MNA General Meeting Minutes, October 20, 2018

MNA Secretary Meeting/Meeting Minutes

Mueller Neighborhood Association General Meeting

Location: Seton Administrative Building

Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018

Time: 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

  1. Greetings and pleasantries, call meeting to order – Lila Valencia

Welcome new members and visitors.  ~60 in attendance.

  1. Treasurer’s report:
  2. Mayoral Candidates’ Forum – We reached out to every candidate for whom we could get contact information. Candidates were introduced in alphabetical order, provided a brief introduction and asked questions from the MNA Committee and from some of the questions that were submitted and ranked online.
    1. Steve Adler – Always liked being in Mueller. Running on accomplishments in first term with first 10-1 council. Led on issues like immigration, safety, climate change, mobility bond (more than in prior 20 years cumulative), funding affordable housing trust fund. Conversations on high-capacity transit, Prop A to provide at-scale response to housing trust fund. Regional workforce development plan to lift 10,000 from poverty, fair-chance hiring, paid sick leave.
    2. Travis Duncan – Grass-roots campaign spending less than $1,000. Not focused on fundraising, attracting newly registered voters who are energized. A generation of young people have distrust and disdain for government, so canvassing where people have not traditionally been canvassed. Focusing on citizen engagement. Want 100% renewable energy by 2022, build housing in a smart way with long-term building materials, multi-generational engagement, listen smarter and deeper to constituents.
    3. Laura Morrison – 2008-2014 City Council Member. Running for those who feel they’ve been written off. Masters in Math and grad certificate in public policy and disaster preparedness. Engineer, program manager, moved in 1981, husband on faculty at UT. Past president of neighborhood association and stand up for neighborhoods, find common ground, focus on environmental issues.  Seek to restore trust in City Hall with community-driven rather than top-down solutions.
    4. Gustavo Peña – Native East Austinite and Marine veteran. Focus on housing affordability and property taxes keep rising.  Focus on education, as we are too often failing them. Former IRS investigator, teacher at ACC and AISD.

Candidate questions:

  1. Austin’s Comprehensive Plan “Imagine Austin” calls for a “compact and connected city” – with overall greater residential density; transit-oriented and mixed-use “nodes”; and transit connecting those nodes.  Will you work, as a Council Member, to achieve this Comprehensive Plan goal?

Gus: People need to be educated on the plan and designed for and understood by all. Pull in knowledgeable people to make it better for affordability and accountability, such as from UT. His team has been working on that for many months now.

Laura: Was on council when Imagine Austin was adopted and on board with the priorities of compact and connected, but respect need to keep people in their homes and not densify everything.  Don’t need 5-block transition zones in every neighborhood, for example. Code Austin development did not follow the process for neighborhood engagement, and in abandoning it lost respectfulness for the neighborhoods. As mayor would focus on respectful engagement in implementing Imagine Austin.

Travis:  The plan lacked citizen engagement and showed an incrementalist approach. Shouldn’t compromise on renewables and the environment, prescribe zero-carbon development with water capture, etc. Not tied to traditional approaches, willing to speak hard truths.  Do what’s right for people, this generation and for generations to come, prioritize people rather than developers.

Steve: I believe in compact and connected, multiple nodes and connected urban sites. High-capacity transit won’t work without dedicated lanes.   Our land development code is 30 years old, self-contradictory and hard to implement. Need an updated comprehensive approach. 70% of the community is already supportive, but the 15% at each extreme are arguing and scaring each other; cater to consensus in the middle.

  1. Kathy Sokolic: Why did Code Next fail and what do we need to do to achieve affordability and mobiity?

Steve: Code Next process turned into Code Next product, which wasn’t the intent. Going around the city, we involved different voices in the community all committed to the city they love, but there were lots of accusations and mistrust that, say, developers or racists controlled the conversation.  Need a process people can trust where they both listen and are heard.

Travis: Racist NIMBYs and greedy developers probably did influence the process. People trying to make it in the city on a limited income are very aware of that. If Jesus were mayor would there be homeless, would we be developing in ways that poison our rivers? We need to support sweat equity, build-to-own models, cooperative mindset, renewable energy. Invest in the humans, not the industrial era mindset. Don’t have to be imprisoned by the wage clock.

Laura: Code Next failed because it abandoned the process the Mayor spoke about. We allocated funds to gather people to discuss hot topics, but consultants ignored the process and inputs. Ignored centers around town that could be nodes to connect with good transit. Code Next was not going to create market rate affordability, but rather high-end housing. Would like to do small-area planning to address affordable housing targets.

Gus: I went to the work sessions. I kept telling the mayor and the council that we weren’t getting value for the money we paid the consultants. There was no oversight, the input from the meetings was not included. We can’t all get down to City Hall to voice our opinions. Have been going to meetings for more than 40 years.

Closing statements:

Gus: Appreciate the opportunity to be here. Since Bruce Todd was mayor, things have just gotten worse – less affordable. Need to cut taxes and make housing affordable; my definition of affordability is very different from the mayor’s.  Seniors of all races are hurting.

Laura: Thanks for taking time to listen to us. As City Council member, stood up for people and stood for transparency. In over 140 years as a city, we have only had 1 female mayor, Carole Keeton Rylander, and would love to be our second woman serving as mayor.

Travis: Critical of the approach of past mayors and council members, but we have to think very differently. The planet is at risk and we need to take radically different action to avoid cataclysm. Young people feel older people in charge have neglected the planet.

Steve: Thanks for being here. Proud of the first 10/1 council, impacting policy that incorporates voices from all over the city.  Have implemented 10s of miles of safe access sidewalks to get to schools. Task force has identified and implemented ways to address institutional racism.

District 9 candidates

  1. Linda O’Neil, high school teacher at Akins. Her students organized a candidate forum for the mayoral candidates. Emotionally focused on affordability, creative class, immigrated from Vietnam in 1975 and went to Lanier. Her predominantly African-American and Hispanic students have to work as much as 35 hours/week to help out their families, which is very inequitable.
  2. Danielle Skidmore, transportation engineer, special needs parent. Lived here 24 years, son Peter is wheelchair-bound and am fighting for rights of the disabled, and for transgenders by fighting the bathroom bill in the legislature. Want all voices to be heard. Transportation and affordability and sustainability crises are only getting worse. Have affordability and transportation gotten better for you in the last 7 years? If no, consider getting a transportation engineer on the council.
  3. Kathie Tovo – Mayor Pro Tem and represent District 9. Formerly very involved as a volunteer and on AISD and city task forces. Helped lead on Fair Chance Hiring and paid sick leave policies, clean energy, passion to end homelessness, pay for success initiative to invest private funds to end homelessness, establishing a sobering center that just opened a month ago, served the MNA multiple times as your council representative.


  1. Mueller focuses on mixed-use, walkable streets, but new fire regulations make that difficult because of street width requirements. Will you defend our narrower streets?

Kathie: Yes, I will. The fire department has had difficulties and even accidents on Mueller on narrow streets but I want to find a way forward.  My children use Lake Park playground and value the walkable neighborhood, supportive of the streetscape. Want to further the conversation to support the narrower streets while addressing fire department concerns.

Linda: My husband is a fire fighter and safety is paramount.  Compromise is important, I love the wide sidewalks and narrow streets, but if you have an emergency you want a truck there.

Danielle: Street design is key and narrow streets are important. City council role is to bring the voices together. We’ve had two dozen pedestrians killed by vehicles, so that’s a safety issue too, and narrower streets are good for pedestrian safety.  We can use skinnier fire trucks. Fire trucks stuck in traffic is a bigger challenge in response times than narrow streets.

  1. Mueller has a robust affordable housing policy but median family qualifications are not deep enough. Can we set lower family qualification limits, at 30% and 5% and will more economic diversity lead to better racial diversity?

Danielle: Engineer brain is kicking in. Need lower limits, absolutely, and we’ll need public land to help it happen.  My former neighborhood, Clarksville, was diverse and it was wonderful. Children should grow up among teachers and firefighters, diverse neighbors.

Linda: We need to walk the walk and part of that is AISD zoning. Why aren’t some Mueller students going to Reagan rather than to McCallum? The teachers at Reagan are good teachers, and a more diverse student body helps foster good learning. When Anglo kids are clumped into just 9 schools and they don’t have diverse friend groups, they’ll be less likely to make comprehensive policy in the future that serves all. Community land trusts and lease-to-purchase programs are great ways to help with affordability.

Kathie: Amending the policy to lower affordability limits is a great goal. Mueller has done a good job with Aldrich 51, Wildflower and the new Foundation Communities are wonderful. Look forward to using affordable housing bond money and public lands to have an impact in the next term. Can also continue to improve how money goes into the affordable housing fund.

Closing Statements:

Kathie: Welcome opportunity to talk further with individuals. Have loved and been honored to be your representative and want to serve again. Endorsed by the Chronicle, every labor group and every environmental organization; respectfully ask for your support again.

Linda:  Running on accountability and affordability. Need oversight at the city level. We have wasted billions in taxpayer money; need to end corporate welfare and incentivize landlords to give better long-term commercial and residential leases.

Danielle: 3 final thoughts as early voting opens Monday. The Chronicle endorsed every incumbent, but quoted Danielle on getting away from binary voices and instead be more inclusive. Campaign symbol is bridge both as metaphor and as engineering experience.

Rachel Stone, Bond Election Advisory Task Force:

Appointed in 2016 by Greg Casar to the Task Force, initially planned for 6 months but went to 18 months. When appointed, worked on energy efficiency for a not-for-profit, now work on affordable housing.  Have gathered hundreds of hours of community input across the city. 13 members of the task force split into task groups on affordable housing, transportation, storm water, parks and open space, etc.  Engaged deeply with the departments and influenced them to have more thoughtful and accountable proposals. Austin 2018 Bond search will show you the propositions.

Prop A is Affordable Housing, from $65M in 2013 to proposed $250M now, to get meaningfully past just kicking the can down the road. Much more in line – creation, rehabilitation and retention of affordable home rental and ownership opportunities. Focus on multi-family like Aldrich 51, Wildflower and Foundation Communities, funding for home repair to help people age in place, home ownership assistance for younger people, and funding for land acquisition to build affordable housing all over town.

Prop B is for Libraries, Museums, and Cultural Arts at $128 million. Includes replacing the crumbling Dougherty Arts Center. Update community libraries that have not been well-maintained, enable locals to search for jobs, etc.

Prop C $149 million for Parks & Recreation. Fix and preserve public pools and develop city land into large or pocket parks across all parts of the city. Today there are no public pools east of 183 and this would fund a new pool in Colony Park, an important step for equity.

Prop D is $184M for Flood Mitigation and open space and water quality protection, key as flood issues continue to impact Austinites.

Prop E is $16M for Health and Human Services, including funding neighborhood health center in Dove Springs, another key item for equity in an area historically neglected by bond funds.

Prop F is for $38M for Public Safety including fire stations and EMS stations and surrounding infrastructure, and providing facilities for female firefighters where some stations don’t currently have them.

Prop G is $160M for Transportation Infrastructure, to address reconstructing streets and sidewalks, filling potholes, pedestrian safety improvements – another equity issue as people of color are disproportionately in pedestrian/vehicle accidents because of historically poor sidewalks in the east side, replacing bridges.


On Prop B – what % is Dougherty? Where is Dove Springs?

About $20M for Dougherty.  Dove Springs is southeast, out toward COTA in District 2.

One of our Mueller neighbors created a haiku for each proposition, which are informative and entertaining.

Google “Austin Bond 2018” for a very informative pamphlet on the details.

John Michael Casar, Propositions H and I:  These would amend the city charter. Prop H would clarify procedure to remove planning commissioners; Prop I cleans up typos in our charter.

Concerned that new voters who only know the top of the ballot need to be educated on important down-ballot items. Disclosure: very involved with the “No on Prop J” coalition who are environmentally minded.

Prop J:   Would tie our city’s hands in changing laws affecting growth, affordability, transportation, etc. It would throw up barriers to letting us change laws to be responsive. This campaign was funded in ways that cause concern. Reagan USA and other billboard companies spent $52,000 to get Prop J on the ballot including preventing city council from being able to change development codes; secret corporate interests wrote this to benefit them, which is not the right approach.

Prop K: Proposed a third-party audit at $1-5M cost while still going through existing independent city audit and financial audit.  View this as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The independent city audit office does great work, and this also is a veiled attack on local government funded by national groups with an agenda.  Like Prop J this was funded with dark money by outside groups.

Comment:  Agree that the outside money was attempting to take away our authority as citizens of Austin.

Question: Do these constitute meaningless attempts to amend the city charter at the expense of other more important amendments?

John Michael: There are limits on how often the charter can be amended. This is a long ballot and we need voters to get to the end. Long ballots can disenfranchise people because lines take longer and not all people can take a lot of time to wait in line to vote.

Comment: You can’t vote a straight party ballot because city races are non-partisan so you have to go through the whole ballot to make choices.

POA Budget Process – Brian Dolezal, VP for Mueller Marketing and Communications and Board Chair for POA Mixed Use Board and Nicole Nelson-Hardeman, Property Association Community Manager

Brian: Nicole has been here for 4 months and working very hard to get up to speed. The Mixed Use Board elections are coming up as Ashley Fisher steps down.

Nicole: Work for Associa Hill Country that provides on-site staff for Mueller, hired June 18 and at Mueller Central if you want to talk. The 2019 budget process update: working with the Catellus Board and on-site staff to craft the 2019 budget. The 2017 independent audit is complete, reviewed and approved by the board. Hired facility advisors to conduct an extensive reserve study for Mueller taking into consideration amenities, community space, including lifespan and maintenance costs over the long term.  This was factored into the 2019 budget draft. Also met with pool monitoring, landscaping and all other vendors, reviewed existing contracts and solicited RFPs to get best service and pricing.  Bids are still coming in. Doing an internal utility audit. Water especially is a significant cost, assessing a utility cost analysis on some meters to see if that service would be cost-effective across all meters.  Draft budget is under review by Catellus Board. Input from budget, landscape and pool committees including wish lists. Detailed attention to being concerned about how dollars are being allocated and expense. Currently looking at a budget shortfall between existing assessments and expenses. Likely looking at an assessment increase, though the amount is TBD.

Have mailed out notices on annual meetings, and you should receive them next week; please read carefully. Encourage candidates to replace Ashley and for the Commercial board (ECTC), which has two openings.

Brian: We need 25% of membership participation for a quorum to be met, so please submit your proxy (one per household). Submit your candidacy information and we’ll include it in an upcoming Mueller.

  1. Announcements

Dennis Mick – We are looking for Steering Committee candidates – Lila, Nat and Bill Kirwin are with me on the Nominating Committee. You’ll serve with dedicated people, please submit at the MNA website.  Elections are November 17.

Evan McLendon and Kathy Farley – Fall Festival, November 10 3-5 p.m. at John Gaines Park – live music, treats from local businesses and family-friendly activities. Come at 2 to help set up.

Adjourn – 11:45.

Respectfully submitted,

Alison Raffalovich


Nov. 8, 2018