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City Council: Tasers "R" Us!

Council returns with a bursting agenda

By Michael King, Fri., Nov. 22, 2013

City Council returns to formal public work today (Nov. 21) with a bursting agenda, partly a consequence of the semi-interruption caused by the Halloween floods – the Nov. 7 meeting was truncated to let city staff devote more time to recovery work, and several matters on that agenda were postponed to this one. A few are already contentious: Project Connect (a CAMPO initiative) was scheduled to brief Council on its recommendation of the Riverside and Highland sub-corridors for the initial urban rail lines – that's been postponed to Dec. 12 – and some transit advocates have reiterated their avid disapproval of any northside route other than Guadalupe/Lamar (see "Project Connect Draws a Line,"). The other scheduled briefing is on the city's "online message board system."

Similarly, earlier this week, a quixotic attempt at mediating the neighborhood vs. farmers dispute over proposed urban farm regs came a cropper (see "Urban Farms: Mediation Bears No Fruit"). Those revised regs, which have made their way through staff development and commission approval, are partly on the consent agenda (Item 20) and also scheduled for public hearing (Item 105), but it would surprise nobody if – even after heard for debate – they are once again delayed for a vote, in desperate hope of an unlikely consensus.

Items 46, 47, and 48 concern proposed ordinances creating pilot "rental registration systems" (primarily for multi-family units) in three designated neighborhoods (Rundberg, Riverside/Oltorf, and now vaguely "central Austin"). The primary goal is better monitoring for code compliance matters, but Council members were still working out the potential details at Tuesday's work session, so although this proposal has been simmering for some time, it may not quite be soup yet.

If they ever get that done, it may be time to move on to "stealth dorms" – the student-overstuffed projects in single-family neighborhoods (mostly near West Campus) have been headline fodder this week, and Item 53 (sponsored by CMs Mike Martinez, Chris Riley, and Kathie Tovo) would simply initiate the research (via the "Stealth Dorm Working Group") to move toward an ordinance. Similarly, Item 60 would create the first official steps toward "climate resiliency" – that is, since the climate is already dramatically changing, and we can't expect a short-term fix, we'd better start developing ways to adapt other than just a higher SPF.

Nor will that protect you against tasers (Item 37, on consent): According to the backup on the 36-month (plus three one-year extension options) $2.3 million contract with Taser International, "The Austin Police Department ... currently has over eight hundred tasers in use by patrol and other specialized units throughout the City of Austin." That's one way to ensure code compliance.

The listed musical honorees are the Night­owls – verifiably Good as Gold. It's also Adoption Month, Diabetes Month, and Pancre­atic Cancer Month – all occasions to be solemnly proclaimed. If the meeting ever adjourns, head out to "Buy Local for the Holidays"!

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