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The Ott Assessment: Council Set to Discuss City Manager's Performance

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

What’s in store for City Manager Marc Ott at his job evaluation this week? And will he even have one?

Under Austin’s form of government, the city council sets policy, and the city manager implements it. Ott was appointed by the council in 2008, replacing longtime city employee Toby Futrell – and in that time, he has received mixed reviews.

The Austin American-Statesman has a long profile of Ott’s tenure at the city. He’s received high marks for implementing a more transparent public budgeting process, and his role in steering Austin’s economic policies while comparable cities have fared worse during the Great Recession.

But Ott has also been criticized for a “hands off” approach, especially when compared to his predecessor Futrell, and his handling of some high-profile incidents – chief among them the city’s stance in the aftermath of the Nathaniel Sanders II police shooting, and the city’s reluctance to release a report that was highly critical of the events leading to Sanders’ death.  (The council ultimately voted to settle a lawsuit with Sanders’ family.)

Ott's annual review was scheduled for council’s August 2 meeting, but was abruptly postponed, leading to speculative chatter among City Hall watchers. Mayor Lee Leffingwell released a statement later that day saying the postponement came via council member Bill Spelman, who would not be able to make the review and asked it be rescheduled.

Ott’s performance review is now posted oncouncil’s August 16 agenda, but with council member Spelman recovering from surgery removing a pancreatic tumor, it’s unlikely he will be in attendance this Thursday.

However, Spelman did share some thoughts on Ott’s performance with the Statesman, saying   the city’s "limited and reactive" approach to Austin’s growth required Ott to share more details regarding “how he proposes to continue to provide high-level services at a reasonable cost."

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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