Oct 17 City of Austin Contact Team Stakeholder Meeting

Chad Vanderlinden from Friends of Austin Neighborhoods – FAN said I could cross-post his note from the meeting here.

It was pretty well co-ordinated. After an introduction to PCT concepts, groups of guests formed activity groups to document their main observations and concerns about Membership, Meetings, Communication and Enforcement of procedures PCT follow. Most of the guests were either members of a PCT, or folks who were being kept off their own PCT Boards by unfair rules.

The undercurrent is pretty clear; the City is keen to reform PCT and hold them to some minimum operating standards. This could include a uniform by-laws. A meeting with the public of this kind is to ensure that the public can agree that they were consulted. The staff who conducted the meeting did not prompt the guests in any meaningful way, but they seemed very familiar already with the points and solutions we came up with.

At the end of the meeting, all of our group’s main points were shared, and we all had independently come up with essentially the same points and solutions. Leaving the PCT’s to follow the honor system works in a few instances, but where it has broken down, it has broken down in a big way. Many PCT are completely dysfunctional, suffering from lack of transparency and inclusiveness. A popular solution was for the City to host a PCT clearinghouse website where each PCT and it’s Officer’s contacts are published, where it’s bylaws, agendas and minutes MUST be published within reasonable time frames, and that the City would host a neutral listserv used for meeting announcements and activity announcements. This wouldn’t replace Nextdoor, Yahoo Groups, Facebook etc., but would be a mandatory minimum to ensure that no stakeholders are shut out under any premise.

Having NA/PCT Meeting notices in people’s utility bills was also proposed.

What didn’t seem too well fleshed-out yet, is what sort of grievance process neighbors would have when their PCT aren’t functioning fairly, and what sort of sanction the City would take on the errant PCT. When discussed, it seems that the City would prominently publish a contact to send complaints to, and if a PCT has been really bad, the City Council might formally cease to recognize it. A lot of guests liked the idea of ordering a non-compliant PCT to “reboot” with new Board Members, but there really were no solutions to how the City Council could make them do that, and how to avoid further harm to a neighborhood in so doing.



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