More news on the standoff between city staff and major Austin land use planning boards – Planning, Zoning and plating, and the Adjustment advice – on the municipal staff’s plan to move their public meetings from the town hall to the new Permits and development Center behind Highland. The meeting I spoke about last week was on Monday evening at City Hall, with the Deputy Director General Rodney Gonzales respond to questions and criticisms from commissioners and the public, mainly on access and security issues. And the responses have been less than satisfactory: Yes, staff are 100% committed to moving all three boards to the PDC. No, they have no directive from the Council to do so, and there is no particular reason for the move. No, the often high attendance at meetings was not a consideration. Mr Gonzales was quite polite, but it would be easy to read this as an active attempt to discourage citizen participation, and perhaps even to avenge some of the harsh criticism his services must have heard at these meetings.
It’s easy to see how appealing this is to the staff: fewer speakers getting in front and taking their time, fewer controversial meetings, no travel time for them … speaker after speaker there is has less public transport (and a long walk from the station), less convenient parking, less security in general and an inability to ban guns in particular, and a much less welcoming overall atmosphere and experience, both for commissioners than for those appearing before them.
The meeting was moderated by the BOA President Jessica cohen (a Pio Renteria person named), who took the last Q&A slot to ask the same basic questions again in different ways: Why take the step? Are you open to reconsideration? – and repeatedly called it “disappointing” that Gonzales’ responses were essentially, “Because I said it, and I made my decision.” “
And that may be the last word. The committees made a formal request to city council that their bylaws be amended to specify that their meetings be held at city hall, and that the change in bylaws would effectively prevail in terms of personnel. But this request will go first to the Audit and finance committee, composed of the mayor Steve adler and Council members Alison alter, leslie pool, Mackenzie kelly, and Kathie toovo (all of which come from the north of the river). Its next meeting is December 15, and it’s on the agenda.
Where to put
a railroad track on the Drag – one of the thorniest issues in Austin’s entire multi-stage transportation plan – will be the subject of the next one Project Connect Community Design Workshop. Members of the Project Connect design team, as well as citizen working groups and other stakeholders, will discuss the “design options, station locations and other important aspects” of the plan on. Wednesday, December 8, in two meetings: in person from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Powers Student Activity Center, 2201 Speedway on the UT campus, and via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Then Thursday at 5:30 p.m., there’s a Zoom on the McKalla Station To Stage Q2, and the following Tuesday, December 14, another design workshop focused on Blue Line Tunnel Center-Ville, planned to cross town under Fourth Street, from Trinity Street to Guadalupe. Sign up for one of them at capmetro.org/get-involved.
Do you produce waste? [RE]verse Pitch is seeking material suppliers for its annual competition to find entrepreneurial ways to reuse “industrial waste, by-products or other waste streams”. Does your company produce any? Apply by December 10 at reversepitch.org/get-involved.
Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful material to nbarbaro at austinchronicle.com.