Minutes

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 groups.io.

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 newsletter@hancockna.org 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 Theresa.Sifuentes@austintexas.gov
-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.

https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/minutes-51921-hna-meeting-posting....
https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/minutes-51921-hna-meeting-posting.pdf

Minutes from 5.19.21 HNA meeting for posting.pdf

Minutes from 5.19.21 HNA meeting for posting.docx

Minutes from HNA special called meeting March 31.pdf

Minutes from HNA special called meeting March 31.docx

HNA Meeting Minutes for March 31, 2021

Link to video recording of meeting: https://youtu.be/utaz-DnGHCc

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

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HNA Meeting Minutes for March 17, 2021

Link to recording of the Zoom meeting: https://youtu.be/oPhe_kuqwm8

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. https://austinenergy.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1Tyloojt1kmzAc6
--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. https://capexcentral.mobility35openhouse.com/

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&A

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: austinforallpeople.org.
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: austinprogress.org.

Coan Dillahunty adjourned the meeting at 8:06 pm.

https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/minutes-hna-regular-meeting-31721....
https://www.hancockna.org/www/content/minutes-hna-regular-meeting-31721.pdf

Minutes from HNA regular meeting 3.17.21.pdf

Minutes from HNA regular meeting 3.17.21.docx

HNA Meeting Minutes for March 3, 2021

 

HNA March 3 special meeting notes

The meeting was called to order by HNA President Coan Dillahunty at 7:05 pm.

The group agreed to have the meeting recorded.

 

Background information presented by Coan Dillahunty:

  • The land has been a golf course since 1899, became a city-run public course in 1951 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Recently the city has been trying to resolve the course’s finances. It has been losing money for at least the past 6 years. Other golf courses have also lost money. As a revenue-generating unit of the city, golf is expected to contribute to the bottom line, and City Council has asked PARD to offer a solution.

  • The city contracted the National Golf Association to study all city courses, and NGF’s 2019 report said Hancock needed $700,000 to $900,000 in improvements. Because of the shortfall and stated need for repairs/upgrades, PARD decided to open a Request for Proposal for bids from private concessionaires to take over operations.

  • Under a concession agreement, the use of the course could change. It could be a different layout, a driving range, possibly with nets. Nothing’s been decided but these things have been discussed.

  • PARD is not closing the golf course or selling the land. The city is not considering building shops or homes there. Hancock Recreation Center is not going to change.

  • PARD has stated it plans to continue some form of golf at the site and retain nonpaid, passive park uses (like the walking trail).

  • Next steps: PARD is going to send out another survey in the near future, and it’s important that everyone in the neighborhood fill it out.

  • HNA will adopt a resolution to share with the city about how members think the course should be used in the future, based on people’s current use and future priorities for the space. The resolution will be drafted with input from our own neighborhood-only poll and will be voted on at a future meeting.

Hancock Conservancy presentation

Speakers: Kristene Blackstone (HNA member) and Adam Sparks (HC founder, Cherrywood resident)

  • The Hancock Conservancy exists to preserve green open space, make it more accessible and restore the environment around Waller Creek. People inside and outside Hancock neighborhood have been involved with HC, talking to people about what they envision for the space and cleaning up after the snow day.

  • Adam’s background: been in Austin since 2007, loves parks, no one is paying him to do this. He attended the stakeholder meeting in February 2020, where PARD presented the NGF study. This included three potential recommendations for the space, one of which was turning the space into a passive park (although this was not what NGF recommended). Adam wanted that option to be considered and so did other people at the meeting. He developed a survey that included the option of a park, and many respondents were interested. He has asked for PARD’s next survey to include this question.

  • Adam: We are here because the current model for golf is not sustainable. It’s time to seek a long-term solution. Parks conservancies have raised millions of dollars for Austin
    parks (Pease, Shoal Creek, Waller Creek/Waterloo, Barton Springs). Residents of several hundred nearby apartments could use this park.

  • Four key asks: more time from the city to figure this out; no driving range; if the city moves forward with a concession agreement, make it a Request for Information rather than a Request for Proposal so the public could see it; if golf continues, expand existing passive park elements and restore the area along the creek.

Q&A with pre-submitted questions

Q. PARD’s Community Parknerships program has several “configurations” or tiers of criteria for partnerships with private organizations. Tier A requires a 7-year history of collaboration with PARD and 5 years of philanthropic fundraising. Tier B requires a 3-year history of collaboration with PARD and 3 years of proven fundraising or the capacity to raise funds for a specific project. Tier C entities are “Friends of X Park” or “adopt-a-park” groups made primarily of volunteers.

As conservancies, which of these criteria do you meet or propose to meet?

A. Tier B, we would raise money on behalf of the city and turn it over. We’re getting set up to become a nonprofit or work under the umbrella of a larger group.

Q. Describe the park you envision for the Hancock space.

A. We will have a concept plan by the end of the month. It includes riparian restoration (like Willowbrook Reach in Cherrywood), tree canopy, great lawns, and Blackland Prairie restoration.

Q. How much would it cost to transform the existing golf course into that park, and how did you arrive at that figure?

A. Keep Austin Beautiful has a program with money and volunteers for the creek restoration. That could begin right away. Blackland Prairie restoration is expensive, so the lawn would be maintained as-is in phase 1, converted to Blackland Prairie in phase 2. We want to keep it as-is (no amenities), so initial estimate is $200,000-$400,000. Maintenance: $100-150K to water, mow, maintain trails and empty trash.

Q. How would you raise that money?

A. Austin Parks Foundation has small grants, and we know private donors are interested.

Q. How long would it take?

A. We’ll have more info soon with our park concept plan. Golf may turn a profit this year and could be continued for a few more years while we try to raise $500K.

Q. Have you raised money yet?

A. No, we are working with Austin Community Foundation to become a subsidiary. We have donors lined up and want to raise money before the April Parks Board meeting.

Q. From a community engagement standpoint, what city officials have you met with?

A. Five City Council offices, Austin Parks Foundation, Pease Park Conservancy, Waterloo Greenway, park planners for Zilker, neighborhood associations, Parks Board members

 

Member/audience questions

Q. What environmental professionals or experts have you been in contact with to design this space? It is a requirement of being a PARD partner to have such a plan presented to the COA for review.

A. UT professors, Watershed Protection Department riparian restoration staff, Wildflower Center staff

Q. When will you be a 501c3?

A. Until it becomes a park we can’t raise money. We want to be/create a subsidiary (under Austin Community Foundation) so it can hold the money in trust.

Q. How would the park affect parking in the neighborhoods adjacent to the park?

A. There would be parking in the lot, on 41st
and on Peck.

Q. Have you considered the risk of the public park initiative to a citywide vote? The last time that happened in Hancock the other 9 holes became a shopping center. It would be terrible unintended consequence to lose the green space we have now to re-development.

A. We are fiercely against development and think other voters share that view.

Q. PARD said a passive park would incur a maintenance cost of $200,000 a year, which would come not from GolfATX enterprise fund but from the General Fund which is counter to what Council has asked from PARD. How will you cover these immediate costs if it will take you several years to be an effective conservancy?

A. That estimate was rough. We’ve been asking what it would take to maintain park of this size and think it could be less than that.

Q. What funds for the riparian restoration funded by the existing organization have already been allocated to current projects?

A. We’ve been talking with the person who did Willowbrook Reach in Cherrywood, and expenses are low.

 

Hancock Golf Course Conservancy presentation

Speakers: Kevin McKinney and Andrew Dillon (HNA members), David Courtney (Hyde Park)

  • Kevin’s background: Has lived across from the golf course 26 years.

  • Goal of the conservancy is to preserve the existing course and raise money on its behalf. It has been losing money, but in 2020 there were more than 20,000 paid rounds, even though the course was closed for two months because of Covid. It’s had 11,000 rounds already this fiscal year, more than double the same timeframe last winter, without any additional promotion or the investment NGF says it needs. Golfers like it as it is. This trend of increased rounds will continue.

  • We know people use the park for other things (including yoga). Hancock is a green space, passive park, modern golf learning facility, proven money maker and home for wildlife.

  • Andrew’s background: Has lived on 37th
    Street for 22 years and has started to golf. No one’s against parks – Austin has 300 – but there are only six golf courses. Golf takes up a small percentage of land for parks. Hancock is historically significant and quaint/funky. It’s not a country club. The numbers suggest the course hasn’t been managed well. The course managers could invite people to play for free to get them started in the game. We could take a closer look at the hours that allow for non-golf activities at Hancock.

  • David’s background: Has lived in Hyde Park 20 years. We already have many parks (Shipe, Eastwoods, Patterson, Mueller etc.) nearby, and Hancock as a facility is also open to everyone who wants to pay to play there. We’ve been at this crossroads before, and in 2012 the will of the neighborhood was to keep the course. I’m willing to walk the course with anyone who wants to know more.

  • Kevin: Watch the presentation PARD did with Hancock Conservancy March 16 to see how PARD staff are talking about this situation differently than they originally were.

Q&A with pre-submitted questions

Q. What strategies have you identified that could close the funding gap?

A. The financial numbers are already better right now. An obvious solution is food or beverage trucks. We could hold tournaments, “Friday night at the Hancock” movies with low-key acoustic unamplified music, fundraising events at the rec center.

Q. The city has said the Hancock Golf Course needs a number of upgrades. As regular golfers, what do you think is needed to improve or upgrade the course or the overall golf experience?

A. Very little needs to change. Open the pro shop, add food and beverage, golf carts for rent, pull carts. We can plant trees and do cleanups.

Q. Are you focused on maintaining the existing course layout, or are other golf activities, such as a pitch and putt or driving range, or a reconfigured course, acceptable options in your view?

A. We’d like it to remain a 9-hole course as it is. We are totally against a driving range.

Q. How much land do you believe can be used for passive activities (e.g., Frisbee throwing, yoga, croquet, volleyball) which would not interfere with the golf course as it is?

A. There is space in the southwest corner and along Red River; also, people can walk the cart paths early in the morning when there’s just a couple of golfers out, and it doesn’t cause problems. There are other spaces the whole community could benefit from, but it’s been hard to get that message through to management.

Q. Are you a 501c3?

A. We will be if we need to be; we expect to be approved for a sponsored fundraising account through Austin Parks Foundation.

Q. PARD’s Community Parknerships program has several “configurations” or tiers of criteria for partnerships with private organizations. Tier A requires a 7-year history of collaboration with PARD and 5 years of philanthropic fundraising. Tier B requires a 3-year history of collaboration with PARD and 3 years of proven fundraising or the capacity to raise funds for a specific project. Tier C entities are “Friends of X Park” or “adopt-a-park” groups made primarily of volunteers.

As conservancies, which of these criteria do you meet or propose to meet?

A. We could immediately become a Tier C.

Q. From a community engagement standpoint, what city officials have you met with?

A. PARD, GolfATX, Austin Parks Foundation

 

Member/audience questions

Q. You said something earlier about not wanting people outside the neighborhood to have influence, what did that mean?

A. The HNA and people who live near the course should have the most say in how we want our neighborhood to be. People who have chosen to own homes here may have done so partly because they appreciate the course as it is.

Q. I found that I couldn’t really use Hancock as a park – non-golfers get kicked off. How would you increase revenue without losing access for nongolf uses?

A. These can coexist. [There was some disagreement about whether non-golfers are asked to leave.]

Q. Ideas for coexistence in light of the danger of people getting hit by golf balls?

A. Signage about where the danger spots are could help, and we (as HGCC) could help with that.

Q. Would fundraising events be open to all?

A. We wouldn’t exclude people; we’d start by promoting it to the neighborhood.

Q. 2020 and 2021 are atypical times because of the pandemic/quarantine. It seems like the course will return to its regular financial profile when the pandemic subsides.

A.. It’s more popular than ever, and we have multiple major pro tournaments in Austin that get people inspired to play.

Coan remarked that he heard some points of agreement between the groups, namely that neither supports a driving range.

Coan adjourned the meeting at 8:21 pm.

 

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