COUNCIL PRIORITIES: A SAMPLER
Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Member Jackie Goodman have each released a blueprint of ideas as a framework for jump-starting the city's social equity initiatives. Goodman, who several years ago kicked off efforts to revise the city's unwieldy Land Development Code (the revisions have yet to be finalized) has also laid out some ideas for tackling the land use dilemma. Here's a look at what they want to do:
The Watson Plan
The cover sheet screamed, in big capital letters, that it was only a "STARTING POINT FOR DISCUSSION." But the July 23 memo that Mayor Kirk Watson's office distributed to the council and the press was an impressively complete analysis of thecity's social ills and their possible solutions. Developed in conjunction with the mayor and city manager's offices, the memo came complete with a Venn diagram (at right) illustrating the "three legs of the three-legged stool of sustainability: environment, equity and economy." As for the equity part of that, the memo broke it down into four categories: Workforce Development, Reasonably Priced Housing, Neighborhood Services and Infrastructure, and Early Education and Child Care.
Within each category, the memo identifies citywide goals, "indicators" of how the status of those goals can be measured, along with areas of greatest need and proposed programs. Then the memo proposes specific budget initiatives, fiscal year 1999-2000 funding amounts and possible private sector matching funds, as well as performance indicators to measure progress toward the goals. The total for the four categories is over $3.8 million, with another $667,000 desired in private matching funds. However, the memo included the mayor's caveat that "Frankly, I think this outline is over our budget...we will need to cut, but we need a starting point."
Here are some numbers and text excerpted from the "Early Education and Child Care" section of the mayor's budget memo:
Child Care Fund: $417,867, plus $400,000 matching funds from private and nonprofit partners.
$4,000/child for 100 children: Provide initial seed money for a community child care fund that provides a subsidy for qualifying families ... to purchase child care services in regulated facilities that meet quality standards. Parents must agree to provide volunteer support to program.
Healthy Families Initiative: $267,051, plus $267,051 in Travis Co. matching funds.
Healthy Families is a nationally proven model for intensive case management services for first-time mothers and their newborn infants until the age of three. The goal is to relieve over-burdened young families and promote healthy outcomes via linkageto medical homes, age appropriate nutrition, immunizations, and achievement of developmental milestones, and also prevent child abuse and neglect.
The Goodman Plan
Suggested projects include:
ï Child Care: Approximately $1 million
ï Leasing a downtown building for city employees' child care: $600,000 lease, with annual operating expenses of $100,000
ï Expanding Connections, a child-care/child development organization which would need an additional site and a mobile unit: $24,000 for lease of space; $171,000 for three full-time employees and start-up costs; $113,321 for a new mobile unit and staff
ï Urban Planning (land use): $1.42 million, as follows:
15 planners @ $50,000 each$750,000
1 technical writer$45,000
2 full-time clerical employees$80,000
3 special project planners$150,000
6 part-time/full-time employees$120,000
Support tech and software $45,000
Resources, overhead and supplies $100,000
Health and Human Services Planners $135,000
Apart from the social equity initiatives, here are a few other things your council members are up to:
Garcia is interested in giving a hand up to the city's future leaders, especially on the Eastside. "My top priority is looking at the evolution of East Austin, and how they're going to play in this effort that's underway to build one Austin," Garcia says. "Who are going to be the leaders? What are the dangers and opportunities?"
One of Spelman's council-related priorities will be going down outside the confines of the council chambers. Along with city neighborhood planning officer Carol Barrett, he will be leading a policy research project at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he is a professor. The group will study a system of neighborhood planning on an area-wide basis, using zones similar to those in the community policing program. They would also tackle transportation corridors, such as Guadalupe, which have many neighborhoods abutting the main thoroughfare. The goal is to allow for a more comprehensive and expeditious planning process. Otherwise, says Spelman, "We can do [individual] neighborhood plans from here to eternity, and we'll never be able to catch up."
Griffith wants to make sure that the $700 million in bonds voters approved last year are issued as planned. "We can apply the same scrutiny and energy to the management of the $700 million passed Nov. 3 as we could to the $700 million [we spent on] the airport. This one is about the same size and time frame." She said she and Spelman pushed for the Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee -- an evolution of the Citizens' Bond Advisory Group -- "because just because you pass 'em doesn't mean a thing. It's a license to try" to spend the money on the bonded projects.
Austin Chronicle: What are your priorities for the coming year?
Lewis: To do what needs to be done.
AC: Such as?
Lewis: Now you're getting specific on me.
Lewis finally did get specific, citing enhanced minority participation in city contracting as a top priority. A member of the council's minority and women-owned business subcommittee, he wants to "try to put some teeth into" the minority contracting ordinance, but he says city staffers don't want it, except for lip service. The ordinance is not something the city adheres to as strictly as it does the SOS ordinance, he says. "Either we get challenged (on the minority contracting ordinance) or do away with it. How can you wind up with less if you don't have anything with the program? How can you have less than nothing?"
Slusher wants to advance Smart Growth by non-regulatory means. He said he was inspired by the opening of the SOS-compliant HEB at William Cannon and Brodie, which could have claimed grandfathered status but didn't. Slusher hopes to persuade other developers of the benefits of doing the same. He also wants to introduce Smart Growth sensibility into the city's real estate industry, perhaps through certifying realtors for Desired Development Zone work (the idea being to "get to newcomers before they buy a house").-- J.S.J.