AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - As soon as Mayor Steve Adler convened the first City Council meeting after summer break, protestors started chanting. Police officers filed into the chambers and took the protestors into custody outside.
The group was fighting back against a proposed plan to demolish apartments in favor of a new development on Riverside and Pleasant Valley.
"It's a mixed-use development that will have office, retail, lots of housing, it will also have a medical office," said Michael Whellan, the attorney representing developer Presidium and Nimes Real Estate.
The property owners say they will offer a relocation package. Council ended up passing the zoning on first reading. They'll take it up again later this month.
As for the protests...
"This is Austin, Texas and that's part of the process," Whellan said.
Police intervened again when opposing sides clashed over "Drag Queen Story Hour."
"Ultimately it's political theater. But I would caution these folks that if you're going to make a play that's theater, you might not want to do it when there's a gay guy on the dais," council member Jimmy Flannigan said.
From the dais Thursday, Flannigan held up a fan and said "I only have two words: sashay away."
Austin police say 12 people were arrested for disrupting a public meeting, one for assault by contact.
A quorum of Travis County Commissioners appeared before council urging them to rethink raising the hotel property tax from seven to nine percent.
The City wants to use hotel tax to help fund an expansion of the convention center.
The County wants dollars for the eastern part of the county and for a revamp of the Expo Center -- something former council member and hotel tax expert Ellen Troxclair says makes sense.
"I think there are lots of other organizations like the rodeo and other things that are utilizing a much older and much more in-need facility out there at the Expo Center that could really benefit from some of this additional money," Troxclair said.
The City unanimously approved raising the tax and vowed to work with the county on the Expo Center.
"My hope is that as we move forward with the county that we're able to flesh out the Expo Center question which is core to what they're trying to address," Flannigan said. “I passed a resolution supporting Expo Center expansion last year.”
Judge Sarah Eckhardt responded Friday, chastising the city for their lack of commitment in paying down debt:
“As Commissioner Travillion noted yesterday, 'Low income parts of our community are never invested in until they are gentrified. And this is unacceptable for us.' The City Council suggested that increasing the City‘s Hotel Occupancy Tax to fund the downtown Convention Center 'increases the probabilities' of the City paying down its current debt on the downtown Convention Center. Travis County is not asking the City for increased probabilities. Travis County is asking for a commitment to East Austin by a date certain. Pay down the City debt and release 2% of the Hotel Occupancy Tax by 2021 so that meaningful investment can be made in the Exposition Center and East Austin. If the City of Austin won’t invest in East Austin, Travis County will."
"What the County is asking the City to do is basically pay down some of that debt, free up some of that money so that there's room for us as well," Troxclair said.
City Council also formalized putting citizen-initiated petitions on the November ballot -- one would require a public vote whenever the city wants to put a sports stadium on public land and the other would require a public vote for any sort of expansion of the convention center.