City Council Update: Austin Energy Hearing; Vets Board, Music Venue Program Approved
Update: The council gave preliminary approval to an independent Austin Energy board Thursday night. You can read more here.
Original Post:The Austin City Council has made short work of today’s agenda, passing most items early.
One agenda item is still outstanding, and should create some sparks: a resolution calling for an independent governance board to oversee operations at Austin Energy.
As KUT News previously reported, sponsors Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council Member Bill Spelman are supporting a resolution they say would steer most day-to-day operations of Austin Energy to an independent board, while allowing the council authority over big decisions like rate cases and the utility’s renewable energy targets.
That call hasn’t sat well with some environmental advocates. Speaking on the proposal earlier today, local activist Paul Robbins said the resolution was “tantamount to changing the city charter without voter approval. … This is not this august body’s finest moment.”
The item will be heard no earlier that 6 p.m. tonight.
Among the items already passed today:
- The council voted to create a city Commission on Veterans Affairs.
The commission is aimed at finding ways to ease difficulties facing some veterans—including finding housing, employment and mental health assistance.
The commission will also try to better strengthen and coordinate services already offered to local veterans. The proposal to create the commission faced little to no opposition. It was passed in a unanimous vote as part of today's consent agenda. And it was sponsored by council members who aren't always known for agreeing—Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Kathie Tovo and Mike Martinez.
- The council also passed a resolution creating education and incentive programs aimed at lowering the volume at Austin music venues.
The Austin Music Commission proposed the initiative in November, and the council looked at the measure today that would create a “Good Neighbor” and “Bad Actor” initiatives to reward or punish violators of city noise ordinance code.
The commission consists of South by Southwest alumni and managers of C3 Presents, as well as Austin entertainment lawyer Michael Stallone.
Reyne Telles, a spokesman for the city, said that the program would give funding for a loan program that provides zero interest loans for speaker systems, walls and stages that would help alleviate sound from venues. Telles told KUT News that the program is a product of building noise complaints from residents near venues.
“We’ve received our fair share of complaints,” Telles said. “And that’s something that we want to fix holistically, so that the people that live downtown and the businesses that are downtown can live together.”
The program will also look to provide funding to carry the Music Venue Assistance Program from a pilot program to a permanent program.
- The council also authorized a $355,000 contract relating to Capital Metro’s forthcoming rapid bus service.
A city press release notes “The Bus Rapid Transit Project Management component allows Capital Metro to more efficiently run its transit service by allowing buses to ‘talk’ to traffic signals and extend green lights a few seconds to allow buses to continue on their way.