Austin City Council

Austin City Council
9:00 am
Wed July 29, 2015

Zimmerman Suit Could Undo Campaign Finance Law

Council Member Don Zimmerman has filed a federal suit against the City of Austin alleging its campaign finance rules are in violation of the First Amendment.
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.

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Austin
2:03 pm
Mon July 27, 2015

Council Plans Improvements for Austin's 'Eastern Crescent'

A city council group plans to tackle development and economic issues in what they're calling the city's 'Eastern Crescent' region.
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.

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Austin City Council
12:07 pm
Thu July 16, 2015

Adler, Tovo Still Have Heavy Debt to Themselves

Mayor Steve Adler at the Ballot Boxing mayoral forum in October of 2014.
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.

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Austin
10:38 am
Wed June 24, 2015

New Council Introduces Era of More Meetings

In the first few months of 2014, Council members spent about 34.3 hours in committee meetings, and this Council has spent 108.15 hours so far.
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.

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Austin City Council
8:05 am
Tue June 9, 2015

Many Boards and Commissions Seats Still Vacant

The Austin City Council still has 300 spots to fill in its commissions and boards before July 1.
Credit 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.”

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Austin City Council
10:56 am
Fri June 5, 2015

Council Adopts 6 Percent Homestead Exemption

Last night, the Austin City Council passed a six percent homestead tax exemption on a vote of 7-4.
flickr.com/gjmj

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.

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Austin City Council
8:22 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Council May Challenge 'Undervalued' Appraisals

The Austin City Council may file a petition with the state to have commercial properties downtown reappraised.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From the Austin Monitor:

Following the release of a report stating that Austin commercial property in Travis County is “significantly undervalued,” City Council is considering an appraisal challenge that could reduce the burden on residential property taxpayers.

Council discussed the potential move at a Tuesday work session, during which Budget Office and Law Department staff said the city would have to file a petition with the state’s Appraisal Review Board by June 1 in order to move forward this year.

If the independent board were to rule in favor of the city, the Travis Central Appraisal District would have to reappraise the Austin commercial properties for which it is responsible, potentially increasing their valuation.

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Austin
6:08 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Assistant City Manager on Paid Leave, Following Controversial Training Session

Credit KUT News

From our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor:

The Austin Monitor has learned that Austin City Manager Marc Ott has placed Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes on paid administrative leave. The move comes after news broke that Snipes had organized a controversial training designed to help staff cope with a female-majority City Council.

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Austin
1:16 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

City Officials React to 'How to Work with Women' Training Session

A screenshot of Jonathan Allen's now-controversial presentation to city staffers.
Credit City of Austin

Austin city officials gathered for a press conference today to respond publicly to news, first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, about a training that city staff attended in March on how to work and interact with women. The training session, called "The Changing Dynamics in Governance: Women Leading in Local Government," apparently attempted to address "techniques" for working with the city's new majority-female city council.

City staffers attended the session, led by Jonathan Allen, now-former City Manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, in which he taught that "if you attempt to use the same communication techniques, management techniques, that you use or attempted to use in a predominantly male environment, you will be making a serious error in your professional development. Because they don't process things in the same way."

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Austin
3:26 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Update: Immigrant Affairs Commission Appointee Steps Down

Rebecca Forest speaks at a 2011 anti-immigration rally.
Screenshot from Youtube.

Update Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 3:30 p.m. Council member Don Zimmerman confirmed that Rebecca Forest has stepped down from her appointment to the Immigrant Affairs Commission.

Of Forest's remarks, made at the 2011 rally (see the youtube video below), Zimmerman said, "I don't judge Rebecca Forest by a clumsy remark. I judge her based on ten years of knowing her, and she's not a bigoted person."

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Austin City Council
11:39 am
Tue April 14, 2015

Adler's First State of the City Breaks With the Past in More Ways Than One

Mayor Steve Adler delivered his first State of the City address last night.
Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

It's been 100 days since the new Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler took office, and last night Adler delivered his first State of the City address.

It was a packed and very diverse event — with nearly a thousand in attendance — which was a change of pace from the typically subdued addresses of the past.

While the event was free and open to the public, it wasn't free for the Mayor. As he told reporters afterwards, he and his wife paid to rent AISD's Performing Arts Center for the occasion. While he didn't say how much it cost, he did say he also footed the bill for a set from Austin musician Max Frost, who performed "White Lies," perhaps a curious choice for a political event.

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Austin
10:20 am
Thu April 9, 2015

Austin Commission Votes to Ban Use of 'Painful Devices' on Circus Animals

Nathan King/flickr

From the Austin Monitor: Before the Austin Animal Advisory Commission endorsed a proposed ordinance Wednesday banning the use of painful devices on circus animals, commissioners deliberated how the city should define a circus animal.

Members said the inclusion of lions, tigers and bears, plus other usual circus animals, was certainly right. However, Commissioner Babette Ellis worried that including horses and dogs might affect those animals traveling to the city for non-circus events, such as the upcoming Austin Kennel Club Dog Show.

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Austin City Council
10:00 am
Fri April 3, 2015

Council Votes for Extra Staff Through September

Mayor Steve Adler's proposal to expand council staff last night passed last night on a vote of 9-2.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Following weeks of deliberation, the mayor and City Council offices are receiving a boost in staffing — at least for the next few months.

Council voted 9-2 Thursday to approve a resolution that will effectively add three full-time staff members to Mayor Steve Adler’s office and one full-time staff member to each Council office for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 1. This will raise the number of staff members in Adler’s office from five to eight, and in each Council office from three to four.

Council Members Delia Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo cast the dissenting votes.

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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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