Council: So Nice They'll Hold It Twice?
Council prepares for a marathon session
With only two meetings scheduled before the end of the year – and the term of this City Council – the unofficial buzz is that today's (Nov. 20) 182-Item marathon will take two days to complete, carrying over into Friday. That sounds reasonable, until you remember that the last time Council tried it, they face-planted when they bungled the exchange and voted Thursday on an Austin Energy policy change after first announcing they would punt it until Friday ("Here Comes the Sun," Sept. 5). The meeting also comes in the wake of an auditor's report unsurprisingly confirming that Austin's Council meets much longer (but less frequently) than those in its "peer cities." Maybe they could meet every day 'til Christmas. (As Commander Cody sang, "Ain't never had too much fun!")
If they don't break at 10:30pm or so and wait until Friday, expect to be up all night. Here are just a few of the brain-busters likely to keep the dais simmering and the audience agitated:
• The Long Park/Decker Lake golf project proposal (Item 72), which is (depending on your perspective) a way to leverage private money to complete a city project first adumbrated in 1968, or a water-wasting, robber-baron privatization of public resources (see "A Few Rounds Over Decker").
• A decision on how extensively to proceed on CodeNEXT revisions (Item 126), the long-bruited changes to the land development code that, like Goldilocks' porridge, could be too hot (say neighborhood groups), too cold (say developers and urbanists), or just right (say staff and consultants). The public hearing is closed, but that won't prevent the dais from pingponging the debate, an Austin never-ender.
• Two Our Furried Friends initiatives: Item 88 would finally adopt the "coyote conflict management strategy" delayed by opposing stakeholder groups arguing over whether the critters require protection or extermination; and Item 92 would extend the lease and squatters rights of Austin Pets Alive! to the former Town Lake Animal Center (surely somebody will suggest a bait-and-switch).
• A buttload of zoning hearings, not least of which are three Items (145-147) affecting the future of Springdale Farm, an evening donnybrook expected to pit farm supporters against neighborhood advocates who adamantly object to public events at the farm ("Next Target: Springdale," Nov. 14).
Any one of those Items could test Council's infinite patience, as could Item 182 (continuing discussion of microunits), Item 181 (how high a fence is too high?), Items 11-12 (extending ABIA management contracts, see "Wages up in the Air"). There's plenty more ... although many Items are pro forma, end-of-year contracting matters that staff hopes to get under the wire before the inevitable wheel-spinning in early 2015.
The morning briefing reviews staff progress on the Sobriety Center project, and the evening's musical honorees are the Salvation Army Band. Hallelujah!