Public Notice: Doomed?
Looking forward to the November ballot
Community Not Commodity trundled 32,000 petition signatures into City Hall last week trying to force a November election on the CodeNEXT land development code rewrite (see "Headlines," April 6), but they aren't the only ones trying to grab space on that November ballot this week.
The 2018 Charter Review Commission will hold their final public hearing this Saturday to take feedback on the City Charter amendments that they're currently considering recommending that City Council place on the November ballot. Council created the group last year, and tasked it with examining various areas, and reporting back with recommendations by about now. For now, the Commission has adopted recommendations to:
1) Have City Council, rather than the city manager, appoint the city attorney;
2) Create a city budget and efficiency officer, to produce independent analyses of budgetary and fiscal issues, and reviews of proposed and existing programs;
3) Establish a Democracy Dollars Program for public financing of mayoral and City Council campaigns, to provide eligible Austin residents up to $100 per election cycle to donate to city candidates;
4) Establish an Independent Ethics Review Commission to oversee campaign issues, conflicts of interest, lobbyist regulations, and the like;
5) Tighten rules on referendum petitions;
6) Ditto on recall petitions, including upping the number of signatures needed to trigger a recall;
7) Fix clerical and wording matters.
They're still considering two other proposals: clarifying and codifying the "timing and staggering of Planning Commission terms," which is something Council requested, and requiring a city election to approve utility revenue bonds over $25 million, or power and water purchases over $50 million, which was not on the original list. Want to weigh in? See more info at www.austintexas.gov/content/2018-charter-review-commission, and show up at City Hall, 301 W. Second, at 1pm this Sat., April 7 (or hold your voice until November).
Meanwhile, back to CodeNEXT: Overall, what's made this whole process as painful and overwrought with drama as it has been, is the ridiculous set of artificial deadlines under which the land use commissions have been operating, combined with the planners' unwillingness or inability to produce consistent versioning. Thus far there have been three drafts, each dramatically different and with totally new and unexpected content, and each coming with a very tight deadline for review and no effort to incorporate intermediate corrections and revisions. In tech terms, we've gone from 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0, with no attempts to tweak or fix bugs with a version 1.1 or 2.2, let alone a 3.1.1 or a 3.2.4. And at each step, City Council has not helped by insisting that the review process be accelerated and held to arbitrary deadlines, and generally forced into a timeline designed to produce a shoddy product. At this late date, there are still sections not finished, and sections that are noted as errors, and others that are acknowledged as being placeholders, but no clear notation or index of those. Nor any report back from the Planning Commission mapping subgroup, which has been working on a regimen of scenario testing that ought to have happened before any mapping was even attempted.
This was brought home to me at around 9:35pm Tuesday evening at the latest meeting of the joint land use commissions (see "MobilityNEXT," April 6), watching consultant Peter Park casually remark that, due to some vagary or another, there might well be the need for another zoning category to be added, tweaking the R2C that's in the current draft. Which is fine: I don't really have a strong feeling on whether that's needed or not. But I do feel strongly that there needs to be at least one more draft, that's actually a revision of the current draft, rather than a whole new pass at a code. And once we have a set of codes, we can get an idea back from the mapping subgroup about what it would mean to apply those codes to different parts of the city. And then we can have the political battles over whether we're turning the various dials (parking requirements, density allowances, historical protection) too far up or down – but that needs to be after we've figured out what the dials are (the code text), and how they work (the mapping scenarios).
If that's not the timeline we're working on – if Council pretends they're going to get this thing done before it becomes a political issue in the November elections, and in turn staff pretends they've delivered a "final" draft – this is doomed to failure.
I Couldn't Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us: An Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa is author John Gibler's chronicle of interviews with the families of the Iguala 43, students who were forcibly disappeared in Mexico in 2014, and with survivors of the event. Gibler will be at Resistencia Books, 4926 E. Cesar Chavez, on Wednesday, April 11, at 7pm to talk and sign books.