Austin City Council addresses Shoal Creek, scooters

The so-called “Shoal Creek landslide” has been a big problem for a little more than a year. The Austin City Council began their meeting Thursday morning by ratifying a little over a million dollars in emergency expenditures related to engineering, analysis and data collection.

Construction on the projects to fix the landslide haven’t begun yet. The city’’s Watershed Department says council will have to approve the stabilization work first. That’s coming at a later meeting.

Council also held separate but related press conferences about an item that will urge Travis County to hang onto the historic Palm School for revitilization and at the same time get the ball rolling on an expanded convention center in that same area.

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan says an expansion wouldn’t be on the taxpayers.

“The fund that is generated by the taxes people pay when they stay in hotels all over the city, that fund is called the HOT fund, the Hotel Occupancy Tax fund, and that is what guarantees the bond, guarantees the debt that is issued,” Flannigan said.

For those who don’t believe the need for a bigger convention center is there, Flannigan says the current facilities don’t reflect the modern convention business. “Expansion actually will help us capture convention center business we are currently losing,” Flannigan said.

Ann Howard with the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition says a Tourism Public Improvement District will allocate money to Austin’s the city says they wouldn’t be able to get without the convention center expansion. “This is the money that can be used to help folks get into housing and stabilized, it can be used to expand the programs of the non profits,” Howard said.

Council passed the Palm/Convention Center item unanimously Thursday.

Council also discussed several items related to bicycles and “micro-mobility” devices like scooters.

You might remember Alex Strenger. He ran for Mayor and he’s also a pedi-cab driver. Strenger is looking forward to scooter riders being held accountable. “They run through red lights, they drive on the wrong side of the road, they go through stop signs, they drive on the sidewalk facing the opposite right of way,” Strenger said.

Some of the rules approved by council: you can ride a bike or scooter on the sidewalk in a “reasonable and prudent manner,” multiple riders on one device is prohibited and children can’t ride without a helmet. “I think that’s good. I don’t really see too many kids though riding scooters in downtown Austin but I think its smart,” Strenger said.

On a more controversial note: city staff is recommending regulating shared bicycle and scooter companies using a franchise model. Council would need to approve a company’s application in order to operate. A bad idea in Flannigan’s mind.

“It injects politics into what really should be an active competitive market and the last thing we want is to set up Bird or Lime or Jump or whoever to start investing in city council campaigns in order to make future Council Members vote ‘no’ on adding new competitors to the market,” Flannigan said.

Council ended up postponing that item to a later date.



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