Public Notice: Chaos Reigns!
City needs your help now!
Well, okay, maybe it's not quite as dire as all that, but yes, today's expected marathon City Council meeting is indeed going to be a massive headache, and hugely inconclusive on the most contentious issues, and yes, the overriding theme of this week's column is public input. So: City Council can't figure out what to do about a variety of problems that have been vexing it for years, and city staff want you to tell them how to proceed.
You can start by giving Council a piece of your mind at today's public hearings on short-term rentals, PUD rules, neighborhood plan contact teams, parkland dedication fees, or a couple more, but if it's transportation network companies (TNCs) you're interested in, save your breath. The mayor's "Thumbs Up" compromise proposal has so far been spurned by an arrogant Uber (see "Uber Says 'Thumbs Down'"); Council will try to push ahead with it, but it appears there's nothing they can do now to avert an ugly (and expensive) special election on the issue in May. The outlook is rosier on phasing out commercial Type 2 short term rentals (STRs) and increasing the parkland dedication fees that are paid by land developers, to at least keep pace with land prices. There appears to be a pretty solid majority consensus (at last) on both those issues. We may even see conclusive votes – a rarity!
Drought sharply focuses community attention on the importance of water conservation, but what steps can water providers take to keep the conservation momentum going during wet times, and why should they do so? That will be the core question at the Sixth Annual Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium: Conservation, Come Drought or High Water, Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 8:30am-3:30pm at the Seton administrative offices, 1345 Philomena, in the Mueller development. Registration is $35 and includes breakfast and lunch. See www.texaswater.org for agenda and details on signing up. Presented by the Central Texas Water Efficiency Network, a broad coalition of groups including Austin Water, LCRA, the Sierra Club's Lone Star chapter, and the Austin Area Research Organization.
Meanwhile, Austin Water has been soliciting input on whether Austin should make once-a-week watering restrictions permanent. They'll hold a Public Workshop/Wrap-Up Meeting to look at that feedback, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 6:30-8:30pm at Waller Creek Center, 625 E. 10th, Room 104. See www.austintexas.gov/onedayperweek for more info.
Austin Resource Recovery wants your opinion as well, about potential expansion of its residential curbside services – to include weekly recycling collection and expanding Curbside Organics Collection from the current 14,000-household pilot to citywide. Monthly bill increases would be about $3 for recycling, and $4 for compost pickup, but customers could also save $5-18 by downsizing their trash cart. Weighty decisions, I know, but ARR promises they'll consider your input in preparing the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget, which will be presented to City Council later this year. Attend one of two community engagement meetings – Wednesday, Feb. 3, 6:30-8:30pm at Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center, 2608 Gonzales, and Tuesday, Feb. 9, 6:30-8:30pm at One Texas Center, Room 325, 505 Barton Springs Rd. – or take an online survey at www.bitly.com/arrservice. For more info on the meetings, the survey, recycling tips, and home composting programs, visit www.austinrecycles.com.
The Austin Oaks Charrette is ongoing this week. Drop by this evening (Thursday, Jan. 28), 7-9pm, or Friday, noon-2pm, to see what the various stakeholders have envisioned for this contentious redevelopment at the Southwest corner of MoPac and Spicewood Springs. At Thursday's "pin-up" session, you can let the planners know what you think, with all the wisdom that will fit on a series of Post-it notes. Austin Oaks Meredith Bldg., 3721 Executive Center Dr. #264.
The Austin Public Library has a couple of community film screenings this week – free to everyone, as are all library programs.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution – a documentary that was a festival favorite last year, and will have its television premiere on PBS' Independent Lens in February – will show Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7pm at Windsor Park Branch, 5833 Westminster, as part of the Indie Lens Pop-Up series.
Before You Know It – a 2013 documentary about three gay seniors, that premiered at SXSW – shows Thursday, Feb. 4, 7pm at Terrazas Branch, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez, as part of the UT Humanities Institute's Difficult Dialogues program.
OopsOopsOops: My apologies for listing this event last week with the wrong date. Here's the right info:
What to Do for the Next 11 Months? The Land Development Code Advisory Group will meet on Monday, Feb. 1, 6-9pm, to discuss the 2016 work plan, and to elect new officers. Waller Creek Center, Room 104, 625 E. 10th. Sign up for regular CodeNEXT updates at www.austintexas.gov/codenext.
And a last note on two important deadlines: Make sure you're insured, and registered to vote. The Obamacare open enrollment period ends Jan. 31, and Monday, Feb. 1, is the last day to register to vote in the March 1 primaries – when, once again, your community will need your input: If you don't choose the next U.S. president and county constable, who will?