Public Notice: Public Land for Public Good, v.2
Has Austin lost its groove? A surprising answer.
Council Member Kathie Tovo's already-much-delayed resolution, aimed at creating a framework to harness the city's real estate portfolio for the public good (see "Public Notice: Public Land for Public Good?" News, Oct. 28), was delayed at last Thursday's meeting so it could be discussed at Tuesday's council work session. And while city staff and the mayor expressed willingness to keep working with Tovo and her co-sponsors on the measure, it received puzzling pushback from a few Council colleagues.
One notable head-scratcher was CM Chito Vela's reluctance concerning provisions to ensure that construction projects on city-owned lands comply with the Better Builder Certification Program, OSHA-10 training, and workers' compensation. In fact, the city already requires this on many construction projects, and the Workers Defense Project, where Vela formerly served as board chair, supports the resolution.
Equally puzzling was CM Leslie Pool's pushback on a provision to set an aspirational goal of 85% affordable housing on city-owned land – despite the fact that this is merely a goal, not a mandate, and that the city manager would have the flexibility to choose a lesser number with analysis and justification (the resolution offers flexibility at every turn as long as the city manager can justify it). Pool later appeared to be trying to scuttle the whole resolution preemptively, saying she thought the dais was already settled against it.
In response, co-sponsor Ann Kitchen cited the importance of the policy issues the resolution addresses, stating she was unwilling to declare it dead. Co-sponsor Alison Alter also noted that the problems resulting from the current inconsistent process will keep coming back, and that the intent of the resolution is to save time and money in the future through a clearer framework for deals involving city-owned land, summing up, "We have a responsibility to do better."
For its part, city staff appears to be slow-walking this baby, likely hoping it will go away once Tovo and Kitchen are off the dais in January. Which makes sense: Most of us would rather do our jobs without any pesky outsiders (like our elected representatives) getting in the mix. But the pushback from Council members on issues they've previously championed is harder to fathom, especially for established priorities like affordable housing, workers' rights, and living wages.
Anyway, it's back on this Thursday's Council agenda, this time as Item 84. Stay tuned.
Another initiative staff would prefer to scuttle is a set of proposed amendments to the city's compatibility standards and parking requirements (see p.22), which are on the Planning Commission agenda for a public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 8. But city staff is not recommending the current draft and has asked for a postponement to allow more time to wrestle with language. No word at press time whether PC will go for postponing, but staff requests are generally granted.
Why Doug Sahm Now?
That's weighty stuff we're talking about above – not just technical details, but trying to preserve the future of the city we all love, in the face of remarkable economic pressures. When it comes to Central Texas culture, there are few more perceptive observers than author/filmmaker Joe Nick Patoski. In a recent interview, he sounded an alarm: With all the growth and money that's flowing into this region, he said, "it asks two very important existential questions: Has Austin lost its groove? And has San Antonio lost its soul? People in both cities are asking these questions. And the answer is Doug Sahm."
Find out this Sunday, Nov. 6, with the re-release of Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove, Patoski's largely unseen 2015 documentary, being resurfaced at this critical juncture by the Society for the Preservation of Texas Music. They're hosting a reception starting at 5pm, with live music and a live Q&A with Patoski, at the original South by Southwest HQ, 1000 E. 40th, co-sponsored by the Chronicle and the Austin Museum of Popular Culture. Then at 7:09pm is the online screening event; tickets are $20 at sirdougfilm.com.
It's My Park Day is this Saturday, Nov. 5; go to austinparks.org/impd to see a long list of volunteer opportunities all over town. In our neck of the woods, for example, there's a major cleanup being organized for the Hancock Golf Course and park starting at 8am, but you can find your own adventure near you.
The Austin Tree of the Year Award is being presented Nov. 5 as well, for the first time in nine years. Find out who won at 2:45pm at the Dottie Jordan Park Tree & Pollinator Festival, 2803 Loyola, or at austintreeoftheyearawards.org.