Public Notice: Farewell to STRADUTNC
Three tough decisions made
With their 9-2 vote at Tuesday's work session to pass a package of restrictions on commercial Type 2 short term rentals – including a permanent moratorium on new licenses, and a complete phase-out over six years – City Council has finally wound its way to final decisions on all three of the intractable three-letter acronyms that were left on its plate by the previous council. First accessory dwelling units (ADUs), then transportation network companies (TNCs), and now STRs, have all gone through the grinder of Council process, and while I don't think anyone is happy with all the decisions made, at least they're made, and we have more or less permanent regulations in place, and they needn't be re-debated any longer, which is much more than many observers ever expected they'd see. (Of course, there is the matter of the May 7 TNC election, on which many gallons of ink and pixels will be spilled, but at least that's out of Council's hands at this point.)
So, bring on the Big Issues: fixing transportation, revamping the land development code (and the department that oversees it), supporting education, getting some sort of handle on housing costs and pressures ... the list is endless. Mayor Steve Adler sprung first out of the gate Wednesday morning – less than 24 hours after putting STRs to bed – announcing that he would on Friday be introducing the modestly named Austin Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, a package of "specific ideas to boost the local music industry and arts sector." CM Greg Casar could be next, with ideas on how to revamp and streamline the council's committee and meeting process. Waiting just over the horizon like big black storm clouds, there are massive philosophical differences to be worked out over just where the line can be drawn between densification and gentrification. But for now, kick back and contemplate this:
It came with remarkably little fanfare, but Texas is about to join 23 other states that have legalized medical marijuana. Under a bill passed in the last Lege session, and signed into law in June, at least three dispensaries will be licensed by September 2017, to sell products with low levels of THC, such as cannabis oil, to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, where seizures cannot be treated with traditional drugs. It's a very limited program, perhaps the most limited in the nation, but hey, this is Texas. Who thought we'd be here at all?
And, perhaps because this is business-friendly Texas, the marijuantrepreneurs are scoping out the markets, even before the markets open up. Last week, the Cannabis Career Institute conducted a daylong seminar "teaching budding cannabis entrepreneurs how to get started in the evolving industry." And next month, the Medcan Foundation is offering a course of medical cannabis seminars, accredited for Continuing Legal Education credits, for legal professionals and prospective growers, processors, and licensees. See more info, or register, at www.medcanfoundation.com.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour rolls into the Paramount Theatre this week, Feb. 28-29, and for the fifth year in a row, Whole Earth Provision Co. will donate all proceeds to Texas State Parks. There are two screenings: the Banff Mountain World Tour, with a dozen short documentaries about unique places around the world, at 6pm Sunday, and the Radical Reels Tour, a program of extreme outdoor adventure films, at 7pm Monday. See the lineup, trailers, and ticket info at www.wholeearthprovision.com/banff.
In a Wednesday press conference, Travis County officials and Congregation Beth Israel announced the state's first PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) loan, to highlight the fact that this innovative loan program is available to any nonprofit that owns property – as well as to owners of commercial, industrial, multi-family, and agricultural properties. The Texas Lege passed the program in 2013; Travis County became the first government body in the state to embrace the program last March, and this project is the first through the pipeline. PACE allows owners to get financing for water and energy conservation and renewable energy projects, from low-cost, long-term loans that can be repaid by the energy savings they produce, with no out-of-pocket expense. Sound too good to be true? Learn more about PACE at www.texaspaceauthority.org.
The Austin Public Library is offering a broad range of free computer training classes in March at APL locations across town, from Basic Computer Skills to Blogging to a Computer and Job Searching Lab. All library programs are free and open to the public. See library.austintexas.gov for a full list of offerings.
APL also offers two ways to meet new people and expand your Spanish-language skills: Practiquemos Español is for those looking to fine-tune their Spanish in a conversational environment; join one of the many regular sessions at the Faulk Central Library, or the North Village or Windsor Park Branches. You'll need to know a little Spanish to participate. For those with more proficiency, ¡Qué me cuentas! sessions at Faulk let you practice and learn through reading and discussion of Latin American short stories and newspapers.