Austin City Council to discuss Austin Energy's performance during winter storm
AUSTIN, Texas - Should Austin Energy's response to this winter storm be audited?
That topic will be discussed at an upcoming city council meeting, and so will the future of city manager Spencer Cronk.
District six council member Mackenzie Kelly joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.
RELATED: Austin City Council to evaluate employment of City Manager Cronk in wake of ice storm
MIKE WARREN: Monday morning, Mayor Kirk Watson said the council will discuss Spencer Cronk's employment status. What do you make of his performance as city manager?
MACKENZIE KELLY: I absolutely agree that we need to be discussing the performance of our city manager. In fact, you know what better time than now when we've gone through a crisis, and he's failed to deliver us the basic communication that our city deserves. And we need to ensure that our city is informed and that everyone's aware of what's going on and that we have an accurate timeline of when we're going to have power restored across the city. We still have people who are out in the city without power, and that's absolutely unacceptable.
MIKE WARREN: Is Spencer Cronk doing a good job?
MACKENZIE KELLY: I believe that there are areas for improvement and among them are the communications and the failures that have occurred here throughout this entire disaster.
MIKE WARREN: Talking about failures. Austin Energy is front and center. What do you make of Austin Energy's performance.
MACKENZIE KELLY: At the line? Men and women who are out there trying to get our power restored are doing the best they can, given the incredibly difficult circumstances that they are facing. We have not had weather on our side, and we're about to have more bad weather come in. It's going to be incredibly difficult to get that last little bit of people across the city power back. Given the winds that we're about to experience and the difficult situation in front of us, the last of the individuals who don't have power have the more complicated issues which are going to require a lot longer for Austin Energy to assess. My fault and the fault of what happened here with Austin Energy is not at all on the backs of those lying men and women who are doing the best they can to help everybody out.
MIKE WARREN: Well, where is the fault line with Austin Energy, then?
MACKENZIE KELLY: My belief is that there are a multitude of things that have happened here, including but not limited to prior council action related to the lack of a proper vegetation management plan that has led to the power lines being weighed down by the ice and the tree limbs and those tree limbs falling on the power lines because they weren't able to be managed properly, caused a lot of the issues that we're seeing.
MIKE WARREN: Do you think there is now a credibility issue for the mayor, for the City council, for Austin Energy, for the entire city structure?
MACKENZIE KELLY: Yeah, I absolutely understand and empathize with the community who believes that there's a credibility issue on the backs of city council members. But what they have to understand and what I would hope that the community realizes is that we are working expediently as council members. We've got two items on the upcoming agenda to address this, including city manager Spencer Cox performance and an audit which I've put forward related to vegetation management so that we can find out where the problems are related to Austin Energy and move forward in a positive way.
MIKE WARREN: You know what else is this audit going to tell us or expose or help us?
MACKENZIE KELLY: Yeah. So my hope is that the audit goes into the entire emergency response related to this most recent disaster and will really help us as a council understand what recommendations the auditor or auditing entity has related to how we could have improved over this process. Some of those answers are already known, like better communication. We could have had much better communication going into this disaster, and instead it was lackluster, and it needed to be much better. Also, the vegetation management I'm looking forward to seeing in this report once it passes that we have a better vegetation management program. And instead of just doing cuts on trees, we're actually cutting them back over eight inches away from the lines. We're preventing these things from happening in the future. I want us to be proactive as a city and mitigate problems, not to respond to them afterwards.
MIKE WARREN: Okay. Well, there are a lot of questions out there. For now. We are out of time. But McKenzie, Kelly, Austin, City Council District six, thank you for joining us.