Council Notes: Know What's Below

The Council's early agenda is likely to raise a little sand

Council Notes: Know What's Below
Photo by John Anderson

City Council took its regular spring & SXSW break this week (please send notice of member sightings in compromising positions at obscure club venues to the News desk) and meets again on Thursday, March 21. The posted early agenda (pending March 15 confirmation) features a few items likely to raise at least a little sand.

Council kicked the can from an earlier meeting on what to do about the attorney general's opinion that the city's ordinance on "project duration" – terminating developments that have made no progress within certain time limits – violates state law on grandfathering. Members split on whether the city had no choice but to repeal and rewrite the ordinance immediately (as staff recommends); it's listed on consent, but don't be surprised if it's pulled for additional heated discussion. Similarly, on Feb. 28, Council repealed current Downtown parking and loading minimums, but on first reading only – the public hearing is closed, but the debate has hardly begun. Indeed, in what may be a parking debate party, one morning briefing is on a pilot program for parking reduction, and bicycle parking regs are also on the agenda.

If that's not enough excitement, Mayor Lee Leffingwell will be delivering a proclamation in honor of "Safe Digging Month" – getting a jump on the April anniversary. No doubt other deep matters will appear in the final agenda.

Last week, Council closed the deal to provide National Instruments Corp. 10 years of personal and property tax rebates in return for a major expansion and capital investment and 1,000 new high-paying jobs. There were some generic objections to any form of "corporate subsidies," but the economic development agreement with NI received mostly laudatory testimony for the company's commitments to creating high-paying jobs, as well as a wage floor of $11/hour or prevailing wage (whichever is higher), including for construction workers on the expansion project. Staff informed Council that NI had also agreed to add workers compensation coverage (not guaranteed in Texas), and Austin Interfaith (among other witnesses) praised the deal as an improvement on previous agreements. In sum, scarcely a discouraging word was heard, none from the dais, and the final vote was 7-0.

Can you dig it?: Only if you call 811 first.

For City Council updates, follow the NewsDesk blog at www.austinchronicle/blogs/news.

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