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Council to focus on more long-term projects

Published 10:23am Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Austin City Council came up with more than 10 goals and projects to pursue over the next year, though council members have yet to officially rank them.

The council met for the second time at its annual retreat Wednesday night, hearing from department supervisors and brainstorming the general direction the city will take this year.

One of the most intriguing ideas came from council member Jeff Austin, who urged the council to think long-term about life in Austin.

“The council needs to be more visionary,” he said.

That could include creating and implementing more long-term plans for the city, though the council already has several working documents such as its five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

Council members also resolved to find ways to keep residents in town, including attracting more businesses to Austin, to grow the community and provide a better quality of life.

“We have people that are the working poor,” said Council Member Steve King. “They have full-time jobs and they can’t afford to take care of their own homes. They can’t put money into it … that’s what we’re up against in Austin.”

Despite many upper-middle class residents, King and other council members agreed there’s a significant lack of middle-class families and households in the city.

“I’m tired of hearing more and more people moving to [other] communities,” King said. “We’re not going to get anywhere unless we keep our people living and working here.”

King went on to suggest the city fund efforts to light trails and paths around town to create a safer community, citing areas like Mill Pond where a large number of assaults have been reported over the past several years.

Council Member Judy Enright wants to see the city form an emergency management plan, as there isn’t one at the present. While City Administrator Jim Hurm pointed to Police Chief Brian Krueger as the city’s designated emergency management coordinator, Enright and other council members say the city hasn’t gone through emergency training to prepare for mass disasters such as a flood, a tornado or an explosion at the Hormel Foods Corp. plant in several years.

Enright said she also wants the council to review city ordinances and either improve or throw out ones residents may not know about or that make little sense. She pointed out the city ordinance that prohibits residents from setting up an inflatable pool in their yard without fencing, an ordinance many residents may not be aware of.

“I think previous councils have come up with ordinances without thinking, ‘Who’s going to enforce this doggone thing?’” Enright said.

Council Member Jeremy Carolan said the city should continue to support Vision 2020, the volunteer-led community improvement project, while Council Member Michael Jordahl wanted the council to continue to find ways to improve the city’s efficiency and cut excess spending from the city budget. He proposed Finance Director Tom Dankert go through the city budget with the council by department at upcoming meetings, the same as Dankert did last year.

The council will further discuss city goals at its next work session on March 4.

The Austin City Council brainstormed 11 goals and projects to pursue in 2013:

—Review and identify ordinances that could be improved or thrown out.

—Form a city emergency management plan.

—Continue public outreach programs like Coffee with the Council. Council members agreed to redefine and restart meetings by April.

—Continue the city’s sustainability task force and work with GreenSteps Cities.

—Find ways to retain and grow the city’s population.

—Support Vision 2020.

—Look for ways to keep the city efficient/find budget cuts.

—Look for ways to collaborate with other governmental units.

—Plan long term for the city’s future.

—Help attract good quality jobs.

—Support more social media/public outreach through online communication.


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