Austin City Council retools committee structure

Austin's 10-1 City Council committees created last year were designed to encourage more civic engagement, and on March 3 council passed new legislation that will define the role and processes for these committees.The changes were proposed by District 4 Council Member Gregorio Casar, who said the new rules will allow committees to operate more effectively and also reduce the workload burden on city staff.Major approved changes to council committees include:
  • Changing committee member terms from one- to  two-year terms
  • Requiring committee or council approval if information requested of staff during committee meetings will take substantial time or resources to produce
  • Requiring approval by two committee members to place an item on a committee agenda and requiring three members to move an item from committee to a City Council agenda
  • Clarifying that committee members may not direct staff beyond the council’s right of inquiry
District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman said he believes council committees are already only "marginally useful" and that the new legislation makes them less effective.Mayor Steve Adler noted the new rules are not intended to be the final step in improving council committees but said they are an important step forward in the process.Casar originally proposed modifications to committee public testimony procedure as part of his initiative, but said March 3 he plans to raise that issue at a future meeting, likely later this month.


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