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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin
Capital Planning Office wins award
The city’sCapital Planning Office has received the Public Technology Institute’s 2013-14 Technology Solutions Award for its Strategic Capital Investments GIS mapping analysis, which can be found in the Long-Range Capital Improvement Program Strategic Plan. The Public Technology Institute’s annual Solutions Awards Competition recognizes PTI member local governments that demonstrate how they use technology to solve specific problems, improve community services and internal operations and reduce costs. The Capital Investments GIS Mapping Analysis, also known as the Strategic Investment Areas Overlay Analysis, overlays city initiatives identified by the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan with infrastructure need. For more information, click here.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Michael Kanin
The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road . . . The Travis County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in Chambers at 700 Lavaca St. . . . TheWilliamson County Commissioners Court meeting 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. . . . The Parks and Recreation Board meeting is canceled . . . . (Note: Double-check your meeting’s location. Some meetings are in different venues due to remodeling of the Council Chambers at City Hall.)
Today’s the day
Those 64 or so citizens who have declared they would like to be candidates for Mayor or City Council can start filing the paperwork today to make themselves official candidates for the 11 seats. And Council Member Mike Martinez, who is running for Mayor, plans to be among the first to file. According to a press release from his campaign, Martinez will file the necessary paperwork and signatures to get his name on the Nov. 4 ballot around 9 a.m. The filing deadline is Aug. 18. Winners will have until Jan. 6 to get ready to serve. But we can expect several runoffs, with the date for that election December 16.
In addition to the five candidates already in the race to represent City Council District 5, there is an additional candidate. But don’t expect to hear much from or about David Senecal, who signed up on July 14 and pledged not to collect or spend more than $500 on the race (excluding filing fees). His opponents include Dan Buda, Jason Denny, Dave Floyd, Ann Kitchen, and Mike Rodriguez.
Cap Metro to brief Travis County
Capital Metro will brief the Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday on the transportation authority’s policies, procedures and limitations regarding its bus service in the county. The meeting is in response to commissioners’ concerns about the county’s Growth Guidance Plan. The plan, approved for public review and comments July 1, seeks to create high-density, low-impact transit areas in unincorporated parts of the county. Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gómez worried that these areas would not get sufficient public transportation from Capital Metro to allow citizens the option to leave their cars at home.
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.
Thursday, July 17, 2014 by Michael Kanin
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.
Thursday, July 17, 2014 by Michael Kanin
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).