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City Council Preview: Austin Energy, Pregnancy Centers, PromiseLand

The Austin City Council convenes today, taking up an agenda with 73 items on it. But one familiar face will be absent from the dais: Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who's busy leading a consortium of tech companies across the pond to London, England’s Tech City start-up incubator.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the council from taking up some tough issues in the mayor’s absence. We’ve got a quick preview of some of the topics council will tackle today:

  • Amending Pregnancy Center Language: As we reported earlier this week, dueling resolutions are on tap regarding pregnancy centers. Critics charge the centers imitate family planning clinics, but don’t offer the same medical resources, including abortions. Citing legal challenges to a council resolution requiring disclaimers at the clinics, the Law Department has proposed repealing the resolution; in turn, the original resolution’s sponsor, Bill Spelman, has a new proposal that would amend the original language.

  • New Taxi Fees: Two new fees are being floated for taxi passengers. One sets a flat, $2.50 “peak hour surcharge” in the evening and early morning, the other is a $100 clean-up fee for passengers who trash a cab’s interior.
  • Austin Energy Sparks: Talk about timing. In the wake of continued outcry over Austin Energy’s proposed rate increases, the city-owned electric utility is scheduled for one of their quarterly briefings to council today. The presentation is set for 10:30.
  • An Appeal-ing Proposal?: Council member Laura Morrison is calling for “a comprehensive review of the administrative appeals process for land development decisions” in an item today. The casus belli for Morrison’s proposal appears to be the PromiseLand West church, which is building a 1,000 seat-outdoor amphitheater on its southwest Austin grounds. Many neighbors are concerned about sound and traffic impacts the development will bring. The Austin Chronicle notes “Some city officials are now trying to figure out how such a complex and controversial project made it through a multi-layered review process with virtually no public input.” Hence Morrison’s resolution. “After looking at the appeal process from a more general standpoint, it became clear that we have inconsistencies and potential problems in a lot of different areas," Morrison tells the Chronicle. "From my perspective, it really doesn't make sense to put an outdoor music venue that's going to have multiple and frequent events in the middle of a neighborhood."

City Council meets this morning at 301 W. Second, at 10 a.m. You can watch the meeting live on the city’s Channel 6 website

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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