Austin City Council

Politics
10:44 am
Sat September 29, 2012

Austin Supports Gay Marriage. So What Happens Next?

Gay rights advocates in Texas say federal action - not the Texas Legislature - is the best hope for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Proponents of gay marriage in Texas scored a symbolic victory this week when Austin City Council became the first in the state to adopt a resolution supporting same-sex marriage. But what does that actually mean for gay rights in a place that – as Gov. Rick Perry claims – is “the most conservative state in America.”

Gay rights activists believe their best hope for legalizing same-sex weddings in Texas will come in the form of a Congressional action or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to declare prohibitions of gay marriage unconstitutional. Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2005 that defines marriage as the “union of one man and one woman.” (Travis County was the only county statewide to vote against it.)

But same-sex advocates see political opportunities in seeking smaller legislative successes. Equality Texas – the gay rights lobby group – has identified two priorities: making it illegal to fire someone because they’re gay, and allowing gay parents to adopt children as a couple.

Right now, state law doesn’t prohibit employers from firing people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay couples who adopt children must do so as a single person, and only one of them can be listed on the birth certificate as the parent.

Read more
Austin
12:47 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

First in Texas: Austin City Council Declares Support for Same Sex Marriage

A same sex couple married in California showed off their wedding rings ahead of this morning's council vote.
Hady Karl Mawajdeh

Today Austin became the first city in Texas to pass a resolution in support of same sex marriage. 

The measure passed the City Council unanimously this morning.

Before the vote, local civil rights groups declared their support for the resolution, which was sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and co-sponsored by Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council member Laura Morrison.

At a press conference, Mayor Pro Tem Cole spoke about the evolution of rights in Texas, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King: “… Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Whatever afflicts once directly also afflicts one indirectly.”

Council member Morrison acknowledged the progress made within the Austin community, when it comes to civil rights, but said there was still a ways to go.  Morrison pointed to practicality when making her point.

Read more
City Council
9:01 am
Thu September 27, 2012

City Council Preview: Gay Marriage Equality, Incentives for HID Global, More SH 45 Drama

A full agenda for the Austin City Council today. It's their first meeting since approving the city budget earlier this month.
flickr.com/atmtx

The Austin City Council meets today. Among the items it’s expected to approve: a resolution supporting marriage equality for gay couples, the first such measure from a Texas city.

The city’s draft resolution reads in part:

WHEREAS, all couples in loving and committed relationships should be given the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families through civil marriage; and 

WHEREAS, it is the intent of civil rights organizations in the State of Texas including Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (etc…) to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Texas, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN:

That we support marriage equality in the State of Texas.

The resolution is expected to pass unanimously; Mayor Lee Leffingwell previously joined dozens of other U.S. mayors in calling for marriage equality.

Read more
City Council
9:38 am
Tue September 25, 2012

City Council Considers Same-Sex Marriage Resolution

Council members will consider a resolution supporting 'marriage equality' in Texas.
flickr.com/weho

The Austin City Council is scheduled to discuss a few hot-button issues at its work session today.

Council members will discuss a resolution that would declare the City Council’s intent to support what the agenda refers to as “marriage equality” or same-sex marriage in the state.

The council will also consider filing a legal document that shows their support for area school districts who have filed school finance lawsuits in Travis County.

Council members will also consider a request to the city manager to seek more information on two types of salamanders that could be placed on the Endangered Species list.

Read more
City Budget
4:29 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Council Passes City Budget, But the Mayor's Not Happy

Mayor Lee Leffingwell voiced his displeasure with the city budget's property tax rate today.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Austin City Council has approved a $3.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year. Coming after hours of discussion, which began at a meeting yesterday, the final vote was six to one. Mayor Lee Leffingwell was the lone vote against the budget.

“My intention is to vote no as a symbol, an an acknowledgment hopefully, that we could have done better,” Mayor Leffingwell said prior to the vote. “I’m not going to let this be a unanimous vote that the entire council approve this budget with a huge, a large spending increase.” Leffingwell surprised his colleagues yesterday by calling for a two percent across the board cut to most departments in the city’s general fund, excluding the public safety departments.  That proposal failed on a similar six to one margin, with only the mayor voting aye.

At the meeting today, council member Bill Spelman said it was too late in the process for revisions like those Leffingwell proposed.

Read more
City Budget
2:53 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

With Across the Board Cut Nixed, Slow Going on City Budget

At today's budget deliberation. Mayor Leffingwell's proposal for a two percent departmental cuts was a non-starter
KUT News

Any hopes for a quick adoption of the City of Austin’s annual city budget went out the window this morning, as a proposal from Mayor Lee Leffingwell for a flat two percent cut to departmental budgets created a heated discussion among City Council members.

Citing the impact of a proposed 2.2 cent increase to property taxes – just short of the maximum increase allowed by state law without a special election – Mayor Leffingwell called for a two percent cut to most of the city’s general fund departments, which would create approximate savings of $4.5 million. A 2.2 cent property tax increase would mean an additional $18 each month in city fees and taxes for the owner of a median-valued home (approximately $186,000).

Leffingwell excluded the city’s public safety departments (police, fire and EMS) from the cuts – departments that are the biggest portion of the general fund.

Read more
City Budget
9:14 am
Mon September 10, 2012

City Council Begins Adoption of $3.1 Billion Budget Today

Council members begin bargaining in earnest over the FY 2012-13 budget today.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The Austin City Council meets this morning to hash out the city’s budget for the next fiscal year. And with competing needs and limited dollars, council members may need three days to agree on the spending.

The city has an overall budget of $3.1 billion – that includes all city services and programs, including Austin Energy and Austin Water. But when it comes to budget adoption, most attention focuses on the general fund – the pot of money that pays for basic city services such as police, fire and EMS, parks, libraries and more. That amount has risen to $742.5 million this year.

General fund spending will likely consume much of council’s attention – council member Kathie Tovo tells KUT News she’s looking closely at funding for youth programs and recreation centers. But the property tax rate that pays for many city services may be on the table too.

Read more
Austin
1:34 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

City, State Considering Incentives Agreement With ID Company

Key-card readers are among the products HID Global produces. The company is in talks to open manufacturing and distribution center in Austin.
hidglobal.com

City officials are mulling another economic incentives agreement with a company eyeing Austin for expansion – this time, California-based HID Global.

The self-described provider of “secure identity” products produces items like key-card readers, RFID tags, ID cards and more. In city documents, HID Global writes that it wants to build a manufacturing and distribution center in Austin. 

The company is offering to create at least 276 full-time jobs over 10 years – 47 before the end of 2014, and 276 by the end of 2015. Positions range from semiconductor and electronic component assembly, printing and film developing, to warehouse and shipping jobs. The average proposed wage is approximately $51,000 a year, but the expected average wage of the lowest paid 10 percent of workers is estimated at $21,000. You can read the proposed economic development agreement.

Read more
City Council
9:51 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Sound Off on City Budget, Property Tax Today

A public hearing on the proposed city budget and property tax rate is happening today.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Austin City Council members will hear from residents today about the city’s budget and the proposed property tax rate.

The proposed tax rate is up approximately 2 cents from last year – making it a little over 50 cents per $100 of taxable property value.

Council members are scheduled to adopt the city’s budget next month, in a series of meetings starting Sept. 10. Today’s public hearings are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. in the council chambers, and as always, you can watch the action online.

Council member Bill Spelman is expected to return today, after a medical absence to remove a tumor from his pancreas.

Read more
AM Update: 8/23/12
8:40 am
Thu August 23, 2012

AM Update: APD Wants New Copter, Removing Downtown Benches, KUT Signal Vote

APD wants to a new helicopter like the one pictured, in part, so they can better respond to emergencies like grass fires.
Eurocopter

Austin Police Want New Helicopter, More Staff

The council is set to discuss purchasing a new helicopter for the Austin Police Department today.

The department says its current fleet is old and in need of maintenance and that a new helicopter would enable officers to more quickly respond to some emergencies.

APD also wants council to approve a bigger budget for the department so it can hire more staff.

Read more
AM Update: 8/21/12
9:07 am
Tue August 21, 2012

AM Update: The Impact of Events on Parks, Smart Meter Opt-Out?, Clemens to Play Ball

April's Austin Food & Wine Fest was "dusty" after wear and tear from events left the grass looking barren.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

What's the Impact of All Those Events at Zilker & Auditorium Shores?

The Austin City Council is scheduled to discuss today a resolution that would direct the City Manager to study the impact of events at Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores.

Last week, council members approved expanding the Austin City Limits Music Festival to two weekends next year. The festival organizer, C3 Presents, promised to pay not only fees for the use of Zilker but also an unspecified sum of money to upgrade Auditorium Shores.

C3 Presents also organizes the Austin Food and Wine Festival at Auditorium Shores. Attendees at this year’s event complained the festival was “dusty” after grass was worn down to dirt from a previous event at the park.

Read more
Bond Election
3:07 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

City Council Approves $385 Million Bond Package

The Austin City Council unanimously approved a $385 million bond package for voters to decide on in November.

The package had not changed any since council’s initial vote on Wednesday, but council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo – who had both previously voted against the proposal on its first two readings – joined their colleagues in blessing the final package.

“I just was optimistic that after a good night’s sleep somebody was going to be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and come up with some miraculous way that we could all agree on shifting some funds  that would make everybody happy,” Morrison said. “But that didn’t happen.” 

Read more
City Council
1:25 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Listen to Mayor Leffingwell's 'Spelman Report'

With Austin City Council member Bill Spelman still off the dais – recovering from surgery to remove a tumor on his pancreas – Mayor Lee Leffingwell paid tribute to council’s resident policy wonk with (what else?) a PowerPoint presentation this morning.

“We fully expect Council Member Bill Spelman to rejoin us soon, but I think it’s important that he know how things are going at City Hall in his absence,” Mayor Leffingwell said at the start of today’s council meeting. “So I’ve asked my staff to do some statistical analysis on how the business of the city is conducted in your absence, Bill.”

The admittedly crude presentation looked at four areas, inspiring the following color commentary from hizzoner:

Read more
Austin
3:30 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

You Can Fight City Hall, but Don’t Mess With the Junior League

It looks like the Junior League's annual fundraiser at the Palmer Events Center may not have to contend with a neighboring concert.
flickr.com/jdhancock

Formula Fest has crashed for the time being. 

Organizers hoped a planned two-day concert would draw 50,000 people to Auditorium Shores in celebration of Austin's inaugural U.S. Grand Prix race in November. In recent weeks, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and additional City Council members had sponsored a resolution to allow the event on Nov. 16-18. 

But a red flag went up today from Austin’s Junior League, a group of more than 2,000 women who dedicate time to charitable causes. Rather than go head-on with the League, City Hall decided to nix the Formula Fest proposal, and pull it from this Thursday's council agenda.

The Junior League’s objection? A conflict with its annual charity event, a popular holiday craft show called A Christmas Affair.  The event has run for 36 straight years, all but one year at the Palmer Events Center, located next to Auditorium Shores.   

Read more
City Council
12:49 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Council Gives Preliminary Approval to Bond Package

Council reached narrow consensus on bond spending by category today.
KUT News

Austin City Council members spent their morning going line by line through the numerous items being considered for inclusion in November’s bond election. And by the end of the meeting, they gave preliminary approval to an outline of the package.

Council members have agreed to stick to a $385 million dollar price tag in order to ensure that taxes will not go up. But they’ve been split on which specific items to include and which template to start from. Two different ones had been suggested – one from the city’s Bond Advisory Task Force (at $400 million) and one from the city manager (at $385 million) – and disagreement over how to proceed resulted in two tie votes yesterday.

This morning, a majority agreed to adopt the city manager’s original proposal but to also include items from the task force proposal. Mayor Lee Leffingwell said that doesn’t mean the task force’s work goes unappreciated.

Read more
City Council
10:19 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Watch the City Council Debate November's Bond Package

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole is leading a discussion on the November bond package this morning.
City of Austin

The Austin City Council was posted to discuss the city budget this morning, but they are also posted to weigh in on items for November's bond election. And after yesterday's split votes regarding the bond package, and a tight Aug. 20 deadline to finalize the items for election, council is using today's meeting to wade back into bond discussions. 

You can watch the council's work on the bond package online on the City of Austin's website

9:11 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Council Takes Up City Budget This Morning

Lead in text: 
The Austin City Council is starting a work session this morning devoted to the city's annual budget. Along with a budget briefing, the council will also set the maximum tax rate it's considering this year, which it is free to go below when the budget is adopted in September. You can read more about City Manager Marc Ott's proposed budget at the link.
A 2.2 cent property tax increase and additional raises to utility rates and city fees means the median Austin homeowner will paying an additional $18 each month in city fees and taxes, as laid out in the proposed city budget for Fiscal Year 2013.
City Council
4:40 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Council Cutting it Close on Bond Election

Council was split over whether or not to use the Bond Development Task Force's recommendations as a starting point for talks.
City of Austin

A dueling set of recommendations and a council member’s medical leave of absence lead to a series of tie votes earlier today regarding November’s bond spending package – meaning the Austin City Council needs to act pronto to set the ballot.

Council member Bill Spelman’s absence was acutely felt at this morning’s work session, as the council split on what should be included in a $385 million bond package the city presents to voters this fall.

A motion supported by council members Sheryl Cole, Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo took the $400 million recommendation from the city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force as the starting point for negotiations. A series of amendments then added additional items to the tally, and subtracted others. 

Read more
City Council
9:02 am
Tue August 14, 2012

Ballot, Bond and Budget: City Council’s Busy Week

These seats won't be empty for long: With November elections, the city budget and regular business to attend to, council has a busy week.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council kicks off another three-fer this week – two work sessions and a full Thursday meeting – that will set the ballot for November’s city charter and bond elections.

Today, the council holds a work session previewing its Thursday meeting. But also on the agenda are several items pertaining to this November’s election. One item would let voters approve terms under which the city could sell or lease portions of Austin Energy properties, like the utility’s stake in the coal-burning Fayette Power Plant. That initiative has already received two affirmative votes, so only one more vote is required to add the measure to the crowded November ballot.

Another item would place a charter amendment on the ballot authorizing the council to create an independent board to oversee city-owned utilities such as Austin Energy. No vote has been taken on the measure yet, and with council member Bill Spelman’s potentially decisive vote absent from the dais, it’s uncertain whether the council is ready to approve the item.

Read more
City Council
3:04 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Council Member Bill Spelman Dealing With Pancreatic Tumor

Council member Spelman at a meeting earlier this year.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Here's a statement from Mayor Lee Leffingwell on his dais mate, Bill Spelman: 

“Bill is a good friend and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as he works through this difficult process. All of us at City Hall will be working closely with Bill to make sure he and his staff have all the support they need during this time. I look forward to having him back on the dais as soon as he is able.”

Original post: Austin City Council Member Bill Spelman will be absent from the dais for weeks as he deals with a pancreatic tumor, according to a statement just released from his office. 

“Just removing the tumor may not be enough to solve the problem,” Spelman says in a statement. “We won't know what kind of follow-up attention I'll need until after surgery.  But the doctors have assured me I can be in the classroom on the first day of the Fall semester, and I expect to get back on the council dais even sooner than that.” 

Read more

Pages