I can't believe it's been three months since my husband and I welcomed our sweet daughter, Juliette, into the world! Being a parent is already the most difficult and the most rewarding thing we have ever done. She has visited the Greenbelt, attended the Zilker Tree lighting, and can't wait to see more of Southwest Austin in the coming months. We are so grateful for all of the well wishes we have received during this time.
While getting used to being a mom, I have been working on several items to bring to Council in the new year to address the growing affordability crisis in our city. I am also considering a few ideas on how my staff and I may better serve you and Southwest Austin community. I will keep everyone posted on what is coming down the pipeline. In the meantime, check out what has been happening at City Hall so far this holiday month.
Update on Search for New City Manager
As many of you know we are in the process of finding a new city manager. This week, the City of Austin’s Human Resources Department (HRD) is requesting Council approval of the staff-selected firm. Former City Manager Marc Ott resigned back in August to take a position with the International City/County Management Association. City Council unanimously voted in September to appoint Elaine Hart as the interim City Manager.
The City Manager position is obviously an important issue to all of us on Council and to the community. My priority is making sure that we get the absolute best candidate pool possible, which means we must have the best search firm. If this requires us to spend a little more to ensure we end up with an outstanding city manager, this will be well worth the investment. Considering the size of our city, the level of compensation, and the divisiveness that has surrounded the City Manager, it is an important and necessary investment to find a leading executive recruiting firm.
I requested that Council restart the interview process and instead of HRD conducting the interviews with the search firm, the full City Council interview the finalists and choose a firm that will best understand our community needs.
Meet our New interim Police Chief
Police Chief of Staff Brian Manley was confirmed last week by council as the new Interim Police Chief. Manley is an Austin native and has served our community for over 25 years. Manley has risen through the ranks of Austin Police Department (APD), starting out as a patrol officer in 1991. Manley’s confirmation comes after the announcement of Art Acevedo accepting a new role as Houston’s Police Chief.
Central Library Seeking More Money
The Library is asking for an additional $5.5 million dollars to complete the new Central downtown Library. Nearly a decade ago voters approved a $90 million dollar bond to construct a central library. This week marks the fifth request for more funding to complete this project. In 2010, council approved an additional 30 million dollars bringing the budget to 120 million dollars.
On top of the already over-budget library, Council approved an extra $1.3 million dollars to the project in June. Yet, the library is coming back and seeking $5.5 million dollars more from council! If the extra $5.5 million is approved, that would make the Central Library $36 million dollars over budget.
The City can not keep recklessly spending our tax dollars. The City must learn to live within a budget and keep our departments accountable. The voters approved 90 million dollars to spend, and that budget should have been respected. Unfortunately council passed the additional funds on a 8-2 vote, with me voting against. I will continue to fight these costs over runs.
50th Anniversary of Zilker Tree Lighting
This year's Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony marked the 50th year that Austin Energy crews transformed Zilker Park’s moonlight tower into the Zilker Holiday Tree. The Austin holiday tradition traces back to December 10, 1976, when the first tree was lit by Mayor Pro Tem Emma Long.
It was my pleasure to assist in the ceremony and presenting of the six winners of the Zilker Holiday Tree Art Contest. To honor the 50th anniversary, young artists from across Austin were asked to submit artwork of trees incorporating the number “50” and the color palette of gold into the piece. Six winners were selected from over 200 entries.
Circle C Dog Park Proposal
As you many know Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) recently revealed its final plan for a proposed fenced-in, off-leash dog area at Circle C Metropolitan Park. This effort began when our neighbors got together and presented a proposal to PARD to establish a new fenced-in, off-leash dog park in Circle C Metropolitan Park. To explore the proposal, PARD held a series of community workshops.
The resulting final project proposal is estimated to cost $500,000, and is categorized as community-initiated. Given budgetary constraints, it is not funded for construction by the City of Austin. Currently, this project is at a standstill until residents can work with the City and nonprofits to pursue funding options.
We are close to making this wonderful vision of a dog park for Austin residents and their furry companions a reality. All we need now are a few enthusiastic volunteers to coordinate with the Parks and Recreation Department as they spearhead both spreading the word and applying for grants and funding. Contact our District 8 Outreach Coordinator, Alice Claiborne, at email@example.com if you’d like to step up into this role.
I am so grateful to the dedicated group of our neighbors who have worked to bring these plans to this point, and to our hardworking PARD staff for creating a project plan that is beautifully designed, environmentally friendly, and inspiring. This next phase will require private citizens to work together to reach a wider audience, and organize a robust fundraising campaign to ensure that the dog park becomes a reality. See below for some of the details of the proposed park, and let us know if you would like to lead this effort!
The proposed 6-acre concept plan includes:
- Double-gated entry as well as an entry sign and welcome gate
- Wash station & Water fountains
- Benches and a Rock play tunnel
- 2 large dog areas, each 2.5 acres & 1 small dog area
- Stabilized granite trails & Fencing
Click here to find out more about the concept plan: http://austintexas.gov/department/circle-c-leash-dog-park-proposal
Transportation User Fee Exemption
Calling all Senior Citizens! Did you know that you can be exempt from paying Transportation User Fee on your utility bill upon turning 65 years old? Austin Energy offers the T.U.F. exemption to customers who are over 65. With the rising cost of living, I know that every dollar counts, and this will help to reduce your utility bill. To qualify for a T.U.F. exemption, simply contact AE Contact Center at (512) 494-9400 and request the exemption.
District Office Hours
Want to meet about a topic that's important to you? My staff is available to meet in the District with you. Contact my office to schedule a time to talk during "District Office Hours." They will meet on a Friday afternoon at a local coffee shop or business. Of course, if that doesn't work for you, my staff is available any time to address your concerns. Call 512-978-2108 or email Alice.Claiborne@austintexas.gov to set up an appointment.