Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

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Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Tue Jan 13, 2015 6:57 pm

Councilmembers and Staff:

I wanted to share some ideas for reaching out to our respective Districts and the community to tell people about our proposed changes to the Council agenda and Council Committee processes and ask for their comments and ideas.

I would appreciate any ideas you have to share also. As well as examples / links to material you send out.

IDEAS FOR REACHING OUT:
1. Email our lists to inform people about the proposal and urge them to participate through SpeakUP, next week's public input meeting, and by calling and emailing us.

2. Use all social media tools to reach out - including Facebook and twitter.

3. Meet with Chronicle and Statesman Editorial Boards to explain the proposal (let me know if anyone would like to join me for this)

4. Write an Op-Ed with the Mayor for the Statesman (again, let me know if you'd like to participate in this)

5. Contact organizations and community leaders you work with and/or in your District. (For example, we are meeting with the Neighborhood Association leaders in District 5)

6. Request PIO to create one-pager to explain proposal and help us advertise the public meeting next week.

KEY POINTS TO EXPLAIN THE PROPOSAL
This is a draft proposal - and we want to hear from the community. We welcome and need feedback and ideas.
We will review how changes are working in 6 months

These changes are designed to enhance meaningful public participation
These changes create more meaningful public engagement, earlier in the legislative process and before decisions are final
These changes make better use of valuable staff time and resources
These changes are designed to improve Council meetings so that more can be done in a shorter period of time
These changes give the community a greater opportunity to tackle major problems we have faced over many years
These changes help strengthen a culture of public engagement and improved customer service.

Thanks All.
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Leslie Pool » Wed Jan 14, 2015 5:00 pm

Responding to Council Member Kitchen's latest post, my office is in the midst of contacting and responding to contacts from District 7 neighborhood groups to have time on an upcoming NA meeting agenda to introduce my staff and update neighbors on activity to date of council. I am also sending emails to NA leadership with our committee structure proposal attached and notifying them of the upcoming public hearing for Thursday, January 22, Council Chambers (time TBD).

I appreciate your suggestions, and would be glad to be part of any outreach that you organize, including meeting with ed boards or assisting with writing an op-ed. I also support your suggestion that we request the Public Info Office create a one-pager to explain our proposal and help advertise the public meeting next week.

Thanks,

Leslie
Council Member District 7
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Wed Jan 14, 2015 6:02 pm

Thanks Leslie

Everyone else - let me know if you'd like to participate in any of the meetings I'm suggesting.

Ann Kitchen
Councilmember District 5
Ann Kitchen
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:43 pm

Everyone

My office had the opportunity to meet with neighborhood leaders in District 5 about the proposed changes to our public engagement process. I wanted to share some of their ideas and comments with you below:

Ann Kitchen
Councilmember, District 5

Summary Result: Residents generally approve of proposed changes with certain questions and suggestions summarized below. Optimistic that their main concerns of process transparency and substantive, effective resident participation in issues will be addressed by proposed restructuring.

Key Points From Residents:

Ensure the provisions to prevent items from “dying in committee” are retained.

Clarify how and by whom items are assigned to particular committees. Also, clarify when issues span the scope of more than one committee, whether that issue be heard by a joint (sub)committee, or sequentially by the relevant committees. There was no consensus suggestion or preference by the residents.

Define role of non-committee member CMs. They should be allowed to participate even if non-voting members. Perhaps sit on committees in an ad hoc, ex-officio capacity.

Clarify that a quorum would be required to move an item, with or without recommendation, to the full Council.

The proposal to incorporate appropriate mediation at the committee level is key and was particularly welcomed. There is concern over the mode in which an issue comes before council and there is merely a stream of pro and con speakers without substantive conversation among the parties to arrive at the best result. This adds to the perception that decisions have been made prior to public input.

Clarify method of public input at committee level. For instance, will there be sign-ins, time limits, etc.?

Residents were in complete accord on the importance of insuring that at all levels written testimony be given the same weight as in-person testimony.

Also regarding public input, the residents would like the council to address the issue of access to supporting documents, back-up materials, previous testimony and the transcripts or video of meetings and decisions of previous bodies (e.g., actions taken by the related Citizen’s Board or Commission(s). Perhaps a way to track the issue by the item rather than the meeting date of the various bodies would be helpful.
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Sabino Pio Renteria » Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:31 pm

I like the ideas Ann and Leslie said. Me and my staff are making a master list of people who live, work, play and love the neighborhoods in different parts of D3. We plan to include NAs, Planning Teams, civic groups, PTAs, union members, and political clubs in a reach out for them to select a few reps to represent their communities on a new D3 Coalition that will meet quarterly and help me prioritize our D3 issues. I'll get my staff to try to get out as many emails and posts they can do before next Thursday. I plan to attend as many meetings as I can before our meeting.

I would like to support and request that PIO do a 1 page handout 2 sided with SPANISH translation that I can pass out and post on social media AND community bulletin boardsand a hard copy of the SpeakUp page so that people we reach out to who don't do internet have a simple form to provide written input. This flyer should also have a PIO phone number and TTY phone number for folks who don't have easy access to the internet or prefer to SpeakUp to humans who can explain things they don't understand about our committee ideas.

So far these are places and meetings I would like to pass flyers to:

Battle Bend neighbors 1-13-15 (handed out a flyer we made)
Downtown Austin Community Court meeting 1-16-15 (will hand out my flyer)
East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team 1-21-15
Eastside Memorial HS, Austin Voices for Education Open House 1-23-15
UT Project 2015 Community Partnership meetin, 3:45 pm Martin School Portable, 1-23-15
HABLA/Young Hispanic Professionals of Austin at Carver Library 6-8pm,1-27-15
I'd really like to have a bi-lingual flyer with a phone number to pass out before our 1-29 meeting
Thanks to Ann and Steve for all this work on our structure. Pio
Council Member District 3
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Leslie Pool » Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:48 pm

Tonight I presented information to a fully packed meeting room at the Yarborough Branch Library about the new committees and upcoming public hearing. The crowd was gathered to hear three visions for the Burnet Road Corridor, so it was timely and relevant to bring this information to residents of District 7. I will follow up with any additional hand-outs, one-pagers that we or staff create, and continue to connect with NA leadership via email to send our proposal forward and request feedback, ideas, and comments.
Council Member District 7
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Kathie Tovo » Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:54 pm

Thanks for initiating the discussion. My office and I are reaching out to neighborhood association, community groups, and active community leaders to let them know about the proposal and about opportunities to provide feedback.

I'm happy to participate in meeting with editorial boards and/or helping draft an editorial.

Best,
Kathie Tovo
Mayor Pro Tem
District 9
Council District 9
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:40 pm

Thanks everyone for comments.

Great ideas on the handout, Councilmember Renteria. And I'll follow up with you, Councilmember Tovo on the editorial and meetings.

The backup for the public input meeting next Thursday the 22nd will be posted this afternoon.

Ann Kitchen
Councilmember District 5
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Steve Adler » Fri Jan 16, 2015 7:17 pm

All:

Good ideas and I'm sure we all really appreciate the follow up. Hopefully everyone has gotten the 1-16-15 memo from Marc Ott outlining the staff's response to our request that community engagement be strongly encouraged and facilitated in this process. If anyone has any changes or suggested additions, let me know and I'll make sure they're communicated at my meeting with the Public Info folks on Tuesday.

I spoke this week to the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Austin Board of Realtors about the proposed structure and the reaction was generally positive and it seemed the groups were already generally familiar with the proposal. I also was with the editorial board for the Statesman and was asked questions about the proposal and I provided the three pages we all had earlier prepared.

s
Mayor
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Don Zimmerman » Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:29 pm

I read Brad Parsons remarks - especially the observation that city staff seems to retain all their power to directly place items on the agenda with no review by council committees, while the public (and council?) are being moved to put items before committees. So we might explicitly add that one (or more?) council members could refer a city staff item (RCA, Request for Council Action) to a committee.

I observe in "Special Report: Report on Peer City Council Committees and Council Meeting Management" (December 2014, by Office of the Austin City Auditor), that Kansas City uses council committees for all items (except resolutions) prior to consideration by the full council.
(Special report link:) http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/defaul ... s15101.pdf

This same special report says all peer cities (except Austin) allowed the mayor to select council committee memberships; I believe we initially preferred this not knowing all the peer cities were already doing that. There's a lot of interesting information regarding our committee re-org ideas in this report.
Don Zimmerman
Council Member District 6 (northwest Austin)
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:32 pm

I'll add Brad Parson's questions that you note to a list of potential changes to our proposed process. I'm hoping to capture the list of proposed changes and post to this message board to help us all consider the ideas we are receiving from the public.

CMs Pool, Garza, and I met with the Austin Chronicle news staff to brief them on the proposal. We had a generally positive discussion, with thoughtful discussion of challenges such as the logistics of meeting schedules for the committees, the timing of public input meetings in front of committees, and how to reach out to members of the public.
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Don Zimmerman » Wed Jan 21, 2015 12:45 pm

Let me summarize numerous comments on our "committee" plan and my interpretation of them.

Most people are focusing along lines of "I'd rather speak to all council members instead of a subset". My reply is OF COURSE (DUH) it would be best if every Austinite interested in any issue could be heard by the entire council at a specific time - of course that's the best. Our point is that's not humanly possible and it's leading to 2:00 AM meetings and countless angry people who waited for hours and then left not being heard.

But this makes me think adding the TIME CERTAIN testimony of the smaller committees is very important to public acceptance. I think we can all concede that current packed agendas with hundreds of items and uncertain numbers of people testifying makes it impossible for everyone to be heard on an issue. If we structure the smaller committees with commitment for time certain testimony, increasing the time to 5 or 10 minutes (determined by the committee), with reasonable rules making that possible (like signing up at specific times 24 hours in advance of the posted meeting), the public will find the smaller committees are better for getting their contribution accepted. If we do NOT provide such advantage in the smaller committee, we'll have significant resistance because people think they're merely getting short changed on the smaller council member audience.

Everyone likes the idea of separating zoning cases to it's own separate meeting day.

I see no evidence that anyone understands the contraints that Open Meetings Laws are having on council member communications, and the great advantage Open Meeting Law interpretation (by county and city legal staff) is having for lobbyists and city staff, who have no constraints on lobbying and polling all council members to build consensus outside the knowledge of individual council members.
Don Zimmerman
Council Member District 6 (northwest Austin)
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:35 pm

Thanks Don. I believe it will be important for Council Committees to offer a time certain for the public - that is one of the advantages / rationale for using Council Committees as an opportunity for more meaningful public engagement earlier in the process.
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:03 pm

Hello all. The following is a summary of some of the specific suggestions I have received regarding our Public Engagement proposal. I have also received many comments from individuals welcoming the opportunity for public feedback earlier in the process, at the Council Committee level

1. Finance Committee should be a Committee of the Whole with all members of the Council voting members of it.

2. Austin Energy and Planning & Neighborhoods Committees should have at least 7 voting members on them. CodeNext will be too important to give just 4 members original control over. Same thing with Austin Energy, the plurality of the City Budget, too important to give just 4 members original control over.

3. Take a vote of 3 of 4 in favor of moving an item out of Committee to the Council of the whole. If there is a tie 2 to 2 in Committee, the Mayor might be offered the 5th tiebreaker vote, if that can be enabled by law.

4. Council should explicitly state in the implementation ordinance for this reorganization that ALL Committee meetings SHALL BE publicly noticed and that Committee meetings will not meet selectively in private with lobbyists or even just advocates.

5. Three Council members of the 11 to bring an item to the Council of the whole for an item that is not otherwise making progress

6. A majority of the Public Engagement Task Force should be comprised of community activists; these are the true “experts” in public engagement best practices - don’t need lots of outside experts in public engagement

7. The MBE/WBE Committee should stay as it is and deserves Council undivided attention to the continued struggles of small, minority and women businesses in government contracting.

8. Council Members may appoint boards and commissions members from outside their district if they choose.

9. Multi-lingual staff should be at hand at Council meetings to assist.

10. Please allow public comment on each agenda item via the internet using a system like SpeakUp. The number of words shouldn’t be limited. Attachments should be allowed. Public speaking registration on an agenda item could still be handled in person only.

11. Ensure that the committees do not create silos and tunnel vision in relation to issues that have lots of cross-over. In particular, affordable housing is an issue that has tons of cross-over with planning and neighborhoods and economic development.

12. Ensure the provisions to prevent items from “dying in committee” are retained.

13. Clarify how and by whom items are assigned to particular committees. Also, clarify when issues span the scope of more than one committee, whether that issue be heard by a joint (sub)committee, or sequentially by the relevant committees

14. Define role of non-committee member CMs. They should be allowed to participate even if non-voting members. Perhaps sit on committees in an ad hoc, ex-officio capacity.

15. Clarify that a quorum would be required to move an item, with or without recommendation, to the full Council.

16. The proposal to incorporate appropriate mediation at the committee level is key and was particularly welcomed.

17. There is concern over the mode in which an issue comes before council and that there is merely a stream of pro and con speakers without substantive conversation among the parties to arrive at the best result. This adds to the perception that decisions have been made prior to public input.

18. Clarify method of public input at committee level. For instance, will there be sign-ins, time limits, etc.?

19. Ensure that at all levels (Commissions, Committees, etc) written testimony be given the same weight as in-person testimony.

20. Also regarding public input, council to address the issue of access to supporting documents, back-up materials, previous testimony and the transcripts or video of meetings and decisions of previous bodies (e.g., actions taken by the related Citizen’s Board or Commission(s). Perhaps a way to track the issue by the item rather than the meeting date of the various bodies would be helpful.

21. All Council Committee meetings should be televised live (on channel 6) and video recorded.

22. Video recordings of Council Committee meetings should be publicly available within 24 hours or less after each meeting.

23. Council Committee meetings should be scheduled so that they don’t overlap with each other. Some citizens may want to attend meetings of more than one Council Committee.

24.The agenda and all backup materials for Council Committee meetings should be posted for public access and review no later than five business days prior to meetings.

25. No changes should be allowed to the agenda or backup materials less than five business days prior to Council Committee meetings, except for immediate life and safety issues.

26.The public should be given one month to provide input to the City Council on any item passed by a Council Committee before that item is posted to a City Council meeting agenda.

27.A policy should be established to prohibit the approval of any City Council meeting agenda item on all three readings in one Council meeting, except for immediate life and safety issues.

28. Corollary to the public engagement process, the City’s lobbyist ordinance should be strengthened to require quarterly activity reports from registered lobbyists. In addition, the definition of lobbyist should be expanded so that it’s consistent with the strongest lobbyist ordinances in peer cities in the US.

29.Please hold hearings outside of downtown where folk can freely park, attend and participate in Austin governance.
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Ann Kitchen » Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:11 pm

Hello Everyone

Attached is the link to the resolution for the Community Engagement Ordnance. This has also been posted on the Council agenda.

http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... E7DEE6.pdf

This document does not yet reflect the comments we have received from the community. We can talk through changes to respond to comments at our Work Session on Tuesday. Between now and Tuesday - please use this message board to share any thoughts you have about amendments.

Thank You
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby Leslie Pool » Sun Jan 25, 2015 6:50 pm

CM Kitchen, I would like an update on how the previous council committees operated (e.g., frequency, meeting day & time, quorum and voting rules, citizen communications, staff & citizen info briefings timeframes, any procedures followed).

I'm thinking that having info on how council committees operated in the past will inform us all on what is new and what isn't, and we'll see where we are making changes and where we're not, and we'll be able to measure any differences between what was and what may be, retain what works and adjust or change what doesn't.
Council Member District 7
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Re: Community Engagement on Proposed New Council System

Postby OCC_Admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 5:03 pm

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