Austin City Council

City Council
10:00 am
Thu November 1, 2012

City Council Preview: Cab Permits, Cheer Up Charlies and the Future of East Riverside

The City Hall "stinger" points toward a workmanlike council meeting today.
flickr.com/diorama_sky

The Austin City Council convenes to a relatively small agenda today: a total of 63 items, counting the agenda addendum.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, it’s no Halloween hangover: this meeting’s high profile items cover some well-tread ground. Let’s take a look.

More Taxi Trouble: Items 27 and 28 comprise the third and final reading of additional taxi permits for Lone Star Cab (20 permits) and Austin Cab (10 permits). As KUT News previously reported, the Taxi Drivers Association of Austin is opposing the new permits. They cite a city report stating the since a first round of additional permits were issued this spring, cab drivers are taking home less pay. Still, with Formula 1 on the horizon, the council feels some pressure to increase the number of cabs on Austin roads. It’s that rock-and-a-hard-place situation – balancing cab drivers’ and customer needs – that’s let the permit approval languish, the Austin Chronicle writes in its council preview.

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Austin
8:49 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Austin Taxi Drivers Say There Are Too Many Cabs on the Road

Cab drivers say that even business at the airport has declined with more drivers on the road.
Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin taxi drivers are working more but seeing a decline in income and business. And, as you might imagine, many aren’t happy about that. The Taxi Drivers Association of Austin (TDAA) is even more upset that the trend may be exacerbated if the Austin City Council approves 30 new cab permits on Thursday.

The TDAA says the noticeable decline in business happened after a first round of new cab permits approved by the Austin City Council hit the streets in July. Because, while more taxis on the streets means more options for riders, it means more competition for drivers.

A new report released by the City of Austin’s Transportation Department finds the average cab driver made about one fewer trip in July 2012 than in July 2011. Cab drivers made an average of $461 less this July than last—equivalent to a drop of $2.40 an hour. That’s despite an increase in cab fares but doesn’t take tips into account.

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Austin
5:58 am
Thu October 25, 2012

No Indictments Over Open Meetings Law

City Council deliberations are supposed to happen in public view.
KUT News

Some members of the Austin City Council will avoid prosecution for alleged violations of open meetings laws.

On Wednesday, the Travis County Attorney’s Office said it finished its investigation into a nearly two-year-old complaint that council members deliberated among themselves in ways that may violate government transparency laws.

City Council
5:06 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Council OKs Changes to Short-Term Rental Rules; Lowers Notification Fee to $50

The Austin City Council voted 5-2 to slash the notification fee associated with short-term rental registration.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

City Council waded back into the choppy waters of short-term rental regulation earlier today – and emerged largely unscathed.

By a vote of five to two, council decided to lower the fee for notifying neighbors about a rental property, and directed the city manager to re-evaluate other issues surrounding the rentals.

Owners who want to register their rentals with the city need to pay $476 for licensing and the notification fees. But over half of that – $241 – was just for the city to notify owners of properties within 100 feet about the existence of a rental. Today, council voted to lower that fee to $50.

Many short-term rentals are already rented for the opening weekend of Formula 1 in November – but only a handful are registered with the city.

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City Council
10:02 am
Thu October 18, 2012

City Council Preview: Short-Term Rentals, F1 Briefing and Naming a Waller Creek Winner

It's a full list for members of the Austin City Council today.
Callie Hernandez, KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes this morning. It's tackling a 104-item agenda. Here’s a rundown of the hot topics:

The Return of Short-Term Rentals: After wreaking havoc and sowing division on the council dais mere months ago, short-term rental regulations returns to council today. As KUT News reported earlier this week, council is looking at whether more people would comply with recently-passed regulations if it were easier and less expensive to do so.

Council is looking at two rental-related items – one asking the city manager to look at revamping several areas, and another lowering the cost of neighborly rental notification to a flat $50 – but some council members have concerns. "Responding to the growing pains of getting these registered immediately is just really problematic to me," council member Laura Morrison said earlier this week. "Until we get some feel for how things are working under our belts, otherwise, I can assure you there will be another set that we need to be working on soon."

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The Lead
9:17 am
Thu October 18, 2012

The Lead: Council Open Meetings Settlement, Austin Charter Election, 2013 Lege Preview

Good morning. Let's get to it this breezy, sunny Thursday, with some of KUT's  morning stories. 

​And here's two big overnight stories from Austin:

  • City Leaders Signing Deals To Avoid Charges In Open Meetings Saga (Statesman)

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a lawyer representing Council Member Mike Martinez confirmed to the American-Statesman on Wednesday that they had entered into a “compliance agreement” with prosecutors in the Travis County Attorney’s Office. The deal, which has been offered to other council members as well, caps a two-year inquiry and an embarrassing saga at City Hall. …

Turner and Brian Roark, an attorney representing Leffingwell, declined to publicly release the document Wednesday because they didn’t know if other county members had signed it yet. Travis County Assistant Attorney Mack Martinez declined to comment other than to say, “There has not been a conclusion to our case.”

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City Council
2:07 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Council Considers Changes to Short-Term Rental Rules, Fees (Updated)

This is no game: Rules governing the registration of short-term rental properties return to the City Council this week.
flickr.com/wwworks

Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2:07 p.m.:

The Austin City Council is already considering changes to the rules and fees surrounding the short term rental ordinance that went into effect Oct. 1. As of Friday, the city had issued just 19 licenses. Council wants to know if more people would comply if it were easier and less expensive.

But council member Laura Morrison said in a work session Tuesday morning that it may be too early to make changes at all.

"Responding to the growing pains of getting these registered immediately is just really problematic to me," Morrison says. "Until we get some feel for how things are working under our belts, otherwise, I can assure you there will be another set that we need to be working on soon."

Right now, those applying for a license have to do so in person. They also have to pay a $241 notification fee to send letters to neighbors within 100 feet of the property. The city’s Planning and Development Review Department is recommending that the fee be reduced to $50. That’s because the $241 flat fee is the standard for other city notifications—which require notifying within 500 feet.

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Austin
9:23 am
Fri October 12, 2012

City Holds On to Rainey St. Land Near Cultural Center

Due to council action, the Mexican American Cultural Center won't have to contend with a nearby parking garage.
flickr.com/mirsasha

The Austin City Council voted late last night to remove a plot of land next to the Mexican American Cultural Center from consideration for sale or development. Instead, the City Manager will develop options for using the land for parks and recreation.

MACC officials asked the council not to sell the land for development because they feared it would limit the visibility of the center and impede its plans for future expansion. MACC Advisory Board Chair Juan Oyervides told KUT News earlier this week the board had expressed interest in the land earlier this year, and “were shocked to suddenly see a For Sale sign [on the property].”

The council will discuss by December what will ultimately happen to the land. Council also approved a broader resolution “directing the City Manager to develop a review process for potential real estate sales of City-owned land.”

City Council
10:05 am
Thu October 11, 2012

City Council Preview: Rainey St. Standoff, Urban Rail Funding, F1 Annexation

Plans to sell land next to the Mexican American Cultural Center appear to have been taken off the table.
flickr.com/mirsasha

The Austin City Council is tackling a full agenda today. While no one item looks to have the potential to grind the meeting to a halt, a clutch of smaller controversies have the potential to make this meeting a long one. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

The proposed sale of a plot of land on Rainey Street, next to the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), has likely been taken off the table.

As KUT News reported earlier this week, a private group of investors had offered to buy the parcel and build a parking structure; today, the council was set to consider offers for the land.

The MACC’s board of directors protested that it was never consulted about those plans, which it said would impact the MACC’s view and future plans for the area. 

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Urban Rail
2:26 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Council Member Asks: Are Urban Rail Plans 'Putting the Cart Before the Horse?'

An prototype rail vehicle on display in Austin. City leaders are wrestling with whether to make another rail investment.
Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

The Austin City Council will consider Thursday whether to authorize an agreement with Capital Metro to spend $5 million for urban rail planning. The bulk of the money ($4 million) will come from a federal grant that requires a local match of 20 percent ($1 million).

So why spend such a large sum when previous money hasn’t produced any visible results? That was a question raised by council member Bill Spelman at council’s work session Tuesday. “A lot of people are concerned that we are putting the cart before of the horse,” he said. “We are spending four million dollars when we really haven’t decided what to do”.            

In May, the city released recommended routes for the first two phases of Urban Rail. Robert Spillar is the director of the city’s Transportation Department, and he sees the release of the money as the next step. At Tuesday’s work session he said getting the city’s stamp of approval would allow the Transportation Department to “restart” the alternatives analysis. 

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Austin
8:21 am
Tue October 9, 2012

What's in a Name? How Money Could Change Austin Park Names

Could the names of city parks be for sale? Pease Park was named for the family that donated the land.
KUT News

The Austin City Council is considering changing a city code that relates to the naming or renaming of parks and park facilities this week.

Right now, the code states that parks can only be named after a person or a group that has made 'exceptional contributions' to the park system. In fact, the process is pretty simple: a person submits an application asking for a park facility to named or renamed and, after 90 days, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Board and the city council review all of the suggested names.

The proposed amendment would make it more difficult to change a park name based on community significance. It would require signatures from up to 75 percent of residents in the area of a park or park facility.

The amendment would also add a 'financial contribution component' to the process. No signatures would be required, but name changes could be awarded based on money or land donated to the city.

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Austin
8:33 am
Mon October 1, 2012

New Short-Term Rental Ordinance Takes Effect Today

Short-term rentals, as listed by companies like HomeWay, are subject to new regulation beginning today.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Starting today, Austin residents and property owners who rent out their homes to vacationers will be subject to new licensing requirements

The Austin City Council adopted an ordinance in August requiring anyone who operates a short-term rental.  As defined by the council, the rentals are “houses and residential units rented for periods of 30 days.” The ordinance goes into effect today.

Rental operators will face different applications and licensing requirements depending on whether they occupy the property themselves (a "Type 1" rental) or use it solely as a rental property ("Type 2"). Type 1 operators and/or Type 2 operators in business before June 13, 2011, can begin applying for licenses today. Type 2 operators opening shop after June 13 will be able to apply in January.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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