The Austin Chronicle

Council: They Just Might Dance All Night

34 member-sponsored items clog agenda

By Michael King, June 27, 2014, News

Maybe City Council should get Austinite Harry Knowles* to produce its spring meetings – he's the expert on buttnumbathons. If you thought the June 12 session was epic, wait until you see today's: June 26, the last scheduled meeting before the annual July break. At 152 items – with plenty of dry tinder in the mix – the fire may burn until dawn. Indeed, at Tuesday's work session, Council members were sufficiently alarmed by the prospect, they were looking for ways to spread the agenda over two days – difficult to do in advance without knowing what will draw the most extended debate or citizen testimony, but they might try.

There is certainly plenty to do: e.g., no less than 34 member-sponsored items (68-102), when a dozen or so is the norm. Some of these are minor (nonprofit fee waivers), consensual, or ceremonial, but others may spark controversy:

Item 69: Chris Riley proposes to reduce permit requirements for accessibility ramps in single-family and duplex units; his District 9 council opponent, Kathie Tovo, resisted the idea during work session.

Item 73: a resolution (Tovo, Mike Mar­tin­ez) to reduce the im- pact of Austin Energy "demand charges" on small businesses.

Item 74: a direction to the city manager (Tovo, Laura Morrison, Sheryl Cole) to calculate the budgetary cost of a homestead property tax exemption – one question will be how to design a progressive exemption, in view of state law on the matter.

Item 76: a resolution (Martinez, Bill Spel­man) to put medical marijuana on the city's legislative agenda.

Item 80: a resolution (Tovo, Morrison) to work with UT-Austin on humane treatment of circus animals, and a potential ban on harmful control and training devices.

Item 89: a resolution (Riley, Cole, Spelman) addressing ACC/Highland redevelopment and Airport Boulevard redevelopment.

Item 99: a resolution (Morrison, Martinez, Cole) to oppose the Travis County Sheriff's cooperation with "S-Comm" federal immigration detainers, perhaps to include the city's withdrawal from the county central booking facility.

Those are only the hottest-button Items from Council members. Before they get to those, there's the "Strategic Mobility Plan" (Item 64), the agenda name for the proposal for urban rail (Project Connect) as well as additional roads – if approved today, it's likely to move forward to an August vote on a fall bond ballot package. Whatever happens, there will be plenty of discussion (on dais and off) on the merits and demerits of the current road-and-rail proposals.

Also scheduled for approval are the new municipal employee civil service rules; city management has a proposal on the table (Item 24), and AFSCME, the city employee union, has proposed several revisions -- these are detailed enough, and the issues (seniority, discipline, layoffs) are volatile enough that a postponement would not be a surprise.

As always, there are also about 20 zoning hearings – but the biggest fireworks may be occurring offstage, in the afternoon executive sessions. Council is scheduled to do its personnel reviews of City Manager Marc Ott and City Auditor Kenneth Mory – and recent relations between the elected officials on the dais and the appointed managers have not been, you might say, exactly cordial.

Musical honoree is the "Mack Daddy" of the accordion, legendary Chencho Flores. Wear your dancing shoes.

*This passage originally credited filmmaker Quentin Tarantino as the expert on "buttnumbathons," because of his occasional all-night film marathons in town. We've been duly reminded by a reader that Butt-Numb-a-Thons are the creation of Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News. With apologies to all, we sit corrected.

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