Austin
9:56 am
Thu March 22, 2012

City Council Preview: Changing Banks, Patio Pilot Program, Taxi Talk, and the Apple of Council’s Eye

Spring break is definitely over.

The Austin City Council convenes to an 89 item-long meeting this morning. Some heavy lifting was accomplished earlier this week, with a general work session and a specific one delving into Austin Energy rate changes, but there’s still plenty happening today:

How Ya Like Them Apples?: A proposed incentives deal with tech-giant Apple is the meeting’s main event. The city would rebate the company 10 years’ worth of real and personal property taxes, estimated at $8.6 million, in exchange for meeting investment and job-creation benchmarks. The state is throwing in even more – $21 million.

But a report from Phoenix, Arizona – named as Austin’s competition for Apple’s new “Americas Operations Center” – says the supposed competition was never really in the running. “There was no Phoenix site reasonably in contention," Mayor Greg Stanton told azcentral.com.

Item 89, the incentives package, is posted for 4 p.m. public hearing and possible action.

Money in the Bank: We reported last month about a City Council initiative to study the feasibility of moving the city’s banking and financial obligations from large, multinational banks to local credit unions and banks. Sponsor Laura Morrison said the item was inspired in part by the Occupy Wall Street movement and Occupy Austin.

Item 58 could move over $1.1 million in city funds out of Bank of America accounts. But to where? JP Morgan Chase.

“The City of Austin’s current depository service contract is with Bank of America, which started in June of 2007 and expires May 31, 2012,” reads a memo from interim Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart to council. She recommends award of the contract, “as it will allow for an orderly transition from the current depository contract, Bank of America, to JP Morgan Chase, to take effect on June 1, 2012.”

Hart goes on to state that “Although local banks, such as credit unions, would be unable to meet the City’s complex day-today banking needs, we do believe they can play an important role for select City functions.”

This isn’t sitting well with members of Occupy Austin. The group has a press conference scheduled at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. In a press release, a group member writes:

On March 1st the Austin City Council charged City Manager Marc Ott with investigating the possibility of removing the city’s money from Bank of America and moving it to a local bank or credit union. They gave him sixty days to complete the task. Now, a mere three weeks later the City Manager has completed his investigation and is ready to award a new banking contract not to a credit union or local bank, but to the too-big-to-fail Wall Street bank JP Morgan Chase.

Also On Tap: Third and final approval of 45 new taxi permits for Lone Star Cab and Austin Cab is before council today, along with a potentially discussion of broader changes to the formula for allocating the city’s overall number of taxi permits.  

Council member Chris Riley’s parking-spot patio pilot program is up for consideration, along with an accompanying item “directing the City Manager to make recommendations on a long-term Street Patio program.”

An item promoting the relocation of feral bees colonies over their destruction is also coming forward. You can read our blog on the initiative, and listen to KUT News’ radio report.

If you can’t get down to the meeting, starting at 10 a.m., you can stream the meeting online.