Austin City Council

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The Austin City Council has completed almost one year in its new configuration as a 10-1 system – with ten Council members representing ten different districts alongside one mayor.

Now, a new study out of UT Austin is trying to find whether the 10-1 system had an affect on voter turnout and civic engagement.

Alfredo Mendez [CC BY-SA 4.0]/flickr

From the Austin Monitor: In the midst of a heated debate about requirements for fingerprint background checks and fees for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, the City Council Mobility Committee has tossed a slew of additional proposals into the pot.

Jon Shapley/KUT News

The home rental listing site Airbnb has announced a promise to work with cities and to pay what it calls its “fair share of taxes.” This news comes as Austin’s City Council has begun cracking down on short-term rentals. At a public hearing Thursday Council will hear feedback about its plan to put a hold on some rentals.

Update Friday 11 a.m. At Thursday's meeting, City Council passed a one-year moratorium on type 2 short term rental (STR) permits. The moratorium will expire in a year, unless the Council decides to extend it.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The City of Austin announced Thursday that Mayor Steve Adler declared a Local State of Disaster to remain in effect until taken up at an upcoming special called City Council meeting.

At the meeting, to take place this Sunday, the ratification and extension of the declaration has been added to the agenda. Adler stated the declaration in a memo to council:


Austin City Council members are considering regulations for ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft. If passed, the City would collect fees from these companies, and also impose fingerprint-based background checks on drivers. On Thursday, Uber launched a campaign against the Council member who initiated these regulations.

Some Austin City Council members will be up for reelection next year. That means they can start raising campaign money in May 2016.

Council members have already started talking about how to make that process more transparent – along with something else that influences city policy.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From the Austin Monitor: The Ethics Review Commission voted unanimously to sanction City Council Member Don Zimmerman for two violations of city campaign finance code Tuesday night. They also voted unanimously to issue a written reprimand to Zimmerman, though they did not recommend prosecuting the matter further.

Sara Jasmine Montgomery for KUT

From the Austin Monitor

Everyone is aware that Austin has major traffic problems, but not everyone agrees on how to fix them. A new report, however, may help bridge some of those gaps by presenting the 10 most popular ideas that community members generated and supported during an outreach effort earlier this year.

Mayor Steve Adler, City Council Member Ann Kitchen and others will attend a press conference Thursday morning to announce the release of the MobilityATX Findings Report, the outcome of a public-private partnership led by nonprofit think tank Glasshouse Policy aimed at mobilizing the public to help shape transportation policy in Austin.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

City of Austin ethics commissioners have decided they’ll hear two of four complaints filed against Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman. The two they decided not to hear? They were the ones focused on his use of social media at work — and a controversial post he made on Facebook.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From the Austin Monitor:

Members of the Ethics Review Commission didn’t seem to know what to make of the four complaints lodged against Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman. The charges, leveled by Mark Walters, a law clerk, forced the panel to explore the murky line between the public and private life of an elected official, a line that the world of social media has made all the more difficult to define.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

More than 30 neighborhoods in Austin have a neighborhood plan, a document that lays out priorities for that part of the city. And each plan comes with a team made up of residents who make sure that new development projects fit the plan. But, at least one City Council member thinks these neighborhood plan contact teams need more oversight.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

Along with passing a $3.5 billion operating budget for the new fiscal year, the Austin City Council has also passed a new fee schedule that includes an increase in fees Austinites may encounter several times a year.

This afternoon, two of Austin's City Council committees decided to drop the issue of fluoridated water.

The Public Utilities Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee met this afternoon to discuss the possibility of discontinuing the practice of adding fluoride to the city’s water supply, an issue raised in a resolution by District 6 Councilmember Don Zimmerman. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

From our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor:

The city of Austin handles public information requests on the honor system – without oversight to ensure those who are inquiring receive all the information they request.

An investigation into how the honor system works found that public information requests to City Council offices and departments under the city manager are handled differently and that there is no standard training for Council offices.

Currently, when a public information request is entered into the city’s system, the Public Information Request Team sends the request to a designated point of contact in each respective office, according to the law department. The point of contact processes the department’s search and uploads responses back into the tracking system, without oversight.

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.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

The challenges of economic development and gentrification facing East Austin are nothing new. But they will get some new attention from a group of city council members convened by Mayor Steve Adler.  The group will be focusing on a part of the city some council members are calling the “eastern crescent.”

The exotic, almost alluring term “eastern crescent” was introduced recently into the city council lexicon. Council member Leslie Pool threw it out in a June audit and finance meeting. She was talking to city staff about a public improvement district in East 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.

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.

City of Austin

From the Austin Monitor

While City Council members have almost 300 spots to fill on commissions and boards before current membership expires on July 1, some groups have adjourned their June meetings still uncertain about who will be seated next month.

With Commissioner Reynaldo Moreno absent, the Public Safety Commission last week voted unanimously to cancel its July meeting because members were not assured they would have a majority, or quorum, present.

“I’ve been putting the pressure on the mayor and Council to continue making appointments,” said Boards and Commissions Coordinator Deena Estrada. “There’s a lot of guilty emails going out, or my stomping of feet in front of the mayor’s office. I’ll send an email saying we now have only five boards that are able to meet quorum. … I can handle the guilt trip pretty well.”

Despite the fact that views among City Council members run the gamut as far as implementing a homestead tax exemption, they opted in a 7-4 vote to meet in the middle early Friday morning, approving a 6 percent exemption for this year and expressing an intent to increase it to 20 percent over the course of four years.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Members Greg Casar, Delia Garza and Ora Houston cast the dissenting votes.