Lack of affordable food contributing to obesity on City Council agenda

Austin City Council
Austin City Council (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s a look at some of the top items on city council’s Thursday agenda:

Affordable food access

Approve a resolution directing the city manager to develop recommendations for addressing food access issues and incorporate food access.

This resolution acknowledges Austin “has significant areas designated as food deserts based on the UDSA’s parameters,” meaning urban neighborhoods and towns without ready access to healthy, fresh and affordable food. This is a contributing factor to childhood obesity. The areas experiencing the most food deserts are in southeast, northeast, and central east Austin.

The city manager is in the midst of working toward hiring staff and creating a vision for the city’s Equity Office. The resolution directs him to incorporate food access issues as a component of the new office’s overall mission, calling food access one of the most critical equity issues facing many Austinites.

The resolution states, “The city manager is directed to convene a collaborative working group including representation from the Sustainable Food Policy Board, the Sustainable Food Center, area partners, community stakeholders, and staff from the Economic Development Department, the Health and Human Services Department and the Sustainability Office to develop recommendations regarding improving access to food which shall include consideration of, but not be limited to full service grocery stores, wholesale produce markets, increasing fresh food choices at existing stores, impacts of incorporating educational components into efforts to expand food access, nonprofit and coop models for grocery stores, and expansion of community gardens.”

There is also a push for the city manager to update SNAP enrollment efforts with regional data, and make recommendations on how to increase SNAP enrollment. If council passes the resolution, the city manager will be asked to present preliminary findings no later than June 14, and a final report by August 2.

Plans to assist Austin’s music scene

Approve a resolution directing the city manager to conduct a comprehensive review of the city’s music and creative ecosystem, and return to city council in 90 days with options, such as development changes, financial partnerships and research to address the continued and future success of all aspects of the city’s music and creative ecosystem.

This resolution points to the recently released 2016 Economic Impact of Music study, which shows the collective impact of music and music-related tourism accounted for just over $1.8 billion in annual economic activity. This supports more than 21,000 jobs and produces nearly $40 million in city tax revenue. It states, “All creatives in Austin are facing the same challenges and issues related to affordability, lack of space, permitting, and other related needs, that are impediments to their ability to prosper.”

The resolution calls for a comprehensive framework of strategies and best practices to help Austin achieve its music and creative goals in the short term and long term.

Affordable housing

Approve amendments to the city auditor’s Fiscal Year 2016 Audit Plan to accommodate an affordability review project.

In a 4-0 vote February 24, the Audit and Finance Committee made a motion to recommend council amend the Fiscal Year 2016 Audit plan and postpone two audits to allow necessary time to the Affordability Review project. This is an audit Mayor Adler called for in his State of the City address, to determine that the city is doing effectively and what it can improve upon when it comes to affordability and how affordability is defined.

In a presentation to the committee, the Office of the City Auditor said the first phase of the affordability review would include gathering data and analysis by looking at household expenses at the district level, as well as city initiatives, policies and programs that impact affordability. The second phase would include an evaluation of impact on affordability, evaluating the effectiveness of different city initiatives. The city auditor’s office proposed deferring the Construction Management Process and Mobile Device Security audits to allow enough hours for the affordability audit.

According to the city’s FY 2016 audit plan, the Construction Management Process audit is intended to answer, “Does the city’s construction management model effectively coordinate among multiple departments, efficiently deliver completed projects that meet the needs of the end user, and how does this model compare with similar entities?” The Mobile Device Security audit would examine, “Are mobile devices used by city staff managed to prevent unauthorized access to city systems and protect private information?”

Austin Energy

Approve a resolution directing the city manager to amend the schedule for the Austin Energy rate case.

This resolution directs the City Manager d to amend the Austin Energy rate case schedule to incorporate the following:

  • Give the Independent Consumer Advocate at least two weeks from March 3, 2016 to review all filings, submit a list of issues that should be considered in the rate case, and respond to the Impartial Hearing Examiner’s questions regarding the inclusion of certain issues
  • Begin the substantive hearing before Impartial Hearing Examiner on the Austin Energy-proposed rates no earlier than two months from March 3, 2016
  • Allow for briefing to city council and council deliberation and action on the rate case to take place in late September and October, or later, if necessary

Transportation impact 

Authorize negotiation and execution of a contract with Capitol Market Research for an economic impact study of transportation corridor development areas, in an amount not to exceed $250,000.

Staff notes for this item lay out how the Austin’s Transportation Department has initiated several Corridor Improvement Programs within the city, which voters authorized in the 2012 Bond Program. These programs aim to plan for a corridor’s changing environment, including recommended safety, mobility and quality of life improvements. This includes improving roadways to make them accessible to vehicles, transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

Capitol Market Research (CMR) is contracted to provide an evaluation for each corridor, and an analysis that will look 20 years out at potential tax and economic benefits that could result from corridor improvements. The findings will help the city determine the prioritization of corridor improvements.

The corridors to be analyzed will include:

  • Airport Boulevard ‐ From North Lamar to US 183 (6.5 Miles)
  • Burnet Road ‐ From Koenig Lane to MoPac (5 Miles)
  • North Lamar ‐ From US 183 to IH 35 (6 Miles)
  • FM 969/ East MLK ‐ From US 183 to Webberville (10.9 Miles)
  • East Riverside Drive ‐ From IH 35 to SH‐71 (3.4 Miles)
  • South Lamar Boulevard – From Riverside Drive to Highway 290 (3.3 Miles)
  • Guadalupe Street ‐ From MLK to North 29th Street (1.0 Miles)

For a complete look at the city council agenda, click here. 

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