Austin Monitor

Austin
11:17 am
Thu February 26, 2015

Adler Seeks Public’s Help in Lobbying for More Staff

Credit Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Mayor Steve Adler is trying to boost the chances that his 10 City Council colleagues will vote for a resolution directing the city manager to identify funding options for five new members of the mayor’s staff — at a projected annual cost of $490,645.

Even if Council approves the resolution today, it does not guarantee that his colleagues will vote to spend the money when the answers come back.

Last night, employing a tactic heretofore unseen by the Monitor, Adler sent out an email asking his supporters for help in approving a larger staff for his office. Adler took the unorthodox step of requesting that his supporters email other Council members to promote his plan.

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Austin
11:34 am
Tue February 24, 2015

Professor Lectures Adler on Austin Government

Mayor Steve Adler announced that he would no longer try to use a nonprofit foundation to add up to 15 new members to his office staff, which currently has five. He's pictured here at KUT studios.

From the Austin Monitor:

Terrell Blodgett, professor emeritus at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, has written to Mayor Steve Adler and his City Council colleagues expressing concern about the mayor’s plan to add more staff for his office and lecturing him on the fact that the mayor has no more power than any of his Council colleagues or mayors before him.

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Austin City Council
11:09 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Aleshire Files Criminal Complaint Against Zimmerman

District 6 City Council member Don Zimmerman is accused of wrongly using campaign funds to pay his wife.
KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

District 6 City Council Member Don Zimmerman may be headed back to court, but this time as a defendant in a criminal prosecution.

On Thursday, Aleshire LAW PC attorney Bill Aleshire filed a criminal complaint against Zimmerman with the Travis County Attorney and the Texas Ethics Commission.

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City Hall
11:06 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Council Postpones Salary Debate Until Next Week

Credit Callie Hernandez/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

On Thursday, City Council temporarily backed away from a plan that could have members voting to reduce their own salaries.

Council members voted 11-0 to postpone action on the resolution until their Jan. 29 meeting. The resolution directs the city manager to change the current office budgeting structure to allow Council members to decrease their individual compensation and shift funds within their offices. Mayor Steve Adler explained that the postponement will give Council members the opportunity to take a closer look at the proposition, then address it further at next week’s Tuesday work session.

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Austin
10:24 am
Fri January 16, 2015

City Orders Study on Bag Ban That State May Toss

The city's Zero Waste Advisory Commission will study the effectiveness of the city's bag ban. Governor-elect Greg Abbott believes the ban is a violation of state law.
Credit s-t-e-v-e-n/flickr

From the Austin Monitor:

Amid concerns that state leadership will take steps to limit city ordinances such as Austin’s plastic bag ban, the Zero Waste Advisory Commission has instructed city staff to study the ban in time to send the results to the state legislature.

The commission unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday requesting that the Austin Resource Recovery Department complete a study of the results of the city’s Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance by no later than May 1.

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City Hall
10:09 am
Fri January 9, 2015

New Council Plans To Change Meetings, Committees

Austin's new City Council plans to shake up their committee layout and meeting schedules.
Credit Courtesy of City of Austin

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

Wasting no time, Austin’s newly inaugurated City Council launched into a proposal Thursday to change its meetings and committee structures. The changes, members say, will make for a more efficient, more transparent city government.

For now, the details of the change remain tentative. Council will hold a public hearing Jan. 22 to discuss the change and plan to take up the changes for a vote at the first meeting, set for Jan. 29.

“I’ve been here seven years,” said City Manager Marc Ott. “And I can’t even remember how many times things have gotten to the point of my desk or even to the Council’s agenda where we recognized they had not been fully vetted. So, in other words, we found ourselves dealing with unanswered questions about staffing impact, fiscal impact and other kinds of impacts.”

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Austin Mayoral Race
7:49 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Adler Maintains Lead Over Martinez in New Austin Monitor Mayoral Poll

Poll courtesy The Austin Monitor.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

According to a poll conducted this week among 942 likely Austin voters, mayoral candidate and attorney Steve Adler maintains a commanding lead over his runoff opponent, City Council Member Mike Martinez. When asked who they would be likely to vote for in the Dec. 16 runoff election, 56 percent of respondents said Adler, compared to 39 percent for Martinez. Only 5 percent said they were undecided.

Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina, conducted the poll on Dec. 2 and 3. The poll was commissioned by the Austin Monitor and was made possible through a generous donation by Texas Disposal Systems.

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Austin City Hall
7:12 am
Fri May 23, 2014

City Council Members Concerned About Handling of $231K Employee Overpayment

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Bill Spelman, who both sit on the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee, as well as a local attorney with expertise in employment law, have expressed concern over the city’s handling of an employee who received more than $200,000 in salary overpayments but was only required to repay $6,000 of it.

Cole, chair of the audit committee, told the Austin Monitor, "It is unacceptable for this error to have occurred in 2004 and not be discovered until 2011. The fact that it took two additional years to address the matter adds to my deep frustration upon being made aware of this issue. The employee should be required to repay these public funds to the extent legally pursuable."

An aide in Cole’s office told the Austin Monitor Thursday that she plans to put the matter on next Wednesday’s Audit and Finance Committee agenda.

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Austin
6:17 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Clerical Error Causes City of Austin to Overpay EMS Employee by $200,000

The Austin Monitor reports the overpayment happened because of a clerical error in 2004 – and was not corrected for eight years.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

The City of Austin has overpaid a former Austin/Travis County paramedic by perhaps as much as $200,000 over an eight-year period that began in 2004. Though the problem was first discovered in 2011, it took until 2013 for the city to correct it.

According to a memo from Assistant City Attorney Lee Crawford, the city is legally entitled to “recover the amount of overpaid wages that (the employee) received for the last two years,” as of 2013. Crawford puts that figure at $68,014.55. However, under an agreement between the city and the overpaid employee, the employee was only required to return $6,240.00 of the total.

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Austin Police
8:47 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Audit Finds Problems With How APD Stores, Destroys Old Drug and Weapons Evidence

Austin Police display drugs and guns seized in an arrest. A report from Austin's City Auditor finds trouble with police storage procedure.
Divya Darsi for KUT News

This article is written by KUT's Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

A city audit found that drugs and firearms confiscated by the Austin Police Department are in some cases not adequately protected, with drugs sometimes stored in cardboard boxes outdoors.

In response, APD officials say they are re-evaluating the department’s evidence control policies.

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Austin City Council
8:26 am
Thu February 6, 2014

City’s General Fund Ends Fiscal Year 2013 with $14 Million Surplus

Mayor Lee Leffingwell says a city budget surplus should go to "preserve … and potentially maintain the property tax rate, or even reduce it.”
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

This article is written by KUT's Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily). 

The City of Austin’s General Fund ended fiscal year 2013 with a $14.2 million surplus. That figure amounts to a roughly 1 percent variance from projections made by city staff.

Despite the positive figure, Austin’s Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart told members of the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee Wednesday that management was not planning on coming forward with a mid-year budget adjustment.

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