Council: Stooges in the House!
Expect debate over TNCs, West Campus parties, and housing vouchers
City Council meets today, Oct. 2, still at its home-away-from-home in Travis County Commissioners Court, facing a relatively paltry (by recent standards) 79-Item agenda. Nevertheless, there should be plenty to say grace (or Tweet, text, or curse) over, notably the continuing attempt to bring transportation network companies (i.e., ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft) under the regulatory tent, in an effort to expand transportation choices while not unduly jeopardizing existing local cab services (and their drivers). The marathon session last week tweaked a resolution proposed by Council Member Chris Riley, and it passed on first reading – but with members noting they reserve the right to change their minds.
More daunting is the prospect that the companies, if they don't get the regs they prefer, will simply continue to ignore them; see "Council Moves to Legalize TNCs," Oct. 3, 2014. (If you rob a bank, they throw you in jail; if you own the bank ...)
Although the public hearing is closed on that Item (58), it actually might be a while before the dais resumes the discussion, as a couple of other matters may get in the way. Nominally on the consent agenda, Item 13 is the return of the ordinance forbidding "source of income" discrimination, aimed primarily at preventing landlords from refusing Section 8 vouchers for rent. When this was sent to staff, Council seemed firm on the policy – barring some unintended consequences – but apartment associations and landlords have been pushing back hard in the stakeholder process (claiming the federal rules are too onerous), so they're unlikely to surrender without at least sounding off.
A more recent brouhaha is brewing in West Campus, where last week Greek houses and other student organizations were informed that the city intends to start enforcing highly restrictive rules on "special events" – read, "frat parties" – especially cracking down on live music. The student backlash has been fairly strong, and CM Riley (running for re-election in District 9, including West Campus) is fronting a proposal 22 Item 42) to define "private parties" by ordinance, loosen the regs, and in the meantime have enforcers stay flexible on already planned events. This is the current skirmish in the decades-long war between students and more permanent neighborhood residents – the noise is unlikely to subside.
A few other matters of note:
• Affordable housing proposals from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole (Items 43 and 44), expanding the goals for Permanent Supportive Housing (for the chronically homeless) and initiating a "Good Landlord Program" with a similar, incentivized goal in mind.
• A Kathie Tovo proposal (Item 49) to implement "family-friendly housing" in accord with the recommendations of the School and Family Work Group convened by the city, Travis County, and AISD.
• If there's time, two briefings: a morning update on the Re-entry Roundtable (reintegrating former offenders into society), and an afternoon session on CodeNEXT.
Finally, there's the mysterious Item 18, a normally unremarkable bond purchase of parkland along Slaughter Creek – except the sellers are incorporated as "MOE, LARRY, AND CURLY, LTD." That shouldn't be allowed to speed through on consent, without at least somebody chortling, "Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!" We just did.