Council: Doctor’s Orders
Sides lining up on paid sick time proposal
A good bet to dominate debate in today's City Council meeting (Feb. 15) is Item 49: discussion of a proposed ordinance "establishing earned sick time for private employers." As reported last week ("Council: In the Shadow of the Dome" and "Point Austin: Sick and Tired," Feb. 9), Greg Casar and three other council members are sponsoring an ordinance that would mandate a limited amount of paid sick time for some 230,000 local employees who currently work without that benefit. The Democratic Party, unions and other worker organizations, and plenty of local businesses have expressed support for the proposal, but various business orgs (and the Statesman) recently declared opposition, so the public debate should be lively.
It appears there's sufficient dais support to pass some form of the ordinance, but it's uneven. Jimmy Flannigan (who objected last week to a work session dedicated to the proposal) has posted his own "alternative" version (it reduces the potential benefit and exempts the smallest businesses), and a couple of other members expressed misgivings about riling the Legislature again. (GOP state Rep. Paul Workman has already pledged to fight any ordinance at the Lege; maybe his District 47 residents will take note in November.) Presumably both sides will be out in force for the public hearing.
Returning for yet another bite at the apple (we're certainly down to stems-and-seeds by now) is Item 13, the Champion Tract 3 discussion, on the dais only (public hearing closed). Opponents to the 2016 settlement agreement (previously approved by Council but returned after a court ruled the posting was inadequate) argued at Council's last meeting, Feb. 1, that a staff report arrived too late for full review – presumably that review has now taken place, and we'll learn if the original approval is now on shaky political ground.
Item 19, in principle, anticipates dais airing of the ongoing public debate over a potential city-land site for a Major League Soccer stadium. But the backup is a memo from the Parks and Rec Department requesting an indefinite postponement for additional research. (Meanwhile, Laura Morrison has released a fundraising pitch in hopes of making "no parkland for profit" a mayoral campaign issue.) At Tuesday's work session, Mayor Steve Adler confirmed that the Item would be withdrawn, without indication when it might return.
Some other Items to watch:
• Checks to Write: The opening contract list (Items 2-9) features several major engineering contracts with considerable price tags – no obvious land mines, but some might evoke a closer look from the dais.
• Loaves & Fishes: Fee waivers for development usually earn a fish eye from the dais or the witnesses; in this case (Item 11), waiving $3.4 million in various fees for Phase II of the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Community First! project – estimated by staff to provide homes for another 225 chronically homeless people – will likely get a Council blessing.
• Think of the Puppies! Same goes for fee waivers for the Austin Pets Alive! now 25-year lease on the Town Lake Animal Center grounds, where it plans to build a new shelter. Waived fees would amount to a mere $2 million a year, doggos.
• Resume the Position: Items 53 and 54 would re-establish certain special-qualification pay provisions for Austin police officers (in lieu of the expired contract) and direct staff to resume meet-and-confer negotiations with the Austin Police Association – with everybody's fingers crossed.
• Proclamations: It's Austin Energy Science Festival Day, Rotary Arbor Day, and National Wear Red Day (actually Feb. 2, but women's heart health is a perennial cause). The musical honorees are Croy & the Boys: Just wish them luck.