The Daily Hustle: 9/30/10

Council in East Austin, by way of Dominican Republic

The Last Supper, as captured by an outdated cell phone
The Last Supper, as captured by an outdated cell phone

So what’s the big news out of the City Council meeting at the Carver Center?

The Carver Center.

The change of scenery, dramatic as it is, can’t cover up a light agenda. We’ll get to that below the fold ...

But first, another note on the surroundings: Located in East Austin, the hope was that moving the meeting would bring new faces to the proceedings. So far, it's brought a bunch more cops, but other than that, no sea change from the traditional council watchers – with one notable exception. Shortly before the gang broke for noontime citizen communications, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández, showed up for a meet and greet. He’s in town, apparently talking a partnership with Dell for what sounds like a tech support/call center, and stopped by with a long procession of blacked-out vehicles to pay his respects to Austin’s officials. (Meanwhile, the Hustle was scarfing down two slices at East Side Pies. It’s called priorities, people.)

The morning saw only a couple matters dominate the agenda. Two items relating to Planned Parenthood – renewing the city’s longstanding $1 lease on their E. Seventh building, and providing funds for teen pregnancy prevention – drew several speakers from Austin’s Catholic diocese, protesting the arrangement on largely moral grounds. The President of Planned Parenthood’s Texas Capital Region, Ken Lambrecht, took the podium to rebut some of the speakers’ claims, noting their E. Seventh location provides no abortions, and an earlier speaker’s acceptation PP “urges” clients to have abortions is “simply not true.” Both items passed unanimously. (There's plenty of snark on the Hustle's Twitter page.)

Next, the item initiating a new RFP process for awarding the city’s social service contracts came up. The biggest revision from the earlier proposal was keeping the minimum funding limit at the existing $20,000, instead of raising it to a proposed $50,000 – a measure that had recipients of smaller city contracts (which are then usually levered by outside dollars) nervous. Speakers from Capital IDEA also voiced some concern with the changes, which they worry may greater prioritize core, basic services (Safety net/Infrastructure Services; Transition out of Poverty; Problem Prevention; Universal Support Services; and Enrichment, as laid out in the Comprehensive Plan) over the job training and education development they provide. Others called more explicitly to preserve the $1.2 million in funding Capital IDEA currently receives. Still, after some assurances from council that they recognized the organization’s work, the initiative passed – and with the RFP not even issued yet, now the real fun starts.

A briefing on the city’s permanent supporting housing strategy took up the rest of the morning, pushing back a separate briefing on taxi cab issues until this afternoon. All in all, a pretty workman-like meeting. But as our out-of-town visitor attested, you don’t know who’s gonna show up at the Carver.

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