Council Sleeper

Stuck in the queue

There's one way to make this week's (Thursday's) relatively scant, 65-item City Council agenda look bigger than it is: Saddle it up with items from council – personal policy prescriptions from your elected officials themselves.

Although technically an item from Econom­ic Growth & Redevelopment Services, Item 11 acts on a previous council edict, passed in the wake of the Stop Domain Subsidies campaign, that the city's economic incentives receive greater scrutiny. The ordinance calls for "a formal cost-benefit analysis ... to assess the direct and indirect costs of such proposals" and also allows for greater citizen review before council inks any deals.

Among the new items, Item 35 directs City Manager Marc Ott to examine the feasibility of offering free wi-fi at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Judging from some irate status updates from council's chief social media maven and item sponsor Mike Martinez, freeing the signal at Bergstrom has been a pet project of the mayor pro tem for some time. Sticking around at the airport, Item 36 calls for a climate-controlled facility for the cab drivers who serve ABIA. Cabbies can wait for hours on end in a queue before entering the airport to pick up fares, and heretofore their only facility has been outdoors, with a couple of picnic tables – something council is looking to rectify.

Item 37, from Martinez and Bill Spelman, addresses construction safety, something Spelman has been pushing for the last few weeks and highlighted by the fatal West Cam­pus scaffolding accident earlier this year. It calls on Ott to create a "menu of options" pertaining to safety, including "education, partnerships, safety inspections, suggested policy changes or additions to the City's legislative agenda at the state and federal level, programs to increase access and use of safety equipment, requiring rest breaks," and more. Spelman teams with Mayor Lee Leffingwell for Item 38, a water-wise measure ensuring that the city's water use fully complies with the city code's prescriptions on water use in a drought.

Then there's the really exciting stuff: naming a new acting city auditor! Item 39 would designate the new acting auditor, since the current one, Taylor Dudley, is at or near retirement. However, the announcement shouldn't be confused with the search for a new permanent auditor, scheduled to be named Oct. 15. (A fail-safe, perhaps, but auditors are nothing if not thorough.) The permanent auditor finalists – Kenneth J. Mory (San Diego County chief of audits), Steve Shepherd (Denton city auditor), and Anthony B. Ross Sr. (internal audit manager, Austin Energy) – are scheduled to meet the public Oct. 14. In a similar spirit of openness, Sheryl Cole, Randi Shade, and Spelman are calling for quarterly updates on Austin Energy, Austin Water Utility, the General Fund, "and other funds as requested" in Item 40.

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