The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Life Goes On for Council

By Mike Clark-Madison, February 13, 2004, News

After more than two months of light agendas and canceled sessions – and several weeks of heated debate on race and APD – the Austin City Council has a full, varied, and interesting menu to digest at today's (Thursday) meeting:

The APD mess has spawned a quick $1.3 million budget amendment – money to be taken out of the General Fund ending balance – to start implementing the APD Action Plan announced in the wake of the Glasgow indictment, grand jury report, Statesman series, etc. According to Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman in a memo to the council, these funds will pay for 730 Tasers (enough to equip 100% of uniformed patrol officers) and additional beanbag shotguns. "Together these equipment purchases will provide ... officers with readily available use-of-force options in the field," Huffman wrote. The department also aims to purchase 156 new in-car cameras to replace older models – installed after the last race-and-APD action plan, the 1998 Cedar Avenue agreement – that are prone to malfunction.

As promised by Mayor Will Wynn during the foreplay to the city's deal-that-never-was with Temple-Inland, the council will be asked to adopt a resolution directing City Manager Toby Futrell to "develop a mitigation plan for the Barton Springs Zone to allow development to offset additional impervious cover on an individual site through the use of established mitigation measures." The idea is that a zonewide plan would be preferable to "consider[ing] each such application for development on an ad hoc basis with assumed standards." Depending on what Futrell comes back with, such a mitigation plan could represent a major rewrite of the voter-approved Save Our Springs Ordinance. Futrell's deadline, should the item pass, is May 27.

Also as promised by the mayor, another resolution would direct Futrell to begin proceedings to close the 400 block of San Antonio Street, between Republic Square and the Intel Memorial Federal Courthouse. In return for giving San Antonio to the feds, Wynn wants Ninth Street back – he and others have argued that reopening Ninth at San Jacinto, closed since 9/11, and closing San Antonio would produce a net boon to Downtown traffic flow. The plan also calls for study of a possible extension of Nueces all the way south to Cesar Chavez.

After three years and $9 million in public money, the city and AMLI Austin are ready to put ink to paper to facilitate the planned Second Street Retail District. The agreement before council would formally transfer development rights to the ground-floor retail spaces in the two Computer Sciences Corp. buildings to AMLI, which is managing the brand-new shopping street between CSC, the new City Hall, AMLI's two apartment blocks (one almost done, one planned), and the still up-in-the-air Block 21 (the block CSC "gave" back to the city, often identified as a potential site for a new central library, among many, many other things). The $9 million has already been spent by the city to create the roughly 60,000 square feet of "retail shell space" in the CSC buildings – it expects to make $7 million of that back by selling the spaces within four years. AMLI is expected to spend $5.5 million more to bring the deal to fruition. The total "2SRD" would include more than 188,000 square feet of retail space.

Another "symbolic" move, or a real policy statement? The council will consider a resolution expressing its concern over the state's "consolidation" of health and human service programs, passed by the Lege last spring under the gimlet eye of welfare witch Arlene Wohlgemuth, now running for Congress. The draft resolution is intended as public feedback – as requested by the Texas Department of Health – to the implementation of Wohlgemuth's HB 2292; in the draft, the council says health care reorganization would not only hurt the most vulnerable Austinites, but cost local jobs, reduce public oversight and carry "the potential for politicizing and corrupting public functions."

They're not done yet with the municipal judges; the council is scheduled to approve on second and third reading the Municipal Court's enabling ordinance. Initially, the council's judicial subcommittee – Wynn, Jackie Goodman, and Brewster McCracken – recommended that judges John Vasquez, Mitchell Solomon, and Celia Castro all be replaced, spawning a firestorm. In the current version, the first two get to stay, but Castro is to be replaced by former acting Police Monitor Alfred Jenkins.

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