Public Notice: First, Do No Harm
Council still laying groundwork, but covering lots of ground
The new 10-1 City Council this week continues its ambitious Policy Workshop program: two-hour "Deep Dives" into some 24 policy topics – a crash course orientation for the novice Council, so they have some idea of some of the issues involved in areas where they may not have prior experience. Today, for example, before you read this, they're already in session, learning about Comprehensive Planning and Imagine Austin.
The sessions will follow a uniform structure: mayor and moderator Steve Adler's introduction, followed by five 10-minute presentations from a city staffer giving an overview, and four "community voices" on different topics, then a 45-minute panel discussion between those five and the Council, and a 15-minute public comment period. It bears watching, of course, just who it is who's giving Council all this free advice; and judging from the first few sessions, the selection of "community voices" has been diverse and well-informed.
Council has six such study days planned over the next four weeks: with three sessions a day (or two on Thursdays when there's a regular meeting). Despite the unique format, these are full-on, official City Council meetings, subject to normal posting and notice regulations, and shown live on ATXN, the city TV network, and streamed at www.austintexas.gov. Here's the (very tentative) schedule:
[Ed. Note: This schedule has been revised since publication. See below for the new schedule of workshops.
Thursday, Feb. 5: Comprehensive Plan / Imagine Austin; Housing (including land banking, bonds, Section 8 vouchers)
Monday, Feb. 9: Neighborhood Issues (including Code Compliance, ADUs, short-term rentals, stealth dorms, parking, etc.); Transportation and Mobility (including Capital Metro); Water (supply and business model over the next 10 to 20 years, etc.)
Tuesday, Feb. 17: Watershed Protection, Environment and Endangered Species; Parks and Open Space
Thursday, Feb. 19: Factors Affecting the Cost of Living in Austin (including utilities, child- and eldercare); "Quality of Life" and "Silos vs. Shared Solutions" Among District Communities; Education Support
Monday, Feb. 23: Infrastructure and Capital Planning; CodeNEXT, Permitting; Innovation Zone
Monday, March 2: Resource Recovery; Economic Development (including incentives); Austin Energy (portfolio, business model over next 10 to 20 years, etc.)
Fri.-Sat., March 6-7: Potential Retreat Dates
Monday, March 23: Public Safety; Community Relations With City Staff, Services and Officials; Resiliency
Monday, March 30: Healthcare and Delivery; Social Services; Access for People With Disabilities
The Committee Game
City Council's major action last week involved finalizing the Council Committee structure (at least for now, they stressed). Of the originally proposed 13 committees, they collapsed Audit and Finance back down to one (as it is now), punted Intergovernmental Affairs to ad hoc status, and combined Economic Development with Innovation & Creative Industries. So Mayor Adler now has 10 committees to appoint; the intent is that each CM will chair one committee, vice-chair another, and serve on one or two others, in addition to Austin Energy, on which they all serve. The mayor's office told me Wednesday that they're hoping to announce the assignments Monday, in order to have them on the agenda for next Thursday's meeting. I haven't seen a betting line yet on who gets what; but see a nifty chart of the options with this story online, and make your guesses.
CodeNEXT Working Groups
Meanwhile, work continues apace on the CodeNEXT process, designed to rewrite Austin's land development code. The Code Advisory Group has set up three working groups "to dig deeper into concepts directly linked to the land development code revision" – each is tasked with exploring a core issue regarding the rewrite. Each group met once in late January, and resumes this week. All meetings are open to the public, with opportunities for public comment, and are held in Room 325 at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd. Here's the remaining schedule; see more info at www.austintexas.gov/department/codenext.
Code Issues for Affordability
Fri., Feb. 13; Mon., Feb. 23; Tue., March 3
Infill, Compatibility, and "Missing Middle" Housing
Fri., Feb. 6; Tue., Feb. 17; Thu., Feb. 26; Fri., March 6
Obstacles for Small Business
Mon., Feb. 9; Fri., Feb. 20; Mon., March 2; Mon., March 9
Incentivizing Equitable Sustainable Growth, presented by the UT Opportunity Forum. A great panel – including keynote Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, Travis Co. Judge Sarah Eckhardt, COA's Kevin Johns, Workers Defense Project's Emily Timm, moderated by UT planning prof Dr. Michael Oden – will discuss "ensuring that economic development subsidies for companies contribute to equitable and sustainable growth in our region." Free, but seating is limited; register at www.incentivizinggrowth.eventbrite.com. Friday, Feb. 6, noon-2pm at UT's LBJ School of Public Affairs, Bass Lecture Hall, 2.104.
Riparian Restoration Plenty of opportunities this month for "restoring natural vegetation along Austin's waterways [to] begin the process of healing our urban streams and providing a greenbelt network for wildlife and future generations." More info at www.treefolks.org or www.austintexas.gov/creekside.
Zilker CafE Austin PARD is looking for a vendor to operate the Zilker Cafe (adjacent to the entrance to Barton Springs Pool). Weigh in on menu options, services, and other considerations, through Feb. 11 at www.speakupaustin.org. More info at www.austintexas.gov/department/zilkercafe.
The Austin Animal Center is offering Valentine's month specials: All pet adoptions are $40 throughout February; free microchips and canvas totes on V Day; and a free rabies vaccination clinic the morning of Feb. 21. 7201 Levander Loop; www.austinanimalcenter.org.
Special Olympics Texas is in critical need of volunteers for this weekend's statewide Winter Games: "There is an urgent need for assistance at all Bowling venues." Contact Judy Yoshimaru at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800/876-5646 if you can help out Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
Revised City Council Policy Workshop Timeline
Notes: The Mayor spread the schedule out a bit, so that there are now only two policy workshops a day, instead of three. By combining several categories, and adding one more meeting day, council still gets done with their workshops by March 30. Notably, the new schedule:
• Delayed Monday’s Neighborhood Issues workshop (a monster, including Code Compliance, ADUs, short term rentals, stealth dorms, parking, etc.) to Thursday, Feb. 19.
• Added a date on March 6, in place of a potential Council retreat then.
• Combined Access for People with Disabilities into Social Services
• Combined Innovation Zone into Economic Development
* Combined "Quality of Life" and "Silos vs. Shared Solutions" with “Factors Affecting the Cost of Living in Austin”
• Postponed “Resiliency,” needing clarification
Thursday, Feb. 5
* Comprehensive Plan - Imagine Austin
* Housing (including land banking, bonds, Section 8 vouchers)
Monday, Feb. 9
* Transportation and Mobility (including CapMetro)
* Water (supply and business model over next ten to twenty years, etc.)
Tuesday, Feb. 17
* Watershed Protection, Environment and Endangered Species
* Parks and Open Space
Thursday, Feb. 19
* Education Support
* Neighborhood Issues (including Code Compliance, ADU's, short term rentals, stealth dorms, parking, etc.)
Monday Feb. 23
* Infrastructure and Capital Planning
* CodeNEXT, Permitting
Monday, March 2
* Resource Recovery
* Austin Energy (portfolio, business model over next ten to twenty years, etc.)
Friday, March 6
* Combined forum on "Quality of Life" and "Silos vs. Shared Solutions" Among District Communities, and “Factors Affecting the Cost of Living in Austin” (including utilities, child- and eldercare)
* Economic Development (including incentives and innovation zone)
Monday, March 23
* Public Safety
* Community Relations with City Staff, Services and Officials
Monday, March 30
* Healthcare and Delivery
* Social Services including Access for People with Disabilities