Jo Clifton

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor:

City Council Member Don Zimmerman, who plans to run for re-election in 2016, has filed suit in federal court against the city of Austin, seeking to overturn four important provisions of the city’s campaign finance rules. If he wins, the changes would have an immediate and lasting impact on how elections are conducted and financed in Austin.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From the Austin Monitor: Mayor Steve Adler reported Wednesday that his campaign still owes him more than $418,315. Adler’s campaign finance report indicates that he paid himself back $31,077 in January. However, the campaign has no money remaining to repay the rest.

Other mayors in the same situation, such as former Mayor Lee Leffingwell, have relied on fundraising after they left office to recoup some of their expenses. Leffingwell reported Wednesday that he had repaid himself $56,000 this year, leaving a debt close to $35,000.

Campaign finance reports were due on Wednesday from all City Council members and all Council candidates who had not previously closed down their accounts, as well as anyone else still spending or collecting funds.

From the Austin Monitor: After hearing from several opponents of the proposed ordinance to require scrubbers on the smokestacks of restaurants that smoke meat, the City Council Committee on Economic Development voted unanimously Monday against supporting the ordinance.

Council Member Ora Houston made the motion not to pursue an ordinance initially proposed by Council Member Pio Renteria. Houston moved that individual complaints be referred to Code Compliance or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Update Thursday April 2, 2015, 4:20 p.m. At today’s meeting, the Austin City Council voted to start a stakeholder input process on possibly regulating barbecue smoke from restaurants.

Recommendations will be made by the city manager to the Health and Human Services Committee and the Economic Opportunity Committee. After July 31, there will be another chance for public comment.

ORIGINAL STORY from the Austin Monitor: In response to owners of barbecue restaurants worried about their future in Austin, City Council Member Pio Renteria is making some changes to his resolution directing city staff to create rules to regulate smoke from commercial barbecue smokestacks.

Originally, the resolution was written to require restaurants and mobile food vendors who use a wood or charcoal burning stove or grill within 150 feet of properties zoned residential to install exhaust systems called smoke scrubbers or similar devices.

Sue Jones/wikimedia commons

From the Austin Monitor:

Even though City Council froze the transfer from Austin Energy to the city’s general fund at $105 million in 2012, the amount the utility pays for support services has continued to grow. For the current fiscal year, the utility will fund more than $20 million for support services as well as to departments that may or may not have much to do with the utility.

The transfer, of course, is like a dividend payment to the taxpayers, reducing the amount they would have to pay to fund the city. It is used to defray costs and reduce taxes. The city uses various methods to allocate administrative costs, some of them intuitively obvious, but others not.

From the Austin Monitor:

Terrell Blodgett, professor emeritus at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, has written to Mayor Steve Adler and his City Council colleagues expressing concern about the mayor’s plan to add more staff for his office and lecturing him on the fact that the mayor has no more power than any of his Council colleagues or mayors before him.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

After hearing strong opposition from his colleagues as well as others, Mayor Steve Adler is proposing a complete revamp of his plan for additional staffing in the Mayor’s office.

Adler told the Austin Monitor Thursday that he would be pulling down his proposal to fund additional staff for the Mayor’s office through the Better Austin Foundation. Adler said he expects to have a total of nine staff members. He currently has four on his staff plus Sara Hartley, who is on loan from the public works department.

KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

There are only two subsidized housing developments in City Council Member Don Zimmerman’s District 6, as compared to 47 in Council Member Ora Houston’s District 1 and 46 in Council Member Pio Renteria’s District 3, according to data compiled by the group Housing Works Austin.

But Zimmerman would like to make sure there is not another one in District 6. He is particularly opposed to the Cardinal Point Apartments that are to be developed by Foundation Communities, Inc. at 11011 1/2 Four Points Drive.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

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

According to a poll conducted this week among 942 likely Austin voters, mayoral candidate and attorney Steve Adler maintains a commanding lead over his runoff opponent, City Council Member Mike Martinez. When asked who they would be likely to vote for in the Dec. 16 runoff election, 56 percent of respondents said Adler, compared to 39 percent for Martinez. Only 5 percent said they were undecided.

Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina, conducted the poll on Dec. 2 and 3. The poll was commissioned by the Austin Monitor and was made possible through a generous donation by Texas Disposal Systems.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From The Austin Monitor:

A poll commissioned by the Austin Monitor shows that 56 percent of voters said they would likely vote for mayoral candidate Steve Adler, compared to 35 percent who said they would vote for his runoff opponent, City Council Member Mike Martinez. Only 8 percent of those polled indicated that they were undecided in the mayoral contest.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From The Austin Monitor:

Austin City Council politics has hit the big time, with an out-of-state political action committee making numerous negative phone calls into the city to lambaste mayoral candidate Steve Adler.

Austin Monitor

From The Austin Monitor:

(This story was updated Oct. 2 to correct an editing error that overstated the risk of the city’s billing system overcharging residents for their water bills. The audit found no large-scale issues with water meter accuracy.)

Daniel Reese for KUT News

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

It seems that some City Council members were planning on giving City Manager Marc Ott – and perhaps others – a piece of their minds in private Thursday, but due to the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Mayor Lee Leffingwell was able to at least postpone that confrontation.

The executive session agenda for Thursday included four unusual items, each to do a mid-year evaluation of one of the Council’s appointees: Ott, City Auditor Kenneth Mory, Municipal Court Clerk Rebecca Stark and City Clerk Jannette Goodall.

I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Editor's note: This report comes from KUT's reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s new general manager Phil Wilson received a hefty pay increase when he moved from the hot seat at the Texas Department of Transportation to another hot seat at the state-created water and power authority two months ago. And his pay increase could get even heftier.

Wilson’s annual base salary has been set at $425,000, according to LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma in an email response to questions from the Austin Monitor. In addition, Wilson could receive a bonus of up to 25 percent of his salary, Tuma indicated.  Wilson’s salary and any bonus are determined by LCRA’s 15 member board of directors, which hired him late last year. He took over the job on Feb. 3.


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

Council Member Laura Morrison, who has served on the Austin City Council for nearly six years and has been considered a likely candidate for Mayor on the November ballot told the Austin Monitor today that she has decided against the race.

Morrison, 59, said decision was a difficult one for her. “I love this job and it’s been … very complicated and difficult. It’s taken me a long time to make this decision.”  Weighing all the pros and cons of a race that might cost up to a million dollars, Morrison said, “I just think a different future is what’s right for me.”