Mueller Neighborhood Association General Meeting Minutes, September 21, 2019

MNA Secretary Article, Front Porch Flyer, Meeting Minutes, Mueller Neighborhood Association

Location: Seton Office Annex 

About 65 in attendance

Time: 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Items:

  1. Welcome visitors and members, Preston Tyree
  2. Approval of previous meeting minutes, Alison Raffalovich
  3. Treasurer’s Report, Penny Brandt – We are looking for someone who has experience handling money who might be interested in serving as Treasurer in 2020.  There aren’t a lot of transactions but there are multiple sources to track.

For August we started with $11,300 in checking, brought in $1,370 in dues and HEB Sponsorship; expenses for Coffee and G-Suite of $125 for an ending checking balance of $12,575.  We have a surplus of around $1500 that might be used to support a thoughtful initiative so please feel free to step forward with ideas to make the neighborhood even better.

  • POA Review – Joe Freeland

In the Front Porch Flyer the team has been writing articles about the various structures of Mueller governance including Mixed Use Board, HOA, POA, etc.  In the next article, there will be a discussion of neighborhood delegates, and the following month “POA for Dummies.”  By the annual meeting in November there will be updated neighborhood rules.  Today at 50% buildout we have 2 members of a 5-person board, at 75% we’ll have 3 members of a 7-person board, and at 90%, 6 members of a 7-person board. Catellus has set up an electronic voting system in addition to proxies for the annual meeting this year.  We need people voting to get to quorum! Joe’s term is up in November, and he’ll run for re-election but welcomes others getting involved to run as well.

  • Mueller Commission – Michael Jones.  Had the annual presentation and there are no significant changes to the affordable housing program; the full presentation is on the city website.  The park at Philomena and Robert Browning potential designs are also posted.  The proposed PUD amendment timeline has been pushed back, and will be taken up by the Mueller Commission next month to support or oppose.  From there it will go to the Planning Commission and likely to City Council in early 2020.
  • Patterson Park Letter of Support – Preston Tyree. Friends of Patterson Park asked us to create a letter to support proposed grant-funded improvements to Patterson Park, and they presented to the Steering Committee, which voted in favor of writing a letter of support.  The improvements include enhancing and partially shading the sports court and enhancing the baseball diamond while adding safety features. 
  • PUD Amendments – Dan Updegrove. A PUD (Planned Unit Development) is a unified vision of the overall neighborhood buildout according to an overall plan, including certain density targets.  There are also density caps in place, and Catellus now proposes moving those density caps upwards, which they presented at the August general meeting (and is included in the minutes) to support, among other things, reaching our affordable housing plan targets. The Transportation and Urban Planning Committee reviewed and recommended the Steering Committee support the proposed changes.  Catellus is making some changes and once we know what those are we can bring forward a recommendation to the membership as a whole.  One proposed idea includes cottages around 800 square feet in clusters of four units or so.
  • MNA Schools Subcommittee [Dusty Harshman] – Austin Independent School District (AISD) has been planning for more than a year to strategically right-size its facilities including assessing under-utilized schools. There are about 6000-7000 more available school seats than students currently and the district wants to reduce maintenance expenses and enrich educational experiences.  They are proposing eliminating 13 or so schools, and a number of schools in our part of town, including Maplewood and Sims Elementaries to the south, are on the list.  Ridgetop and Pecan Springs Elementaries to the north also are including.  Students for all these schools would have to go farther to schools further away. 

This is the district’s third attempt to right-size and there is pressure to follow through this time.  There is potential concern that our children might have to commute further, but at the same time the neighborhood wants to embrace being part of the greater northeast Austin community.  We’ve had loose confederations of neighbors discussing school issues for the last 10+ years, but now we want to take the opportunity to get more organized in our responses via a neighborhood association subcommittee.  The Steering Committee approved Dusty’s proposal to form a subcommittee, and welcomes interest and participation from other neighbors.

About 30 charter schools have located in Austin’s Eastern crescent, which drains students and resources away from AISD.  AISD also proposes 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. school day options for enrichment, and they hope to educate both students and teachers on the multicultural elements of AISD with multicultural studies, offering more culturally responsive training for teachers, and potentially adjusts student funding formulas including accommodating a little extra for English-language learners and students from lower-income families.

Q:  How does the district propose addressing historical intentional segregation in schools?

A: The city and AISD are working together more closely to address this, including the city hoping to provide more geographic diversity in the affordable housing developments. It’s early days in discussing how to overcome generations of segregation.

Q: What % of children from our neighborhood go to public v. charter?

A: 70% responded Public in a survey 10 years ago, and 63% responded Public 5 years ago. Dusty will likely survey again within the next year.

Q: Does AISD take into account the increasing density in our area?

A: They are using current data but don’t have clear insight into future patterns.

Q&A U.S. Congressional District 25 Candidate Julie Oliver, moderated by Suzanne O’Malley.  Note:  The MNA has invited all three candidates for District 25 (Julie Oliver, D; Heide Sloan, D; Roger Williams, R – incumbent) to participate in MNA Q&A sessions.  This is the first in a planned series of these sessions.

Julie Oliver (julieoliver.org) is running as a candidate challenging incumbent Roger Williams, a Republican. This is the first in a planned series of   Texas sends 36 representatives to the U.S. Congress, and district 25 extends from Wimberley almost to Ft. Worth. She also ran in the last cycle in 2018. She is VP of Finance for Notley Ventures, which focuses on “scaling and supporting businesses, nonprofits, individuals, and programs making positive change in the world.” She and her family recently moved to Cherrywood.  Roger Williams has recently proposed legislation to “harden” schools for potential gun violence.  The audience submitted written questions for the candidate to respond to.

Julie:  I ran in November 2018 as well.  She grew up in a poor family and make her way through college on Pell grants and on earned income credits as a mother (she had a child at age 17, receiving healthcare via Medicare), majoring in Accounting.

She came to Austin to go to law school with the idea of being a tax attorney.  She took a case involving the IRS trying to revoke the St. David’s Foundation’s non-profit status, and she won the case on behalf of St. David’s Foundation. She then moved into healthcare finance and learned a lot about the inequitable healthcare funding environment in Texas. 

Because charter schools get federal tax money, they have an advantage, but they are not accountable in any way to taxpayers or to district families. Our district includes parts of Killeen including Ft. Hood, which pays no property taxes, which hits Mueller and AISD hard in terms of recapture.  Federal aid for military children under De Vos has been cut by $100 million.

Williams’ school hardening bill, in Oliver’s opinion, doesn’t systematically address alleviating violence in other public areas like cinemas, Walmarts, churches, etc. Like the majority of Americans, she is in favor of expanding background checks.  She also supports repealing the federal legislation that uniquely protects gun manufacturers from liability. She would also propose re-introducing assault weapons bans that were dismantled earlier.

Electoral politics is dominated by big money. Oliver considers this a stain on the democracy, and it’s gotten much worse since the Citizen’s United decision.  PACs are tax-exempt, and Oliver proposes aggressively taxing PACs to fund initiatives including healthcare, education, or even public financing of campaigns.  She would introduce a bill to address that.

The district includes parts of Johnson, Burnet and Hays Counties, and rural residents there are protective of their environment.  A proposed Louis Vuitton tanning plant wants to avoid disclosing what chemicals they will use in the process. A rock-crushing plant planned for Burnet County would use silicon in the process, releasing a very harmful chemical into the air.

Oliver believes there should be a full investigation in the U.S. of potentially impeachable offenses.  She will support whoever is the ultimate Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. 

Announcements:

Amina Haji – a fourth-generation physician who lives and practices in East Austin for the last 20 years.  She is building a healing center on East 51st called Karisha Community. On October 5, they are inviting the community to cultivate conscious community, including a barbecue fundraiser benefiting Austin Health Commons’ Truth, Racial Healing and Reconciliation series of conversations, based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation models.

KUTX Rock the Park is scheduled for Saturday September 28.

Mueller welcomes candidates for the expiring position on the Mueller Mixed-Use Board of Directors.

Respectfully submitted,

Alison Raffalovich, Secretary

10/2/2019

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