The Austin Chronicle

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2014-03-28/council-have-ears-will-hear/

Council: Have Ears, Will Hear

City gets 'Central Corridor Update' from Project Connect

By Michael King, March 28, 2014, News

Spring City Council agendas tend to be a bit lighter than summer and fall, when budget deliberations overwhelm all else, and the agenda blossoms with postponed subjects. This week's (March 27), at a mere 56 items, fits the pattern, though there is undoubtedly sufficient grist for the public mill. One subject that jumps out on the list is a morning briefing: the Project Connect "Central Corridor Update" on urban rail plans, mainly because of its ongoing importance and the likelihood of continuing controversy over precisely where the north-south route (river to uptown) should run. Planners are getting closer to exact decisions and cost estimates – and Council is anticipating an August decision on November ballot language.

The morning also features the return of the Austin Ener­gy Big Whopping Solar Energy Contract (Item 2) – negotiations authorized last week, and likely execution to be authorized this week. It's 25 years with a West Texas solar project at an estimated $21 million a year ($525 million in all), a reported record for this sort of thing and, amazingly, competitive with natural gas, even (says AE) money-saving for ratepayers. The item is listed on consent, but might be an occasion for more rhetorical invocations.

There might also be verbiage disseminated on Item 36, a resolution sponsored by Council Member Mike Martinez (co-sponsored by CMs Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo), directing staff to "conduct a post-event evaluation of the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival," and asking the Music Commission and Urban Transportation Commission to hold hearings and consider all aspects of the event. An inevitable official response to the Red River tragedy, the review would appear to be in line with perennial event reconsiderations by the city and SXSW – but it might give folks an opportunity to vent, and perhaps come up with a few useful ideas.

A potentially related Item is 10 (on consent), to negotiate an amendment to the interlocal agreement with UT in its hand­ling of the Texas Special Events Trust Fund, the state-funded Pandora's box at the root of all the arguments over incentives for Formula One. (On Wednesday, word came from the city that this is simply an extension of the existing agreement – and will likely be postponed until the lawyers complete their review.)

The week's proclamations include a couple of longtime fav­or­ites: Esther's Follies' 37th anniversary, and a Distin­guish­ed Service Award for long-serving and much-loved city staffer Byron Johnson (In Memoriam, to be accepted by his family and colleagues). Musical honorees are Atlas Maior, whose music (www.atlasmaior.wordpress.com) audibly and figuratively maps the world, and will definitely open your ears.

Copyright © 2014 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.