City Council: As the Year Turns
Council kicks off 2018 with long agenda
City Council formally inaugurates the new year next week, with its first regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1 (work session Jan. 30). From this distance, the day's 122-Item agenda looks daunting, although a large group of housing tax credit applications may fly through with little debate, and the list includes several dozen zoning cases – always unpredictable for postponements and timing. It also boasts not one but two Champion Tract Items, likely to regenerate the long-running disputes over development near FM 2222 and City Park Road in Northwest Austin. A few early Items to anticipate:
• Enter the Cronk: Item 66 concerns the formal appointment of new City Manager Spencer Cronk, first day Feb. 12, with salary terms and related matters to be approved by this resolution.
• Especially Special: The repeatedly postponed, third-reading approval of new rules governing special events and high-capacity venues returns as Item 14, after yet another round of staff and stakeholder tweaks. Will it make the cut this time?
• Last Chance Housing?: A list of 26 Items (15-41) concern city approval of applications for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (along with related administrative resolutions) to be used for multifamily projects around town. The large basket of applications might be a consequence of widespread speculation that the Trump administration's corporate tax rate cut will soon make the program's credits less desirable and thus cut sharply into the nationwide supply of affordable housing.
• Public Safety Cloud: The morning briefing features an update on public safety operations, particularly concerning "labor relations issues" (i.e., grim prospects).
• We Are the Champions: Item 12 carries over the 2017 Champion Tract 3 debate into 2018 (public hearing closed, dais only), updated by a negative recommendation on the proposed settlement agreement from the Environmental Commission ("Champion Tract 3 Draws Fire Again," Jan. 26). And Item 104 addresses a zoning change for Tract 1C, with split recommendations from staff (yes) and the Zoning & Platting Commission (no).
• On the Circuit: Items 10 and 11 consider city sponsorship of applications by the Circuit [of the Americas] Events Local Organizing Committee to Gov. Greg Abbott for state underwriting of future RallyCross and MotoGP events at COTA. There's no city money involved, but the longstanding argument might return over state giveaways for these events and the dubious related ROI calculations.
• Relentless Robbins: Final Item 122 (although likely to be heard in the early evening) is a public hearing on energy gadfly Paul Robbins' complaint concerning the Texas Gas Supply change in rates approved last year. Staff recommendation is to reject the complaint – Robbins' response should be illuminating and entertaining.
There's plenty more on the list, including a half-dozen second and third readings of zoning cases (meaning the first readings were conditional) and nearly three dozen new cases (including that Champion 1C) that could consume serious Council time. And despite the lack of regular January meetings, other work has proceeded: Council Member Greg Casar expects to return Feb. 15 with a version of his employee sick leave proposal, and CM Ann Kitchen promises a resolution to exclude city parkland (i.e., Butler Shores) from consideration for any potential professional soccer venue.
One more notable early highlight: The musical honorees will be the Huston-Tillotson University Concert Choir.