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Council Preview: Who Rules AE?

Tomorrow's headline matter is Austin Energy governance
Michael King, 11:59am, Wed. Apr. 10, 2013
The pending proposal (Item 11) would create an independent board of trustees to take over direct management of the utility, with Council retaining authority on overall policy.

There’s also a resolution that would support related state legislation, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez. The idea gained traction during last year’s protracted debate on rates (which would remain under Council purview), but has since raised some public backlash, and city management (i.e., City Manager Marc Ott) is reportedly not enthusiastic about losing direct managerial authority.

The proposal is nominally on the consent agenda (first reading only), and it appears to have at least four supporters on the dais –- although it’s reasonable to expect a more than cursory discussion (even with Council Member Kathie Tovo visiting China). For the public arguments, see “Then There’s This,” in this week's print edition.

Beyond that AE matter –- and it remains a doozy -– there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of heavy lifting on the 85-item agenda. Council spent its abbreviated work session (Google calling!) mostly discussing a proposal (Item 36) from Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Chris Riley to rewrite the demolition permit ordinance to allow more flexibility – they say the ordinance sometimes works, paradoxically, to rush demolitions before they’re necessary. On the other hand, CM Laura Morrison was wary that the rewrite might allow landowners or developers too free a hand without public recourse, especially when a demolition might affect a historic building or neighborhood. This one might simmer a bit before it’s fully cooked.

Also, the revision of the Downtown parking regs is up for third reading – it’s taking a while, but Riley’s persistent campaign to make at least a small dent in our massive land dedication to automobiles is making ever so tiny headway.

Noontime Citizens Communications will feature a couple of folks on the AE governance issue, and one or two on the Barton Springs Master Plan. And frequent City Hall complainant Clay Dafoe will declare “How the Austin City Council violated [his] civil rights and undercover APD Davidson #6165 twisted [his] arm.” If he’s got the officer’s name and badge number, it can't be very deep cover -- but I’m sure we’ll learn much more at High Noon.

Among the proclamations proclaimed will be Fair Housing Month, Jazz Week, National Record Store Day (three cheers for Waterloo!), and kudos to the Andy Roddick Foundation (celebrity sighting!). Finally, the 5:30pm music features the quirky sonorities of Les Rav (Lauren Bruno), Austin’s own answer to Bjork: “Do Not Refuse Abundant Peace.”

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