Public Notice: Ho, Ho, Ho ... ld on a Second
Adler engages in the "make everyone equally unhappy" style of compromise
Here I was, just about this close to writing a year-end congratulatory column, in advance of City Council's last meeting of the year, as they seemed on the brink of wrapping up the year by wrapping up a number of nagging loose ends.
In particular, of the three really stupid regulatory messes left to them by the previous council (primarily Chris Riley, but who's counting?), the new team seems to be working its way to a decent conclusion on all of them. Regulations on accessory dwelling units (ADUs, or "granny flats") were finally passed, and if they were handled clumsily, they were at least handled. Most of the rules on commercial short-term rentals (STRs) have been postponed until January, for lack of time to hold the likely extensive public hearing, but Council is at least poised to stop the bleeding this week by closing the loophole by which nonlicensed properties are free to advertise. And the votes appear to be lined up to pass a set of transportation network company (TNC) regulations, after a long slog through the commission-and-council-committee system.
The TNC rule reforms that Council's Mobility Committee is recommending to Council are really by now noncontroversial. Council voted 9-2 in October to move ahead with these provisions, including fingerprint-based background checks, and there's no reason anyone's mind should have changed since then. In the meantime, in fact, there's a new TNC in the picture, Dallas-based Get Me, which just got its license to carry passengers in Austin, in addition to offering custom delivery service. Get Me says they have no problems complying with the proposed city rules; and they'll hardly be the last start-up to jump into this new and apparently very lucrative market. Which makes Uber and Lyft's protestations about City Council "driving TNCs out of Austin" sound hollower and hollower.
So it was a surprise when Mayor Steve Adler indicated during the Tuesday work session that he intends to blow up all the work that's been done so far, and bring a new proposal to Thursday's meeting, that no one will have seen until the day it's being voted on. But that's pretty much the way it goes recently: At key junctures, it's "process-be-damned, we're going to do it this way." It's kind of a "trust me" government, and so far, Your Honor, we pretty much do. And I know how much you like the "make everyone equally unhappy" style of compromise. But if your goal here is just to make everyone in Austin as unhappy as Uber and Lyft are – about having rules apply to them, like they do to everyone else – maybe it's time to step back, and trust the team, and the system, you put in place.
Apropos of the above, the following press release came in this afternoon: "Mayor Adler to hold reporter roundtable Friday. Because of the volume of newsworthy topics – lobby reform, closing the dark money loophole, homestead preservation districts, affordable housing, sunset review, transportation network companies (e.g., Uber & Lyft), the ¼ Cent Fund, SXSW fee waivers, and the Regional Wastewater Rule Petition, among others – on the agenda on Thursday, Mayor Steve Adler will be hosting an on-the-record reporter roundtable on Friday afternoon. Friday, Dec. 18, 1pm in the Mayor's Ceremonial Office, City Hall second floor."
The Environmental Commission was scheduled for a public hearing and possible action on the Grove at Shoal Creek PUD on Wednesday evening, Dec. 16, as we go to press. But they seem almost certain to postpone, per a staff recommendation noting that "significant aspects of the PUD, including base zoning and transportation, remain to be addressed."
The Texas Freedom Network, according to their mission statement, "advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right." This year they've unveiled the inaugural Claytie Award for the most outrageous quote from the Texas right this year. The award is named for former Texas gubernatorial nominee Clayton "Claytie" Williams, who infamously compared bad weather to rape: "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it." The dozen nominees include some depressingly hilarious sentiments, from New Braunfels state Sen. Donna Campbell's "We have a monstrosity, a monopoly. It's called public school." to Houston religious-right leader Steve Hotze's "I don't want [homosexuals] in our city. Send them back to San Francisco!" Vote for your least favorite at www.tfn.org; the "winner" will be announced on Monday, Dec. 21.
Love. at the Stateside, on Friday, Dec. 18, is a concert benefiting the Superhero Kids organization, which supports families with children at the Dell Children's Blood & Cancer Center – holiday and original music performed by seven of Austin's top female vocalists: Ginger Leigh, Shelley King, Patrice Pike, Wendy Colonna, Hedda Layne, Carolyn Wonderland, and Suzanna Choffel. Flamenco guitar master Luis Bañuelos will perform in the lobby during pre-show and intermission. VIP reception at 6pm, public doors at 7pm, show at 8pm. Stateside at the Paramount, 713 Congress. $30-75, and your ticket is good for free nachos at Manuel's. www.loveatthestateside.com.
Results are in from the Fall 2015 Austin Recharge Challenge, in which Austin Public Library branches competed to collect the most used batteries for recycling. And the winner was the North Village Branch, which collected 1,042 pounds of batteries during the monthlong challenge, and received a $1,000 grant to help fund a sustainable project. They used it to buy a public-use battery-charging station, where customers can charge their phones, tablets, e-readers, and more. Overall, APL, Austin Resource Recovery, and Austin residents diverted more than 5,800 pounds of batteries from landfills, three times the monthly average.