Agenda for the September 15, 2021 Meeting of the Hancock Neighborhood Association

Our September HNA meeting is this Wednesday, September 15th at 7 pm (zoom link below).

We've got a full agenda for the meeting, including:

  • 7 pm – Announcements, Committee updates
  • 7:10 pm – City of Austin Watershed department on Waller Creek and creek restoration programs, Andrew Clamann and Staryn Wagner
  • 7:40 pm – Central Health's plan for the old Sears building, Stephanie McDonald
  • 7:50 pm – I-35 update and neighborhood statement review and vote

Zoom Meeting Info


Join by Telephone
Phone Number: (346) 248 7799
Meeting ID: 977 5019 8568
Passcode: 844405

I hope to see you on Zoom.

Best regards,

Coan Dillahunty HNA President

Hancock Neighborhood Association Statement on I-35 CapEx Central Project [Draft]

Link to Google doc:

The Hancock Neighborhood Association opposes TxDOT’s current plans for the I-35 Capital Express Central project. The schematics provided on August 10, 2021, reflect TxDOT’s insufficient attention to community feedback and represent unnecessary harm to north central neighborhoods.

Expanding I-35 to 20 – and in some areas 22 – lanes will induce more than 100,000 additional vehicle trips per day through central Austin neighborhoods, offsetting potential gains in traffic safety, increasing emissions, degrading air quality, exacerbating health conditions, and obstructing Austin’s Community Climate Plan target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All this for an expansion that will not relieve con­gestion, as stated by TxDOT’s own District Engineer in a presentation to Austin City Council on September 1.
We find these plans to be indefensible in light of the already unfolding climate crisis, which requires that we all think more carefully and creatively about how we travel. We also find them to be outdated, as they do not take into account – let alone strategically integrate – the Project Connect plans for extensive light rail service and additional bus service that will reduce Austinites’ need for vehicle trips.

We do applaud TxDOT’s intent to remove the upper decks, which bring noise into the entirety of our neighbor­hood and exacerbate the division between Hancock and our eastside neighbors in Cherrywood, Wilshire Woods, Mueller, and East Austin. We also applaud TxDOT’s openness to reconnecting downtown with a cap and stitch plan and adding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

However, with only two “stitches” between US 290 East and MLK Blvd, and no plans for any “caps” in this 3.5-mile stretch, north central neighborhoods like ours will disproportionately bear the considerable negative outcomes of an expansion of I-35. It is already exceedingly difficult and dangerous for us to travel east to Cherrywood or Mueller on foot or by bicycle. We can only imagine the additional challenges posed by a 20-lane thoroughfare, including 4-lane frontage roads, no matter the particular design. What is more, the overwhelming majority of up to 147 displacements and 32 acres of right-of-way required for Alternatives 2 and 3 are located in north central neighborhoods, including Hancock.

In 2020, Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg vowed that plans for I-35 in central Austin would be “no wider and no higher.” With its dismissal of community alternatives and the removal of Alternative 1 from study – the only alternative that approached this claim – before the public was able to comment on it, TxDOT has not kept this promise.

Furthermore, TxDOT’s Alternatives 2 and 3 are practically identical, leaving no opportunity for the community to participate in the project in a meaningful way. North central neighborhoods affected by this proposed expansion deserve a direct, open dialogue with TxDOT to develop a reasonable alternative that produces positive impacts for the people living and working along the I-35 corridor, now and in the future.

We therefore join other north central neighborhoods in rejecting TxDOT’s current plans. We would like to engage with TxDOT to identify solutions that balance TxDOT’s mandate to move traffic with our neighborhoods’ needs to breathe clean air, travel safely on foot and by bicycle, and keep our homes and businesses from being demolished to make room for an even larger highway.

We ask TxDOT to heed our concerns and design a I-35 corridor that

  1. truly connects us, instead of dividing us further;
  2. preserves the integrity of our neighborhoods, instead of uprooting businesses and families;
  3. that (if anything) reduces I-35’s footprint, instead of expanding it further;
  4. works hand in hand with Project Connect, helping reduce traffic and pollution, instead of increasing them further;
  5. serves the needs, health, and safety of all Austinites engaged in all modes of transportation, of this and many future generations, instead of doubling down on the mistakes of the past.

Austin, TX, September 15, 2021

HNA Meeting Minutes for July 21, 2021


Video of the meeting:

Minutes from the July 21, 2021, Hancock Neighborhood Association regular meeting

Submitted by secretary Robyn Ross


President Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:06 pm.


Carolyn Palaima moved that we adopt the minutes from the May meeting, and the motion was seconded.


Coan said that the Hancock Golf Course survey was not presented by PARD at the June 22 meeting because other agenda items ran long. This may be discussed at the August 24 meeting [update: It will be discussed at a just-posted special called meeting August 5]. If you want to speak at this meeting, you have to sign up in advance, and speakers are generally heard (via phone) at the beginning of the meeting.


Coan said that the Hancock Recreation Center has been open only for daytime youth programs this summer. At some point in the fall PARD may notify us about reopening for group meetings like ours.


Carolyn Palaima reported that the Parks Committee has submitted the CAPP (Community Activated Parks Projects) info to the Austin Parks Foundation. (CAPP is the mechanism for doing work on public parkland and accessing HNA funds held at APF.) This CAPP relates to maintenance and erosion prevention on the recent trail work.


Coan delivered the treasurer’s report in treasurer Bruce Fairchild’s absence. The beginning balance in our checking account on May 19 was $4757.91. We received $30 in dues and paid $500 for the first two issues of the newsletter, as well as a $3.50 bank fee, putting our ending balance at $4284.41. Our money market account accrued 4 cents of interest to end at $2509.54.


Our first speakers were from the City of Austin Homeless Strategy Division.

-Charles Loosen, the community engagement officer, gave some basics until Dianna Grey joined us after a meeting with the mayor.

-Charles is involved with the HEAL initiative, a pilot program to resolve four high-priority encampments across the city.They are halfway through that effort. Last week the office closed an encampment at Ben White and Menchaca and relocated 15 people to the Southbridge shelter acquired as part of the city’s hotel conversion strategy.

-People in the HEAL initiative have been assigned funding and a case manager and typically get into housing in 60 days.

-Southbridge was a “ProLodge,” a protective lodge for high-risk unsheltered people during the pandemic. Going forward, it will be “bridge shelter,” which provides housing for people between an encampment and more permanent housing.

-This shelter is non-congregant, which is preferred among people experiencing/leaving homelessness because of the privacy and security of having their own room. They can decompress and work with a case manager on next steps. 95% of people at the HEAL sites have accepted the offer of bridge shelter.

-From there they typically go to rapid rehousing, in which the city covers rent and utilities until people get income from benefits, pension or employment.

-Some move into permanent supportive housing (PSH) if they have high needs: a permanent disability or more advanced age that prevents them from working. PSH offers wraparound support with case management, life skills and sometimes medical/nutritional support. Austin lacks sufficient PSH, and the city is converting hotels/motels to PSH as one strategy to increase its supply.


Robyn: How many people in Austin are currently experiencing homelessness?

Charles: “Sheltered” homeless include people living at shelters like the ARCH, Safe Alliance and Southbridge – they are moving toward permanent housing.
“Unsheltered” homeless describes those at public encampments.

-The organization ECHO typically does a point-in-time count, a local census of the homeless population, but did not do that this year due to Covid. Another way to calculate the city’s homeless population is “service-based enumeration,” looking at the people who are included in the city’s homelessness response system because they are receiving services. Another method uses census data, which isn’t available yet.

-This year ECHO used a couple methods to come up with an estimate. Remember, over the course of a year, many more people experience homelessness than at a single point in time. People with “episodic” homelessness can lean on their support networks or access safety-net programs. “Chronic” homelessness tends to describe more visible homelessness.

Here’s a link to ECHO’s estimates, including a point-in-time estimate of 2506 people in 2020.

Here’s a link to ECHO’s dashboard of housing types:


Robyn: Can you talk about the impact of Proposition B, which banned public camping?

Charles: APD is moving into its third phase of implementation, which is mainly education and outreach, but in some cases APD will issue citations. If a person is cited or arrested for camping, APD tries to connect them with the Downtown Austin Community Court, which is geared toward their circumstances.

-City staff have narrowed the sites for designated camping to two: one off Manor Road and one in the Convict Hill area. There will be public engagement, including the SpeakUpAustin website and meetings, about this. The goal is to give people a place that has resources (nearby bus stop, restroom facilities), not just open land.


Robyn: Can you talk about the Summit that happened this spring?

Charles: This event yielded a goal of housing 3,000 people above and beyond our current rates of housing people, in the next three years. The goal is to achieve equilibrium – housing the same number of people who become homeless at any time – and then move toward functional zero, which includes preventing people from ever becoming homeless. It’s an ambitious goal that requires us to build system capacity.


Robyn: What can we do to help?

Charles: If you have a unit you want to rent, possibly through the Section 8 voucher program, contact Housing and Planning at the City of Austin.

-Stay in contact with your council member about solid policies and evidence-based practices that are worthy of public support.

-RE: volunteering, there are many informal advocacy groups on social media; also, groups like Front Steps, Caritas and Family Eldercare use volunteers. In HEAL/bridge shelter, we have heard that people in shelter are interested in social enrichment and integration because they’ve been out of contact with society for a while – this could be a volunteer opportunity.


Dianna Grey, the city’s homeless strategy officer, arrived, and Robyn introduced her and asked why she pursued this job.

Dianna: The ‘moment’ was very compelling for me. Homelessness is a crisis for anyone experiencing it, but in the past 3-5 years, especially after the camping ban was rescinded in 2019, it has become more visible and more of a pain point. But we as a city are well positioned to do something about it.


Robyn: Where are the new resources/money/political will coming from that will make the Summit goals possible?

Dianna: The city was already doing a lot but not articulating it well. The Downtown Austin Alliance and Chamber had already started planning the Summit when I started this job. The goal is to increase by 3,000 (over the next three years) the number of people we house, beyond the 1700-1800 people we rehouse each year already. We need to be serious about equity; African Americans are less than 10% of the local population but 35% of those experiencing homelessness.

-We identified a gap of $300 million we would need over the next 3 years. The City of Austin has committed $100 million and is talking with Travis County about the need to match that. That leaves $100 million to raise in private funds.


Questions from attendees

Linda Guerrero: Is the motel at I-35 and 32nd “bridge housing”? What is its capacity, and are people asked to share rooms? Are social work and medical staff available?

Dianna: That Days Inn was a ProLodge through early June and has been vacant since then. We do generally have operations and case management staff on site. At Southbridge, residents are immediately connected with a case worker whose job is to get them into permanent housing.

-The focus of shelter like this is not just shelter “tonight” but linked services to get them into housing. That Days Inn has about 60 rooms, of which a few are designated for offices. We have talked about sharing rooms, but Covid risk levels are a factor. Capacity is generally 50-55 persons.

Linda: Multiple city departments (like Watershed) have a percentage of their budgets going to the houseless crisis. What departments are involved and what % of their budget is targeted to this?

Dianna: There are many departments involved, but there’s not a designated percentage. For example, Austin Resource Recovery has a cleanup contract for abandoned campsites in watershed areas. PARD has outreach workers. Public Works also has a cleanup contract.

Follow-up questions from Linda G (to be answered later):

-Will there be data-tracking -- intake and follow-up -- with people who come into bridge?

-Will there be any potential new COA ordinances that will address the houseless crisis for these people – is there potential change in ordinances for how we deal with this in future?

-How will the city handle disruption of I-35/TxDOT as they go through the NEPA process, and do you have a specific plan crafted for how we address that?

Carolyn Palaima: Is the city taking notes from the Foundation Communities model, which has wraparound services for families, and social workers on site?

Dianna: The City of Austin is probably the biggest funder of Foundation Communities projects and is in on every one of their deals. That model of services on site is permanent supportive housing (PSH). Our partnership with FC will be part of the effort to produce the 1,000+ units we want to build for the 3,000 additional people we’ll house.

Carolyn: Is the focus in Austin on the chronically homeless – the people who don’t necessarily want to move into shelter/housing – and can we expand that conversation (particularly in the media) to include families, elderly, disabled, and people that fell through the cracks, to get public support?

Dianna: Our strategy encompasses both the chronically homeless but also people who recently became homeless and need fewer resources to get back on their feet.

-The idea that people don’t really want housing doesn’t bear out if you are able to offer them the kind of resources they actually need to keep them stable. 95%+ of people engaged in HEAL said Yes, we want to get into shelter and housing.

David Guarino’s questions: What will happen to the federal funds if city doesn’t match them? Will Travis County match them? Will the city funds be reappropriated if it doesn’t raise the match money?

Dianna: It’s up to Council, which has held back the lion’s share of those dollars until they get the county and private commitment. The county has discussed contributing $60-100 million and we’re seeing what happens in upcoming meetings. I hope we’ll make progress with county and other funding and at least see incremental release of those funds.

Councilmember Kathie Tovo: The city has steadily increased its investment in homelessness in the past 5 years, and I’ve led on a lot of these initiatives, but we haven’t always articulated how the city is involved.

-This is one of my and council’s top priorities, and it’s my expectation that we will invest a large amount of our federal dollars in homelessness service and housing. I crafted the legislation that made our participation contingent on the matching funds. We need major private-sector funding for homelessness that we haven’t seen yet in Austin, or we’ll have to revise our goals.

Question: How does Community First! fit in?

Dianna: Their first phase housed 200-250 people, and their second will have a similar number, and they have a waitlist. It’s permanent housing, so it’s not available to us for shelter.

-CF wants to build housing for 1400 more over the next 10 years. For our 3-year timeline, many people who could be housed with subsidies could move there; our work will continue after the 3 years, and their bold goal of 1400 will be part of the plan. It’s part of the portfolio, but it’s not a fit for all people, or the whole solution.

Question: What is the process of fundraising from the private sector?

Dianna: The Summit leadership group is tasked with the private fundraising. The chair is Lynn Meredith, and the group is in conversations with large foundations and individuals.


The next presenter was Lonny Stern, manager of business and community partnerships for the Austin Transit Partnership. He began by explaining that transit is a solution to a “geometry problem” – it’s getting hard to move increasing numbers of people in Austin through the same amount of space. That challenge is not all-or-nothing, though; if you bike, take the bus or carpool once a week you’re still making a big difference.  

Project Connect is a transit plan that includes light rail, an expansion of regional rail, a downtown transit tunnel, more MetroRapid bus routes, more stations, additional Metro Express bus service from the suburbs, park-and-rides, converting everything to electric including Metro Bike, and an on-demand circulator service (“like Lyft, but $1.25 door to door within a zone”). In November, Austin voters approved an initial investment in Project Connect. The longer-range plan (represented as dotted lines on the map) is not funded. One long-term plan is the Gold Line through our neighborhood, which will start as a bus and may convert to rail in the future.

Orange Line: a rail line that is basically on the path of the 801 MetroRapid from Tech Ridge to Southpark Meadows down Lamar. The initial investment is between the 183/Lamar transit center and Stassney. Goes through a tunnel in downtown and under the river.

Blue Line: a rail line that is “interlined” (same as the Orange) from its north end to Republic Square, goes underground through downtown, crosses the river on a bridge, and goes to the airport.

These two lines will run every 10 minutes but, because they are interlined, a train will come every 5 minutes.

Regional rail: the Red Line will change from 30-minute or 1-hour intervals to 15- and 30-minute intervals. Stations will be added to better serve Q2 Stadium, the Domain and the park-and-ride.

The Green Line is planned from downtown east to Colony Park and maybe eventually Elgin.

MetroRapid buses have higher capacity and run at 10- to 15-minute intervals, more frequently than blue buses. Several new lines are in the works; Gold Line public meetings will be held later this year. The Gold Line will go from the Highland station down Airport Blvd. to Clarkson, Hancock Center (likely stopping where the 10 does now), St. David’s, UT East, Dell Medical School, Capitol East, Trinity/8th, and Convention Center, Republic Square.

Timeline: Now is the very important preliminary phase for the Orange and Blue Lines. This summer, we are locking down station locations; whether the lines go above or below ground in some areas, and what right-of-way (ROW) we need. There are public meetings coming up:

-You can provide comments online (same link) until the end of August.

-After that we still have to decide how things look: trees, station amenities, sidewalk, bike lines, etc. We start building in 2025 and it will take 5 years.

-MetroRapid bus timelines are much faster. By 2024 we should have the Gold Line MetroRapid bus.

-There are also working groups that focus on specific sections of one line, and you can genuinely influence the thinking of the design teams. To learn more, click the blue button under “We need your input!”


Robyn: People’s first question is how the streets around Hancock will change.

Lonny: Right now there are 15-minute buses on 38th, Duval and Red River, and a 30-minute bus on 45th.

-The short-term changes will be MetroRapid stations on Red River, Airport and maybe 45th. These stations will probably look different than the existing stations because of upgrades.

-If there are places you think there should be station between UT and Hancock Center, you should come to the Gold Line meetings later this year and request them.

-If/when we start planning rail, there will be many public meetings to discuss topics including right-of-way impacts. At this point in the process it’s very hard to answer questions about how many travel lanes a potential train would take, or impacts on ROW.


Robyn: How are transit plans being shaped by Covid-related changes like remote work?

Lonny: We did see large drops in ridership, but our highest-ridership routes actually had increased demand. The main impact we saw was reduced rush-hour traffic, which helps transit with reliability. But keep in mind that not everyone can work from home, and Austin continues to grow, which increases demand.

Robyn: Can you talk about equity – both explaining eTODs and whether Project Connect is mainly about getting people into and out of downtown, as opposed to accommodating people in low-income parts of town?

Lonny: Transportation is a network, and if downtown is congested it can have a cascade effect that influences traffic all around the city.

-TODs are transit oriented developments, or self-contained “communities” – with most things you need within walk, bike or bus distance.

-Equitable (the e in eTOD) = making sure it’s not a developer land grab, since presumably the station areas will become more valuable. Every entity involved in Project Connect has an interest in making sure people from all walks of life can afford to live in Austin. We don’t want the addition of stations to price out people or businesses.

-Yannis Banks, Lonny’s colleague: When people are displaced from more central areas, sometimes they move outside Capital Metro’s service area, and we are not legally able to bring service out there. But we’re increasing frequency of service where we can and looking at adding circulators where we can’t have a bus. The Community Advisory Committee is the group managing the money we got for anti-displacement, or efforts to prevent people and businesses being priced out because we add this infrastructure. Their meetings are open to the public.



Linda Guerrero: Will we be able to use reduced fares (for the elderly, special needs, low-income folks) on MetroRapid?

Lonny: Yes, MetroRapid costs the same as Metro Buses: $1.25 one-way, $2.50 for a day pass. Cap Metro also offers the reduced-fair ID program for seniors, Medicare card holders, people with disabilities and active military, and you get these by going to the store at 9th/Lavaca.
I just want to express my hope that this isn’t a bait-and-switch situation, where you say we’re trying MetroRapid but your intention is really to put in transit, and then we get into issues of eminent domain and encroachment on the golf course.

Lonny: I register that. We really want people to participate in our meetings so all comments can become part of the official record.

Updated: Agenda for the July 21, 2021 Meeting of the Hancock Neighborhood Association

Hello Neighbors,

I hope you're having a good summer. Our July HNA meeting is this Wednesday, July 21st at 7 pm (zoom link below).

One small change for tomorrow's HNA meeting: Our primary COA Watershed contact had a last-minute out-of-town commitment and won't be able to attend. They'll be joining us for our September meeting instead. Here's the updated agenda and speaking times:

  • 7 pm – announcements, committee updates
  • 7:10 pm – Dianna Grey, City of Austin homeless strategy officer, on homelessness in Austin and the city’s housing plans
  • 7:40 pm – Capital Metro on Project Connect plans and upcoming public engagement meetings

Zoom Link:

Meeting URL:

Phone: +1 346 248 7799
Meeting ID: 967 5879 9323
Passcode: 317513

Looking forward to seeing you on Zoom!

Best regards,

Coan Dillahunty
HNA President

HNA Meeting Minutes for May 19, 2021

Minutes from May 19, 2021, regular HNA meeting
Submitted by secretary Robyn Ross

HNA president Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:03 pm
Carolyn Palaima moved that we approve the minutes from the 3.31 meeting as posted, and Mary Ann Osborne seconded

Coan said that for our July 21 meeting we have scheduled the Watershed department to talk about Waller Creek and habitat restoration, and the city’s chief homeless strategy officer Dianna Grey to talk about homelessness.

With increased vaccinations the July 4 parade seems like a possibility. This is an opportunity for a volunteer to organize it. Carolyn Palaima mentioned Lee parents might be interested and that we could post a volunteer call on

Coan has checked on reopening of the rec centers for in-person meetings, but there’s no news yet.

Bruce Fairchild gave the treasurer’s report.
-HNA’s checking account (through which most business is conducted) had $4711.21 at the last meeting. Since then we’ve collected more dues, minus the fees to collect them, and balance is now $4757.91.
-Our money market account is about the same, with a balance of $2509.50.
-What is not reflected in tonight’s statement is the $250 bill for the first newsletter, which Bruce is about to pay.

Secretary/newsletter editor Robyn Ross explained the expenditure and newsletter.
-The newsletter has restarted after about 5 years, and the first issue was mailed this week. It will be published the months of our regular meetings (next issue will be July).
-Thanks to the volunteers who contributed.
-HNA is working with Neighborhood News, a community newsletter company, to handle design, ad sales, printing and mailing. They mail it because advertisers prefer it to be mailed. Ours is mailed to 1050 addresses in Hancock, and for that circulation NN charges $500/issue, but most clients are HOAs, so they dropped our price to $250/issue. This covers postage and handling, and NN keeps the ad revenue.
-Robyn said running a newsletter involves four jobs: editorial, design, ads, printing/distribution. Since we didn’t have volunteer infrastructure for all that, we could get the newsletter started sooner by outsourcing the non-editorial tasks.
-The executive committee approved the expense but agreed it’s not sustainable long term, because our 1-year contract costs $1500, and in a typical year we bring in $200-700 in dues. We’d need to raise money for the newsletter or find volunteers to bring all jobs back “in house.”

Q from Barbara Epstein: Did you consider just doing an online newsletter to save money?
A: Yes, but when I asked, most people said they preferred a physical newsletter. It also makes a statement about neighborhood identity to have a physical product. There is an opt-out link in the first issue for people who don’t want paper.

Volunteer opportunities: Contact if you want to write or take pictures. Also reach out if you want to be a block captain. Robyn said that regardless of the newsletter’s future, we should build back our block captain network to check on neighbors in emergencies. There is also a volunteer opportunity for an organized “people” person to coordinate the block captain network.

Coan gave an update on the golf course.
-The city’s Parks Board had planned to discuss the issue at its April 27 meeting, but that’s been postponed, partly because the board was waiting for the results of PARD’s survey. These were shared with the neighborhood on May 10.
-PARD staff also have said there will be community engagement/small group meetings in April/May, which may have been pushed to May/June. If you find out about these, please share what you know.
-Coan has learned that April was a record month at the golf course, with almost $49K in greens fees; the yearly total so far is almost $275K.

Robyn shared Hyde Park secretary Ben Reid’s notes about the Speedway post office closure.
-In mid-April, Ben met with Speedway post office manager Bernardino Vidauri, who confirmed that location would close by the end of June. Ben reached out to Austin Postmaster Doug Watson and his assistant Amber Evans, who told Ben the owner would not renew the lease.
-HPNA officers later met with property owner Blake Thompson. He said he’d been in negotiations with the USPS leasing entity, which is based in Denver, since 2018. The issue boils down to the USPS and Blake getting different appraisals for the property, and how that influences the lease. Blake said he tried to come to agreement with USPS and offered a lease extension earlier this year but did not get a response.
-Blake owns the post office building; the apartments just north of it; the parking lot across Speedway; and the house between the lot and the fire station. The post office building was constructed in the late ’50s but has never been owned by the USPS.
-Blake purchased it in 2015. His immediate plan is to do asbestos abatement and rent it out, initially as creative office space. Long-term it could be commercial and/or residential. Blake is open to including a storefront post office.
-The HPNA officers encouraged him to stay in touch. For now, they are going to thank the postal workers with cookies and a sign. Manager Vidauri had heard the plan is to get a post office back in the area within a couple years, perhaps at Central Park or Hancock Center (although not in the Sears building because Central Health has bought that).

Your options if you have a P.O. Box at the Speedway location:
-Do nothing, and your box will physically move to the Northcross Drive post office. You do not need to update your address or zip code.
-If you use the “street addressing” service, through which you receive UPS and FedEx packages at your P.O. Box, you do need to update your customer agreement with the post office because you’ll use the physical address of the Northcross post office.
-You can get a different P.O. Box at a location other than Northcross, such as 35th/Lamar or Tarrytown, but of course your address will change.
-Decide by June 5, because the Speedway location is closing June 19 and it takes 2 weeks for changes to be processed.

Barbara Epstein gave a summary of her research and advocacy so far.
-She has contacted the local postmaster to lobby for a replacement post office location. She learned the postal services was looking at options in Hancock Center.
-She communicated with a representative of Regency Centers, the owners of Hancock shopping center. This person said Regency would be willing to lease to USPS if the postal service indicated this.
-She contacted Congressman Roger Williams and asked him to advocate for our neighborhood to have a post office. His staff said “we’ll pass along your concerns.”
-A new deputy postmaster general was appointed May 12, so Barbara initiated a letter-writing campaign directly to him for his help.
-Barbara encourages everyone to write a letter advocating for a nearby post office, a very basic government service.
--Coan said HNA will send a letter to all interested parties. Robyn said she can ask Hyde Park and Eastwoods if they want to sign on; Jim Schwobel from Eastwoods NA is also concerned about this.

Contact information for letters:

Mr. Douglas Tulino
Deputy Postmaster General
2833 Alabama Ave SE, 
Washington DC 20020

Douglas Watson, PCC Postal Co-Chair
8225 Cross Park Dr
Austin, TX 78710-9998

Congressman Roger Williams
5806 Mesa Drive, Suite 390
Austin, TX 78731
Austin office 512-473-8910 
Washington D.C. office (202) 225-9896

Parks Committee chair Carolyn Palaima presented an update about Community Activated Park Projects and trail signage.
-The maintenance on the trail around the golf course is almost finished.
-The team HNA coordinates with includes PARD landscaper Darcy Nuffer, who suggested HNA put up signage around the trail indicating that it’s paid for by the HNA (through its funds held at the Austin Parks Foundation).
-This would help trail users understand that the neighborhood association is actively involved and might incentivize them to take better care of the trail by staying on the path (the erosion problems on the 38th Street side are exacerbated by people creating side trails).
-Projects like the proposed signage are handled through PARD’s Community Activated Park Projects program, which is the mechanism for doing any work on parkland. This is how HNA accesses the funds held at Austin Parks Foundation.
-The Parks Committee will submit a CAPP form to add signs on the trail stating that it’s paid for by the HNA and will work with PARD on the details. The cost is estimated at a few thousand dollars.
-Once this is worked out, the Parks Committee will come back to HNA and present the full project and get input and approval to expend the funds.
-Barbara Epstein suggested the signs have a slogan or clever tagline, or even a cartoon drawing (a person falling off a cliff!), to get people’s attention. There could be a contest or at least call for ideas sent out to the membership.

There was a time for new business to be raised, or ideas for future meetings/speakers.

Our guests, Theresa Sifuentes and Lt. Kevin Glover from the Austin Fire Department’s community outreach division, spoke.
-Lt. Glover said that while Station 9 (at Speedway/43rd) is being remodeled, the whole crew is based 1 mile away at the intersection of Speedway/30th/San Jacinto.
-Firefighters work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. The majority of their calls are medical calls, which include traffic accidents, fires and other types of medical calls. They are all EMT-B certified, so they often start life support before EMS arrives.
Safety tips:
-Have a CO detector near each sleeping area, especially if you have gas appliances. Mount them on the ceiling. CO alarms are now required by code if you do any type of remodel.
-If you smell gas while walking around and can’t tell where it’s coming from, call AFD. If you smell gas in your home, make sure your burners are off and your pilot light is lit. If that checks out, call AFD.
-Make sure you have working smoke detectors. Test them monthly. Make an evacuation plan and practice it. Make sure kids know where to meet the family outside, in the event of a fire.
-Pay attention to how you use candles – keep them attended and away from drapes. Some cooking fires can easily be smothered with a pan lid.
-Have a fire extinguisher.

Theresa Sifuentes explained AFD’s smoke alarm program.
-It’s a free program (aka, paid for by our tax dollars) and open to anyone in Austin.
-Fire code advises smoke alarms in every bedroom, the adjacent hallways, and the living room. If your smoke alarms are older than 8 years, they need to be replaced.
-You can call AFD for an assessment/replacement of your alarms. The alarms they use have a 10-year life expectancy (which includes the battery). Firefighters come to your home and assess for fire hazards and replace the smoke detectors.
-They also have smoke alarms for the hearing impaired.
-New homes often have hard-wired smoke alarms, and AFD cannot replace these because they’re installed by an electrician. But they can install battery-operated ones [I think this means “in addition”]

AFD also has community education/training programs:
-Hands-on fire extinguisher training. They teach people how to use an extinguisher properly by putting out a simulated fire.
-Home fire safety training. AFD has a trailer that’s a little home on wheels with a kitchen (the stove and trash can “catch fire”) and a kids’ bedroom. This is a good tool for practicing using a fire extinguisher and helping kids learn how to get out of the house via the window. With two weeks’ notice and guaranteed attendance of 50 people, the AFD can bring this to community events.
-The fire department can also lead our 4th of July parade if it happens.

The Red Angels program:
-AFD partners with nurses from Concordia, ACC and Austin Public Health to offer in-home well checks. This is especially helpful for elderly and mobility impaired people who haven’t been able to get to the doctor. Residents can request a nurse come to their home and conduct a well check (glucose, blood pressure, etc.) while firefighters replace the smoke alarms and conduct a home hazard assessment. The nurses can talk with residents about their medications or any concerns. This program is also free/underwritten by tax dollars.
-AFD is planning to do door-to-door outreach this summer about these programs.
-In the meantime, to request these smoke alarm or well check services, contact
-Robyn agreed with Ms. Sifuentes’ suggestion to include this information in the newsletter and said the block captains could help identify homes that wish to use the Red Angels program, saving AFD canvassing time
-Andrew Dillon remarked that these programs are tremendous contributions and that we need to get the word out. Ms. Sifuentes suggested that we encourage Council to publicize them more.

Agenda for the May 19, 2021 Meeting of the Hancock Neighborhood Association

Hello Neighbors,

The HNA March regular meeting is this Wednesday, May 19 at 7 pm (zoom link below). Here's the agenda for the meeting:

  • Call to Order
  • Committee Reports and Announcements: 7:05 - 7:30
    • Announcements/News
    • Treasurer's Report
    • Hancock Golf Course Update
    • Post Office Update
    • Community Activated Park Projects (CAPP) - Parks Committee
  • Presentations from Austin Fire Department (AFD): 7:30 - 8:00
    Guests: Theresa Sifuentes and Lt. Kevin Glover, AFD Public Outreach Department
    • Fire and Gas Safety
    • Smoke Alarm Program
    • Fire Department Responsibilities

*Zoom Link:*

Join Zoom Meeting

One tap mobile: US: +13462487799,,96257431589#,,,,*211364# or

Meeting URL:

Phone Number: 346-248-7799
Meeting ID: 962 5743 1589
Passcode: 211364

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Best regards,

Coan Dillahunty
HNA President

Hancock Neighborhood Association Statement on the Hancock Golf Course

Hancock Neighborhood Association Statement on the Hancock Golf Course

By vote of the Hancock Neighborhood Association membership at a Special Meeting held March 31, 2021, a consensus was found on supporting the following components pertaining to the Hancock Golf Course:
Component 1: Support budget sustainability for Hancock Golf Course

  • Promote adding food and beverage vendors to offset cost for equipment and course improvements
  • Suggest opening the Hancock recreation center as a clubhouse on Sundays to promote golf community interest
  • Redesign of problematic holes identified on the golf course to increase rounds played
  • Youth golf programs that serve city-wide groups, such as the Junior Golf Academy and First Tee
  • Introduce adult-beginner programs to attract new players
  • Annual frisbee golf tournament
  • Family-friendly live music events featuring nonamplified acoustic music to serve as Hancock fundraisers
  • Formalize a relationship between HNA and course managers to ensure community engagement.

Component 2: Continuation of non-golf community spaces (trail, soccer fields, playscape, etc.)

  • Ensure that existing non-golf community spaces are preserved (trail, soccer fields, playscape, etc.)
  • Continued collaboration with PARD on non-golf community use as exemplified in the trail installation
  • HNA engagement session to explore the enhancement of community spaces
  • Non-golf open park days
  • Encourage plantings of trees/bushes for pedestrian/vehicle safety and shade.

Component 3: What we oppose

  • Oppose a driving range
  • Oppose netting/fencing around Hancock Golf Course
  • Oppose night lighting beyond the Hancock Rec Center parking lot
  • Oppose a concessionaire taking over general operations of the golf course.

HNA Meeting Minutes for March 31, 2021

Link to video recording of meeting:

Notes from March 31 HNA special called meeting
Submitted by HNA Secretary Robyn Ross

HNA President Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:04 pm and explained the process for the meeting.

Coan covered some background and timeline information:
PARD presented at our January 21 meeting.
The Hancock Conservancy and Hancock Golf Course Conservancy presented at a special March 3 meeting.
The city’s Parks Board will meet April 27 to consider this issue, and HNA’s goal is to provide a statement in advance of that meeting that reflects the neighborhood’s priorities.
Coan said that the goal of the proposed statement is to stay in line with PARD’s articulated goal of financial sustainability for golf and maintaining golf’s historic significance at that location and that the statement draft is based on previously received feedback. He said the meeting is to find consensus on a collective statement to send to the Parks Board.

Coan said that once the group has reviewed and had a chance to ask questions about the existing components (in the agenda), there will be an opportunity to vote on elements to include in the final statement.
He then reviewed each component and explained the rationale behind it (e.g., golfers have said the opportunity to buy food and beverages would draw more people).

At 7:17 he opened the discussion to questions about the components.
Shannon Ratliff: Are open park days at odds with the fiscal solvency of golf if it takes away potential rounds?
Coan: They could be, that’s why we’re not prescribing how many.
Anna Thomas’s iPad: What about some bushes to protect cars parked on the street – for 3b?
Coan added this as Component 2e, Encourage plantings of trees/bushes for pedestrian/vehicle safety and shade.

Sam: Can we add “We do not want a private golf developer concessionaire” to Component 3?
Coan asked Parks Committee Chair Carolyn Palaima to speak about concessions/RFPs. Carolyn said there is a person on the Parks Board who specializes in Parks concessions who provided some context: A concession is a service contract designed to maintain/improve/operate an asset of the Parks department under PARD supervision. An RFP is a mechanism that a government agency has when it’s stewarding public funds to have an open bid process for activities that don’t normally fit under the expertise/skill set of PARD. These are present in other parks around town. Getting a food/beverage vendor would also require an RFP.

Andrew: Can we add “Formalize the relationship between HNA and the course managers to ensure community engagement”?
Coan: Would that be in the budget sustainability category or the continuation of non-golf spaces?
Andrew: Both.
Coan added Component 1h, Formalize a relationship between HNA and course managers to ensure community engagement.

Coan noted that the question of asking PARD to issue an RFI (request for information) rather than an RFP (request for proposal) had come up multiple times in the chat. He asked Parks Committee member Bart Whatley to speak about the difference between the two. Bart said that RFIs are more common in cases of a complicated initiative outside the city’s expertise, such as a theater going in on public land. But the city is familiar with the factors involved in working with vendors for food/beverage service or golf carts, so an RFI isn’t needed in such cases. RFI = asking questions about how a vendor would operate, RFP = engaging with vendor to offer a service

AJ Lawrence: Why don’t these components support turning the golf course into a park?
Coan: It’s because that isn’t the issue at hand with the Parks Board now; they’re going to consider an RFP with the continuation of golf in mind. We want to shape that resolution, and offering ideas not in line with that will not shape the way the resolution moves forward. Those are ideas you can lobby the board for as an individual or organization.
Carolyn said that RFPs do not relinquish the city’s oversight over the contractor.
Parks Committee member Linda Guerrero said the Parks Board has a concession committee that reviews and takes input from citizens to shape proposals.

Catharine Echols: As it is now, people often walk on the park after hours etc. Do we need to add something to make sure that there will continue to be public access to the course itself when not being actively used for golf?
Carolyn: There’s been no indication PARD would restrict that. We address that in Component 3 by saying we don’t want netting or fencing around golf course.
Coan asked if the group should specifically articulate that, and Carolyn said that would be opening a can of worms because the desire for access is understood, and we shouldn’t bring attention to that issue.
There were a number of comments in the chat expressing support for adding this point.

AJ Lawrence: What if this doesn’t reflect the views of majority of attendees in meeting? Doesn’t restricting votes to a small number of statements not build consensus? A lot of things expressed by membership are not included in components being voted on today.
Coan: I appreciate your sentiment and others’ as well but we’re trying to get a statement to the Parks Board on the RFP elements.
AJ Lawrence: I disagree, but thank you.
There were a number of comments in the chat expressing opposition to a concession agreement, an RFP or vendor management of the golf course itself.

Coan explained the Google survey process.

Bart: There are a lot of comments on the different type of concessionaires or RFP, like one that may operate the whole golf course, vs one that may support the golf operations run by the city. Maybe we make a statement that HNA is only interested in vendors or an RFP that supports the overall golf operation that should be run directly by the city. It might help to make a statement that we’re coming up with ideas to make course fiscally more solvent and perform better, but what we don’t want is the complete absence of the City of Austin as far as general operations. A vendor or concessionaire could support golf operations (food truck, cart rental) but maybe we could add to what we DON’T want having a concessionaire take over operations of the whole course.

Comments indicated wide support for this idea, and it was added as Component 3d, Oppose a concessionaire taking over general operations of the golf course.

Carolyn said that once PARD puts forward recommendations to the Parks Board in April, we will know more about what’s being put forward and HNA can have another meeting to address the recommendations.

Ella McCrea: What about adding the restoration of Waller Creek? That could be a shared goal for everyone; volunteers could remove invasive species and do some planting.
Coan said this was a good idea and asked Linda to share her thought on this.
Linda suggested we have someone from Watershed Protection speak to one of our meetings about this program and the creek. And Keep Austin Beautiful has someone in Hancock designated as a creek cleanup person. She said this idea should not go into a statement dealing primarily with budget.

Linda mentioned the option to write an individual letter to the Parks Board to express ideas like creek cleanups.

Someone asked a question about whether the form to vote on statement components will be sent to the whole membership. Coan said no, the idea was to have a meeting where the voting occurs.

Patricia Fontanals and Ella McCrea discussed Waller Creek cleanup efforts. Ella mentioned the need for open park days to facilitate volunteering at the creek. Patricia has organized volunteer days in the past but had a hard time getting volunteers. Patricia and Ella connected, and Carolyn suggested they could ask for this to go on a future meeting agenda.

CM Kathie Tovo was thanked for her attendance.

The meeting was ended at 8:01 pm.

Vote results are as follows:

Component 1a – Food/beverage vendors: Yes 57 / No 9 / Indifferent 7
Component 1b – Sunday clubhouse: Yes 44 / No 16 / Indifferent 13
Component 1c – Redesign problematic holes: Yes 31 / No 23 / Indifferent 19
Component 1d – Youth golf programs: Yes 56 / No 7 / Indifferent 10
Component 1e – Adult-beginner programs: Yes 49 / No 12 / Indifferent 12
Component 1f – Frisbee golf: Yes 57 / No 6 / Indifferent 10
Component 1g – Live music: Yes 64 / No 3 / Indifferent 6
Component 1h – Formalize a relationship between HNA and course managers to ensure community engagement: Yes 62 / No 7 / Indifferent 4
Component 2a – Preserve non-golf spaces: Yes 73 / No 0 / No 0
Component 2b – Continued collab with PARD, like on the trail: Yes 71 / No 2 / Indifferent 0
Component 2c – Explore enhancing community space: Yes 67 / No 2 / Indifferent 4
Component 2d – Non-golf open park days: Yes 40 / No 19 / Indifferent 14
Component 2f (there is no 2e) – Encourage plantings of trees/bushes for pedestrian/vehicle safety and shade: Yes 59 / No 1 / Indifferent 13
Component 3a – Oppose driving range: Yes 71 / No 2 / Indifferent 0
Component 3b – Oppose netting/fencing: Yes 71 / No 2 / Indifferent 0
Component 3c – Oppose night lighting: Yes 70 / No 2 / Indifferent 1
Component 3d – Oppose a concessionaire taking over general operations of the golf course: Yes 61 / No 6 / Indifferent 6

March 31, 2021 Special Meeting of the Hancock Neighborhood Association

Hello Neighbors,


The HNA Executive Commitee  and Parks Committee would like to invite you to a special joint committee meeting on  Wednesday, March 31st, at 7pm  using Zoom (information below) to develop a consensus toward developing a statement the neighborhood can present to the Parks Board.


Background and Timeline:  PARD gave a presentation at the January 21st HNA Meeting that laid out the goals for Hancock Golf Course and the Timeline for the process going forward to make recommendations to the Parks Board in April, culminating in a Memorandum to Council for Project Summary in May. The Community Survey on Desired Elements was posted from March 9-23rd, and we are expecting results to be made public shortly.

In the presentation, PARD laid out the following goals and inclusion of community input:


"PARD Goal for Hancock Golf Course:

1)      Increase the fiscal responsibility of city funds

2)      Financial solvency at Hancock Golf Course

3)      Maintain golf's historic significance at this location by seeking a concessionaire to update and manage golf at Hancock."


What this means:

•            The  focus will be on keeping golf in line with community input

•            PARD will include community input in the RFP process

•            The community can share additional park elements to be considered


This meeting's agenda is to find consensus on a collective Statement on recommendations from the HNA membership to be sent to the Parks Board for their consideration as this process goes forward.


The HNA Executive Committee and Parks Committee have culled feedback from neighborhood meetings and discussions. They have put forward three components to address the budgetary issues, community space and undesired elements as the basis of the Statement.


Component 1: Support budget sustainability for Hancock Golf Course

 •          Promote adding food and beverage vendors to offset the cost for equipment and course improvements

 •          Suggest opening the rec center as a clubhouse on Sundays to promote golf community interest.

 •          Redesign of problematic holes identified on the golf course to increase rounds played

 •          Youth golf programs that serve city-wide groups, such as the Junior Golf Academy and First Tee

 •          Introduce adult-beginner programs to attract new players

 •          Annual frisbee golf tournament

 •          Family-friendly live music events, a couple of times a year, featuring nonamplified acoustic music to serve as Hancock fundraisers.


Component 2: Continuation of non-golf community spaces (trail, soccer fields, playscape, etc.)

 •          Ensure that existing non-golf community spaces are preserved (trail, soccer fields, playscape, etc.)

 •          Continued collaboration with PARD on non-golf community use as exemplified in the trail installation

 •          HNA engagement session to explore the enhancement of community spaces

 •          Non-golf open park days


Component 3: What we do NOT want

 •          Driving range

 •          Netting/fencing around Hancock Golf Course

 •          Night lighting beyond the Hancock Rec Center parking lot


During the meeting, we'll provide members with an opportunity express support for each component and the elements that should be included in a final statement that will be drafted by the Executive and Parks Committee. 

We look forward to talking with you and will see you next week.


Thank you,


Coan Dillahunty
HNA President

HNA Meeting Minutes for March 17, 2021

Link to recording of the Zoom meeting:

Minutes from HNA regular meeting 3.17.21

President Coan Dillahunty called the meeting to order at 7:03 pm.

The minutes from the January 20 and March 3 meetings were adopted.

Coan Dillahunty gave the treasurer’s report in Bruce Fairchild’s absence. The checking account balance, which began at $4159.70 on January 20, now stands at $4711.21 after the deposit of member dues. The money market account remains roughly the same at $2509.45.

Parks Committee report from Carolyn Palaima:

--After weather-related delays, the maintenance work on the trail around the golf course is going well and will wrap up around the end of March.
--The PARD online survey about the future of Hancock Golf Course opened March 9 and will close March 23. Everyone is encouraged to complete this survey.
--PARD remains on the same timeline as Assistant Director of PARD Anthony Segura presented at our January meeting: PARD will make recommendations to the Parks Board in April, and the issue will be presented to City Council in May.

--Coan Dillahunty announced that the Executive Committee and Parks Committee held a joint meeting over the weekend to discuss components of a statement to put forward on behalf of HNA. This will allow the neighborhood to go on record in favor of some specific ideas about the golf course.
--On Wednesday, March 31, there will be a special meeting at which HNA members will be able to vote on specific elements of the statement. This statement will be posted to the website in advance. Following that meeting, the executive and parks committees will assemble the final draft of the statement to put forward to the city.

Transportation Committee:

Coan Dillahunty announced that Natalie Niles Arguello attended the recent NCINC (North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition) meeting on behalf of HNA. TxDOT’s second “virtual public scoping meeting” is open now through April 9 at 5 p.m. All Hancock residents should complete TxDOT’s second survey, even if they took the first one.

There was no news from the Zoning Committee.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to presentations for and against Proposition F, one of eight propositions on the May ballot. Prop F changes the mayor’s powers.

Andrew Allison of Austinites for Progressive Reform spoke for the proposal.
This group is behind Prop F as well as Props D, E, G and H. Its goal is to make Austin government more “representative, responsible and accountable.” Andrew stated that in an era of voter suppression, cities have a role to play to increase turnout and ensure representation. These ideas have all been tested and implemented in other cities.

--Prop D moves the mayoral election to presidential election years, when there’s the highest and most diverse turnout.
--Prop E implements ranked-choice voting (if permitted by state law), which would eliminate expensive and low-turnout runoff elections.
--Prop G adds another single-member council district to keep up with Austin’s growth.
--Prop H is a campaign finance reform measure that gives voters $25 vouchers to contribute to city candidates of their choice. In Seattle, a similar program has increased the number of candidates who can run, diversified their donor bases, and led to increased voter turnout.

Prop F would “let voters and not politicians choose the person who leads the city.” Right now Austin is one of the largest cities in the country with an unelected city manager who runs the executive branch of local government by setting daily policy, writing the budget and choosing department heads. Shifting some of these duties to an elected mayor would provide checks and balances. Prop F would make this person democratically accountable. The change would also remove powers from the mayor that are legislative in nature and retain them to the council.

Mason Ayer of Austin for All People spoke against the proposal.
He said that Austin’s success as one of the most desirable cities in the nation is due partly to the system of government we’ve had for decades; why would we want to change that? Consolidating power in the hands of a single mayor elected to a four-year term is not the solution to the problems of voter suppression Andrew identified.
--Under Prop F, the mayor would have the ability to set council meetings but wouldn’t be required to attend.
--Austin’s shift to a 10-1, geographic district system in 2012 has expanded representation on council, and giving the mayor veto power over a council decision negates council members’ voices. The 2/3 council vote required to override a mayoral veto is too high of a bar.
--A city manager is a professional trained to manage a very large budget. Putting that power in the hands of an elected official without that training is dangerous. If the mayor gets to appoint heads of all departments, there’s a risk of him/her appointing friends or donors to those positions.
--Finally, Ayer asked, if this is a pro-democracy move, why are we voting on something so important in a historically low-turnout May election during a pandemic?


Q. What problem does a strong-mayor system solve? Can you give us a local scenario where a strong mayor would have been better equipped to handle the situation?
Andrew: Going to 10-1 was a great step forward, but it also exposed flaws in our city manager system. Several times over the past 5 years, council has voted unanimously on something, but what the council agrees on is not implemented, or is implemented slowly or late. It’s as though the city manager has an “administrative veto,” one for which there is no override. It’s very rare for the council to fire the city manager, so in these situations, voters have little recourse.

Q. What is the worst-case scenario if Prop F passes? Walk us through a situation that could happen under a strong mayor that you think most voters would dislike.
Mason: It is rare for council to fire the city manager, but that person can be removed via a simple majority vote, or council can force her/his resignation. But with an unaccountable mayor, voters only have a chance to replace that person every four years. Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City all have strong mayors, and we don’t want to be like them. Imagine that a political hack is elected mayor and is managing the budget and appointing department heads based on personal favor.

Q. I would appreciate hearing more from each side about how Prop F would impact racial equity in Austin. What specific ways could Prop F reduce or fail to reduce racial disparities in housing, health care, education and more?
Andrew: The clearest way to look at this is to look at who chooses the city manager today, and who would choose the mayor in the future. Currently the city manager is chosen by council and mayor, generally in a unanimous vote. We live in a city that is a majority people of color, but most council members come from majority-white and wealthier areas due to the city’s history of segregation, so the “electorate” for the city manager is structurally unrepresentative of the city as a whole. Under Prop F, a much more diverse electorate would choose our chief executive via citywide vote.
Mason: We have made great progress on council diversity with the 10-1 system. A strong mayor has the potential to negate council’s voice.

Q. If Austin changes to a strong-mayor system, the mayor will be responsible for administrative and budgetary tasks that the city manager currently handles. This seems like the mayor would need to be someone with executive management experience rather than, primarily, a political visionary. Can each group talk about the qualities you think are most important for a mayor to hold?
Mason: The City of Austin is like a big corporation, and to be effective the mayor would need some kind of background running a bureaucracy. City managers go to school for this; the idea is they operate outside of politics.
Andrew: The city isn’t a corporation, it’s a democracy, and we have to trust the voters. Right now we have the legislature (the council) choosing the executive (the city manager) rather than trusting the voters to choose the chief executive of the city. “Politics” is another word for voting, and we need leaders who are responsive to voters. The ideal qualities of a mayor will be what voters decide they should be, not what 11 people in a conference room decide.

Q. Both groups acknowledge the changes made by the shift to 10-1, so why would it be a good idea to give the mayor veto power over a council decision?
Andrew: It’s a question of checks and balances. You can read on our website about the powers the mayor would lose under Prop F and how power would be split. Council would be able to override a mayoral veto, confirm appointments, have budget authority, and appoint the city auditor, who oversees the executive branch. The council and mayor both have checks over one another, like in our other American systems.
Mason: The 2/3 vote required for council to override a mayoral veto is a very high bar to reach.

Q. Do other peer cities with strong mayors all give the mayor veto power?
Andrew: Yes, every strong-mayor city with a population of more than 500,000 has a mayoral veto.

Q. The Code rewrite or Code Next2 has been very contentious with a great deal of citizen involvement. With a strong Mayor who appoints the head of Zoning and Planning commission what effect would that have on decision making on Code change?
Mason: We really don’t know. I would hope the mayor would appoint someone with expertise in this area, but it could be a member of the good-old-boys’ club. Also, the code rewrite is one of the biggest changes our city has experienced in decades, and there have been many opportunities for citizen input. Changing to a strong-mayor system is at least as big a change, but there hasn’t been the same level of community input.
Andrew: The elected mayor would appoint the head of the department (which the unelected city manager does currently). The mayor would lose the ability to appoint someone to the Planning Commission, which would be replaced by the appointee from the new 11th district. Ultimately any land development code or zoning change has to pass through council as an ordinance – the mayor can’t pass that on his/her own.

Q. Why is there no provision requiring the City Council confirm any department head nominees to be confirmed with a majority vote?
Andrew: Today, the city attorney is appointed by the unelected city manager. In our proposal the mayor picks the city attorney, who must then be confirmed by council. The council could also remove and replace that person (a power council does not have today). Currently, public safety chiefs are confirmed by council and department heads are not. Under Prop F that would stay the same; we don’t want to change too much at once.

Q. How does Austin for All People stand on Propositions D, E, G and H?
Mason: We aren’t taking a position on those.

Q. Proposition H would create a public campaign finance program in which every registered voter gets two $25 vouchers to contribute to the city candidates of their choice. Where does the money for "Democracy Dollars" come from?
Andrew: The total cost would be less than $850,000 per year from the general fund. This was originally recommended by the 2018 appointed Charter Review Commission, but it was never put on the ballot, so we revived it. This would replace the current public finance system, which only provides financing in runoffs, so the money that currently goes toward that program could go toward offsetting this – if we implement ranked-choice voting, we can eliminate runoffs.

Closing statements:
Mason: We have seen strong opposition to Prop F from a wide range of groups, including both labor and the Real Estate Council of Austin as well as environmental groups. May will be a low-turnout election to decide something this important. For more information:
Andrew: We have to examine the origins of our current city manager system, which was implemented in the 1920s largely at the behest of Monroe Shipe to serve his own business interests. One of the first policies to emerge from the new system was the segregationist 1928 city plan. “In these days we should be examining where our systems come from, and if our systems have questionable origins, we should be questioning whether we should be keeping them at all.” For more information:

Coan Dillahunty adjourned the meeting at 8:06 pm.

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