Austin City Council

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.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

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.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

That's a Wrap: That does it for Mayor Leffingwell's remarks. At the bottom of this post, you can view a video of the mayor's remarks. And keep reading below for a recap of the mayor's speech. 

Wages for Construction Workers: Speaking about city economic incentives, Leffingwell says he does not support a hard wage floor for construction workers on projects receiving city benefits. "I don’t think we ought to change our economic incentive policy to make it an entry-level position," he says. Instead, he says a living wage floor should count as an additional credit to businesses applying for incentives. He also floats the idea of paying a wage difference with public funds.

City of Austin

Transportation and Public Works officials briefed the Austin City Council today on proposed renovations to Rainey Street, the popular entertainment district plagued with more than its fair share of parking and transportation problems.

Officials said converting Rainey Street to a one-way street could add metered parking spaces, two bike lanes, and increased accessibility for those with disabilities, but also presented another, less drastic, proposal that would keep the street a two-way. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The hottest item at today’s Austin City Council meeting got dispensed with quickly: the controversial proposal from council member Bill Spelman that would have allowed up to four lobbyists to serve on an 11-member board working to rewrite Austin’s land development code.

“I’m not a great politician but I know that to govern a great city you have to listen to everybody,” Spelman said this morning as he withdrew the item from the agenda. “And I think we are not going to be listening to everybody in as good of a way as we should in this transaction. Nevertheless I will succumb to the inevitable and withdraw this item.”

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The Austin City Council could decide today whether to start a pilot program aimed at keeping some hike and bike trails open 24 hours a day.

The proposal by council member Chris Riley has little support from his peers because it comes with the hefty price tag: a little over $3 million a year for extra police patrols. But whether it goes forward or not, the program is making the city think about how it will patrol trails in the future.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

An admittedly wonky but far-reaching undertaking at the City of Austin is getting started – and the question of lobbyists’ roles in what happens next is putting pressure on the Austin City Council.

All development in Austin is governed by city code – zoning, land uses and just about everything conceivable in the built environment. The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan – the recently-passed blueprint for the city’s long-term growth – calls for a revision of the city’s dense, endlessly-amended development code, and in December the council obliged. Late last year, it passed a resolution calling for an 11-member advisory group to craft changes and revisions to the code.

Liang Shi for KUT News

A larger than expected surplus from fiscal year 2012, plus higher sales tax revenues has Austin City Council members discussing which projects should be funded.

That was the talk yesterday at a special mid-year budget session, and with more than $14 million on the table, the possibilities are near endless.  

Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, City of Austin

Austin got a look at the return on its investments Thursday. 

The city currently has 11 active economic incentive agreements in place – deals with companies like Visa and Apple stipulating that as long as a company meets negotiated hiring and spending goals, they’ll receive annual benefits from the city, often in the form of tax breaks.  Total incentives, if honored over the course of their entirety, approach $73 million.

The familiar orange water coolers are poised to return to Austin’s hike and bike trail, after the city council agreed today to waive permitting fees for the businesses that operate the watering stations.

RunTex has been bringing water to Lady Bird Lake since 1990, but the coolers were removed last November after concerns about their security and sanitation. 

Paul Carrozza of RunTex estimates that his store spends $100,000 a year transporting water and ice to the trails. The store spends $3,000 a month in paper cups alone. 

Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

The confetti’s been swept up, the bubbly’s gone flat, and 2013 is getting underway in earnest.

And what better reminder that time marches on than the first Austin City Council meeting of the new year. And clocking in at 99 items, the council has a lot to consider.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

The Austin City Council could take the first step toward another bond package aimed at affordable housing today. The proposal from council members Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman and Chris Riley tells city staff to start preparing for a bond election, although it does not specify a dollar amount.

For almost 10 years, traffic deaths were relatively low in Austin. Then last year they spiked. Now two city council members want a study to look into why so many people died on Austin’s roads in 2012.

Austin City Council Member Laura Morrison is certain that population growth cannot be the reason for so many traffic deaths. At least, not the only reason.  “We got to figure out why,” Morrison says. “That spike and that increase is actually a trend that we are seeing nationwide. So, I suspect there’s something going on much more generally across the nation that our increase might be related to.”

The City of Austin is considering policy changes aimed at reducing gun violence and illegal gun trafficking.

Council member Mike Martinez says "there is a broad national conversation about curbing gun violence," and he thinks the city has a responsibility "to do everything we can do." 

A subcommittee consisting of Martinez, along with fellow council members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley, will meet next Tuesday to consider legal options and to hear opinions from the Mayor's staff and Police Chief Art Acevedo.  

Filipa Rodrigues, Andy Uhler for KUT News

One mayor. Six council members. 10 stories.

While the Austin City Council lacked for an overarching theme in 2012 – nothing like the months-long roil of 2011’s open meetings act or Formula 1 controversies – it faced a decidedly full agenda.

But ironically, 2012 may be remembered more for the change it initiated to future councils that the actions of this one.  With the council safely on hiatus until Jan. 17, 2013, KUT News is taking a look back at the year that was.  

1. Switch to Single-Member Districts

Austin has rarely, if ever, had such an important local election.

The promoters behind Austin’s Formula 1 racetrack may tap a state trust fund for more than F1. The Austin City Council authorized the team at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to act on the city’s behalf in negotiating payments from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund.

The payments would be for four upcoming races, with the first scheduled for this spring. COTA's promotions group just received more than $29 million from the trust fund to help pay for costs associated with putting on November’s F1 event.

The Austin City Council is set to hear a request from Wheatsville Co-op on whether it can sell beer and wine at a new location on South Lamar Boulevard.

A respected local business looking to open a second location, with the backing of neighbors and local organizations: sounds like a slam-dunk, right?

The days go by so fast: Today marks the last Austin City Council meeting of the year. And at 98 items, it’s going out with a bang. Here ‘s what council has stuffed in their stocking:

Don’t Start Your Engines?: An organizing group with the Circuit of the Americas just received more than $29 million from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund to help pay for costs associated with putting on November’s Formula 1 event.

Jessie Wang for KUT News

Austin City Council begrudgingly parted with $15.5 million Thursday to help complete construction of Water Treatment Plant No. 4  in northwest Austin.

The controversial plant was designed to provide the city’s growing population with more drinking water. But it’s been controversial since its proposal as environmental groups opposed its construction. Now many of those activists are saying I told you so.

The Austin City Council unanimously approved a deal that offers the Visa credit card company about $1.5 million to bring almost 800 jobs to the area.

The city’s received some criticism for offering big companies these incentives. A council committee has been talking about adding a provision that would require companies seeking incentives to meet a minimum wage requirement of $11 an hour. While Visa doesn’t have to meet those requirements, yesterday they offered to anyway.