Council Notes

Taco Party!

The unseasonable heat and rolling blackouts must mean one thing – it's election time! Like the state's beleaguered electric grid, Austin voters are overloaded – the specter of "open government" and "clean water" propositions, Nos. 1 and 2, have short-circuited all else on the city agenda, keeping us all in the dark. Even new controversy célèbre, the proposed relocation of Green Water Treatment Plant to Roy G. Guerrero Park, has been seized upon by proposition pushers as another instance of "backroom dealmaking." That particular fight continues, with an Environmental Board hearing scheduled Wed., April 26. Council's forks meet socket the next day, April 27, when they set public hearing on the proposed move for late in the month of May.

On the less explosive agenda, council returns today after a week off to tend to its own municipal minutiae. Like parties. We know, we know – these events, usually driven by the arts, generate millions of dollars of revenue for the city. A recent report commissioned by the city found that Austin's "cultural sector" – music, films, theatre, visual arts, et al. – pump some $2.2 billion into the city economy, accounting for some 44,000 jobs. Well, look at us! Let's throw a party! Today's items from council include waivers for the Earth Day Green Art Festival and the Filipino Association's Barrio Fiesta, as well as the Capital of Texas Triathlon, America's Triathlon, and the Texas Round-Up 10K. Another council item, No. 55, directs the city manager to create a task force dedicated to exploring childcare options for city workers on nights and weekends. You know why? So they can party!

Another festive fête on the agenda is the 1pm briefing on the World Conference on Information Technology. In May, IT dudes from across the globe snark into Austin to tell us why our IP addresses won't talk to our DNS servers – what, are you stupid? An interesting sidenote: Environmental darlings Advanced Micro Devices are a "pinnacle" event sponsor, and bicycling CEO Hector Ruiz will deliver an opening keynote about his soon-to-be totally sweet commute.

Also at 1pm: briefings on Mueller Airport redevelopment and on new recommendations for the 2006 bond election, which – you guessed it – is also tied to Props. 1 and 2. Amendment opponents claim the nebulous, but potentially onerous, price tag attached to the propositions means once again delaying the bonds, which were already pushed from May to November. City staff has already been shaving down the citizen Bond Election Advisory Committee's $615 million recommendation into the $500 million range. Last meeting, $64 million recommended for facility renovations (parks and pool repairs, new HVAC systems for ailing buildings) was cut to $55 million. Today, new facilities are on the chopping block. While parks, cultural facilities, public health and safety buildings, including appropriations to the Mexican American Cultural Center and a new animal shelter, may face cuts, keep your closest eye on the $90 million the BEAC slated for a flagship public library downtown. During bond budgeting, book boosters claimed $90 million was the absolute lowest they could go and still build a main library for the ages.

Rounding out the agenda are water utility deliveries from the city to Steiner Ranch and other outcroppings, new and renewed funding to groups combating teen and family homelessness and other social ills, and to others assisting those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Lastly, item 56 would allow "mobile food establishments in certain zoning districts." We can only hope this valiant Taco Stand Amendment means gyros and burritos will clog the streets of Tarrytown.

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