Austin City Council reviews electric rates, rideshare options

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ridesharing Works for Austin’s petition for a transportation network company (TNC) ordinance that does not include a fingerprint background check has enough signatures to go to a public vote. Austin City Council has two options, and less than 10 days now to make a decision. Either accept the ordinance language as is, or call a May election and let voters decide. At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Council has decided to open up a time for public comment to consider what option people would prefer. Council has said it plans to make a decision during its February 11th meeting, after more public input.

Public comment is scheduled for 6:30 Thursday evening. People will have the chance to speak either this week or at next week’s meeting, but cannot speak both times.

Mayor Steve Adler says he wants to make sure the more than 25,000 people who signed the petition for a rideshare ordinance and the rest of voters understand what they would be voting for, if it comes down to that. He said this is not going to be a vote for or against mandatory fingerprint background checks, because he wants to make perfectly clear that the city will not make it mandatory. In fact, he’s proposing a new ordinance to assure that.

After Tuesday’s work session, Adler sent out mass email proposing the idea of an Austin Innovation TNC Ordinance. The new ordinance “would specifically prohibit mandatory fingerprinting and clearly allow incentive programs such as the Thumb’s Up! badge.”

Adler says this would not take anything away from Uber and Lyft drivers who choose not to participate but would still allow Austin to reward rideshare drivers who choose to participate in fingerprinting. The new ordinance would require an election in May, because if Council accepts the ordinance petition language, it could lock the city in to that ordinance, with no amendments of opportunity for an incentive program for two years.

Here’s a look at some of the other items up for discussion:

36. Approve a resolution stating the council’s desired purposes for the council committee system. 

Council Member Greg Casar’s resolution establishes the intent to review the current committee structure, seeking to reduce time and workload burdens for City staff in carrying out and facilitating the committee process, and improving accessibility and transparency of the process for the public.

The resolution states that Council committees should not be the primary vehicle for taking public comment, and the purpose of the committee should be to proactively craft policy on major city-wide issues. Council members have said the committee system is one that does need to be revisited to make sure time is being spent efficiently and effectively.

37. Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to develop a work plan for reviewing and discussing key components of Austin Energy’s electric rate adjustment proposal for Council consideration. 

The resolution states, “a comprehensive understanding of key concepts and assumptions of cost of service analysis is necessary for sound ratemaking,” as Council is committed to maintaining affordability for residents. Council is responsible for setting policy and adopting Austin Energy rates. Keep in mind, prior to 2012, the utility’s base electric rates had stayed the same since 1994. Council had more than 10 work sessions ahead of adopting those new rates.

The resolution directs the City Manager to schedule three, 90-minute work sessions within full Council meetings to review specific topics related to the rate adjustment proposal. Here’s some background on that proposal. 

 

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