Council: Freedom From Fear

Council joins national defense of Muslims and immigrants

Last Thursday’s City Council meeting (Oct. 13) actually adjourned during working hours (with the help of plenty of postponements). But a shorthanded dais did clear some zoning items, and joined the national week of action in support of Muslims and all immigrants.

The Four Freedoms, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Wikimedia)

The relatively short agenda (48 Items) was mostly devoted to nearly 30 zoning cases, and in a rare occasion, staff recommended them all either for consent passage or postponement (17). There was also a group of proposed annexations, passing on first reading only, to return for additional consideration.

That left a handful of resolutions for Council, a couple of which were also postponed, with District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria absent for illness and D8 CM Ellen Troxclair on family leave. (Council delayed consideration of a resolution concerning a hiring process for a new city manager, and a Renteria-sponsored resolution concerning improving amenities at mobile home parks.)

That left two substantive actions: The first included two related resolutions concerning efforts to expand the stock of affordable housing, by identifying city-owned properties that might be used for that purpose, and by exploring collaborations with Austin ISD and Travis County toward the same purpose. Neither was controversial on the dais (although D6 CM Don Zimmerman suggested selling off any surplus properties for private development), but Council spent some time with friendly amendments intended to coordinate the proposal with other city policies (e.g., transportation).

Council also passed unanimously* [Correction: CM Zimmerman abstained] a resolution in defense and support of Muslims, especially American Muslims, as well as “immigrants and people of color.” The morning’s invocation was delivered by Shaykh Mohamed-Umer Esmail of the Nueces Mosque, who acknowledged the pending resolution and “the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a culture composed of multiple cultures and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear.”

The resolution itself acknowledges the proud history of Muslims and their contributions to our community and common culture, and then resolves:

The City Council of Austin condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Muslims, those perceived to be Muslims, immigrants and people of color. The City Council of Austin commits to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that those targeted on the basis of race, religion or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination.

The resolution – you can read the full text here – was sponsored by D4 CM Greg Casar and co-sponsored by D1 CM Ora Houston, D2 CM Delia Garza, and CM Renteria. Introducing it briefly, Casar said: “This [resolution] stems from a letter signed by over 500 elected officials, local elected officials from across the country, and including many people here on this dais, who signed a letter openly condemning bigotry and anti-Muslim hate speech that we see becoming much more commonplace in our national debate and dialogue, and within our own community. And there is a national week of action that we are a part of today, by passing this resolution.”

On the agenda this Thursday, Oct. 20: a few of those postponed zoning cases, the city manager hiring process, and the mobile home amenities – oh, and the little matter, still pending, of the Grove PUD. (That likely explains the brief, 38-Item agenda.)

And in other weekend news with considerable bearing on future Council deliberations:

Pilot Knob Blocked: State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Open Meetings lawsuit filed against the city’s Pilot Knob affordable housing agreement, concluding that there was insufficient public notice of the eventual cost of the plan, which over the 30-year term of the Southeast development could cost as much as $50 million or more in Austin Water fees to be redirected into a fund to support on-site affordable housing. The whole matter could return to Council for further review.

King Suit Partially Dismissed: U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks dismissed a lawsuit against the city filed by Austin teacher Breaion King, arguing that her June 2015 arrest by Austin Police Department officers was unnecessarily violent and violated her rights. Sparks said that the suit’s pleadings lacked sufficient specific claims against the city, and said that the lawsuit could be refiled if the pleadings were amended accordingly. King’s lawyer said she would indeed re-file an amended suit. APD Officer Bryan Richter is also a defendant, and that suit will proceed. In addition to the immediate claims against the officer, the suit charges that APD’s training procedures are insufficient to prevent unnecessarily violent arrests.

For more on City Council, follow the Daily News and Thursday’s print edition.

*Correction note: Prior to the vote on the consent agenda, CM Zimmerman read into the record his abstention on the anti-discrimination resolution. He also opposed the affordable housing partnership with AISD and Travis County.

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City Council 2016, human rights, affordable housing

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