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Council: Still Biking After Midnight

With the EMS contract filed away, Council moves on to the South Lamar PUD

By Michael King, Fri., Oct. 4, 2013

Likely the biggest news emanating from last week's City Council meeting was not exactly news: the pro forma approval of the already negotiated Emergency Medical Services meet-and-confer contract, the first ever concluded with the Austin/Travis County EMS Employees Association. Mid-meeting last Thursday, city and union officials held a presser to celebrate the moment. The four-year contract includes designated raises in each year (1.5%, 1%, 1%, 2%), and allows management "flexibility" in promotions and hiring. (It also leaves the Austin Fire­fight­ers Association as the only public safety outlier, still at loggerheads with the city and now working, without a contract, under civil service rules.)

That mostly happened offstage from the meeting itself, which featured plenty of postponements from the burgeoning agenda yet still didn't adjourn until after midnight. The more contentious and time-consuming discussions included revisions to the short-term rental regulations (approved after some amendments to neighborhood caps, city inspections, and advertising). The still-contentious pilot program for 24-hour bike trails – under a cloud since the new budget deleted the police overtime for patrolling the trails – was proposed for cancellation by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, but after some debate over whether the patrols are necessary, the decision was postponed to Oct. 17. The lengthiest debate (two hours closing the meeting) was over a pair of ordinances to regulate rental properties citywide for better code compliance; Council managed to create a registry, while postponing indefinitely the regs that will go with it. There was also heated public testimony over "creating a public process" to consider what to do at Rezni­cek Field, where the Highland Park NA and the local Optimist Club have gotten crossways over sharing – that one, too, will return, although how soon is the staff's headache.

High-profile items on the agenda for this Thursday (Oct. 3) include a proposal (Item 57) to apply density bonus regulations to the Rainey Street neighborhood; piloting rental registration programs in the far northside Rundberg neighborhood and East Riverside/Oltorf (Items 58-59), as well as Hyde Park and the near northside. The South Lamar (aka Taco) PUD was scheduled for a third vote (first two approved 5-2) – said to be delayed again because of a posting error. And the brace of annexations that were heard in public hearing last week return, presumably for action.

There are a half-dozen proclamations, including the oddly named but no doubt hygienic "Bi-National Health Week." The designated musical honorees are the Peter­son Brothers, a young pair of bluesmen out of Bastrop, although it's worth noting that last week's band – Migrant Kids (www.migrantkids.com) – were off-agenda sit-ins for the Hot Texas Swing Band. Good music, and a truly touching thanks from the band and their families – but was there adequate public notice for this flagrant violation of the Open Meetings Act? Quick, somebody call the Travis County Attorney!

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