Council: You Know You Better Finally Decide

Special-called meeting takes up postponed decisions

Although Austinites are still digging out from widespread flood damage, City Council business goes on. Not a terribly demanding schedule this week – work session Tuesday followed by a special-called, 11am session today (Thursday), in addition to five Council Com­mit­tee meetings – but there are a few weighty matters pending that might take some time and trouble. In Tuesday's session, Council reviewed its options on the potential challenge petition on commercial valuations by the Travis Central Appraisal District (see "The Appraisal Scam," May 22). That decision is on today's agenda (Item 4, sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, and CMs Ellen Troxclair, Don Zimmerman, and Ann Kitchen), and, in the meantime, Council was reaching out to Travis County and other jurisdictions to determine if anybody else wants to join the party before the June 1 deadline. Tuesday's initial responses were unenthusiastic: Smaller jurisdictions were worried about budget delays, and TCAD's Marya Crigler was skeptical of the city's numbers; there remained hope of working out a common strategy.

(Also pending is the decision on the property tax homestead exemption – but that's now been punted to the June 4 meeting, so look for more on that next week.)

Item 1 continues a discussion begun in last Thursday's meeting; Council took steps to end discounted Austin Energy rates for 10 large commercial customers, but, after some discussion, postponed to today a decision on third reading on similar rates for hospital systems. They also delayed a purchasing contract (Item 2) for a backup turbine and related services at the Sand Hill Energy Center, over some objection from AE general manager Larry Weis, who noted that summer is on its way and the utility needs to be ready for the energy demand. When the $14-million price tag raised a few eyebrows on the dais, Weis responded that an energy utility buys a lot of expensive equipment, and if that invoice bothers Council, they should expect to be getting the vapors quite often.

Council's also planning to act today on a city auditor appointment that's been pending for a while (Item 5), and a Swede Hill zoning case also carried over from an earlier meeting (Items 9 and 10, tracts on which the staff and Planning Commission diverged). There also might be a lengthy executive session somewhere in the middle of the meeting, since the auditor (personnel) matter, the AE (commercial customer) matter, and the TCAD challenge (Items 6-8) could all require discussion behind closed doors.

There will be no musical interlude: Special-called meetings provide no musical honoree and no proclamations. Never­the­less, today's theme song: the Lovin' Spoonful's immortal "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?"

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City Council 2015, Travis Central Appraisal District, Austin Energy

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