Council: Not Enough Hours in the Day
How about a meeting about the meeting?
Like the apocryphal discount store that makes up in volume what it loses on every transaction, City Council has cut back on the post-midnight meetings and replaced them with nearly daily miscellaneous convocations. This week, they officially took Wednesday off – policy workshop Monday, work session Tuesday, regular meeting today (Thursday), and another couple of policy sessions (morning: economic development; afternoon: "cost of living and quality of life") on Friday. They were also scheduled to hold their first committee meeting early Tuesday afternoon – Audit and Finance, to begin consideration of Mayor Steve Adler's detoured request for more staff and more outreach money – but that meeting was swallowed by the work session that began at 9am and didn't adjourn until 4:30pm.
That followed a long and heated discussion of the Decker Lake/Long Metropolitan Park golf course proposal, which has bounced from last year's Council to this one, had a public hearing, and is scheduled for a vote today – if Council can bring themselves to do it. Nominally, the public hearing is closed: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo briefly suggested consideration of reopening (to no acclaim), while Council fault lines began to show on the project. District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool appeared firmly against the deal (as did Tovo) – though she suggested perhaps it could be moved to committee for further review – while D1 CM Ora Houston was equally adamant that the nearby neighborhoods have waited long enough for economic development, that this specific plan has been in the works for at least a year (in addition to decades on the parkland master plan), and that it's time to move forward.
Presumably, we'll find out today (Item 28, to approve negotiation and execution of the 50-year licensing agreement with Decker Lake Golf, LLC) where the wind blows elsewhere on the dais – some were asking for more delay.
Judging from the work session, other contentious subjects on the seemingly light 35-Item agenda include:
• Austin Energy solar energy/energy efficiency rebates (Items 2-8): Nominally on consent and previously noncontroversial, the rebates received a hearty work-over from some CMs on cost-benefit grounds.
• Austin Promise Zone (Item 12): A proposed interlocal agreement with AISD for a revitalization project in the Rundberg, St. John's, Colony Park, East Central, and Dove Springs areas under a federal HUD umbrella program involving various efforts to promote investment, affordable housing, and economic development.
• Onion Creek buyout (Item 14): Would authorize the purchase of 240 more properties in the 100-year flood plain, for a limit of $60 million – there were sharp questions about the cost and the broader issue of other flood-prone properties around the city.
• Garza Ranch (Items 30-31): This is back for second reading: In a late (and quite confused) Feb. 26 discussion, Council approved (9-2) on first reading a zoning variance that would allow 13,000 vehicle trips on a tract proposed for development near MoPac and William Cannon – but the number appeared plucked out of the air, and ready for plenty more scenery-chewing.
It's Ramsey Park Day, Women in Construction Week, and Women Veterans Month, and the musical honorees are the sweet bluegrass duo Fog & Bone – presumably with no political pun intended.