Council voted to negotiate contract with homelessness consultant, set to vote on no-wake zones

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(KXAN File Photo).

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

Voted to Negotiate – Hiring a homelessness consultant:

Austin City Council voted to negotiated a $95,000 contract with Matthew Doherty for homelessness consulting services. Doherty will work for the city through the end of September under the deal. Only council member Jimmy Flannigan voted against the contract

In a recent memo, the city says Doherty’s position would “coordinate with federal agencies and national organizations to identify resource opportunities and provide ongoing strategic policy support.” City staff say in council documents that Doherty would help develop short and long-term priorities and provide recommendations on strategies and actions to address homelessness.

Doherty served as the Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness from 2015 through 2019. He was appointed during President Obama’s administration and was reported to have been pushed out of the role in November 2019.

This comes as Austin is creating a new “Homelessness Services Division” within the city’s Public Health department. This division would include three full-time employees, not including a Public Information Officer to address media. The city also plans to hire external consultants like Doherty.

Lori Pampilo Harris no longer works for the city, having worked as Homeless Strategy Officer for less than four months. Back in October, the city announced that Pampilo Harris would move to a consulting role, but now says that never happened. Her last day was Jan. 3.

Passed- Lake Austin no-wake zones:

This has been in the works since 2013 when the Lake Austin Task Force recommended creating no-wake zones along the shores of Lake Austin. Two specific no-wake zones would be located in the area around the Pennybacker Bridge and in the area up-river of the Tom Miller Dam, near the Oyster Landing Marina and the Walsh Boat Landing.

A city memo from Jan. 31 reads,

After considerable study, public outreach, and internal collaboration, the City Manager recommends creating two new no-wake zones in specific areas, rather than along the entirety of the Lake Austin shoreline. The creation of no-wake zones along the entire shoreline of Lake Austin, as originally recommended by the Lake Austin Taskforce, would create numerous practical problems and, for enforcement purposes, would require the purchase and maintenance of a significant number of buoys. The more focused no-wake zones would calm traffic in areas that are particularly busy and where there is a greater likelihood for conflicts between boaters, and between boaters and other users of the lake.

Buoys owned by the city would mark the zones. Austin says it will pay the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) $3,230 to install the buoys. Boaters who don’t comply with no-wake zone rules would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine $500 or less.

Passed On Consent – Gun education campaign:

One council item would approve a resolution directing City Manager Spencer Cronk to identify funding and partnerships for a prospective public safety awareness campaign on safe firearm storage.

Last year Austin Police recommended an education campaign to warn citizens about leaving their guns inside their vehicles. According to the report, from 2014-2018 a total of 4,241 firearms were reported stolen with the number peaking in 2018.

“The Austin Police Department’s data has shown that we have a safe storage problem,” said Council member Paige Ellis in a press release sent after the vote. “Adults and children are accessing unsecured firearms with disastrous consequences. Just last month, an Austin resident was murdered with a gun stolen from a vehicle. We need to remind responsible gun owners to safely store their firearms. There are actions we can take now, potentially without using any city resources, and we need to investigate those possibilities.”

City staff say in documents to council:

APD anticipates the impact on our staff time and existing budget to be minimal. The public safety awareness campaign will dovetail seamlessly with APD’s existing outreach programs.

The City Manager is required to provide a report to Council and the Task Force on Gun Violence by May 1.

Austin seeks film company to help market the city:

Council will vote on a contract with a video company to promote and market the city. Over the full length of the contract, Woody Harrison Films would receive $675,000 over five years.

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