The Austin City Council will now allow for remote citizen communication from nine libraries throughout the city.
Residents who want to speak their peace at Thursday's City Council meetings but cannot get to Austin City Hall may have a remedy.
On Thursday, Austin City Council passed a resolution to implement a program that would utilize telecommunication technology at a select number of libraries throughout the city to allow citizens to remotely participate in the citizen communication portion of City Council meetings.
Citizen’s communication is offered at each open regular council public meeting. Residents who sign up for the public comment segment are allotted time to bring anything of their choosing to the attention of council, including topics not listed on the meeting agenda. Council members have the opportunity to hear issues directly from their constituents.
In 2015, the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation requested the implementation of Google Chat technology in selected branches as a way to provide a variety of video conferencing services to the community. In 2016, the city’s Task Force on Community Engagement recommended the city find a way to enable remote video telecommunication to make community participation at city council meetings more accessible.
The project is to be rolled out in two phases. By March 2, the opportunity for remote citizen communication will be available in three libraries—the Ruiz Branch, the Manchaca Road Branch and the Spicewood Springs Branch. By May 4, it will be expanded to six more–the Carver, Little Walnut Creek, Yarborough, Old Quarry, Southeast Community and the Hampton branches.
The item was originally brought to council for passage last week but postponed after District 2 Council Member Delia Garza voiced concern the opportunity would not be offered in her district. Since the postponement, the Old Quarry and Southeast Community branches were added.
On Thursday, one citizen shared discomfort that the Little Walnut Creek Branch was chosen over the North Village Branch. She said the former is often littered, located in a rougher part of town and is not as attractive destination for residents while the North Village Branch offered a more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing location. She also proposed looking into a partnership with Capital Metro to bring citizens to city hall for council meetings. Council said it would look into both ideas.
Remote citizen communication is also offered at the District 6 Council Office in Northwest Austin.