AUSTIN (KXAN) — Here’s some of what we’re watching during this week’s Austin City Council meeting.
Austin Energy rate hikes
Austin City Council members are set to vote on one of two proposed rate hikes for your Austin Energy bill, which would go into effect next month.
There are two major components of all residential and commercial customers’ bills, explained Austin Energy spokesperson Matt Mitchell, the base rate and the pass-through rate.
Both are proposed to increase this year, and if city council members approve them, it would total about $35 more per month for the average customer, Mitchell said.
This week council will take up the pass-through rate. Mitchell said city council members are set to vote on the second, the base rate increase, on Nov. 17.
Tenants’ rights items
Austin City Council is once again trying to get people dealing with landlord issues more help. On this week’s agenda: a vote to codify tenants’ right to organize without fear of retaliation and one on a tenants’ rights assistance program.
“This is a program aimed at ensuring that there are resources in place, so that if renters want to have meetings with their landlords over health and safety issues, if they need counseling, if they need assistance, if they just want to know how to navigate the process, this program will be set up to administer those services,” Council member Vanessa Fuentes said.
Lyndsay Hanes, the principal of Metric Property Management, agreed renters should have resources and know their rights — after all, landlords don’t want to evict people who are paying rent — but she also said the right to organize is already protected in Texas.
“But the additional protections that eliminate or could convolute some of the protections that landlords have to enforce the contract later is where the concern lies,” she explained, saying landlords would rather have renters come to them with their concerns than go door-to-door, possibly bothering other tenants.
Creating public health commission
Austin and Travis County could create a new public health commission, which the agenda says will “serve as an advisory board to City Council concerning public health programs, projects, and services within Austin and Travis County.”
Austin-Travis County already has a local health authority, Dr. Desmar Walkes, who regularly briefs and coordinates with both the city and the county, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cut down on single-use plastics
City council is looking at a new way to reduce the use of single-use plastics at bars and restaurants.
According to the council agenda, one of the items asks the city manager to “implement a strategy, engage with stakeholders, and provide public information campaigns” about the matter.
Supporting council members want the City to work with the Texas Restaurant Association to encourage businesses to replace single-use plastic and Styrofoam with biodegradable materials.