Council: From Trash to Treasure
Dripping Springs wants to dump its wastewater where?
Whatever else happens at City Council today (Thu., Nov. 3), the undeniable highlight will be the 5:30pm appearance of "El Idolo de Tejas," Ruben Ramos (and the Mexican Revolution). No disrespect to public improvement districts or landscaping contracts, but the chance to catch even a one-song set by El Gato Negro is a moment worth savoring.
Before we get to that celebratory moment, of course, there will be the usual furrow-browed consideration of the 79-Item agenda, perhaps not quite as heavy as it looks due to related Items, public hearing notices, and the like. On the other end of the spectrum, the lowlight might well be the morning briefing on the application by the city of Dripping Springs to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a permit to discharge treated wastewater (just short of 1 million gallons per day) into Onion Creek. If that sounds like a bad idea to you, you're not alone – the city of Austin has joined the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in opposing the permit. (Indeed, if you can tear yourself away from next week's Council meeting, the TCEQ is holding a public hearing on the matter at Dripping Springs Ranch Park: 7pm, Thu., Nov. 10, at 1042 Event Center Dr. For more info, see www.protectourwaternow.org.)
Other matters on the agenda today include:
• Wet Your Line Here: A $616,000 contract to complete construction of an ADA-compliant fishing pier near Lakeshore Boulevard, on the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk Trail (Item 6). Council members might have questions about the location, or just want to vent about the Boardwalk – an enormously successful, bond-funded city transportation project that faced opposition from folks who wanted only road bonds. Sound familiar?
• About Time: A $4.6 million contract to complete women's locker room additions as well as EMS vehicle bays at Austin Fire Department stations in six different council districts (Item 9). These have been on the drawing board for way too long, for various bureaucratic and budgetary reasons – time to git 'er done.
• Farmed-Out Forensics: The Austin Police Department is way behind on processing rape kits and other forensic evidence, and with the local lab currently closed indefinitely, APD wants to subcontract the job with Dallas County and the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas (the cost is $1.6 million for the first year, with five annual extensions up to $3.6 million total). Even the FedEx bill should be sizable, but what choice do we have?
• PIDs to Go: A half-dozen public improvement districts fill the agenda in various parts (Items 10-21), including setting of subsequent public hearings (Items 56-61). The PIDs (Downtown, East Sixth, South Congress, etc.), created by previous council action, allow limited property tax increment financing of improvements within defined boundaries. Normally the annual approval actions are pro forma, but with the current council, tax nits will often be picked. Unpredictable.
• Lotta Trash Cans: Resource Recovery is a big business: Austin RR is requesting five-plus years worth of trash, recycling, and reuse containers from Toter, Inc. (yes, that's the name, via a Houston/Galveston co-op buying program) that could total as much as $21.2 million over the life of the contract (Item 34). A couple of council members are skeptical of the entire recycle/reuse project, so may well raise a question or two.
• Member Projects: District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria is sponsoring a resolution to provide earlier notice to tenants in advance of commercial demolitions (Item 44), and another for an innovative attempt to provide some level of on-site child care at community meetings, to enable broader attendance (Item 47). It'll be worth watching whether CM Don Zimmerman denounces the proposal as "living off others." Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo proposes (Item 45) better coordination with other jurisdictions to leverage real estate opportunities for community programs (e.g., affordable housing).
• Déjà Vu Already: Champion Tract No. 3 returns for a zoning change following settlement agreement, on third reading (Items 26 & 67).
• Proclamations: It's Diabetes Awareness Month, Municipal Court Week, and the Rainforest Partnership and Austin Opera each will be honored. Perhaps they can contemplate a joint staging of Fitzcarraldo. And don't forget the musical honoree, the Black Cat himself: Ruben Ramos.