Council Preview: City Manager Review, Cab Vote, and More

Controversial items hit the dais this week

City Council meets today, with several agenda items expected to prompt discussion. Item 56, delayed from a previous meeting, is council's annual discussion of compensation and benefits for City Manag­er Marc Ott. Activists are preparing to use the discussion to highlight their dissatisfaction with Ott's handling of the KeyPoint investigation (see "KeyPoint Questions Linger After City Admits Goof" ). Another hot topic is Item 33, potential approval of the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, a "fusion center" clearinghouse for Central Texas law enforcement agencies; privacy advocates are worried because the agreement is up for approval without inclusion of a privacy policy to ensure oversight and prevent abuses of the intelligence.

Less obviously controversial, but no less contentious, are Items 47 and 48, third and final readings to renew franchise agreements with Austin Cab and Yellow Cab for five years. Council Member Bill Spelman had previously voted against the renewals, worried that the extensions meant delaying potential changes to the companies' franchise agreements – designed to benefit both customers and employees – until the five-year renewal expired in 2015. But Spel­man now says he's received legal advice that "if we wanted to require performance measures from franchise holders, we could pass an ordinance requiring it" without worry. "Because I now know we have that authority," he says, "I'm less concerned about the franchise agreements and more concerned that we actually get the ball rolling, identify some performance measures, identify a sensible regulation of the terminal fees, and get that started." To that end, he's sponsoring an item from council, Item 55, that directs the city manager to partner with the Urban Transportation Com­mis­sion's cab working group to develop taxi "performance indicators," possibly including on-time performance and customer satisfaction; examine capping fees charged to cab drivers by franchises; and develop a possibly performance-based "revised methodology" for awarding franchises in the future.

Capping the controversy is Item 53, Sheryl Cole's previously postponed item asking the city manager for transportation funding options outside of a November bond election, "while preserving debt capacity" for an omnibus 2013 bond election.

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City Council, Marc Ott, KeyPoint, Austin Regional Intelligence Center, Bill Spelman, Austin Cab, Yellow Cab, transportation bond 2010

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