Council: Let's Face the Music
Kicking off 2016 with a grab bag of hot-button items
The liveliest segment of today's City Council meeting (Jan. 28) will undoubtedly be the live 5:30pm performance of honored musicians La Frenetika (Vallenato!/Cumbia!/Parranda!/Gozadera!), but the guess here is that it's going to be a lot more La Frantic on the dais. The post-holiday agenda is full of hot-button business – transportation network company regs, short-term rental regs, planned unit development zoning, parkland dedication fees, neighborhood plan contact team regs ... and those are just the headline items, out of 96 in all.
The dais will soon look a little different – at their Tuesday work session, council members drew numbers to rearrange the chairs once again, after six months of "get-acquainted-with-your-neighbor" time. Since they're prohibited from engaging in much off-dais discussion, the touching theory is that such juggling – to take place in February – helps camaraderie and collaboration.
That wasn't precisely in evidence Tuesday, when Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Ann Kitchen proposed competing versions of the TNC-app "badge" proposal (rewarding drivers for fingerprinting), CM Ellen Troxclair countered with no need for that or taxi franchise limits either, and CM Don Zimmerman reflexively denounced "central planning" and regulations, and got crossways with virtually all his colleagues. (Nothing new, there.)
They did clear away some of the agenda underbrush. Other than the Redistribution of Chairs, they're going to kick the can on planned committee and procedural reorganization, because there is so much other business and they desire further discussion, probably next week. Similarly, they semi-postponed the Quarter-Cent transportation projects scheduled for approval ("Holistic or Hiccup?" Jan. 14), because at least some council members are waiting on either their own final list or Transportation Department feedback. But there was sentiment from some CMs (Kitchen, Leslie Pool) to get those projects moving (a 9am pre-meeting press conference is scheduled on the subject), so they may approve some, postpone others.
The TNC debate is still threatening to dominate the public conversation, and despite the mayor's strenuous attempts to find some "middle ground," neither the big TNCs (Uber and Lyft) nor some of his colleagues seem willing to recognize any DPZ (Depolarized Zone). Troxclair and Zimmerman are holding out for full deregulation (including of cabs), and even if Adler can muster the votes for "badge-apps" (aka Thumbs Up!), it's not clear that the absentee billionaires won't simply hold out for their May referendum – which could free them not from just fingerprints, but data reporting and related accountability measures as well. They've already dismissed the mayor's proposal as "not a compromise" (see "Uber Says 'Thumbs Down'," Jan. 29). Adler has three co-sponsors (CMs Sabino Renteria, out sick Tuesday, Greg Casar, and Sheri Gallo), but not yet six votes. Gallo supported the "incentivized" fingerprints, while CM Delia Garza delivered a full-throated defense of Council's December action – including mandatory fingerprints – denounced the paid-for petition drive and the attacks on Council (especially defending Kitchen), and urged her colleagues, "Don't repeal what we've done."
Largely forgotten in the fingerprint proxy debate are the more than 900 full-time cab driver jobs put at risk by the amateur, part-time "ridesharing" undercutting. It's not at all clear how Council will be able to split that baby.
The work session set a (very) tentative schedule for today's meeting:
• Transportation Network Companies: No public hearing (done in December), so a 2pm dais discussion will take up the fingerprint "incentives" in Adler's and Kitchen's versions (some combination of Items 56, 92-96). Council will likely delay the current Feb. 1 effective date of the full ordinance, with overall discussion also next month.
• Short-term Rental Regs: Remember those? They come back around again for a public hearing, nominally set for a "time-certain" of 7pm. Or at any rate, in the evening, since much depends on how well the morning goes, where there are plenty of contracts ripe for nit-picking, and Zimmerman has already targeted a few in his questions for staff. Other public hearings to follow.
• PUD supermajority: Although nominally addressing any previously unzoned (e.g., state) land, this controversy is generated by and primarily aimed at the proposed Grove planned unit development at 45th and Bull Creek – neighbors want a supermajority to approve any PUD previously rejected by Planning Commission (the standard for currently zoned land). Expect prolonged discussion, late.
• Parkland dedication fees: At issue is whether developers should pay more in such fees, to bear more of the cost of such city amenities – the debate is between value of additional housing vs. value of additional parkland, and how to balance the needs.
• Neighborhood Plan Contact Team regs: This didn't come up at the work session, but the subject has been fiercely controversial in some neighborhoods (notably District 3). Any hearing is likely to be contentious, and potentially lengthy.
There is plenty more among the more than 80 remaining potential donnybrooks: health care contracts; health and human services funding; library resources; proposed free public toilets Downtown ... any or all of these could trigger lengthy discussion.
On the other hand, the proclamations include the Coal Tar Sealer Ban Anniversary (three cheers for an environmental victory!), Stalking Awareness Month, and School Choice Week. If none of those strike your fancy, La Frenetika (www.lafrenetika.com) will chase your duende away.