Austin City Council

Austin
4:40 pm
Sat March 14, 2015

Council Member Wants Limits on Barbecue Smoke Near Homes

An employee at La Barbecue slices brisket. A proposal by an Austin city council member could lead to limits on smoke emissions by some barbecue restaurants and trailers.
Joshua Bousel https://flic.kr/p/e4mVLA

Austin has experienced a barbecue renaissance over the last five years with national accolades pouring on the likes of Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Co. Now some people living near the smoke pits are complaining about the smell.

District Three City Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria wants the city manager to come up with rules to clamp down on barbecue trailers and restaurants located near residential areas. 

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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
9:00 am
Wed February 25, 2015

Council Wonders How to Pay for Additional Staff

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants to hire more staff. The rationale for his request: The city's needs are great and need more people to be solved. City Council members agree with that. What they don't agree on is how to pay for additional staff.

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Austin City Council
9:48 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Adler Gives Up on Foundation Funding for Office Staff

Mayor Steve Adler during a visit to KUT on February 16, 2015.
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.

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Austin City Council
8:50 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Council Looks to Work Out Kinks in New Meeting Process

Long lines and deep crowds are nothing new to those familiar with Austin City Council meetings, but a new meeting structure aims to cut down on the council's historically long meeting times.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Officially, the Austin City Council meets every other week. This would've been an off week. But, this new council has so much to learn and so much to do that unofficially, it meets virtually all the time.

In a special called meeting today, the council will try to work out how the new meetings system will work.

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Austin
10:48 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Zimmerman Struggles to Stop Subsidized Housing

District 6 council member Don Zimmerman.
Credit 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.

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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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Austin
3:46 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Where Should Austin Build Affordable Housing?

Austin faces a challenge when it comes to building more affordable housing.
Credit Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Now that the new Austin City Council is in place, it faces a challenge: On the one hand, council members know just how necessary affordable housing is. Virtually all of them ran on an "affordability" platform.

Advocates will tell you Austin is short tens of thousands of housing units specifically for low-income residents. Non-profits have been working hard in recent years to building more affordable housing (below-market rate units for low- and middle-income residents, often subsidized through public and/or private funding).

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Austin City Council
9:31 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Council Pushes Affordability, Salary Flexibility in First Meeting

In their first meeting, members of the Austin City Council discussed a "Regional Affordability Committee" and the prospect of allowing members to forego salaries to better pay staff.
Courtesy of City of Austin

The Austin City Council met Thursday in what was its first official meeting under 10-1. The mood was like the first day of school after a long summer break.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he felt like back in his junior high school days when he won his first election for class president. He read from a copy of "Robert’s Rules of Order," a book his father gave him to conduct focused and effective meetings, citing an inscription written in the book by his deceased father.

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Austin
9:32 am
Tue January 27, 2015

How You Can Help Rewrite Austin's Confusing, Outdated Campaign Finance Rules

Some Austin City Council candidates before the city's ballot selection in August of 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The city's Ethics Review Commission (ERC) is looking for ways to update Austin’s campaign finance rules for two simple reasons.

One, the language is very complicated. And two, the limits that are in place haven't been updated in a long time. The ERC is meeting tonight to hear from Austinites about how to spruce up the rules.

Anyone with ideas as to how the ERC can make the language on campaign finance rules more understandable, can post those ideas at SpeakUpAustin.org or can attend the public meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m.

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Austin City Council
8:52 am
Tue January 27, 2015

What Happens If Steve Adler Forgoes His Salary?

Mayor Steve Adler.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

It's no secret that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is independently wealthy and that he doesn't need the $82,000 and change his position pays every year.

Adler has said he instead wants to use the money to boost the salaries of some of his staff, but the move may have some tricky implications for his successor.

Steve Adler is not the only Austin politician to forgo his salary. Recently, former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd got paid one dollar to complete Sarah Eckhart's term as Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Why did he do that?

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Austin City Council
7:12 am
Mon January 26, 2015

As 10-1 Council Steps Forward, Meet the New Committees

Austin's City Council holds a rare work session today before tomorrow's scheduled council meeting.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The new 10-1 Austin City Council will gavel in for its first regular meeting this week, and one of their ambitions is to be a more open, efficient council. To that end, they've indicated they want to move much of the nuts and bolts of policy-making to council committees, much in the way the state legislature works. The number of committees proposed is a big jump, from eight to at least 14 so far.

Here's what we know so far about the different committees:

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Austin
7:00 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Does the Future of Austin's 'No Kill' Animal Policy Lie in Creating a 'No Birth' Policy?

Two of the hundreds of cats Del Goss, of Montopolis, feeds every night. Goss' neighborhood is one of the poorest in Austin's District 3.
Credit Joy Diaz/KUT News

Among the many politically contentious issues the new Austin City Council will need to grapple with is the issue of “No Kill.” This February will mark the fourth consecutive year that Austin's shelters have achieved a no kill status, meaning that ten percent or fewer animals in shelter care are euthanized.

But, even with several measures including "no kill," Austin is still dealing with a large number of homeless animals.

Del Goss lives in Montopolis, one of Austin's poorest neighborhoods in City Council District 3. Every evening, he hops on his old white pick-up truck and heads to his friend Florence's. On the truck's bed sits a five-gallon plastic bucket full of cat food.

Goss feeds Florence's cats. And then he makes seven other stops to feed colonies of homeless animals.

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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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Austin
10:46 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Who Are the Powerful People in Your Neighborhood?

Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But are powerful neighborhood groups preventing it from becoming denser and more affordable?
Credit Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

As you might have heard, and most probably have felt, Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But how it should handle that growth is an ongoing debate. As a new city council steps forward, it might help to take a look at some of the people who are likely to be a vocal part of that debate: your neighbors.

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Austin City Council
10:42 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Can't Make a City Council Meeting? Austin Now Offers Input Options Online

Austin City Council is offering online options for public input. The council's historically long meetings that stretch into the early morning have often hampered public input.
Credit KUT News

The new Austin City Council knows everyone has an opinion about what things it should be doing, what things it should change and how those changes could come about. A recurring theme along the current council’s campaign trail was that many Austinites felt unheard and sometimes outright disregarded by city politicians.

At the beginning of the year, council proposed altering its meeting and committee format to pare down their traditionally long meetings.  So, starting tonight, there will be new ways to communicate with council and the mayor.

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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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Austin
5:08 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Austin's New Mayor Wants to Hear From Every Austinite

Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants to reach the community-at-large.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

Right now, if you live in Austin and you want to talk to your city council members, you have few options. You can sign up for citizen communications on Thursdays at noon, or you can wait until the end of regular business at a council meeting. That’s pretty much it.

And it isn't as though council members don't want people to call them or email them. But few people do.

Austin's new mayor Steve Adler believes the current system is leaving the community at large with no access to the officials it elected, that's why today, he and the new council are holding brainstorming sessions to find ways to get more people engaged. "Wouldn't it be great if people could give their testimony or their input on ideas on issues facing the city remotely?"

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Austin City Council
8:22 am
Wed January 7, 2015

New Mayor and 'Council of Firsts' Sworn In

New Mayor Steve Adler presents and award to outgoing Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon KUT News

Hundreds of people attended the swearing in of Austin's new mayor and City Council last night. Once the council chamber was full, people stood in stairways and hallways and watched on screens as the new council members delivered their first messages to the geographic districts that elected them.

The diversity of those in attendance was significant. In the crowd, there were toddlers in their parents' arms and folks whose age demanded they move with the help of canes. Some wore the most sophisticated brands and others wore simple attire. But the faces of those in the crowd were similar in that they all looked hopeful, according to political consultant and former journalist Mike Madison.

"Even the people here who do this for a living, who have to be here every week, who are going to be fighting with these people going forward on issues that come up – they're still not jaded. They wouldn't be anywhere else,” Madison said.

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City Council
5:31 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Former Austin Female Mayor Calls First Female City Council Majority 'Historic'

Carole Keeton, then Carole McClellan, at a 1976 Austin School Board meeting at UT. Keeton went on to become Austin's first, and only, female mayor.
Austin Public Library

The new Austin City Council being sworn in tonight is historic in that it is the city's first council where the majority of its members – seven out of eleven – are women. 

It took more than a century for the first woman to make it to council. And even after that, Austin's female population continued to struggle for fair representation.

In 1977, Carole Keeton was the first woman to be elected mayor of Austin. No other woman has held that office since.

"Before this election there had only been 15 women – that's counting me as mayor, 14 council members and me as mayor – 15 women since 1839, and now, we've got seven out of eleven,” said Keeton, who calls this election "historic."

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