The Austin Chronicle

Council: Who Rules AE?

By Michael King, April 12, 2013, News

The headline matter at this week's City Council meeting (April 11) is almost certainly the question of Austin Energy governance, specifically the proposal (Item 11) to create an independent board of trustees to take over direct management of the utility, with Council retaining authority on overall policy. There's also a resolution that would support related state legislation. The idea gained traction during last year's protracted debate on rates (which would remain under Coun­cil purview), but has since raised considerable public backlash, while city management (i.e., City Manager Marc Ott) is reportedly not enthusiastic about losing direct managerial authority.

The proposal is nominally on the consent agenda (first reading only), and it appears to have at least four supporters on the dais – but it's reasonable to expect a more than cursory discussion (even with Council Member Kathie Tovo visiting China). For the public arguments, see "Then There's This," p.14.

Beyond that AE matter – and it remains a doozy – there doesn't appear to be a great deal of heavy lifting waiting on the 85-item agenda. Council had an abbreviated work session (Google calling!) and spent most of it discussing a proposal from Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Chris Riley to rewrite the demolition permit ordinance to allow more flexibility – they say the ordinance sometimes works, paradoxically, to rush demolitions before they're necessary. On the other hand, Council Mem­ber Laura Morrison was wary that the rewrite might allow landowners or developers too free a hand without public recourse, especially where a demolition might affect a historic building or neighborhood. This one (Item 36) might simmer a bit before it's fully cooked.

Beyond that, the revision of the Down­town parking requirements is up for third reading – it's taking a while, but Riley's persistent campaign to make at least a small dent in our massive land dedication to automobiles is making ever so tiny headway.

Noontime Citizens Communications will feature a couple of folks on the AE governance issue, and one or two on the Barton Springs Master Plan. And frequent City Hall complainant Clay DaFoe will declare "How the Austin City Council violated [his] civil rights and undercover APD Davidson #6165 twisted [his] arm." If he's got the officer's name and badge number, it can't be very deep cover -- but I'm sure we'll learn much more at high noon.

Among the proclamations proclaimed will be Fair Housing Month, Jazz Week, and National Record Store Day (three cheers for Waterloo!), as well as kudos to the Andy Roddick Foundation (celebrity sighting!). Finally, the 5:30pm music features the quirky sonorities of Les Rav (Lauren Bruno), Austin's own answer to Björk: "Do Not Refuse Abundant Peace."

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