‘Downtown Puzzle’, sick days policy and juvenile curfew on Council agenda


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s a quick rundown of the items topping Thursday’s Austin City Council agenda:

Adopt the Visit Austin (Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau) Marking Plan and Proposed Budget

Council is scheduled to approve Visit Austin’s nearly $15 million budget. All but $2 million comes from the city’s hotel occupancy tax — the money we get from visitors who stay in Austin.  When council passed the city budget two weeks ago, Visit Austin learned $2 million would be cut from its budget. Thursday is about approving how the remaining money is spent.

Downtown Puzzle

This item directs the city manager to implement the “Downtown Puzzle” plan by bringing the tools to make it happen to council. As KXAN has reported, it would create a downtown TIF (tax increment finance zone) that could dedicate $30 million in future property taxes to pay for homes for about a quarter of Austin’s homeless.

The plan would expand the Waller Creek TIF that could dedicate $100 million toward area parks, which the mayor says could be matched by private donations.

It would also create a “Tourism Public Improvement District” by increasing the “bed tax.” This funding stream would hope to dedicate $4 million to $8 million a year to homeless support programs, renovations to the Palm School, preserve the Historic East Sixth Street and the Red River Cultural District, and finish construction on the Mexican-American Cultural Center. An agreement to expand the convention center would get hotels on board to petition the state to allow an increase in the bed tax.

Critics say different improvements the plan promises should not hinge on a $600 million convention center expansion. Council members discussed the “Downtown Puzzle” in a special meeting Wednesday. Some council members are calling for the item to be postponed to allow for more discussion.

Paid sick days policy

This item would kick-start a citywide stakeholder process to get input from business owners and workers, among others, to allow all Austin workers to earn paid sick time. Council Member Greg Casar’s office shared a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which revealed approximately 37 percent of Austin workers don’t get paid sick time

Juvenile Curfew

City council will conduct a public hearing to receive recommendations on the city’s juvenile curfew. The recommendations will come from a stakeholder group the council established to come up with non-criminal alternatives to the curfew.MORE: Austin police chief recommends eliminating juvenile curfew ordinance

Gentrification study

This would authorize an agreement with the University of Texas at Austin to provide a gentrification, displacement and mapping study of areas at risk in Austin. The study cannot cost more than $69,000.

Austin firefighter salary increase

The Austin Fire association said the deal would help them hire more firefighters and decrease overtime. The city ordered an audit of the fire department after a KXAN investigation showed the Austin Fire Department had skyrocketing overtime costs. Right now AFD has 120 openings, with 30 new cadets graduating Friday.

Historic Montopolis Negro School

This resolution would authorize negotiation of the “acquisition, restoration, programming and maintenance of 500 Montopolis Drive as a historic museum that would attract tourists.”  Last week, the man who owns the property where the historic Montopolis Negro School stands told KXAN he is willing to work with the city of Austin to preserve the property.

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