This Week at the ATX Council

Homeless Work Program and Composting

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This Week at the ATX Council (October 3) – Homeless Work Program and Composting

This Week at the ATX Council (October 3) – Homeless Work Program and Composting

This Week at the Austin City Council #ATXAgendaAware

By Michael Searle, Executive Director, Austin Civic Fund

October 2, 2019


City Council Agenda for October 3, 2019


What does this item do? 

An excellent Austin charity, The Other Ones Foundation has completed a successful pilot program, originally pioneered by former Councilmember Ellen Troxclair, that employs Austin homeless neighbors in productive City work including park and right-of-way clean up. While, the program in theory is a great concept which Austin should do more of, the lack of metrics of success for the $720,000 contract, evaluation of need (for both the City and homeless who need work), funding sources, and City’s mandated wage requirements leave much room for improvement. 

Like all homeless actions and spending, this program should be viewed through a comprehensive vision for solving homelessness. The City should also eliminate the politically-motivated $15 minimum wage requirement for this program. This limits the amount of people they can employ, ultimately helping less people.  



What does this item do? 

Wonder why your Austin Energy bills are going up… For the sum of $3.7M over 5 yrs, a local provider has been tapped to resell compost collected by Austin Resource Recovery. And this is just the cost for processing, not collecting as well. If the City achieves its objective, those new compost bins will be distributed throughout the whole city. The contractor gets paid for selling your waste, and City Council gets to tout their eco-wisdom. 

A better, more efficient solution would be to provide an opt-in option for folks who want to pay for those services, like a business would do. The City Council, who sets the rates and programs, is able to mandate that you pay for it, regardless of whether you use it.  



What does this item do? 

Austin Police Department’s approximately 125 bike officers are to be equipped with bicycles and maintenance for $40,000 a year, $350,000 total. That’s about $300 per year per officer. Public safety is one of the few actually essential jobs that Austin City Council makes decisions about, and we’re glad to see that our officers will be supported with needed equipment. 

We would love for the City to throw in 11 more bikes in this contract for our Mayor & Council to practice what they preach, and bike to and from work. 



What does this item do? 

With Adler’s push to make Austin un-elected City Manager Spencer Cronk the fall guy for Council’s indefensible homeless policies, perhaps CM Cronk wants to negotiate for a golden parachute? Truth is, given the position this Council has put him in, he deserves a hefty salary and a long vacation. 

But these deliberations happen in secret. The public won’t know what this, or the other closed-door, “power plant” secret, executive session items actually do or contain until some later date, if at all.