2021 March NACA Meeting Minutes
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Download here: Mar. 2021 NACA Meeting Minutes

NACA MONTHLY MEETING

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Virtual Meeting via Zoom

Introductions:

Matt Myers called the meeting to order at 7:03 PM.

Catherine Henning from Settlement Home introduced herself.

The following statement of Land Rights was read by President Melinda Schiera:

“The North Austin Civic Association (NACA) would like to acknowledge that the land boundaries of NACA are original territory of a number of Indigenous peoples–– specifically the Numunuu also known as Comanche Nation and the Tonkawa Tribe. We honor and thank the Indigenous peoples connected to this territory where we gather, and give gratitude to this land on which we meet. NACA will work towards decolonizing our practices, and make our Civic Association an inclusive space for all.”

Announcements

Longtime NACA member and volunteer Tony Reda passed away recently.

City of Austin will have a zoom meeting on Tuesday, April 12th at 6:00 pm on the Little Walnut Creek Flood Plan project along Mearns Meadow. To attend, contact Matt Myers. The project has been on the books since the late 1990s, and would move 100 homes to be less in danger of flooding. John Green encourages all members to let the city know that we are watchinb.

NACA, led by then-presidents Linda Moore and Brian Almon and Brian LaCour, helped develop the pocket park at Payton Gin and Lamar. NACA informally called the park “Heron Hollow,” as the students at Lanier High School came up with the name. At one point, there was a sign at the park that NACA put up that had the “Heron Hollow” name on it. However, it was never formally designated as such. Recently, member Susie Milam noticed that the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department has put a sign up calling it “Little Walnut Creek Pocket Park.” It is particularly odd because it used to be called “Payton Gin Pocket Park” by the city. This would require an application fee of $365, history, signature list, and articles we can drum up on the park being considered to have that name. If sent in, the City Council and the Parks Department would consider the application, and if approved, there’s a $970 sign fee to re-sign the park. We will ask the City Council to consider waiving the re-signing fee.

Eleanor Langsdorf moved to make the application to the city for it to be named “Heron Hollow” instead using beautification funds. John Green amended the motion to first open a conversation with Greg Casar and the City Manager’s office, and to reconsider spending only when and if that does not bear fruit. Members should be 

The University of Texas (UT) and Austin Transportation recently were selected as Stage 1 awardees of the Civic Innovation Challenge, a national grant competition that funds projects that could address community-identified needs. The team is working closely with numerous community partners to co-create a community mobility hub in the Georgian Acres Neighborhood. Though the community hub would be placed within the Georgian Acres Neighborhood, it could serve people in the general Georgian Acres/North Lamar/Rundberg area. The community mobility hub design could feature transportation options, like e-scooters, e-bikes, and access to transit or free access to additional amenities, such as wifi, shade structures, or access to charging for handheld devices or wheelchairs. Employees from Austin Transportation will be on site at the YMCA on April 8th from 4:30pm -7:30pm to gather feedback! Anyone who completes a survey in person will receive a $10 gift card. If you are unavailable to visit the YMCA during that time and live in the area, please complete the online survey at https://www.austintexas.gov/smart-mobility before April 9th, 2021. All submissions will be entered into a raffle to win a $50 gift card.

Street cleaner volunteers on Saturday April 10th for Keep Austin Beautiful Day—individual projects at different locations, but all that morning. Contact Allison Scharf for more information.

Covid education and vaccination program: John Green reached out to Austin Public Health but no progress yet.

Treasurer’s Report

$4,187.14 in General Fund with 94 members. Available Beautification Fund $2,249.35. Invested portion of the Beautification Fund $10,057.54.

Approval of January and February 2021 Meeting Minutes

The January and February meeting minutes were both approved unanimously by the membership.

Discussion of May 1st Election Ballot Propositions and Strong Mayor Proposal

Andrew Allison and Robbie Ausley, Austinites for Progressive Reforms (austinprogress.org)

This group has launched a campaign to make Austin more pro-democracy with a series of five charter amendments with the intent to make local government more diverse, representative, and responsive to the public.

Five particular propositions on the May ballot to bring about changes that have been successful in other cities. If the future’s challenges are to be met successfully, we need a more inclusive and representative democracy. We also need to push back against voter suppression efforts by expanding voter involvement and engagement.

Proposition D would move the Mayor’s election to Presidential election years, rather than the mid-term election. The electorate is more populous and diverse during Presidential years.

Proposition E would involve allowing for rank-choice voting to eliminate the need for run-off elections, which are expensive and have low-turn-out. A voter would rank several candidates. If nobody wins 1st place by more than 50%, whomever had the last-place vote would be eliminated, and the ballots of those who voted for them would be examined and those voters’ second-favorite choices would receive those votes in an “instant run-off.” The process would be repeated until one candidate achieves more than 50% of the vote.

Proposition F would let voters choose an elected mayor rather than having an unelected city manager only accountable to the City Manager. That way, the executive and the legislative branches of city government would both be elected by the voters. This tends to lead to higher voter turnout. Two-thirds of the largest cities in the country use a strong-mayor system like Nashville, San Diego, Boston, and Denver.

Proposition G would add an additional single-member city council district because of population growth, many districts will have gained nearly 30% in population soon. If the districts become too large, it will be harder for neighborhoods and citizens to get the attention of their elected representatives. 

Proposition H would give a $25 voucher to every registered voter—the voters could give that voucher to council candidates or mayoral candidates. Currently, less than 10% of city contributes to city races, and all out of just 3 of the council districts. In Seattle, it has diversified candidate pool by making a campaign more accessible. The $25 vouchers would cost less than $850,000/year, which is less than the city spends on its cell-fund plan. It could be partly offset by eliminating the need for run-off elections.

The recall provisions of the city charter will not be changed, so the citizens could recall a mayor if that came up. Campaign contribution limits of $400 per citizen candidate would not change, and the vouchers would count towards that limit.

So far, no bills have been filed to pre-empt this in the Legislature. We will have the program in place before the Legislature returns in 2023, and experience will show that it is a positive program.

The 2-term limit will remain for council members and the mayor. The cost of a city council office is about $450,000/year for salary and benefit expense. This is a cost to be incurred. 

Open Forum: Discussion of Topics for Future Monthly Meetings

Plan for the April meeting is to invite principals from local AISD schools in the NACA area about their progress this year and their plans for 2021–2022. We do not currently have topics for May and beyond. 

  • Have a “get to know your neighbor” portion of the meeting to welcome new members, especially the HACA members, and then build relationships with individuals and have connection and support and that people feel welcome.
  • Membership drive later this year, possibly in the Fall. to gain members for 2022. We would want to get the number closer to 150.
  • Covid has been challenging for the local YMCA branch that is a joint-project between the City of Austin and the YMCA. It might be good to have their application stapled to the back of ours, to help support them. There are so many programs—beyond fitness, many educational programs as well.
  • Traffic management for the Austin FC games, beginning with their home opener June 19th. They will invite a single meeting for all the neighborhood associations in the area.
  • Safety and APD update on the crime stats in the neighborhood
  • Councilmember Casar or one of his representatives on what their priorities have been at City Council.
  • Demographic changes and characteristics of the neighborhood, possibly having a speaker like Matt Dugan, with the City of Austin’s demography department.
  • Storm response from property managers in the area—how have they managed damages and prepared for possible future disasters. What have we as a neighborhood learned about dealing with and recovering from the severe weather disaster? Item 64 on the City Council agenda next week is about considering instituting Disaster Relief hubs.
  • Frances Acuña from GAVA could be a guest speaker about climate resilience, heat-mapping, and flood mitigation.

Next Meeting

Topics for the next meeting (April): Principals from the NACA-area schools with an Austin ISD update

Meeting adjourned at 8:20 pm by Matthew Myers.

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