Archived Story

Coffee with the Council is back — with new focus, new rules

Published 10:25am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Austin residents may meet with city council members on an informal basis once again.

The Austin City Council voted to discuss last year’s Coffee with the Council meetings at its next public meeting, with a few new rules and a potential name change.

Council members Janet Anderson and Judy Enright said the monthly meetings could resume as early as mid-April. In addition, the meetings could be renamed “Conversations with the Council,” as some meetings could take place outdoors in the summer.

“We’d like to consider doing them in different sections of town, even in a park,” Enright said.

The meetings would have a little more structure this time around to head off potential problems.

The council stopped the meetings last July after only four months, as the conversations came to be dominated by only a few people who didn’t always have city-related issues to discuss. In addition, council members said then-mayoral candidate Dick Lang used the last Coffee with the Council meeting in 2012 to stump for election.

Those issues may not happen with the new meetings, as a council member would act as chair, allowing residents to speak on issues for two minutes before switching to another speaker, and ensuring everyone has the chance to discuss something before letting people speak again. The new meetings would also be suspended 90 days before an election.

Anderson said at least two council members should be there, one to run the meeting and one to take notes.

“These don’t need to be rules, but they’re guidelines,” Enright said.

The council is expected to approve the new meetings, along with a new name, at its next public meeting. A new meeting would likely take place on a Saturday in April at Gymocha, Anderson said.

Crossing off goals

Council members will be able to cross off one of 12 goals for 2013 once they reinstate Coffee with the Council.

The council formally approved the 2013 council goals during its public meeting Monday. Though council members came up with about a dozen ideas, city staff organized the goals and projects into six larger topics: support Vision 2020, improve council communications with residents, strive to be fiscally efficient, become more visionary, support the city’s Sustainability Task Force and maintain a safe and clean environment for residents.

Coffee with the Council was a sub-goal under improving communications with residents. Other, smaller goals include finding ways to attract good jobs to the area, increasing the population, installing lights in the city’s trails and paths to increase safety at night, develop an emergency management plan, and improve the city’s website and social media outreach, among others.

The council has yet to plan how it will accomplish these goals, but council members say they plan to keep the 2013 goals on meeting agendas so they won’t get lost amid other issues.

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