told us that he got involved with city politics after working with City Council and the Austin Police Department in 2013 to mandate training for handling aggressive dogs. The chance to represent his district under the new 10-1 system further convinced Ingraham to run. “I think that one of my goals will be to repeal city ordinances more so than to pass new ones,” said Ingraham.  Remember, we are keeping track of all 70 or so candidates at The Hall Monitor so you don’t have to. (Trust us, it’s a lot of work.)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014 by Michael Kanin

Get ready for extended Council session

This week’s Council agenda – 179 items long – could keep members, staff and interested citizens up late Thursday night, or more likely, early Friday morning. Council is likely to postpone at least one downtown zoning caser. City staffers say they erred in posting notice about the request for CBD–CURE zoning for the tiny piece of property at 619 Congress Avenue. Attorney Richard Suttle is representing the applicant, who wants to put a hotel on the property next to the Hideout Theatre. Attorney Jeff Howard represents the owner of the theater property, who is worried that construction next-door will damage her tenant’s business. The argument this week will be about whether to postpone the case to Aug. 28 or Sept. 25.


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