Public Notice: Lame Ducking
With 10-1 Council pending, current Council makes big plans
And so it begins. We took the first steps toward the brave new 10-1 City Council world on Tuesday, with two councilwomen elected, another two tantalizingly close, and nine run-off races set for Dec. 16 (along with four seats on the school board and community college board). Most of those run-offs look to be very competitive, so it's hard to draw many conclusions, but it's worth noting that, at this point at least, women are the front-runners for eight of the 10 council seats. (Plus, of course, women won all three of the county commission seats, including incoming County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.) The "Year of the Woman" thing didn't quite work out at the state level, but it appears to be operative in the state capital.
There's three weeks before early voting starts on Dec. 1, but the campaigns, and other interested parties, have wasted no time heading into run-off mode. Already,
• Mike Martinez has challenged Steve Adler to a series of three debates, on the topics of affordability, transportation, and the environment.
• KLRU has organized a series of live tapings for Tuesday-Thursday evenings, Nov. 11-13. Admission is free, but you must RSVP to www.klrusupport.org/civic-summit-candidate-runoff-conversations.
• Several neighborhood groups are planning forums for specific districts; more info on those as the time comes.
Meanwhile, the current City Council returns to work today (Nov. 6), with a daunting array of controversial long-range plans on their agenda. If they indeed choose to move ahead on these initiatives, this lame-duck Council could start all of these balls rolling before the new district-based 10-1 Council gets a chance to weigh in on them:
• Council will look at deciding the basic structure of CodeNEXT, the much-vaunted and long-awaited rewrite of the city's land development code. Developers and their reps are salivating at the chance to do a complete rewrite, which they'd be happy to assist city staff with. District reps could be expected to complicate this process, since they'll likely give more weight to the existing code and neighborhood plans their NAs have worked on over the years.
• There's a controversial proposal to grant a 90-year concession to private developers to build a destination golf resort on Decker Lake parkland. One can imagine that the new Eastside council members will feel slighted if such a big decision gets made, on a rush basis, just before they get seated.
• The neighborhood dispute with Springdale Farms is back on the agenda, with, again, requests that the farm and neighbors be given more time to work out their issues. This has been a hot-button issue for District 3, where run-off opponents Sabino Renteria and Susana Almanza each have strong feelings on the matter.
• The proposal to allow microunits in all zoning categories in all parts of town is back as well. This one ought to be rolled into the CodeNEXT discussion, but for some reason it keeps popping up as a stand-alone proposal, probably because its backers know it doesn't make any sense if it's considered as part of holistic city planning efforts, but they think they can sneak it through on good looks alone if they move preemptively.
There's more, but I don't have more time or space.
The common thread: These are all issues that really ought to have more time and thought, but their backers are afraid they'll get delayed and complicated if they have to go to the new, inexperienced, and likely headstrong 10-1 Council. They're probably right in that assessment, but for better and worse, that's the new order. For this lame-duck Council to make these kinds of decisions at this point would be a huge statement of disrespect for the incoming Council.
Local Control? Not So Fast.
In other election fallout: Denton voters passed a fracking ban Tuesday; and already on Wednesday, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the state General Land Office filed separate lawsuits to block city officials from enforcing the law. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson claims it's unconstitutional for a city to exercise control over an industry the state regulates (however poorly).
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