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Council: Are You Suddenly Sleepy?

Council rolls through the resolutions as Leffingwell becomes a jetsetter

By Michael King, Fri., March 7, 2014

Today's City Council meeting agenda (March 6) is a little thinner than anticipated, with a couple of postponements for tactical reasons, and because Mayor Lee Leffing­well's out of town. By now he should be en route back from London, on the Boeing 787 nonstop Dreamliner service inaugurated Monday by British Airways. Leffingwell hopped the Monday red-eye to London – destination borough of Hackney, now Austin's sister city, official sources say – and won't be back until Friday (wouldn't miss SXSW).

Council members got the news at Tues­day's work session, and at the mayor's request postponed official discussion of Item 4 – a proposal to increase the property tax exemption for homeowners disabled or over 65. But they discussed it anyway, and a couple of members got the vapors when they considered Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo's projections of the long-term cost of raising the exemption, at least in larger amounts – because the budget hit will be compounded over time.

Preemptively postponed, after the original scheduling, had been the potential consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over Austin Fire Department hiring. That's moved into mediation involving the DOJ, the city, the Austin Firefight­ers Association, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The AFA called the mediation "wonderful news," because the union is hoping to avoid an imposed solution by either the feds or city management; presuming the mediation goes well – an uncertain prospect – any proposed agreement would go before union members for a vote.

That leaves a fairly diminished agenda (only 41 Items), with Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole wielding the gavel, although public hearings are indeed scheduled on always contentious vested ("grandfathered") development rights (Item 39), and the perhaps less disputed master plan for about 100 acres along Lady Bird Lake: Fiesta Gardens/Fiesta Beach.

Beyond that, everybody loves a good resolution. This week, we've got Item 24 (sponsored by CM Kathie Tovo) to create a task force – the "Austin Generation Resource Plan­ning Task Force" – to address the revised Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan. Item 22 is (truly) more fun: Sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Cole, it is the first official encouragement of a potential Major League Soccer franchise for Austin (first reported in "Soccer Watch," Feb. 28). The proposal is extremely preliminary, asking the staff for a "feasibility" study to engage all stakeholders (including UT-Aus­tin, the Austin Aztex FC, and neighborhood groups) and consider possible locations. (Could we have MLS football just in time for urban rail?)

In any event, this week's meeting might actually adjourn before bedtime. But not before a tune from honored musician "Little Brave" (aka songster Stephanie Macias), as well as a proclamation recognizing Narcolepsy Awareness Day (March 8), inaugurating its latest incarnation, "Suddenly Sleepy Saturday." Nap on that.

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