Council: Come as You Are

Council gets back to business with 178 items on the agenda

I'm tempted to cite the most important City Council matter today, Aug. 7, as Agenda Item 111: "directing the City Manager to study the economic impact of the fashion industry in Austin and work with stakeholders and the Economic Develop­ment Department to develop recommendations for ways to support the local fashion industry" (co-sponsored by Mike Martinez and Laura Morrison). However, anyone who has even the slightest familiarity with the present writer will agree that he knows absolutely nothing of this subject – so I leave it to the Chronicle Style columnist, Amy Gentry, to deal with this matter elsewhere, as she handsomely will.

Ergo, lurking on this voluminous official posting – a staggering 178 items in all – is the rather bland direction at Item 17 that Council order a "general municipal election" to take place Nov. 4 and include selections for mayor and a Council of 10 districts, as well as a major transportation bond proposal (language to be determined) and a few neighboring jurisdictions on the side. Listed on consent, that item is unlikely to pass without some pontification on all sides. (See also "A Great Big Bundle of Rail and Roads.")

What else might Council get accomplished before dawn? Moving a cool $30 million from Austin Energy operations into reserves; a brace of the now-routine AE solar energy incentives, including $90,000 over 10 years for the new AISD Performing Arts Center at Mueller; authorizing acceptance of a $1 million federal grant to help underwrite a recycling/remanufacturing project near ABIA (see "City Plans to '[re]Manufacture' Landfill"). They might also approve a settlement (reportedly approaching $1.5 million or more) responding to last July's APD-officer shooting of Larry Eugene Jack­son Jr.; several items derived from the work of the Water Resource Planning Task Force (separately sponsored by CMs Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley, rivals for the incoming District 9 seat); two items addressing the needs of Central Ameri­can refugees and possible city ID cards for undocumented immigrants; and another that would address "distracted driving" (stash those phones!).

And nearly three dozen zoning cases, among them the Commodore Perry Estate at 41st & Red River, and a proposed 32-story Downtown hotel project (see "Another Hotel Checks In on Congress Avenue," Aug. 1). Also, a case involving the proposed Overlook office project at Spice­wood Springs has drawn strong opposition from neighbors, who cite a combination of concerns: increased traffic on the two-lane stretch of Spicewood Springs between MoPac and Loop 360, the proposed height of the office project (three stories), and environmental concerns – they say the site is home to critical environmental features, including canyon rim rock and wetlands. Residents are especially concerned that the project could produce the same "eyesore" as the nearby (currently under construction) Austin Board of Realtors' new HQ.

Those are just a few highlights in what threatens to be another marathon meeting, yet somewhat overshadowed by ongoing annual budget deliberations. The staff-proposed big numbers came in last week:

The All Funds budget (includes "enterprise" [income-generating] departments): $3.5 billion

• General Fund budget (operating/expense budget): $850.6 million (2014: $800 million)

• Civilian employees pay increase: 3.5% ($19.5 million)

• Police and firefighter pay increase: 1% ($3.4 million, pending firefighter contract)

Increase in city contribution to health insurance: 8% ($10.7 million)

• New positions (net): 151 (59 police officers; 38 civilian APD; 17 ABIA; 8 HHS [fee-funded])

• Property tax rate (proposed): 48.09 cents/$100 evaluation (2014: 50.27)

• "Typical" tax/fee increases (on a median-value home, $196,500): $12.13/month (3.9%)

There's already been Council pushback on that last number, largely aimed at the $4.67/month AE increase – and AE staff is reportedly scrambling to adjust downward. Beyond that, the campaign debate over a "homestead exemption" on property taxes has begun, with proponents saying it's necessary for "affordability," and opponents saying it's regressive, demanding, "Show us how you're going to pay for the $36 million it will cost."

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More city council
Who Will Be the New Council Voice for District 9?
Who Will Be the New Council Voice for District 9?
Eight candidates vie for Austin's most powerful YIMBYs and NIMBYs

Austin Sanders, Oct. 28, 2022

Can Council Get Its Sh*t Done by 10pm?
Can Council Get Its Sh*t Done by 10pm?
Austin City Council addresses a 93-item agenda Sept. 15 and aims to end by 10pm rather than voting to extend the meeting

Austin Sanders, Sept. 16, 2022

More by Michael King
Point Austin: Everything Old Is New Again
Point Austin: Everything Old Is New Again
The long, honorable history of students “disturbing the war”

May 4, 2024

Point Austin: Trials of Our Would-Be Rulers Highlight the Limits of American Justice
Point Austin: Trials of Our Would-Be Rulers Highlight the Limits of American Justice
In Trump and Paxton trials, the rules don’t apply

April 19, 2024

More by Amy Smith
The Work Matters
The Work Matters
A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

Sept. 3, 2021

Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014


Laura Morrison, Kathie Tovo, Chris Riley, City Council, urban rail, 2014 election, Austin Energy, solar, Larry Eugene Jack­son Jr., Water Resource Planning Task Force, Commodore Perry Estate, city budget, property taxes

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle