Austin City Council

Austin City Council
8:45 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Quick Turnaround Expected for Austin Energy Governance Study

Council members hope to review a study of utility governance before voting on whether an independent board should be installed at Austin Energy.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

The Austin City Council has approved a study of public energy utilities governed by an independent board. But the city will have to work quickly.

The item comes as the council looks to create an independent governing board for Austin Energy. The council has traditionally overseen the utility, but that was before Austin Energy’s recent rate increase, which created political pressure that some feel could ultimately deregulate the city-run utility. Now a council majority appears supportive of handing off day-to-day operations.

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Austin City Council
6:20 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Council Delays Vote on Project Duration Ordinance (Update)

At a press conference on Wednesday, Save Our Springs Alliance director Bill Bunch said repealing expirations could harm Austin.
KUT News

Update: The Austin City Council decided to delay their vote Thursday night, citing concerns that they did not have enough information.

City staff will return next week with a sampling of how many properties repealing the Project Duration Ordinance would affect. Mayor Lee Leffingwell was the only council member against the delay last night.

Original Story (March 20, 7:22 p.m.): Permits for building projects may lose their expiration dates, depending on a vote at Thursday’s City Council Meeting.

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Austin City Council
5:22 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

City Council Examines Alley Activation & Parking Overload

Seattle developed this concept art when the city began "activating" its alleyways in 2010.
UW Green Futures Lab/Scan Design Foundation/Gehl Architects

The Austin City Council had parking on its mind today. And now Austin is one step closer to eliminating minimum parking requirements for many downtown businesses, and looking at a program could to lessen the number of cars entering downtown. 

Pilot Parking Program

The council heard a briefing on parking program encouraging businesses to reduce car commuting. The program could begin as soon as April, if the council approves a measure next week.

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City Hall Hustle
5:06 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

City Hall Hustle: Luxury Hotels, Affordable Housing & the Zoning Brawl Over Downtown Density

How (or whether) to capture public benefit from increased zoning density Downtown is consuming the council's attention.
flickr.com/dingatx

The City Council adopted the Downtown Austin Plan in late 2011. With it, the council OK’d what’s called the Downtown Density Bonus Program. It basically says that developers who want to build more densely than the standards allow would have to offer certain community benefits: things like on-site affordable housing or a paying into a fund for affordable housing elsewhere.

But nearly a year and a half later, Austin’s still waiting on specific guidelines for the Density Bonus Program.

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Austin
9:49 am
Wed March 20, 2013

With Austin In the AG’s Sights, Will the City Grandfather Its Building Permits?

Austin may be forced to do away with an ordinance that rescinds buidling permits if progress hasn't been made.
flickr.com/dingatx

There’s an old rule in Austin that the City Council will revisit Thursday.

A 1997 ordinance gives building permits an expiration date of between three and five years, regardless of whether the project has been completed or not. Oftentimes, builders need to re-apply for permits and adhere to any new construction rules. But, a recent opinion by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has moved the ordinance front and center at City Hall because Abbott says the ordinance contradicts state code. 

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Austin City Council
5:37 am
Tue March 19, 2013

How the City Council Decides Which Event Fees to Waive

The Mighty Texas Dog Walk is one event that might get a fee waiver this Thursday.
facebook.com/Ilikeservicedogs

When planning to book a public venue in Austin, keep in mind the city is going to charge a bunch of fees, some are for permits, maintenance and cleanup. Organizers of large and well-attended gatherings have no problem paying those fees. But non-profits sponsoring smaller events sometimes ask the city to waive them.

This week, the city council will vote on five such waivers. With so many of these smaller events taking place, what happens when fees are waived?

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Austin
10:15 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Can the Lowly Alleyway Transform Downtown Austin?

An art installation called “20ft Wide” is planned for an alley on Ninth Street between Congress and Brazos Streeets.
Art Alliance Austin/Creative Action and TBG/Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney

When you think about downtown Austin, do you ever think about the spaces between the buildings?

Probably not, and you're not alone. That’s may be because alleyways – in movies, and sometimes in real life – are usually shady, dirty and even dangerous places. But some local leaders want to bring the city’s alleys back into the light.

In an alley downtown, I met with Meredith Powell and Dan Cheetham. Powell is with the Art Alliance Austin. The alley, she says “was laid out in the original 1839 map by Edwin Waller and it is on Ninth Street between Brazos and Congress.”

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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

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

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

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

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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