Work Session Scheduling

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Steve Adler
Posts: 252
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:12 pm

Work Session Scheduling

Post by Steve Adler » Wed Sep 25, 2019 1:54 pm

Colleagues,

At our meeting on Friday September 20th, several on the Council asked for a special-called work session focused on homelessness sometime between October 10th and October 17th. I will be out of town on City business on October 10th, but would be comfortable if the rest of the Council would like to have this conversation without me and as early as possible. The earliest I will be back during that timeframe is Monday, October 14th. We may also consider setting a work session as part of our regular work session agenda on Tuesday, October 15th.

Please reply here on this thread with any interest you might have in scheduling such a work session, your availability, and your preferences so that we may go ahead and schedule a work session if such is desired.

Thanks,
Steve
Mayor

Paige Ellis
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:37 pm

Re: Work Session Scheduling

Post by Paige Ellis » Wed Sep 25, 2019 5:14 pm

Thank you, Mayor Adler, for this post. I could arrange my calendar to be available the morning of the 10th before the Mobility Committee meeting at 1 pm, but I also think your perspective would be particularly useful for our discussion on homelessness. I'd prefer to hold it during the Tuesday (15th) work session. I have availability most of that day so we could spend some time going over agenda items as well as holding a discussion on the path forward for addressing homelessness, in whichever order others' schedules may allow.

-Paige Ellis
Paige Ellis

Kathie Tovo
Posts: 76
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:18 am

Re: Work Session Scheduling

Post by Kathie Tovo » Fri Sep 27, 2019 2:24 pm

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your time, patience, and hard work as we move forward on this issue as a community. As the Council Member who represents a District with multiple emergency shelters and a District home to the most constituents experiencing homelessness, this issue is deeply personal to me.

First, I would like to affirm a sentiment expressed by my colleagues and that is one of gratitude for the expertise of Lori Pampilo Harris, our new Homeless Strategy Officer. She is a vital new addition to our City’s strategy to address homelessness compassionately and effectively, and I’m thrilled she has joined the City of Austin to help lead our efforts in ending homelessness in this community.

I do want to avoid a continued circuitous conversation — one in which we are bouncing the responsibility to clarify these ordinances back and forth from staff to Council (which began soon after the auditor’s report). Council initiated action and directed the City Manager to propose reasonable time and place opportunities and limitations on camping, sitting, and lying and to provide possible options for non-criminal remedies or tools; City Manager Cronk’s August 30, 2019, memo provided general recommendations that the Council could consider.

I see it is as our turn now as policymakers to vet, discuss, and make decisions about these policy recommendations—and that was my understanding of the City Manager’s intent. It’s not at all clear to me what path the City Manager can or would take with regard to specific issues within the ordinance or to the elements raised in the proposed resolution given that the Council hasn’t yet taken action. So that would be a good discussion for us to have with the City Manager.

We left last week’s Special Called meeting with a plan to schedule a work session to discuss and to schedule action for another day, perhaps October 17. After the Mayor’s post earlier this week, my staff conveyed our feedback to the Mayor’s staff that as 10/14 is a school holiday, discussing within the context of the 10/15 work session would be my preferred option. I still support that plan.

Council Member Kitchen and I have requested a Council discussion during our October 1, 2019, work session in case it’s helpful to expand on this conversation in person.

I look forward to the discussion.

Best,
Kathie
Council District 9

Lauren Hartnett
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed May 22, 2019 2:13 pm

Re: Work Session Scheduling

Post by Lauren Hartnett » Mon Sep 30, 2019 11:10 am

On behalf of Council Member Harper-Madison:

Colleagues,

I want to offer my gratitude to each of you for this dialogue. Confronting our homelessness crisis is one of our most urgent obligations as leaders of this community. Without resolving it, we can never claim to be an equitable city. At my most recent town hall meeting, my constituents displayed differing opinions on a variety of issues, but they also demonstrated nearly unanimous support for the compassionate steps we as a Council have taken so far to help their neighbors in need. That spirit is a point of pride for me, as is the fact that my district counts among its residents or neighbors the people served by the Salvation Army’s Rathgeber Center, Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Community First! Village, Integral Care’s newly opened Terrace at Oak Springs, the Sobering Center, and countless other facilities and service providers.

For the purposes of this discussion, I’d like to echo the input offered so far. I’m still proud of my vote in June to reverse rules that adversely affected our most marginalized residents. However, to the extent that our constituents and the women and men we entrust with our public safety need more clarity about which behaviors are still illegal and how to enforce our local laws, I support the idea of allowing staff – including the City Manager, our incoming Homeless Strategy Officer, and Chief Manley – to explore those considerations without further direction from us. In the meantime, it’s my intent that we as a Council continue to discuss options to mitigate our homelessness crisis by way of access to housing, permanent shelters, mental health and addiction services, veterans’ services public restrooms, underpass clean-ups, and other efforts.

-Natasha
Policy Director

Ann Kitchen
Posts: 143
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2015 5:04 pm

Re: Work Session Scheduling

Post by Ann Kitchen » Mon Sep 30, 2019 5:15 pm

Colleagues

In response to the Mayor's question, I think it is important to continue the conversation we began at the Special Called Meeting on Homelessness on September 21st. We ended that meeting by discussing next steps, deciding to move forward with a worksession to allow more time for Council discussion, and postponing voting on the resolution and proposed ordinance changes to the October 17th meeting.

It is important for all Councilmembers to have an opportunity to participate in this important discussion. For that reason, CM Tovo and I are withdrawing our request for a worksession item tomorrow, so that CM Harper-Madison can participate when the Council takes up this topic again. It appears that October 15th may be the best date, given everyone's schedules.

I continue to support the necessary and important action we took in June to decriminalize homelessness. I believe clarity is needed, however, on the standards established in the ordinance we passed in June. I think that clarity is a matter of policy that it is the Council's role to address.

As CM Tovo mentioned in her post, I also believe it is time for the Council, as policymakers, to vet, discuss and make decisions on recommendations brought forward by the City Manager. I believe it is important for the Council to consider the proposals CM Tovo has brought forward in her resolution. While I am impressed with the expertise we now have in Lori Pampilo Harris, our Homeless Strategy Officer, and look forward to her recommendations - I believe it is the Council's role to establish policy. It is also the Council's role to designate resources.

The bottom line, I think for all of us, is the focus on housing and services for people living on the streets. It is neither humane nor good public policy to accept a situation where people have to live in unsafe, unsanitary, and unhealthy conditions because they have no options. Austin is better than that.

I know that we all care deeply about this issue and I believe we all want to move forward as quickly as possible to end homelessness in Austin. I use that term deliberately because I don't think we should aim for anything less.

I look forward to taking our next steps on this critical issue.

Best
Ann Kitchen
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5

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