Austin City Council

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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Austin City Council
9:35 am
Tue January 6, 2015

LISTEN: What Do Austinites Want to See From the New City Council?

New council, new dais: the Austin City Council dais was revamped to accommodate the new 10-member council. But what do Austinites want to see from the 10-1 council?
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Tonight, the new Austin City Council gets sworn in a ceremony at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Each of the ten council members will be representing one of the city's 10 geographic districts at the dais, with the mayor representing the city as a whole.

With the new council heading in, we wanted to know what Austinites would like to see from their new representatives at City Hall. So, we went knocking on doors and asking pedestrians. Below, you can listen to some of their responses.

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Austin City Council
10:47 am
Fri December 12, 2014

That's a Wrap: Curtain Call for Austin's At-Large Council

The Austin City Council gavelled in for the last time yesterday, marking the end of Austin's at-large city government ahead of the new geographically representative council.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The final meeting of Austin's at-large city council went much like their previous ones over the years: late. It all started out cheerily enough, at 10 am Thursday morning, with a prayer. But that moment of reflection quickly faded away as the council got into the grueling business of cleaning out their policy inbox. It was the longest agenda in council history, and the council didn't gavel out until the early hours of Friday morning.

It was, true to council meetings under the leadership of outgoing Mayor Lee Leffingwell, a very long day, dealing with everything from the height of signs at a strip mall to a request to re-zone a modest house into a modest office. But it wasn't all small potatoes.

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2014 City Council Runoff Elections
12:30 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

DeWayne Lofton & Ora Houston Push for African-American Engagement in D1 Runoff

Early voting in local runoff elections starts today. One of the seven Austin City Council races that will be decided in this election is in District 1, also known as Austin’s African-American Opportunity District.

Originally, nine people ran for this seat, but now the field’s been whittled down two contenders: Dwayne Lofton and Ora Houston.

Today, KUT will begin a series examining each Austin City Council runoff campaign as candidates try to get their supporters back to the polls.

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Austin
1:39 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Austin City Council Seeks to Further Limit City's Role in Secure Communities Program

Speakers at Thursday's Austin City Council meeting emphasized that deportations hurt families.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Austin City Council is taking steps to limit its role in Federal Secure Communities, a program that relies on partnerships among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to deport undocumented immigrants. The program has been criticized for detaining and deporting individuals charged with misdemeanors, rather than serious crimes.

On Thursday night, the council voted unanimously to instruct city staff to make amendments to a proposed interlocal agreement with Travis County. The new language would require the Travis County Sheriff's Office to only honor detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when there are judge-issued arrest warrants or probably cause of crime.

The amendments, proposed by Council Member Mike Martinez, were intended to “either minimize the impact of Secure Communities on Austin families, or increase transparency around the program” and its impact.

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Austin
8:56 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Austin City Council Returns to Renovated Chambers Today

The new Austin City Council chamber opens today and features an expanded dais and updgraded audio-video equipment.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Austin City Council returns to City Hall today with a brand new council dais ahead of the city's new 11-member council.

The $1.7 million renovation started in early July and was slated to complete construction in last month, and includes audio-visual upgrades and the building out of four new offices to the executive suites on City Hall’s second floor. Construction on those offices is set to be done by Thanksgiving.

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Texas Elections 2014
10:19 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Election Results Roundup: Final Numbers From Texas and Austin Races

Governor-elect Greg Abbott celebrates at the ACL Live Moody Theater on Tuesday night with his fellow Republicans. They swept statewide offices on Election Day.
Mengwen Cao/KUT

Election Day totals are in.

Republicans swept the statewide elections, with Greg Abbott winning the gubernatorial race and Dan Patrick besting San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor in the top two races.

Citywide races weren't so clear-cut. There will be nine run-offs in races for Austin City Council and for Mayor of Austin. Council Member Mike Martinez trails Austin attorney Steve Adler 29.63 percent to his nearly 37 percent. Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen were the only two Austin City Council candidates to win their districts with more than 50 percent of the vote in Districts 2 and 5, respectively. The rest of the races will be decided in run-off elections in December. 

Additionally, three Austin School Board elections went to run-offs; Sarah Eckhardt became the first female Travis County Judge; and Texas passed a statewide road improvement bond.

While Austinites couldn't forge consensus on council candidates, they did vote down by a wide margin a billion-dollar proposition to build a light rail system and accompanying road improvements, with 57 percent of Austinites voting against and nearly 43 percent voting for it.

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Austin's 10-1 Elections
6:42 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Final Totals: Most Austin City Council Races Headed to Run-Offs

Mike Martinez at the Scoot-Inn celebrating his campaign.
Joy Diaz

Updated throughout with Final Totals.

The race to be Austin's next mayor is not over yet. It's headed to a Dec. 16 run-off election because neither of the top two vote-getters received more than 50 percent of the total. Just two city council members have been elected – the top two candidates from the other districts will also head to the run-off.

A total of 78 candidates campaigned in the city’s first election under the 10-1 system of geographic representation.

Mayor of Austin: Steve Adler came out on top in the race for mayor with 36.76 percent. Mike Martinez garnered 29.63 percent of the vote. The run-off election is Dec. 16.

District 1: Ora Houston was just short of the votes needed to win District 1 outright. She received 49.12 percent of the vote. DeWayne Lofton came in second with 14.41 percent of the vote. This race will head to a run-off.

District 2: Delia Garza won District 2 with 65.76 percent of the vote.

District 3: Susana Almanza led the race with 20.99 percent of the vote. She will face her brother, Sabino "Pio" Renteria, in a  run-off. Renteria earned 18.80 percent of the vote.

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2014 Elections
9:28 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Where to Vote in Travis County This Election Day

It's Election Day.

Voters in Travis County can vote at any polling place -- not just their precinct location. This map from the Travis County Clerk shows all voting locations in Travis County. 

Transportation
7:56 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Austin's Rail and Roads Bond: An Explainer to End All Explainers

A map of the proposed starter light rail from East Riverside to Highland.
Credit Project Connect

Update, Nov. 5: Austin voters decided against the light rail and road improvements proposal, commonly known as Austin's 'Prop 1.' The final tally of votes had the proposal losing by a wide margin, with 57 percent of voters saying "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." That's a 14-point loss for the light rail and roads proposal. 

Original story, Nov. 4: It's the biggest debt proposal in Austin history, and it comes to a billion dollars in all: $600 million of it for a starter light rail line, with $400 million for improvements to state roads.

There's a lot to unpack here, and plenty of debate on the merits of this transportation proposal. So here it is, the (hopefully) last explainer you'll need this election for Austin's rail and roads proposition, featuring our reporting over the many months (and years) leading up to today's decision. 

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Austin
6:00 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Amid Unprecedented Number of City Candidates in Austin, You Only Need to Vote for Two

If you've felt overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of candidates running this political season, fear not.

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2014 Elections
12:22 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Lack of Early Voting Locations in Dove Springs Concerns Residents

Credit Photo by KUT News

Isabel Rios is standing outside the Fiesta Supermarket on Stassney Lane, approaching shoppers as they walk toward the store. It's the only early voting location near Dove Springs.

"Hola!" she says, walking toward a couple shoppers. "Hello. Votan? Votan, señoras?” 

Rios is stumping for District 2 city council candidate Edward Reyes at Fiesta, the closest early voting location to the Dove Springs neighborhood. She and Reyes say their job has turned from campaigning to encouraging people to vote at all. 

“Just talking and encouraging people to vote," Rios says. "Trying to engage people as we can.”

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Austin
12:09 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

District 4 Council Candidate Laura Pressley's Views Include 9/11 Conspiracy

"Something was planted in the buildings," Pressley said in June 2012.
Credit pressleyforaustin.com

Austin City Council District 4 Candidate Laura Pressley has come under scrutiny for some of her views, including a 'Fluoride Free' campaign for the city's drinking water and claims that electricity smart meters cause her legs to twitch.

These and several other views of Pressley's were cataloged this week by the Austin Chronicle. And there's another wrinkle to the candidate's perspectives: A newly-discovered recording shows that Pressley also claims that the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were actually a controlled demolition. 

Pressley made her views known at an event two years ago at the alternative bookstore Brave New Books titled '9/11 Debate: How Strong is the Evidence of a Larger Conspiracy?' Pressley jumped in during a question and answer session after the panel had concluded and attacked panelist Daniel Krawisz for not knowing about a "study" that linked traces of explosives found at the site of the destruction to explosives used by the U.S. military.

You can listen to the full exchange here:


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2014 Elections
2:24 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Could a New, Rail-Averse City Council Derail Prop 1?

A new proposal to build a light rail line in Austin isn't well-liked among City Council candidates.
Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

Austin voters are facing two major decisions this November.

First, Austinites will elect a new city council from brand new geographic districts, and voters will also decide whether to borrow $600 million to build a light rail line.

But, with so many City Hall hopefuls running on Prop 1-bashing stump speeches, what happens if voters approve the measure, and the next council has to implement policy they’ve sworn against?

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2014 Elections
11:19 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Listen: The Ballot Boxing District 4 Forum

Candidates gathered at Marchesa Hall on Sept. 17 for KUT's District 4 Ballot Boxing City Council candidate forum.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The Ballot Boxing series continued last night with the Austin City Council candidate forum for District 4 in North Austin. Seven of the eight candidates gathered at the Marchesa Hall with moderators Michael Kanin of the Austin Monitor and Regina Rodriguez of Univision 62.

You can view a photo gallery above and listen to the full audio of the forum below.

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City Council
9:58 am
Wed September 10, 2014

City Council Adopts $3.5 Billion 2015 Budget

The Austin City Council Approved a $3.5 billion budget for 2015 yesterday, lowering the tax rate to 48.09 cents per $100 of taxable valuation.
Credit Austin Monitor

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

City Council adopted the Fiscal Year 2015 budget and tax rate Tuesday, despite Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s dissent.

Council members voted in favor of an operating budget with an $854 million general fund after approving a set of amendments this week that totaled $3.4 million. They also increased combined enterprise and internal service fund spending by $1.2 million, and critical one-time expenditure fund spending by $3.3 million.

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2014 Elections
2:58 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Are Council Candidates' Packed Schedules Distancing Them from Voters' Voices?

Seventy-Eight Candidates are vying for a spot in City Hall this November, but some say they may lose sight of their constituents' needs.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Labor Day typically marks the homestretch of campaigns, both locally and statewide.

In Austin, 72 candidates across 10 districts, in addition to six mayoral candidates, should expect to have their schedules packed with forums, campaign appearances, stump speeches and fundraisers. But, amid all that hustle and bustle, will candidates get to know their districts and hear their voters before the Election Day?

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