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City Council Preview: Gay Marriage Equality, Incentives for HID Global, More SH 45 Drama

The Austin City Council meets today. Among the items it’s expected to approve: a resolution supporting marriage equality for gay couples, the first such measure from a Texas city.

The city’s draft resolution reads in part:

WHEREAS, all couples in loving and committed relationships should be given the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families through civil marriage; and  WHEREAS, it is the intent of civil rights organizations in the State of Texas including Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (etc…) to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Texas, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN: That we support marriage equality in the State of Texas.

The resolution is expected to pass unanimously; Mayor Lee Leffingwell previously joined dozens of other U.S. mayors in calling for marriage equality.

That said, there are some items on the agenda that could prove more controversial. The council is set to hear public comment on an incentives package with HID Global and potentially approve the deal. In exchange for $920,000 in tax rebates, spread out over 10 years, security product manufacturer HID Global would create 276 jobs by 2015.  

The Austin Chronicle writes “pressure is building for more restrictive ‘hire locally’ standards” for the new jobs. You can read the Chronicle’s council preview here.

And an item from council calls to withdraw plans for controversial State Highway 45 SW from a the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (CAMPO) transportation plan until more accurate traffic estimates are available. The Austin American-Statesman cites both flawed modeling and environmental concerns as being behind the postponement:

Council Member Bill Spelman, a co-sponsor of the Thursday resolution and a CAMPO board member, said that opponents of the road worry that building the road would both damage the Barton Springs aquifer, which is underneath its proposed path, and would do little for traffic. “If the second argument goes away, if we get good, persuasive evidence that this is going to provide significant traffic relief, then we need to go back to that first argument and see if there’s any way we can build it without screwing up the aquifer,” Spelman said.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m., and as always, you can watch online.

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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