If It's July, It Must Be Re-Org

City Manager Toby Futrell moves to reorganize planning – once again

Toby Futrell
Toby Futrell

It's becoming a near-annual fixture on the City Hall calendar: For the sixth time in 10 years (by our count), the upcoming city budget will feature a substantial reorganization of the city's myriad planning and development functions. The object, writes City Manager Toby Futrell in a memo to the City Council, is to improve city service while (even more importantly) saving money: "Significant expenditure cuts over the past several years have triggered the need for us to focus on identifying efficiencies to help compensate for future resources."

The marquee item in the new strategy is the One-Stop Shop, the fruit of an effort begun last year to centralize all the city employees and functions involved in development review – who are currently "housed in 13 different departments and 12 buildings," Futrell notes. Starting in October (with the onset of fiscal 2005), they will instead all be housed at One Texas Center, within the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, overseeing a redesigned city review process that has "simplified and consolidated 57 city regulatory processes into 21."

Another ongoing weak spot for the city – code enforcement – is likewise being consolidated, into a single new division of Solid Waste Services, which had already absorbed weed- and litter-control programs. SWS will now also handle abandoned vehicles and other (traditionally way-understaffed and underfunded) activities from APD, the city's Neighborhood Planning and Zoning and Health and Human Services departments, and elsewhere. Futrell says her team is working on a process review to streamline code enforcement, similar to the development-review effort behind the One-Stop. Moreover, the city's new 24-hour call center – designed to route citizen questions and complaints automatically– is expected to streamline code enforcement when it goes fully online in early 2005.

And Futrell proposes to reverse one of the last big re-orgs by doing away with the Transportation, Planning and Sustainability Department. The often-controversial TPSD would be dismantled by letter: The "T" projects would go (back) to Public Works, the "P" functions would migrate to NPZD, and the major "S" programs – primarily air quality and water conservation – would move to Austin Energy and the Water Utility, respectively. What remains – mostly projects tied to big redevelopment deals, such as Great Streets, the Seaholm plans, and the Saltillo District – would move to the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, along with TPSD director and longtime City Hall fixture Austan Librach.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Toby Futrell, city planning, code enforcement, one-stop shopping, zoning and planning, Austan Librach

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