Public Notice: They’re Baaack!
Council faces a busy first week
City Council returns from its July hiatus next week, jumping back in with both feet, even before its first regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 8. The action kicks off on Monday (Aug. 5), when City Manager Spencer Cronk presents the FY 2019-20 Proposed Budget to Council at a 2pm event at LifeWorks' Youth and Family Resource Center, 835 N. Pleasant Valley Rd. The event will be broadcast live on ATXN.
Council's first budget work session isn't until Aug. 20, and final adoption is scheduled for Sept. 10, but Council Member Leslie Pool kicked off the discussion on the Council message board last week, posting, "This will be the last fiscal year before the effect of the 3.5% revenue cap imposed upon our city by the state legislature is fully realized. That means striking an appropriate balance this budget season between setting aside revenue for the stormy days ahead and shoring up important investments in our workforce, our youth, our recreational and natural resources, and programs for people experiencing homelessness. With that balance in mind, I will support going to the full tax rate increase of 8% this year to prepare ourselves for future lean years." No other CMs have replied yet, but since that maximum one-year increase looks like the only way Council will keep any flexibility in future years, it seems likely to gain support. Indeed, it seems likely that all of the large cities in Texas will have to follow the same path; that'll be interesting to watch. See more info on the budget process at www.austintexas.gov/budget.
Then comes the Thursday regular meeting, which carries a daunting 139 Items on the preliminary agenda. The first 88 are on the consent agenda, though, of course, any of those could be pulled for further consideration. Among other things:
• Items 15 & 17 will put the two referendums on the Nov. 5 ballot, as required by recently certified petitions, regarding "the conveyance of city-owned property for sports or entertainment facilities" (the anti-soccer-stadium petition), and "the use of Austin's Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue" (the anti-Convention-Center petition).
• Items 61 & 62 will authorize contracts to provide historic building surveys for six central neighborhoods, for a total cost of some $400,000; expect some carping from a couple of the traditionally anti-history CMs.
• Item 72 directs the city manager "to initiate the creation of an economic development entity" which "could create or support development of affordable housing, redevelopment, revitalization and other priority projects and goals of the City," as CM Kathie Tovo describes it on the Council message board, "and shall include a Cultural Trust to support acquisition and preservation of creative space."
• Item 77, similarly, directs the city manager to begin the process to create "a local government corporation to address homelessness issues" by Nov. 1.
• Item 78 is a "resolution declaring a climate emergency and calling for immediate and coordinated mobilization by the City to address the causes and consequences of climate change and directing the City Manager to take appropriate action."
• Item 81 directs the city manager to "provide options to support the creation, operation, and maintenance of a high-capacity transit system" and present them "by the first council meeting of 2020."
Then come 11 public hearings, including allowing RVs in mobile home parks (Item 92), tweaking land use regulations in the University Neighborhood Overlay (Item 93), and amending the Restricted Parking Area Map to add Yaupon Bluffs and Harris Branch, and remove Southern Oaks (Item 100).
All of that is nominally scheduled for the morning, before a noon citizen communication and five executive session items, followed by no less than 33 zoning cases, all of them scheduled for public hearings and possible action, including the much-debated Ballpark Apartments on East Riverside at Pleasant Valley (Items 107-111), and Springdale Farms being rezoned to Mixed Use (Items 133-134). At least nine of these already have staff postponement requests filed, so they may or may not be done in time for the 5:30pm proclamations, which include one for Austin Pride Day, and another presenting a Distinguished Service Award to Greg Guernsey, who's retiring after 13 years as director of the city Planning and Zoning Department; perhaps a Purple Heart would be more appropriate, awarded for his work on CodeNEXT over the past five years.