Tag Archives: City Council

What Everyone Should Know About City Council’s Actions to Keep Austinites Safe and Housed

An Update on Austin’s Homelessness Challenge

There is very constructive, overwhelming community consensus on the urgency of the need to address homelessness in our city. Homelessness advocates, law enforcement officials, local businesses, neighborhoods and city residents are all ready to work toward solutions to all three of the distinct kinds of challenges that homelessness presents, beyond assisting those that need our help:

  • Public Safety threats include things like aggressive panhandling, aggressive approaching, touching, threatening, intimidating, blocking, impeding, and trespassing on someone’s private property.
  • Public Health hazards include things like exposure to unsanitary conditions, drug paraphernalia and human waste.
  • Unhoused Living challenges arise when we are exposed to and directly presented with disruptive mental health or physical conditions that do not constitute public safety threats or public health hazards but nonetheless are difficult or upsetting to confront.

This Thursday, Austin City Council will consider three matters that seek to address these three issues.

The first is a proposed ordinance that maintains all the tools the police department currently has to address any threat to public safety or public health hazard, without criminalizing non-threatening unhoused living challenges. The new ordinance removes the allowance of arresting or ticketing someone who — in an officer’s opinion and judgment — is neither threatening public safety nor presenting a public health hazard. This change will be applied to three provisions of city code:

  • City Code, Section 9-4-11, “Camping in Public Area Prohibited”.
  • City Code, Section 9-4-14, “Sitting or Lying Down…in the Downtown…”
  • City Code, Section 9-4-13, “Solicitation Prohibited” (will be expanded to all non-solicitation, aggressive confrontations)

These proposed changes to city code maintain APD’s ability to deal with threats to public safety and public health hazards, but no longer make it a crime to sit, lie, camp, or solicit in a manner that is not posing such threats or hazards. It is worth noting that city code on solicitation is actually broadened, under this measure, to include any “aggressive confrontation,” whether or not solicitation is involved.

The second matter Council will consider on the subject of homelessness is a proposed resolution which asks the City Manager to give the Council and community better options than now exist to deal with the non-threatening, unhoused living challenges. These could include steps such as identifying places where camping would and would not be allowed and providing a safer place for families that are currently sleeping in their cars along our streets and moving toward more housing (shelters and permanent).

The third anticipated Council action this week will be taking a real step forward by locating a shelter which could provide an additional safe place where people experiencing homelessness can be referred for individual assessment and services to address their particular challenges on the way to more permanent housing. More such capacity will be required, but this is an important next step.

If these measures pass, police will have the tools they need to deal with the health and safety concerns sometimes associated with some of those experiencing homelessness. Additionally, the city will be moving toward more effectively dealing with the non-threatening, unhoused living challenges in our community by providing real solutions rather than the ineffective, inefficient, and morally tenuous criminalization of an already difficult life situation.

The backdrop for all of these updates is the work Council is doing in addition to the items on this week’s agenda. Other efforts to address homelessness include re-scoping the ARCH downtown, moving $8 million of federal funding toward supportive homelessness housing and expanding the convention center to create a $4 million to $10 million dedicated annual funding stream.

We have much work still to do in service of the goal of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. But as Mayor, I’m committed to preserving the coalition of community partners and maintaining a focus on constructive results.

Statesman editorial: Tax swap “makes sense” & “an idea worth exploring”

In an editorial postSSS-Mayor-Steve-Adler-5ed on Feb. 19, 2016, The Austin American-Statesman keyed on a short portion of his State of our City address that could make a big difference in your property tax bill:

“When AISD taxes you a dollar on your tax bill, a big chunk of it leaves and isn’t available to be spent here for services. But if the city taxed you for that same dollar, all your money does stay here. Austin taxpayers could save money or get more for the taxes we pay by having the city and the school district engage in a tax swap.”

The Statesman wrote that the tax swap was “one of the more interesting proposals Austin Mayor Steve Adler cited in his state of the city address” and “an idea worth exploring as the Austin school district is expected to send evermore of its local tax revenue to the state in an arrangement that shortchanges taxpayers and students.”

If done right, a tax swap would present taxpayers with the promise of a tax cut, schools with the possibility of more money, or a combination of both, because it would result in sending less of our school tax dollars to other school districts. Right now, AISD (where 60% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches) sends $181 million in tax revenue our of town in 2015 because of our broken school finance system. This is equal to a quarter of the school districts total Maintenance and Operations tax collections.

Meanwhile, AISD taxes the average homeowner an average of $1,000 a year. People in Austin have a lot to gain from a tax swap, and this could go a long way toward addressing our affordability crisis.

On Feb. 11, 2016, the Council approved Resolution No. 201602011-015 directing the City Manager to explore a tax swap, including the legal issues and a cost-benefit analysis. We’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

Photo credit: Stephen Spillman

Great Cities Do Big Things: The State of our City Roundup

“We are the city of the future, but what future will that be? If we do not do big things now, we will end up with the housing costs of San Francisco and the traffic congestion of Los Angeles.” -Mayor Adler

If you weren’t able to join us at the Topfer Theatre last night for the State of our City address (or watch it live on ATXN) — or if you want to catch up on what people are saying about it — you’re in luck. Consider this page your online library for all of your State of our City needs.

Read all about it after the break.

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NEWS: Mayor Adler declares Local State of Disaster to help flood recovery

Today Mayor Steve Adler declared a Local State of Disaster which remains in effect for seven days until it is ratified and extended by the City Council. An item will appear on the agenda of the special called meeting of Sunday, November 8, 2015 for ratification and extension.

“Due to the extreme amount of rainfall and record flooding that struck the City of Austin on October 30, 2015, the City is facing tremendous physical and economic losses. Tragically, there has been loss of life. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged, and many more residents and families are in need of temporary housing and other individual assistance,” Mayor Adler wrote in a memo to the City Council today. “Likewise, our City departments and public utilities are incurring unanticipated costs as they support our residents and address damages to infrastructure.”

The disaster declaration allows for greater coordination with Travis County’s own disaster declaration to facilitate reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For questions and media requests, please contact Jason Stanford, Communications Director, Office of Mayor Steve Adler, (512) 978-2153 office (512) 619-5756 cell.