Property tax task force to report
The court will also get an update this Tuesday on the county’s work to identify legislative and legal remedies to fix what citizens and officials are calling a broken property tax appraisal system. There has been rising public outcry against the inequity of low-balled commercial property appraisals, which many taxpayers say shifts the burden of paying for services onto the residential homeowner and renters.
The Land Development Code Advisory Group and CodeNEXT meet at 4 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road . . . The Arts Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Cultural Arts Division Offices at City Hall . . . The Electric Utility Commission meets at 6 p.m. at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road . . . The Urban Renewal Board meets at 6 p.m. in the Street-Jones Building, 1000 East 11th Street . . . (Be aware than many meetings have been moved to different sites due to the remodeling of Council Chambers at City Hall.)
Hays County building under repair
The Hays County Government Center at 712 S. Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos will be closed today for ongoing plumbing repairs. The county says the building is expected to open on Tuesday at its regular time. All other Hays County buildings will be open as usual today.
City plans candidate forums
With 11 slots to fill in the new City Council system, there is great need for the public to become informed about those running. The League of Women Voters and the city’s Ethics Commission have teamed up to sponsor such forums, beginning on Sept 4, according to Lara Foss, a new member of the city’s Public Information Office team. Each of the forums will be held in or near the districts of the candidates appearing although some will be combined in order to complete all the forums within a month. The final forum will be for mayoral candidates on Oct. 1 at the Convention Center. There is also a forum planned for those who make it into a runoff, scheduled for Nov. 21. Of course, there will be a number of other forums, including several co-sponsored by the Austin Monitor, KUT and the Austin Chronicle. Foss said she is putting together a Council candidate Q &A archive so that when one candidate asks a question, all the other candidates and the general public can read the answer. She expects that to go live on Monday, the first day candidates can officially file for one of the spots on the November ballot.
Mayor meets with EPA officials
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Ellen Gilinksy, senior adviser for water for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressed their support Wednesday for an EPA proposal to clarify which waterways are protected under the federal Clean Water Act. The EPA proposal would restore protections to smaller streams and wetlands that only flow seasonally but which, during rainy seasons or after storms, flow into larger waterways that serve as the drinking water sources for over 117 million Americans. This includes 11.5 million Texans and 864,000 people in Travis County. Gilinsky is traveling in Texas to hear perspectives on the proposed rule, also known as Waters of the U.S. Leffingwell was joined in his support for the EPA by the environmental groups Clean Water Action and Environment Texas. The groups delivered thousands of comments from their members. The comments will form part of the official public record on the proposed rule. The comment period ends Oct. 20, after which EPA will make a final determination.
Rojas suspends campaign
District 4 candidate Gabe Rojas told the Austin Monitor Thursday he is suspending his campaign, although he has hopes that he might launch another race for the same spot either two years or four years from now. Rojas is a member of the Zoning and Platting Commission and said he would continue that service as well as work in the community. However, this year is “not the right time for my family,” Rojas said.
Howard to lead Women’s Health Tour
Austin State Rep. Donna Howard announced Thursday that she would lead a statewide series of Listening Sessions on women’s health issues. The Women’s Health Tour, sponsored by Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives, will host sessions in seven cities: El Paso, Dallas, McAllen, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston. The sessions are free and open to the public. These forums will begin with a brief overview of legislative actions on family planning and women’s health issues. Lawmakers will then listen as community members share their thoughts, concerns and experiences related to the subject matter. Details on the tour are available here.
Texas Folklife presents a public listening party and reception for audio documentaries produced by teachers and students in the Stories from Deep in the Heart Summer Institute program. Stories from Deep in the Heart is Texas Folklife’s award-winning youth radio program that teaches high school students and teachers how to document family and community traditions through audio documentaries, presented in collaboration with the Asian-American Resource Center. The party is set for 6 p.m. today at the Asian-American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road. For more information, visit the web site.
Water utility line work
If you’ve been downtown this week, you’ve probably noticed two closed lanes on 6th and 7th Streets between Congress Avenue and Brazos. Those closures were required in order to work on aging wastewater lines. But the Austin Water Utility is expecting to reopen those lanes as of 6 a.m. today. However, starting at 7 a.m. on Monday all lanes on 6th and 7th Streets between Congress Avenue and Brazos will be closed to through traffic.
Austin sets record for pet adoptions
The Austin Animal Center experienced a record-breaking number of adoptions over the July 12-13 weekend. Officials say 228 homeless pets were adopted – 36 dogs and 192 cats – into forever homes. In part, the center attributes the high number of adoptions of kittens and cats to the annual Kitty Palooza event where they displayed hundreds of cats and waived adoption fees. The record number of adoptions comes on the heels of Austin being named “DogTown USA 2014” by Dog Fancy magazine. The publication announced the annual award winner, given in recognition of America’s best city for dogs and their human companions. The magazine’s editor, Ernie Sloan, credited innovative programs and dedicated animal lovers in both public and private organizations in Austin for the award. He pointed out that Austin saves the lives of more than 90 percent of the animals who enter shelters, making it the largest metropolitan city to sustain a no-kill goal.
The Downtown Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . The Environmental Board meets at 6 p.m. at One Texas Center, 5050 Barton Springs Road . . . Not at 6:30 as originally stated.
Violet Crown Trail information
The city and the Hill Country Conservancy are planning the Violet Crown Trail, a multiuse urban trail in southwest Austin. The trail segment that will connect Home Depot Boulevard in Sunset Valley to William Cannon is currently under design. Persons interested in learning more about this phase of the project and providing feedback should attend an open house from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 30 at the Hampton Branch Library, 5125 Convict Hill Road. For more information, call 974-7142 or visit the site.
Mayor, others to support Clean Water Act
Mayor Lee Leffingwell will express his support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to clarify which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. The mayor will be joined by Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Adviser for Water at EPA, who is traveling in Texas to hear perspectives on the proposed rule, also known as “Waters of the United States Under the Clean Water Act.” The rule would specifically reinstate protections to streams that may dry out for a portion of the year. Representatives from environmental organizations Clean Water Action and Environment Texas will join the event and bring correspondence from Texas citizens in support of restoring protections to these streams and wetlands. The group will speak at 11 a.m. today at City Hall.
Quiet time at City Hall
The folks in the offices of Chris Riley and Sheryl Cole were the only ones in the Council hallway (at one point at least) Tuesday afternoon. Many staff and Council members are on vacation but for those who were there the atmosphere is hardly conducive to work. As the new Council offices are being created there is a lot of noise and it is not clear how long the hammering will continue. (Clarification: Members of the Mayor’s staff were working in their office but they are not subject to the same noise. But Shelby Alexander in Council Member Mike Martinez’ office was there. Her name was inadvertently left off the original report.)
Lewis Leff, who worked on Austin Energy issues, among others, as an aide to Council Member Chris Riley, has left City Hall to join the city’s Sustainability Office, which works out of Austin Energy. Taking over Leff’s spot is Ben Leffler, who, like his predecessor, is a graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Leffler is also a veteran of the City Auditor’s Office (Yes, really Leff and Leffler).
Riley ahead in the money race for District 9
Yesterday, Council Member Kathie Tovo reported raising more than $41,000 in her contest against Council Member Chris Riley and a third candidate for the District 9 seat. But Riley raised more than $96,000, according to a press release from his campaign, which said he still had $65,000 cash on hand. Tovo’s report indicates she has about $31,000 cash. The Tovo report made it to the city website but the Riley report was not up last night. Neither was a report from the third candidate, Erin McGann, a political newcomer who lives in South Austin
The Board of Adjustment/Sign Review Board meets at 5:30 p.m. at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road . . . The Waterfront Planning Advisory Commission meets at 6 p.m. in the Boards and Commissions room at City Hall . . . The Historic Landmark Commission meets at 7 p.m. in Room 325 at One Texas Center, 505 Baron Springs Road . . . Note change in locations due to reconstruction of the Council dais.
AISD seeks input on new superintendent
The Austin Independent School District is hosting a series of public forums to gather feedback on what parents and the community want in a new superintendent. Search firm Ray & Associates will develop a candidate profile from the input, officials said. Forums will take place at noon Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Baker Center, 3908 Avenue B. Evening forums will be hosted from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Meetings are also set Tuesday at Bowie High School, 4103 W. Slaughter Lane; Reagan High School, 7104 Berkman Drive; Summitt Elementary School, 12207 Brigadoon Lane (Vietnamese interpretation provided); and Travis High School, 1211 E. Oltorf St. (in Spanish). Wednesday at Crockett High School, 5601 Manchaca Road; Eastside Memorial High School, 1012 Arthur Stiles Road (in Spanish); Lanier High School, 1201 Payton Gin Road; and McCallum High School, 5600 Sunshine Drive. Thursday at Akins High School, 10701 S First St. (in Spanish); Anderson High School, 8403 Mesa Drive; Austin High School, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez St.; and LBJ Early College High School, 7309 Lazy Creek Drive. For more information, visit this link.
Flood recovery meeting tonight
The third of three city open house meetings to offer information about the recovery from the October 2013 floods in Onion and Williamson Creeks is set tonight at Perez Elementary School. The open house will offer the opportunity for residents to visit with city staff from a variety of departments including Austin Resource Recovery, the Austin Fire Department, Code Compliance, Health and Human Services, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, Planning and Development Review, Real Estate Services and Watershed Protection. Spanish language interpreters will be available as well as supervised children’s activities. The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at Perez Elementary, 7500 Pleasant Valley Road. For more information, visit this link.
Riley releases campaign contributions
District 9 Council Candidate Chris Riley reports that he has raised more than $96,000 for his campaign as of the June 30 deadline. His first campaign finance report of this cycle, which covers funds raised in the seven weeks between May 8 and June 30, will be filed Tuesday with the city. Campaign manager Bill Blome said more than 420 contributors gave to Riley’s campaign for District 9, which stretches from Travis Heights to Mueller and includes much of Central Austin, Downtown and the UT campus. Riley’s campaign took in $95,476 in financial contributions, received another $675.17 in in-kind donations and will report over $65,000 cash on hand