News Roundup: Covering the Waterfront

Council, more Council, and more

Mayor Steve Adler
Mayor Steve Adler (photo by Jana Birchum)

In this week's News Roundup, Council and the Mayor stay busy, certain House Republicans aren't quite successful in sneaking past their foes, voter registration remains a worthy cause, and more.

Weathering “Disruptions”: There’s no regular City Council meeting this week, but this morning (April 27) hosts a special-called meeting (9-11am in Council chambers) that continues Council’s ongoing policy review sessions, this one on “resilience as it relates to responding to and recovering from disruptions due to disasters, extreme weather events, and economic downturns.” The term “resilience” has been popularized in recent years largely in reference to the rapid advance of climate change (which perhaps not all Council members will be willing to acknowledge), but it has also been applied more generally concerning the response to any major “disruption” of normal operations. Topics (and speakers) include definitions (Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens and Innovation Officer Kerry O’Connor); planning for disruptions (Rebecca Ryan, Alliance for Innovation); effects of extreme weather (Katherine Hayhoe, Texas Tech); as well specific responses in transportation, wildfires, and economic and social resilience. – Michael King

Last week, certain members of the Texas House decided the best way to strengthen anti-abortion legislation would be to sneak amendments past their fellow lawmakers. Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, added to unrelated bill HB 2510 an amendment that would have done away with the severe fetal abnormality exception to HB 2's 20-week abortion ban. The ploy was unsuccessful, for the time being. For more on this story, see "House Republican Sneaks in Anti-Abortion Amendments," April 24. – Amy Kamp

If You Build It …: The next regular Council meeting is May 7, but at last Thursday’s session they took a few steps forward on a couple of issues. Notably, they gave third reading approval to a major residential project on a commercial tract at 8528 Burnet Rd., but increased the potential density from 225 to 300 units, in the interests of “affordability” – via increasing both the overall residential supply in the Burnet Corridor as well as the number of affordable units in the project. Again voting 7-4, they rejected both a smaller project favored by the nearby neighborhood association and an alternative mixed-use zoning designation proposed on the spot by District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool that would have also required restarting the already extended approval process.

Council also:

• temporarily extended taxi franchise agreements with all the current cab companies, while continuing to work on potential reforms;

• sent the proposed Decker Lake golf project back to committee, where it has languished since January;

• referred to committee an art commission for the Women and Children’s Shelter on Tannehill Road, after a couple of members took exception to the cost and the entire Art in Public Places Program;

• referred to committee a far Northwest flood-damaged home purchase in Barrington Oaks, after balking at an exception to outstanding purchases pending elsewhere, especially Onion Creek. – M.K.

The recently formed Austin Justice Coalition and Black Area Resources Organization hosted a brunch with Mayor Steve Adler on Saturday at the Historic Victory Grill. The event gave members of the African-American community the opportunity to voice their concerns directly to the mayor. (Council Members Ora Houston and Greg Casar were also in attendance, but did not speak.) Speakers covered a wide range of topics, including body cameras for APD and the Travis County Sheriff's Office, job opportunities for felons, early education programs, gentrification, and police shootings – as host Clifford Gillard put it, "Mr. Mayor, I don't want to wake up one morning this summer and hear APD shot another black person." Some of the mayor's responses were vague – for instance, he said that he had made "real clear" to APD Chief Art Acevedo and City Manager Marc Ott his personal expectations concerning greater accountability in instances of police brutality, but did not elaborate on what, exactly, those expectations were. Others were more specific, as when he reminded the audience that the city had done away with the criminal record "box" on its initial job applications, and is looking into requiring all city contractors to do the same. He told the audience, "Invite me back; I'll keep coming back and having this conversation." – A.K.

Give ’Em a Hand: It’s only six months away – Travis County is looking for Volunteer Deputy Registrars to register voters for the November 3 election (registration deadline Oct. 5). Volunteers must be 18 or older and attend a one-hour training session. The next training sessions are May 5 (10:30am, 12:30pm, or 6:30pm) at the Travis County Tax Office (5501 Airport Blvd., 78751) – no registration required – or Saturday, May 9, 10am at First Unitarian Universalist Church (4700 Grover, 78756), registration requested. In addition to registration,volunteers promote voter registration at community events and within social networks, distribute voter registration applications and confirm that applications are completed correctly, issue official receipts, and deliver applications to the Voter Registrar. For more information, please visit www.traviscountytax.org or call 512/854-9473. – M.K.

Mastering the Waterfront: On May 6, the city will host architect and urban designer Alex Krieger, discussing the creation of a new master plan for the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. “Remaking the Urban Waterfront” is the fourth “talkabout” in a series highlighting best practices and examples of waterfront planning and development. Krieger has worked on waterfront design and planning in Boston; Louisville, Ky.; D.C.; Pittsburgh; Detroit; and internationally in Montreal and Shanghai. The free event is open to the public and begins at 7 p.m. May 6, at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. The city’s South Central Waterfront Initiative will create designs, policies, and recommendations to guide public and private investments over the next 20 years. Learn more about the event and the master-planning process at www.austintexas.gov/waterfront. – M.K.

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