Austin City Council

Photo by Simrat Sharma for KUT News

While City of Austin administrative offices and other municipal facilities will be closed on the national holiday, many recreational areas run by the city will still be open on the Fourth of July.

Here is a list of closures and open facilities.

Screen shot by Mose Buchele for KUT News.

Austinites will have to wait till next week to know the fate of a planned Formula One racetrack in Southeastern Travis County, but its not just Austinites paying attention.  People from around the world are voicing their opinions on the racetrack in online forums, op-eds and emails to City Hall. 

The debate is driving a lot more traffic to the City's TV station as well.

Channel Six, the station that broadcasts city meetings, normally attracts between 300 to 400 viewers to its websites during council meetings. But not on Thursday.

Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News.

Want to load up on the latest Formula One paraphernalia? Race over to Austin City Hall.

F1 baseball caps, water bottles and bumper stickers were distributed today in a public relations blitz ahead of City Council's vote on the race track project. So many were given out that white caps speckled the capacity audience in City Council Chambers -- a dramatic image for City Council members from their seats on the dais.

It was a dramatic morning at Austin City Council. Supporters and opponents of a Formula 1 track being built in southeastern Travis County squared off during public comment period. Substantially more people signed up to speak in support of F1 (246 of them), but opponents (26 people) were just as passionate.

City council could vote today on whether to endorse the track. Such a blessing would put the wheels in motion for $25 million in annual state subsidies. So what is the agreement? We posted it above for you to see for yourself. See a fullscreen version here, or download the .pdf here.

Photo by KUT

Only 3 percent of Austin voters cast ballots in this city council matchup, but tonight, the two candidates in the runoff race for Place 3 will go head-to-head in an hour-long debate at City Hall. Incumbent Randi Shade and challenger Kathie Tovo square off at 6:30 pm.

You don’t even need to hunt for downtown parking to watch it. The entire forum will be streamed live online and broadcast on Time Warner Cable Channel 6.

Photo provided by Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee

Austin City Council members heard a presentation today on Formula One Austin, that asks the city to contribute $4 million per year to a fund that would be managed by the group.  The money would come from additional tax revenues generated by people visiting Austin for F1 events.

Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News.

The $528,400 price tag for a City of Austin runoff election is money worth spending, City Council Member Randi Shade argued in a press conference today.

Shade came in second to challenger Kathie Tovo in Austin's May 14th elections. She got 33 percent of the vote to Tovo's 47 percent.  Because no candidate won a simple majority, the race will go to a runoff unless one candidate bows out. 

In an interview with KUT News, Shade re-affirmed that she had no intention of conceding defeat.  Some political observers say they can't see a way for Shade to overcome her deficit at the polls.

Liang Shi/KUT News

People love to complain about city government, but only about ten percent or less of eligible voters cast ballots in municipal elections. That's partly because they have no idea who the candidates are or what they stand for. Here are the answers to those questions.

After months of delays, Austin City Council finally approved a contract today for the destruction of East Austin's Holly Street Power Plant. The facility has been shuttered since 2007, but KUT got a look inside last year.  Take a look!

Photo by Liang Shi/KUT News

The Austin City Council got its first look at budget projections for the next fiscal year today.

Budget managers told council members that falling property values and sales tax collections mean revenue is not keeping up with the cost of maintaining city services at current levels. The projections showed homeowners could face higher property taxes next year.

Image by KUT News

A total of 11 people have filed for the three Austin city council seats up for election this May.  With the filing period over, the city clerk will draw names tomorrow morning to determine the order that names will appear in on the ballot.

Beth Cortez-Neavel

Austin City Council members will hear from Austinites this afternoon on the Imagine Austin Plan Framework. Imagine Austin is the city's comprehensive roadmap to what Austin's will grow up to look like by 2039. As SXSW crowds swamp Austin this weekend, take note; then imagine five SXSW conferences going on all at one time and you'll get a sense of the 750,000 additional people planners expect Austin to absorb by 2039.

KUT News

Michael “Max” Nofziger, who was a former council member from 1987 to 1996 and a well-known flower salesman, will run for the 2011 City Council election. He will have to unseat incumbent Randi Shade, who is running for re-election.  Shade is also facing challenges from Kris Bailey and Chris Nielsen.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Starting in August, people who park downtown will have to keep plugging the meters until midnight, including on Saturdays. Austin City Council voted 6-to-1 Thursday in favor the new policy.  Council member Laura Morrison was the lone holdout. Meters outside downtown will have their hours extended from 8 am until 6 pm. Currently, they run from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Photo by Paulo Martins / KUT

The City Council has unanimously approved what it calls an improvement to an existing ordinance that  prohibits people from sitting and lying in sidewalks and in front of buildings.

The ordinance will become effective starting on the 1st of May.

Opponents pointed out that the ordinance did not provide exemptions in instances of extreme weather. Richard Troxell, who heads House the Homeless, called it a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Photo by Callie Hernandez/KUT.

By a vote of 6-1, the Austin City Council today approved charging fees for street parking downtown on evenings and weekends.

The vote extended paid meter downtown until midnight weekdays and all day Saturdays.  Parking meters elsewhere in the city will be enforced from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

The extended meter hours will take effect sometime after August.

Photo by Callie Hernandez/KUT.

The Austin Bulldog, a non-profit investigative website, has filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin and members of the City Council, alleging they did not disclose records in compliance with the Texas Public Information Act.

Callie Hernandez for KUT

City officials released thousands of documents Friday under an Open Records Request, including unflattering email exchanges between Mayor Lee Leffingwell and city council members.

The emails expose what goes on behind the scenes and what city council members say and think about city staff members and residents.

Image by KUT News

Former Austin City Council Member Eric Mitchell has died. 

He served just one term on the City Council, from 1994-97.  Bruce Todd was Austin's mayor at the time, and he recalls Council Member Mitchell's forceful style on the dais.

"Sometimes his style was to challenge people coming up to speak to us about one thing or the other, whatever it might be that supported his cause or expressed his interest.  So he was forceful, but that's what you elected officials for," the former mayor told KUT News.

Then try a City Council Work Session!

In what may become a regular feature of Austin city business, the City Council meets today for a pre-council meeting "work session." The sessions, which may precede every Thursday council meeting, allow members to discuss council business in a public forum.

Plastic bags
Image by KUT News

Austin city leaders have been talking about banning plastic bags at stores for a while, but signs for such an ordinance look strong this year. 

“We have a report that we’ve been working on, on the cost impact of plastic bags. That study has been presented to City Hall, we hope to have that in the hands of city council within a couple of weeks,” said Bob Gedert, the City of Austin’s Solid Waste Services director.

That report has not been released to the public yet.

Holly Street Power Plant
Image by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

CST Environmental, a company based in San Leandro, California, is suing the city because it wasn't awarded a bid to demolish a decommissioned power plant in East Austin, according to the Austin Business Journal.

Callie Hernandez / KUT

Austin City Council members are voting on some big items today.

solar panels
Image courtesy SunPower

SunPower Corporation announced today that it would build a new U.S. operations center in Austin. It would bring $10 million in capital investment and create 450 jobs. But the city must first cough up $90,000 per year over ten years in economic incentives.

Cowboys Stadium
Image courtesy Cliff Baise http://www.flickr.com/photos/cliffbaise/

HKS, an architectural firm in Dallas, announced this morning that it will lead the team assembled to build a new Formula One track in Austin. HKS designed and built the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.

WTP4
Image courtesy City of Austin

Not a drop of rain in the sky, but it was a wet day at City hall, with the debate over Water Treatment Plant 4 flooding out other items set for the morning’s agenda. 

With a series of close votes, City Council dedicated $300 million dollars to the completion of Water Treatment Plant 4. It effectively gives the project a final green light.  The votes came after hours of sometimes emotional public comment and council discussion. Water Utility Director Greg Mazaros said it made sense for council to approve the remaining funds all in one go.

Callie Hernandez for KUT

Two first-term Austin City Council members announced they will seek reelection in May 2011. Place 3 council member Randi Shade was first to market with her press release at 2:15 p.m. today. Less than an hour later, at 3:11 p.m., Place 1 council member Chris Riley announced that he too would be seeking reelection.

cyclist
Photo by Katie Hayes for KUT News

Bicycle enthusiasts are reacting with glee to an Austin City Council vote yesterday that approved a deal to build ten miles of bike lanes in Austin.

The deal between the city and the Texas Department of Transportation will see the two split the bill for $1.1 million. TxDOT's share of the cash is coming from the federal government's Transportation Enhancement Program.

Barton Springs Pool
flickr.com/photos/rutlo/

Austin City Council granted a rare privilege today to an 82-year-old Austin woman: a lifetime pass to Barton Springs Pool.

Patty Curtis started swimming at the pool in 1975 when she was 46-years-old.

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