Council discusses priorities

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 7, 2003

The Austin City Council is setting aside time to figure out its priorities and what direction it would like to take the city.

At the work session Tuesday night, City Administrator Jim Hurm outlined a process that he recommends the city use to set goals and principles to aid in decision making for all issues, from public safety to community development. It also will be useful for him and other city employees so they could work with a broader idea in mind.

He also said the comprehensive plan needs to be updated some time.

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"I think that needs to be a very key document," he said.

The mayor and council did meet earlier this year with much of the same purposes in mind, but with the uncertainties of the budget for the remainder of this year and next and the retirement of former City Administrator Pat McGarvey, the council decided to wait until some things were more concrete before proceeding.

Hurm's ideas were suggestions for the council, and he did not put a timeline on anything.

Some members of the council were hesitant to start the process without yet knowing the budget situation. Hurm said the process may aid in making budget decisions, so it would not be a waste of time to start soon.

Council Member Tracey Chamberlain said they should make those priorities with the idea that the end result will be used to make the budget decisions.

The council agreed to use the first hour of their next work session to brainstorm.

Mayor Bonnie Rietz outlined Gov. Tim Pawlenty's new budget formula and its impact on Austin for the council.

Under Pawlenty's plan, the Local Government Aid (LGA) would be cut by $435 million statewide.

That would mean Austin would go from more than $8 million to about $4.3 million, a 45 percent decrease in aid.

Rep. Dan Dorman has proposed an amendment that would ease the cut statewide to $235 million.

Rietz asked council members to contact Rep. Jeff Anderson, R-Austin, and ask him to vote for Dorman's amendment. She said many Republicans are being pressured to follow party lines.

Toward the end of the night, the meeting was closed for discussion of pending litigation and strategy.

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at