With the addition of two new faces, Jimmy Flannigan and Alison Alter, the Austin City Council will tackle old and new objectives such as land development, homelessness and anti-immigration sentiment from the federal level on down.
Here is what the freshmen members plan to bring and what the Council overall wants to focus on.
Democrat Jimmy Flannigan ousted conservative incumbent Don Zimmerman for District 6 in City Council elections in November. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Zimmerman was the most fiscally conservative Council member, fighting for lower taxes and limited government spending. Zimmerman was frequently the dissenting Council member on key votes and has sued the city several times. According to the Statesman, with Zimmerman and Sheri Gallo of District 10 gone, the Council’s conservative voice has shrunk even more. Flannigan said he wants to expand transit routes, promote city growth and reduce property crime in his district. As the first openly gay man elected to Council, Flannigan said he advocates for LBGT rights.
Alison Alter beat Sheri Gallo for District 10 in a runoff in December. Alter and Gallo mainly disagreed on how to approach city growth. Gallo wanted quick expansion while Alter wanted careful planning. The Grove at Shoal Creek and Austin Oaks were two contested areas when it came to respecting the wishes of both developers and neighbors. Alter said she worries developments in the area would increase traffic congestion and not provide enough affordable housing. Alter said she is not against developments, but wants to ensure the city has a solid plan before moving forward.
In November, Austin
voters approved a $720 million mobility bond to fund projects that would increase public transit options and create more pedestrian and bike friendly areas and pathways. On Dec. 15, City Council agreed $28 million of funding would go toward projects such as improvements to Guadalupe Street. Especially along the Drag, Guadalupe will become an activity corridor with added bicycle and pedestrian pathways.
On Dec. 15, Council approved city managers to find emergency funding to cover the cost of immigration lawyers. Adler, Council members and other elected officials vowed to protect undocumented immigrants. Newly-elected Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez promised in her campaign to keep ICE federal agents from deporting undocumented immigrants held in local jails.
Austin Resource for Homelessness is a building which provides shelter, basic needs and services to guide the homeless toward affordable housing opportunities. It also provides health, employment and legal services. According to the online forum, Mayor Steve Adler said property tax revenue collected from high-value property areas could better fund the ARCH.
Austin’s over-30-year-old Land Development Code has been rewritten and the new draft will be presented Jan. 30. The code determines land usage and building placement. The revised code is part of the Imagine Austin initiative, adopted by Council in 2012. Imagine Austin aims to make the city affordable, environmentally-friendly, healthy and interconnected, according to its website. Council members continue to question the appropriate spaces and locations for affordable housing. Community members and stakeholders are involved in the drafting process. The revised code is set to be voted on by Council sometime in 2018, according to the Austin Chronicle.