Public Notice: While the Cats Were Away
Council has a lot on its plate after its vacation
By Nick Barbaro, Fri., Aug. 7, 2015
City Council resumed meetings this week, back from their July hiatus ready to tear into budget deliberations, but also facing a variety of thorny issues postponed for further consideration back in June. Of these, none will likely create more grief than the issue of regulating commercial short term rentals (STRs). The deliberations were ugly during the last Council's reign; passions have only gotten worse under the botched implementation. So while Council's been away, the "stakeholders" have been busy. In the last week:
• Airbnb conducted a meeting last Thursday evening for owners of short term rental properties, urging them to mobilize to oppose further regulations on STRs, and promising support, talking points, and T-shirts for owners to wear at Council and committee hearings.
• The Austin Rental Alliance circulated a survey asking STR owners to estimate, among other things, how many disaster victims, relief workers, and/or domestic violence survivors they've rented to.
• And HomeAway, not to be outdone, has unlimbered head lobbyist Matt Curtis, who was then-Mayor Lee Leffingwell's communications director during the last round of negotiations on the topic, just before leaving for his current job.
• On the other side, the Austin Neighborhoods Council and various extremely pissed off neighbors have taken note of those preparations, and appear more than ready to do battle. Council will step into the fray beginning next Thursday, Aug. 13, and again at the following Monday's Planning and Neighborhoods Committee meeting.
Taking the work out of volunteering: City of Austin leaders last week announced a partnership with GivePulse, a local civic-good startup, to match citizens with nonprofits and civic organizations seeking volunteers. Residents can register with the online tool at GivePulse.com, to be notified of volunteer opportunities that interest them – ranging from one-time events to ongoing activities for individuals, youth, and large groups. Mayor Steve Adler, announcing the partnership, noted that the VolunteerATX Drive calls all Austinites to volunteer at least one hour in August. Residents can make good on that pledge on Saturday, Aug. 8, by joining Keep Austin Beautiful for a "Clean Lady Bird Lake" event from 9-11am. Meet at 9am at one of 10 sites around the lake; see www.keepaustinbeautiful.org for more details. Or ...
Walk the Dog: In an initiative to ensure that animals get needed exercise and socialization, the Austin Animal Center needs volunteers to help with walking medium to large dogs. There's an info session for possible volunteers (age 13+) at 9-10am Saturday, Aug. 8 at the shelter, 7201 Levander Loop. Or, see more volunteer opportunities at www.austin texas.gov/department/volunteer or www.austinanimalcenter.org.
Texas Flood of Love: Artists including Ray Wylie Hubbard, Bob Schneider, and John Fullbright have come together for this daylong concert benefiting the Barnabas Connection, which provides care for those affected by the Wimberley floods. There's also a silent auction of autographed items from the Eagles, Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, and more. It's Sunday, Aug. 9, at Nutty Brown Cafe, 12225 Hwy. 290 W. www.texasfloodoflove.com.
Watch where you throw that can! At long last, we now have public recycling on Downtown Austin streets. The city Resource Recovery department (www.austinrecycles.com) unveiled an initiative called Recycle on the Go, putting blue-domed recycling cans next to public trash cans in an eight-block area comprising the City Hall/Second Street district, with Congress Avenue up to Sixth Street soon to follow. It'll take three years to expand the program throughout Downtown.
Your Austin Public Library at work: This summer, APL is hosting a series of writing workshops called Have Your Voice Heard, with The Challenger Street Newspaper ("expressing the thoughts and experiences of homeless people and their allies"). Come learn about the writing process and producing an underground newsletter or zine. Monday, Aug. 10, 1pm, Terrazas Branch, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez. See www.challengernewspaper.org for more info. And ...
The Homestretch, a documentary about three homeless teens fighting to stay in school, screens at 7pm Thursday, Aug. 6, at Terrazas Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez, as part of the Controversy and Conversation series, presented in part by UT's Humanities Institute program, Difficult Dialogues. And ...
Book Your Summer: APL's free summer concert series continues this week, with the Ugly Beats in Concert at 7pm Wed., Aug. 12, at Windsor Park Branch, 5833 Westminster.
Friday, Aug. 7, is the nomination deadline for Preservation Austin's 55th Annual Preservation Merit Awards, honoring "visionary approaches to preserving our city's unique architectural, cultural, and environmental heritage." Projects must be located in the city, and must have been completed since Jan. 1, 2013. www.preservationaustin.org.
Texas' annual sales tax holiday is this Fri.-Sun., Aug. 7-9. Most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks priced under $100 are exempt from sales tax all weekend. See lists of eligible apparel and school supplies at www.texastaxholiday.org.
Blues on the Green, KGSR's popular summer concert series concludes Wednesday, Aug. 12, in Zilker Park with Shakey Graves and Riders Against the Storm – and Austin B-cycle is again providing extra services, with valet parking at the park from 5:30-10:30pm, and $5 coupons to local eateries for early arrivals, at Barton Springs Rd. & Kinney St. from 5-8pm. More info at www.austinbcycle.com.
Congrats to the Austin Energy journeyman team of Matthew Alves, Travis Garner, and Benjamin Ray, who won first place for best overall scores at the 19th Annual Texas Lineman's Rodeo in Seguin last month. The team compiled the fastest times and perfect scores for skills in five events judged against 38 teams from across Texas. They also won first place in the municipal division, and also in the downed primary competition, which required repairing a downed power line.
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