Council: Welcome to the Holiday Rush
If you think your to-do list is too long, consider City Council’s
If history is any guide – and considering our current national political predicament, who knows? – City Council is in for a long night for its final regular meeting of 2017. The final meeting of 2016 adjourned after 1am; that agenda included both the Grove PUD and the Austin Oaks PUD, but only totaled 101 Items. Today's list encompasses 111, among them quite a few matters punted from last week ("Some Say the World Will End ... in Ice," Dec. 11). Whatever else happens, expect to enjoy the wee hours of Friday morning ...
Council did time-manage one major controversy, moving the public hearing on the Austin Police Association contract to a special-called meeting Wednesday afternoon and evening, and in fact will likely have voted on the contract by the time you read this (see "Naked City," p.15, and our online coverage for the latest). That's only one more day in a very busy week – another matter coming to a head is the decision on a new city manager, with Council planning to make a final selection by next Tuesday, Dec. 19. In the meantime, consider a few highlights from those 111 Items:
• Underwater: Scheduled for review is the Aquatic Master Plan (Item 25, see below), although a lengthy Tuesday work session presentation from Parks board members – pointing to a central request for a $124 million, stand-alone November bond for pools – both stunned and divided council members, sufficiently to suggest they may "accept" the report (Mayor Steve Adler's suggestion) rather than vote on it, waiting until next year to dig into the details. Urgency of pool repairs (and equity) competing with other major bond needs (e.g., affordable housing) for next fall is the prevailing question.
• Airline Food: Last week Council punted a couple of competing "packages" for potential concessions at new ABIA terminals (Items 87-88): 24 Diner/Parkside vs. Black's BBQ/Threadgill's, and two competing massage services. Members requested additional information (some in executive session), but the decisions themselves are unlikely to get any easier.
• Unconventional: The simmering arguments over a proposed expansion of the Convention Center (a key aspect of the mayor's "Downtown Puzzle" proposal) arrive in somewhat tangential form: a proposed commission for UT-Austin's Center for Sustainable Development to do a redesign/economic analysis of the Convention Center that might return to Council next fall (Item 14), and a reallocation of hotel occupancy tax funding (Item 5) that incorporates an earlier approved increase for historical preservation. Some CMs (Ellen Troxclair, Ann Kitchen, Kathie Tovo) bristled at what they considered a stealth staff amendment to the earlier allocation; expect further discussion and dais amendment.
• Fútbol on the Lake?: Staff was expected to bring a preliminary report on potential sites for a soccer stadium, with headlines simmering (and public factions forming) over competing (private) proposals for Butler Park (Downtown) and the Travis County Expo Center (northeast). Based on Tuesday's work session discussion, it appears that Parks and Rec staff has not yet completed its work on those or any other sites, and while there might be an update today, the substantive discussion will likely be postponed until February.
• Crowning Champions: Emerging from a lawsuit and continued controversy, the debate over permitting a development on one of the Champion Tracts (off 2222) is expected to return to the dais (Item 17) for second and third readings, but this time accompanied by a public hearing for a rezoning of yet another Champion Tract (Item 83). Maybe this won't be a Return of the PUD Monsters of 2016, then again ....
There's plenty more on the list (with a brief respite for R&B songbird Mélat): APD body-camera paraphernalia contracts, the Texas Facilities Commission Master Plan for redesigning Congress Avenue, the Ethics Commission subpoena power, a major Austin Energy solar contract. ... By midnight, expect a spike in coffee sales along Second Street.