Austin City Council approves post-conviction testing services Thursday

Austin City Hall on Feb. 15, 2021 (Saul Hannibal Photo)

Austin City Hall on Feb. 15, 2021 (Saul Hannibal Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s what we’re tracking at the Austin City Council meeting Thursday.

Supporting iconic Austin venues – Approved

Council approved transferring $2.4 million in Hotel Occupancy Taxes to support the “Iconic Venue Fund” created by council in December. The fund will support venues and other local tourist destinations lost or displaced due to the coronavirus and Austin’s real estate boom.

“Despite best efforts by the City Council and staff, relief funds to assist with expenses have fallen significantly short to meet the need,” city staff noted in agenda documents.

Rainey developments to be heard again – All approved

Three separate developers of proposed residential high-rises — 9092 Rainey, 84 East and the River Street Residences — are asking for waivers to exceed the city’s cap on the amount of square footage that can be built on their lots. City code requires council approval when a project’s floor-to-area ratio (FAR) is greater than 15:1.

Council approved the items on initial readings last month, and they were approved for second and third readings Thursday.

Members of the Rainey Neighborhood Association have called for a pause to the applications, saying the neighborhood lacks proper infrastructure for increased density.

Post-conviction DNA testing – Approved on consent

Authorized awarding more than $120,000 to provide post-conviction review and DNA testing in violent offense cases where actual innocence may be demonstrated. The funding comes from a U.S. Department of Justice grant.

According to meeting documents, Capital Area Private Defender Service will use the money to review cases, fact check investigations, and navigate DNA issues related to criminal investigations. The CAPDS budget will include two part-time attorney positions, a discovery clerk, training for staff, case-related travel, office supplies, and the fees and expenses of subject matter experts, the documents say.

New tree-trimming deal – Approved on consent

Council is expected to approve a five-year, $17.5 million contract for tree trimming around Austin Energy transmission lines. Council documents say the contractor, Asplundh Tree Expert, will work with the Austin Fire Department Wildfire Division to reduce the risk of wildfires.

Resilience plan vote -Approved as amended

Citing February’s Winter storm, council members are asking City Manager Spencer Cronk to return by June with budget recommendations, funding strategies, and a timeline for creating a community-wide resilience hub plan during emergencies. These hubs would be similar to neighborhood centers close to transit, with backup power and water sources.

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