Austin City Council

Austin City Council
7:09 am
Fri March 8, 2013

National Instruments Gets $1.7 Million to Expand (Update)

National Instruments

Update: The Austin City Council voted 7-0 Thursday night to give National Instruments almost $1.7 million in incentives. In exchange, the company will expand and create at least 1,000 jobs . 

National Instruments representatives spoke at the council meeting Thursday night, outlining the benefits the city would see. But some local citizens were not convinced, claiming it is not fair to give large companies incentives but to not offer them to local citizens. They also claimed the money could be used elsewhere, something Mayor Lee Leffingwell contested:

"The fact is, if we didn't approve this agreement we couldn't spend that money somewhere else because it wouldn't be there," Leffingwell said. "This money comes from that agreement."

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City Hall Hustle
4:58 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

City Hall Hustle: What’s Up With Downtown Parking?

A detail of a city map designating the Central Business District, aka downtown.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Hustle on the perils of parking

In a few days, downtown Austin will be overrun with crowds for South by Southwest – so why is the city practically doing away with downtown parking requirements?

“Many cities are reducing or eliminating their parking requirements as a means of reducing congestion,” argued Chris Riley, the Austin City Council’s resident transportation wonk. Coincidentally, he's the prime proponent of a measure deep-sixing most parking requirements downtown.

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Affordable Housing
1:32 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Sequester Expected to Squeeze Austin's Affordable Housing Programs (Update)

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (R) at a city council work session in 2011. Today, Leffingwell announced some affordable housing programs will see a cut due to federal sequestration.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: You can now read the full letter HUD sent to its grantees around the country, including Austin. 

Original Post (12:05 p.m.): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says the federal spending cuts known as the sequester will have an effect on affordable housing in the city.

Mayor Leffingwell says he was notified of the cuts by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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City Hall Hustle
5:14 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

City Hall Hustle: The Return of Short-Term Rentals

A protest outside City Hall last summer, calling for stricter short-term rental regulation. The council is scheduled to revisit the topic this week.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Short-term rentals rears its head again

The Austin City Council convenes this Thursday to a 78-item agenda. And one item – on first glance – might strike fear into the heart of even the most hardened council watcher: short-term rentals.

Or maybe not this time. In contrast to the council’s hard-fought first-round of rental regulation, the sponsors of Item 40 – the rental resolution – see it as more of a clean-up item. With the number of properties participating in the city’s rental registry painfully low, the measure creates new classes of rentals – like renting one room, instead of an entire dwelling – and creating fines for unlicensed rentals – up to $2,000 a day.

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Transportation
3:32 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Austin Could Start Impounding 'Gypsy Cabs' - Including HeyRide Drivers' Cars

Looking to offer rides over South by Southwest? If drivers aren't licensed with the city, they could have their cars impounded.
flickr.com/atmtx

Police may begin impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers who offer rides for money – and that includes drivers using online apps like SideCar.

Item 30 on this week’s Austin City Council agenda would allow police to impound “a ground transportation service vehicle operated in violation” of the city code governing transportation franchise agreements, like the ones in place with Austin taxi companies.

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City Hall Hustle
4:16 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

City Hall Hustle: What’s Next for the Council and Austin Energy?

An Austin Energy truck makes repairs in the West Campus. The city council is debating whether an independent board should oversee the utility.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

The Hustle on all things Austin Energy

It isn’t everyday that citizens stay late into the evening to tell the Austin City Council what a good job it’s doing. But that was the case last week.

“You’ve guys have won awards – dozens and dozens and dozens of awards – for being the most innovative, green, efficient, well-managed, best customer satisfaction utility in the state of Texas,” environmentalist Tom “Smitty” Smith with Public Citizen told the council. “And you want to change this?”

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Austin
12:05 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Strama, Mulling Mayoral Bid, Won't Seek Reelection

Incumbent Democratic State Rep. from Austin, Mark Strama.
Spencer Selvidge via Texas Tribune

State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, is considering a run for mayor of Austin and won’t seek another term in the Texas House, he said Wednesday.

“I genuinely have not decided whether to run for mayor — I can think of as many reasons not to do it as to do it,” he said. “Regardless, I have decided not to run for another term in the House. All good things must come to an end, and on a separate note, so must my time in the Texas House.”

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Geographic Representation
2:13 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

First Step in Austin's Redistricting Process: A Diverse Commission

A detail of a map released by the City Auditor's office, plotting where redistricrting commission applicants live.
KUT News

This summer, Austin will begin drawing its first city council districts.

The long slog towards geographic representation has been an uphill one: a fight to get the measure on the ballot, a hard-fought campaign and, once the measure was approved, fear an all-volunteer committee to draw council districts would fail to attract diverse and representative candidates. But with the help of the city auditor and community groups, the list of applicants has swelled from fewer than a hundred nearly two weeks ago to just under 250 at last count on Feb. 14.

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Austin Energy
8:29 am
Fri February 15, 2013

At Council: Independent Austin Energy Board Gets First OK

Right now, Austin is the largest city in the U.S. where the city council governs a municipal energy utility.

Despite protests from some clean energy and consumer advocates, the Austin City Council voted unanimously last night to take to the first step towards creating a board of legal and energy experts to oversee Austin Energy. 

The resolution directs the city manager to develop the ordinance that will outline the dynamics of this board by March 21. While the board will oversee Austin Energy, city council will retain final approval of electric rates, transactions of more than $100 million and any board nominees.

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Austin
3:08 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

City Council Update: Austin Energy Hearing; Vets Board, Music Venue Program Approved

flickr.com/ennuiislife

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.

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The Lead
9:09 am
Thu February 14, 2013

The Lead: Vote on Independent Austin Energy Board, SXSW Film Wristbands on Sale

Some wonder if city council should be tasked with managing a utility the size of Austin Energy
Joy Diaz, KUT News

Happy Valentine's Day! The National Weather Service says Austin is looking to stay sunny with high 60s in this afternoon. 

Lead Story: Austin City Council votes today on a measure that could create an independent board to oversee Austin Energy. The resolution is sponsored by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Bill Spelman. 

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Austin
5:07 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Can an Independent Crime Lab Ease Austin's Testing Backlog?

Austin's crime lab is running behind in testing. This week, police chief Art Acevedo was asked why.
City of Austin

The backlog in forensic DNA evidence in Austin is so serious that local judges and the Travis County district attorney called the mayor and City Council members to discuss the situation. Then they followed up with letters.

On Tuesday, the council agreed to fund three new jobs for forensic chemists. But the embarrassment prompted council member Laura Morrison to promote a new idea in dealing with the city’s forensic needs.

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City Hall Hustle
5:31 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

City Hall Hustle: The Middle-Year Itch

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council Member Kathie Tovo were at odds on what to do with a $14 million mid-year surplus.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
  • The Hustle on council's surplus spending, Austin Energy and more

What’s $14 million between friends? Grounds for argument, if the Austin City Council is any indication.

On Tuesday the council wrangled with how to spend a $14 million mid-year budget surplus, the result of higher than expected sales tax and development revenues. The day’s big winner? Affordable housing initiatives, which were earmarked for $10 million. 

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Austin Energy
3:49 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Should an Independent Board Oversee Austin Energy?

Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition, at a press confernece in front of City Hall.
Bobby Blanchard KUT News

Austin Energy’s power structure is up in the air.

Tomorrow, the Austin City Council will vote on a resolution that would relinquish much of its control of the city-owned utility to an appointed board of legal and energy experts. Currently, the city council oversees Austin Energy. But following the recommendation of the Electric Utility Commission – not to mention the council’s protracted and politically-fraught redesign of electric rates – Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council Member Bill Spelman are supporting a resolution that would change that.

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Austin City Council
5:16 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

City Council Allocates Austin's $14 Million Budget Surplus (Update)

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole offers her thoughts on the budget to her colleagues.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

Update: In a protracted and somewhat testy meeting, the Austin City Council budgeted and allocated the sum of the city’s $14 million budget surplus.

The day’s big winner? Affordable housing initiatives, which were earmarked for $10 million. Wildfire fuel mitigation received a little over $1 million, the Child Inc. after-school program received $557,000, and a pilot program for 24 hour patrol of the Hike & Bike Trail received $350,000. You can view a complete list of the council’s actions.

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Austin City Council
3:02 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Nothing But Net Revenues: Here's Your City Council Budget Brackets

Mayor Lee Leffingwell thinks funding for some initiatives is a slam dunk.
Flickr user mvongrue, http://bit.ly/12nQ9Ck; Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

We’re still about a month away from March Madness, but Austin City Council members are already filling out their brackets.

The council is deliberating what to do with a $14 million budget surplus at mid-fiscal year – the result of higher-than-expected sales tax and development revenues. The council held one work session delving into the topic already; at its work session tomorrow, the council’s posted to take action spending all or part of the available surplus.

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Business
8:03 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Seeing Fewer Cars on the Road Today? Here's Why

The City of Austin is encouraging employees to work from home today.
flickr.com/_fabio

If you’re going into work today, you must not have gotten the memo.

Today, many City of Austin employees and employees from some local business are partaking in Austin’s first “Work from Home Day." It's a citywide initiative to reduce the environmental impact of thousands of people driving to work.

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Austin
5:33 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Diversity Lacking Among Austin's District Commission Applicants

The next Austin City Council will be chosen by district.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Austin’s city auditor is practically begging more people to apply to be on the board that will draw the first geographic districts for the City Council. So far, fewer than 100 have applied, and they are overwhelmingly white and male.

It’s not the kind of wide participation proponents of the charter amendment that created district representation had in mind. But it’s similar to what happened in San Diego, a city that was just redistricted in 2011.

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Austin
12:32 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Austin Businesses Prep for Bag Ban

Don't be turned inside out by Austin's single-use bag ordinance, going into effect March 1.
flickr.com/slice

Austin’s ban on some single-use bags goes into effect in just over three weeks. Today, area businesses will get training on the new bag rules.

The city is holding two training sessions for restaurants, grocery stores and retail stores: one this morning, and another one at 6 p.m.

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City Hall Hustle
4:11 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

City Hall Hustle: The State of the City, Now and Next Election

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, delivering his 2013 State of the City address at a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon this week.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Hustle on the "State of the City"

There’s no City Council meeting this week: Instead, City Hall watchers’ eyes were on Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s 2013 State of the City address, delivered at a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon on Tuesday.

Owing in part to Austin’s good fortunes, the mayor’s speech is traditionally a rosy affair, full of economic achievements. And that was the case this time:  “Austin, Texas is today, I think without question, one of the most widely admired and most emulated cities in America,” said Leffingwell in one of the speech’s many paeans to the city.

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