Elizabeth Pagano

Austin
10:38 am
Wed June 24, 2015

New Council Introduces Era of More Meetings

In the first few months of 2014, Council members spent about 34.3 hours in committee meetings, and this Council has spent 108.15 hours so far.
Callie Hernandez/KUT News.

From the Austin Monitor: In January, there was a shake-up at City Hall, with Austin ushering in its first geographically based City Council. Now, six months later, what has it meant? Most obviously, a lot more meetings.

Videos available on the city’s website show that the amount of time the new Council had spent in meetings from February through June 23, 2015, increased approximately 121 percent over the previous Council during the same span in 2014 — from 152.6 hours to 337.9 hours.

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Austin
9:56 am
Wed May 27, 2015

Assistant City Manager Snipes Resigns

A screenshot from the 'controversial' training session.

From the Austin Monitor: Yesterday, Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes resigned.

Snipes had arranged the March training event designed to help staff deal with the deluge of female City Council members. That training drew national ridicule to City Hall and sparked widespread outrage.

In a memo to Mayor Steve Adler and Council, City Manager Marc Ott explained that he was verbally informed about the results of last week’s investigation into the training.

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Austin
6:08 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Assistant City Manager on Paid Leave, Following Controversial Training Session

Credit KUT News

From our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor:

The Austin Monitor has learned that Austin City Manager Marc Ott has placed Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes on paid administrative leave. The move comes after news broke that Snipes had organized a controversial training designed to help staff cope with a female-majority City Council.

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Austin
8:18 am
Tue April 28, 2015

City to Close Some Swimming Pools, Reduce Hours

Austin Parks and Recreation Department head recently said in a memo to Mayor Steve Adler that the city's public pools will cost $41 million to repair.
via Flickr/smreilly

From the Austin Monitor: Citing budget shortfalls, water conservation issues and a lack of lifeguards, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department says it will close two pools and cut back pool operating hours this summer.

The department says it would cost the city $41 million to bring all of its public pools into good repair.

According to a memo written by Parks and Recreation Department Director Sara Hensley to the mayor and City Council, a shortage in lifeguards means that the city will not be able to open pools June 5, which is the first day of summer break.

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Austin
8:25 am
Fri March 6, 2015

Zucker Report Released Despite Staff Apprehension

From the Austin Monitor:

After months of speculation, the City of Austin posted the draft Zucker Report on its website Thursday night.

Last year, Zucker Systems performed an analysis of the Planning and Development Review Department, and while they did find “many exemplary features” within the department, a quick glance makes it clear why the city was less than eager to release the findings without some revision. The report is available, in its entirety, here.

It contains 464 recommendations and “opportunities for improvement.” Of those, 121 are considered high priority. The report recommends the city immediately fund $3.5 million in improvements for the department.

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Austin
12:29 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Council Plays Fast and Loose on Garza Tract Vote

Credit Liang Shi/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Those familiar with the previous City Council’s strict adherence to procedural rules have been left dizzy by the new Council’s first few meetings. Last week, during the Garza Ranch discussion about the maximum allowable number of vehicle trips per day on the tract, that confusion reached new heights — and after some investigation, the Austin Monitor remains unable to determine who, if anyone, made the final amendment to the motion that was approved on first reading.

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Austin
11:17 am
Thu February 26, 2015

Adler Seeks Public’s Help in Lobbying for More Staff

Credit Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Mayor Steve Adler is trying to boost the chances that his 10 City Council colleagues will vote for a resolution directing the city manager to identify funding options for five new members of the mayor’s staff — at a projected annual cost of $490,645.

Even if Council approves the resolution today, it does not guarantee that his colleagues will vote to spend the money when the answers come back.

Last night, employing a tactic heretofore unseen by the Monitor, Adler sent out an email asking his supporters for help in approving a larger staff for his office. Adler took the unorthodox step of requesting that his supporters email other Council members to promote his plan.

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Austin City Council
11:09 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Aleshire Files Criminal Complaint Against Zimmerman

District 6 City Council member Don Zimmerman is accused of wrongly using campaign funds to pay his wife.
KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

District 6 City Council Member Don Zimmerman may be headed back to court, but this time as a defendant in a criminal prosecution.

On Thursday, Aleshire LAW PC attorney Bill Aleshire filed a criminal complaint against Zimmerman with the Travis County Attorney and the Texas Ethics Commission.

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City Hall
11:06 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Council Postpones Salary Debate Until Next Week

Credit Callie Hernandez/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

On Thursday, City Council temporarily backed away from a plan that could have members voting to reduce their own salaries.

Council members voted 11-0 to postpone action on the resolution until their Jan. 29 meeting. The resolution directs the city manager to change the current office budgeting structure to allow Council members to decrease their individual compensation and shift funds within their offices. Mayor Steve Adler explained that the postponement will give Council members the opportunity to take a closer look at the proposition, then address it further at next week’s Tuesday work session.

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City Hall
10:09 am
Fri January 9, 2015

New Council Plans To Change Meetings, Committees

Austin's new City Council plans to shake up their committee layout and meeting schedules.
Credit Courtesy of City of Austin

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

Wasting no time, Austin’s newly inaugurated City Council launched into a proposal Thursday to change its meetings and committee structures. The changes, members say, will make for a more efficient, more transparent city government.

For now, the details of the change remain tentative. Council will hold a public hearing Jan. 22 to discuss the change and plan to take up the changes for a vote at the first meeting, set for Jan. 29.

“I’ve been here seven years,” said City Manager Marc Ott. “And I can’t even remember how many times things have gotten to the point of my desk or even to the Council’s agenda where we recognized they had not been fully vetted. So, in other words, we found ourselves dealing with unanswered questions about staffing impact, fiscal impact and other kinds of impacts.”

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Transportation
10:53 am
Wed December 3, 2014

City Switches Downtown Streets to Slow Traffic

olorado Street will have two-way traffic from 10th Street to Cesar Chavez in 2016.
Via Mark Stevens, flickr.com/photos/14723335@N05/

From the Austin Monitor:

Plans to convert downtown’s Seventh, Eighth, Brazos and Colorado streets from one-way to two-way streets are underway.

On Monday, City Council’s Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee heard a presentation on a timeline for the change from acting Transportation Department Assistant Director Jim Dale.

“A lot of cities have gone through this process, of being two-way initially, then going to one-way to help move capacity to move a lot more vehicles,” said Dale. “But as we start to look at the pedestrian realm and looking at the complete streets … the two-way conversion does lend itself to a more pedestrian-friendly environment, with a tendency to slow down traffic.”

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2014 Elections
1:48 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

District 4 Candidate Greg Casar Rejects Tea Party Endorsement

Credit Austin Monitor

Though early voting started on Monday, the race to City Council hasn’t come to a halt. Over the weekend, an endorsement from the Austin Tea Party had District 4 candidate Greg Casar crying foul and issuing allegations that the whole thing was a stunt to help his opponent win.

The Austin Tea Party sent out a flurry of messages on Twitter Saturday proclaiming their endorsement of Casar for District 4. Austin Tea Party Organizer Dean Wright also sent an email directly to Casar.

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Austin Police
8:47 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Audit Finds Problems With How APD Stores, Destroys Old Drug and Weapons Evidence

Austin Police display drugs and guns seized in an arrest. A report from Austin's City Auditor finds trouble with police storage procedure.
Divya Darsi for KUT News

This article is written by KUT's Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

A city audit found that drugs and firearms confiscated by the Austin Police Department are in some cases not adequately protected, with drugs sometimes stored in cardboard boxes outdoors.

In response, APD officials say they are re-evaluating the department’s evidence control policies.

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Politics
8:10 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Austin's Political Players Look to Gain Seats on New City Council

Austin's switch to geographic representation has groups traditionally locked out of City Hall eying seats on the council dais.

This article was co-produced as part of an ongoing City Hall reporting partnership between the Austin Monitor and KUT. Listen to the audio story broadcast on KUT in the player below. 

With single-member districts soon to become a reality, Austin City Council candidates are already lining up to crowd what promises to be a very full November ballot. Austin's political insiders and outsiders alike are trying to get a handle on an election that promises to shape the city for years to come.

Roger Borgelt is vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. He also served as co-chair of the Austinites for Geographic Representation – the group responsible for getting 10-1 on the ballot. He says that he is excited about the promise of more localized, neighborhood representation, as well as the possibility of conservatives (or at least fiscal conservatives) taking some of the 11 open City Council seats.

 

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