Time to speak up
By Katherine Gregor, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010
At the request of the Citizens Advisory Task Force for the Austin Comprehensive Plan, Austinites have more time to participate in the plan's first phase: defining a vision for Austin's future. Citizens now have through March 1 to complete the initial Imagine Austin survey at www.imagineaustin.net; they also can pick up or download a Meeting in a Box kit through Feb. 19 and return their group's responses by March 1. Both the survey and the meetings solicit input on Austin's strengths and weaknesses and ideas for improvement. Other surveys and input opportunities, which will delve into the substantive issues, will continue throughout 2010.
To ensure broad representation, city staff are particularly seeking responses from Austinites who do not fit the profile that has predominated to date: college-educated Anglos with a relatively high income who live in Central Austin. (Surprise, surprise!) Anyone who can provide outreach or Meeting in a Box facilitation to more diverse community members should contact city planner Matt Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 974-7665.
During the at-times contentious Jan. 12 meeting of the Citizens Advisory Task Force, the group became mired in "old business" items – issues related to achieving more diverse and greater public participation and group organization and subcommittees. A lengthy lecture on Open Meetings Act restrictions and proper agenda posting also bogged down progress; a number of task force members protested the rules' chilling effect on fulfilling their charge as community ambassadors.
To catch up, the task force will hold a supplemental meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 6pm, at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Rd., in the first floor conference room. That meeting will tackle the preliminary planning implications of the Community Inventory, a 400-page data book on all things Austin, laboriously compiled by city staff and rich in information on demographics, employment, land use and zoning, housing, neighborhoods, transportation, parks, urban design, the environment, and other topics.
Sparks have flown at past task force meetings, so this one should be interesting as well. Several council members – probably just short of a quorum – and Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards all plan to be in attendance. Council Member Sheryl Cole also said she's putting task force issues, including the Open Meetings Act restrictions, on the agenda for a Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee subcommittee meeting on Feb. 1, 2pm, at City Hall. Both in advance and at that meeting, said Cole, "We welcome comments and suggestions for improvements from task force members and the community."
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