Comp Plan Task Force: Awry?
Council and City Management to the rescue
By Katherine Gregor,
2:24PM, Tue. Jan. 19, 2010
Sparks flew yet progress was minimal at the past meetings of the Comprehensive Plan Citizen's Advisory Task Force. After hearing widespread concerns, city council members and top-level city management are stepping in to help. They'll attend an added meeting Tues., Jan. 26, 6pm, at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Rd.
At the at-times contentious January 12 meeting of the Task Force, the group became mired in old business – issues related to achieving more diverse and greater public participation, and group organization and subcommittees. A lengthy lecture on Open Meetings Act restrictions (in part from city legal) and proper agenda posting also bogged down progress; a number of task force members protested the rules' chilling effect on fulfilling their charge as community ambassadors.
To catch up, the task force will hold a supplemental meeting on Tues., Jan. 26, at 6pm at Town Lake Center, First Floor Conference Room. That meeting will tackle the Community Inventory and its preliminary planning implications. The Community Inventory is a 400-page data book on all things Austin, laboriously compiled by city staff, which has chapters rich in information on demographics, employment, land use and zoning, housing, neighborhoods, transportation, parks, urban design, the environment, and other topics.
After hearing about tensions at past task force meetings, council and city management have become concerned by reports that things aren't going well. They've been talking and gathering input to see how they can help. To show support and see the dynamic for themselves, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, all three members of the council's comp plan committee (Sheryl Cole, Laura Morrison, and Chris Riley), and Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards said they plan to be in attendance Jan. 26. (But to avoid a quorum, one council member may have skip.) Cole also said she is putting task force issues, including the Open Meetings Act restrictions, on the agenda for a council Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee meeting on Feb. 1, at 2 pm at City Hall. Should task force members discuss other concerns Jan. 26, the council committee can take those up as well. Said Cole, "We welcome comments and suggestions for improvements from task force members and the community."