Council: At War on Two Wheels

More scooters, a possible interim deal with the APA, and more from City Hall

Council: At War on Two Wheels

As if the city's Transportation Depart­ment didn't have enough on its hands with an electric scooter app flouting its dockless mobility pilot schedule, this past week it's also had to address a litany of peeved competitors who want in on the action if the Santa Monica-based Bird is going to be allowed to pre-empt the rules.

The most aggravated of them all may have been LimeBike, from San Mateo, Cali­f., which sent City Council a letter on April 10 essentially calling Bird a rule breaker and asking that all their scooters be impounded. Co-founder and CEO Toby Sun expressed a willingness to participate in the dockless mobility pilot, and asked that Bird be banned from doing so, since they had jumped the gun and deployed scooters without the city's approval.

"We cannot ignore the competitive challenge that Bird's launch in Austin is to our core business model of providing dock-free mobility to solve urban transportation challenges," the letter reads. "As such, we are considering our next steps as a company if the City of Austin is unable to vigorously enforce its dock-free mobility policies."

Six days later, LimeBike deployed its own fleet of about 200 scooters around Down­town, many of which were quickly picked up by curious UT students. The Transporta­tion Department responded with an incisive memo acknowledging the two companies' actions and how they disrupted the pilot's initial timeline. "In order to forestall a predictable and unmanageable swamping of our streets with thousands of vehicles, ATD recommends a more nimble response than our previously expressed pilot timeframe," staff wrote. The department now suggests a May 1 kickoff for a pilot that will include a $30 permit on each scooter; a 500-permit limit; safety requirements; storage and parking standards; and access to aggregated travel, incident, and injury data.

Much as with Uber and Lyft, it's become abundantly clear that whatever Council decides to do about these disruptors, it has to do something. California entrepreneurs insist on it!

Interim Deal or No Deal?

The Austin Police Association and the city's Labor Relations team went back to the negotiating table on Monday with the interim deal the city proposed earlier in April still on the table. That amounts to a 1.25% lump sum increase for officers, in exchange for changes to the sick leave payout. The union views that effectively as a pay cut, and rejected the overture on April 3 and again at this week's session. The APA has until Monday to reverse its position and take the one-year deal before the offer expires.

That small impasse aside, the two sides are working steadily toward crafting language for a permanent contract. Other than promotions and some language that needs clearing up, the main topic remaining on the table is, unsurprisingly, the oversight. The city told union leaders on Monday that the June deadline for coming up with a best practice might not be realistic. Interim Police Monitor Farah Muscadin is still working the phones with various jurisdictions to make preliminary decisions on which cities they should visit and draw inspiration from. "We don't want to rush it," said Labor Relations Officer Deven Desai (himself just off an impermanent stint as police monitor).

Desai also said his team is deciding which other topics, such as discipline and drug testing, it might observe during the visits. Union reps responded that they weren't against the idea, but need to know upfront which areas the city is interested in asking about so they can send the right personnel on the trips. The two bodies are next expected to sit down together on April 30.

Back in the Saddle

After an off-week this week, following a meeting last week that featured just seven members, City Council returns with its next regular meeting on April 26, and there's already a few items of interest on the agenda. Members will consider continuing the extended live music hours for the Red River Cultural District, the successful six-month pilot that extended weekend hours for live music to help club owners within those boundaries.

The dais will also dive into membership requirements for the Planning Commission, and what it means for a commissioner to be "directly or indirectly connected with real estate and land development," as specified by the City Charter. Leslie Pool recently criticized the commission for containing too many members related to the development industry, who are supposed to make up less than two-thirds of the board. Also, CodeNEXT watchers should look out for a resolution laying out the CodeNEXT public hearing process (the dates of which we've got online). Fun stuff. Also expected is a slate of items concerning the homeless in our area. See "Beside the Point" for more on that.

Mixed Media

Council: At War on Two Wheels

Last week's meeting was helmed by Alison Alter in the absence of both Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, and was intentionally light on controversial subjects. At one point, Jimmy Flan­ni­gan and Greg Casar could be overheard playfully considering whether or not to pull a zoning case out at random and debate it in order to liven things up a bit.

Thankfully it never came to that. Instead, the mood lifted considerably after a woman approached the podium during Citizen Communication, put her phone to the microphone, and began to play a full three minutes of Foreigner's "Cold as Ice."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More City Council
Council: Child Care “Scandal” Highlights City’s Own Failures
Council: Child Care “Scandal” Highlights City’s Own Failures
CMs also mull fate of APL’s Recycled Reads

Nina Hernandez, Feb. 15, 2019

Council Says Goodbye to 2018
Council Says Goodbye to 2018
After tackling one last mammoth agenda, members take a powder

Nina Hernandez, Dec. 21, 2018

More by Nina Hernandez
Travis County Sheriff Apologizes for Embarrassing Internal Video
Travis County Sheriff Apologizes for Embarrassing Internal Video
"Motivational" video re-creates galley slave scene from Ben-Hur

Feb. 15, 2019

Fire Chief Goes Easy on Accused Harasser
Fire Chief Goes Easy on Accused Harasser
Wrist-slap for captain’s rude, sexist “horseplay”

Feb. 9, 2019


City Council, LimeBike, Bird, Alison Alter, Leslie Pool, Toby Sun, Farah Muscadin, Deven Desai, Austin Police Association

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle