Public Notice: Can I Get a Scheduler?
District 9 opponents need to be in three places at once tonight
We're close to halfway through our "Ballot Boxing" series of City Council candidate forums, and it's been fascinating thus far: There are a lot of smart, passionate people running, though some display surprisingly little understanding of how our city government actually works. Forums for Districts 5 and 6 are upcoming this week (Monday and Tuesday evenings at 7pm; see the following page for more info).
Meanwhile, of course, there are other forums going on all over town; the most "official" of these is a series hosted by the City Ethics Review Commission and the League of Women Voters (televised live on City Channel 6, and webcast on the city website, www.austintexas.gov). The most hotly anticipated of these is probably the forum for District 9, where two Council incumbents – Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo – face off with outsider Erin McGann, vying to become the de facto senior member of the new Council. Riley and Tovo both specialize in urban planning, but the differing approaches they take to land use issues go a long way to defining the major debate topics for the city. Tovo has been a "pro-neighborhood" council member, defending NAs and neighborhood plans, but she's also been a policy wonk: diving up to her elbows into policy detail and trying to foresee all the consequences and ramifications of proposals that come before her. Riley, on the other hand, has been the Council's devout New Urbanist. He's all about density and urban infill, and, perhaps because he's so sure where he wants to go, he can be a little cavalier about the details: Let's get this thing done, and if there are problems, we can sort them out later.
A couple of thorny cases-in-point are coming to a head right now, and – wouldn't you know it – both of them feature key meetings, taking place today – Thursday evening – just as the D9 candidates head into their LWV candidate forum (6-9pm at Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.).
First up is the city's Urban Transportation Commission, which will receive an update from staff on what to do about regulating Transportation Network Companies (i.e., Uber and Lyft) at their Thursday meeting (6pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at Austin City Hall). Riley won't be there, but then, he's already weighed in this week with a proposal to bypass the study process and "legalize" these services on a fast track. See more on this in "A New Deal for TNCs?," Sept. 19.
Then, about an hour later, the Planning and Development Review Department will hold a public meeting to discuss current regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs, also known as granny flats or secondary dwellings), and possible code amendments to reduce regulatory barriers for ADUs of less than 500 square feet, in response to a City Council resolution from June, directing the city manager to develop recommendations for such an ordinance. The meeting is 7-9pm at 505 Barton Springs Rd., Room 325, so Riley and Tovo could get there for the last half of this one, if they try, because they're squarely on opposite sides of the issue. Riley has been a primary mover on this as well; he'd like to see ADUs enabled citywide as a common-sense option to provide urban infill throughout the city, even where this is in conflict with existing neighborhood plans. Tovo can be expected to take a more nuanced and restrictive view: Neighborhood associations and their advocates have warned of unintended consequences if the blanket approach is allowed to override, for example, impervious cover limits, parking restrictions, and rules for existing noncomplying structures.
Now for some real ride-sharing: B-cycle, Austin's bicycle rental service, had several pieces of news this week: They passed the 100,000-ride milestone this month, with hefty numbers for carbon-offsets and calories burned since their launch last December. And the service area continues to expand: On Tuesday they installed two new 13-bike B-stations on the Eastside, at East Fifth and Broadway at Capital Metro Headquarters, and at East Sixth and Robert Martinez streets. And, in order to expand their service for the upcoming ACL Festival (Oct. 3-5 & 10-12), they're looking for volunteers to help run the ambitious bike-valet service they have planned for the event. See more info on all this at www.austin.bcycle.com.
Due to "ongoing construction at City Hall and other factors," the Music Commission was unable to reserve a room for their special called meeting this past Monday, Sept. 15, when they were to be the last of eight city commissions to hear the presentation on the proposed Special Events Ordinance. As a result, they will now hear the last SEO update presentation at their regularly scheduled Oct. 6 meeting, and the ordinance has been pulled from the Sept. 25 Council agenda and moved to Oct. 16.
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