City Council: Some agenda items postponed for first meeting

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a new leadership with a new agenda. The Austin City Council will host its first official meeting Thursday at 10 a.m. at City Hall in Downtown Austin. Originally, the council’s agenda was set to discuss 53 items. Mayor Steve Adler has said a majority of those items will be postponed and that no major policy discussion or decision will be made just yet.

“This council is engaging in some pretty deep policy conversations at this point in a way that no council has ever done in the City of Austin before, and I think we are going to take advantage of those before we start deciding individual and ad-hoc disputes,” said Adler on Wednesday.

The 10-1 council, which consists of 10 council members representing 10 different districts and Adler, were sworn in on Jan. 6. Since then, the group has been working to restructure its meetings to avoid late night meetings, which have become an issue in the past. Now the council is working on forming 13 committees so that it can work on issues outside of regular council meetings — ultimately cutting down meeting time. Each council member would chair a committee, while three others would be members.

But some council members argue the added workload could be too much to take on. Adler wants to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“Change doesn’t come easy; people get used to the old ways,” said Adler. “So when you come in — as we are as a group — and you’re changing things up, there will be people that will be uncomfortable, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a bad thing.”

Zoning issues and some topics like public hearings and financial decisions will be postponed much to the likes of District 6 Councilman Don Zimmerman. He pulled roughly 10 items from the agenda after questioning the need for high-dollar purchases. He wants to get a better idea of why the group is tackling million dollar deals in the first few weeks in office.

“I was rather surprised to see $70 million of financial approvals on the consent agenda, as if we’re just going to say ‘approved.’ And I said, ‘I think we need more scrutiny on these big-ticket items,'” said Zimmerman. “So we’re struggling to catch up and try  to understand how all this works so we can make informed decisions.”

KXAN looked back at the last council meeting before the start of this new term and found 231 items, compared to the original 53 items listed this year. That same meeting last December went into overtime, finishing up just after 1 a.m.

Also on the agenda, Adler and District 1 Councilwoman Ora Houston sponsored an item that would allow council members to cut part of their salaries and use that money how they see fit, in other areas of their office budgets. That item is expected to be voted on by council members on Jan. 30. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Check out the city’s full agenda.

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