🧐 The heck are city council meetings anyway?
Source: Suzanne Cordeiro/Getty Images
- 7 min read

🧐 The heck are city council meetings anyway?

Plus, why May is the last cool month before summer sets in.


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☀️ Heya, Austin.

Today, let's explain something that isn't the first thing you'd think of when you hear the word "fun": the city council meeting.

Then, peek what City Hall has in store to chat about this week, and read why May is the calm before the storm ... or the last month of cooler days before the heat comes.

How do city council meetings work?

Source: Suzanne Cordeiro/Getty Images

We regularly bring you previews of what council members will be discussing at their biweekly meetings, but we know that the majority of Austinites have never actually been to a council meeting. 

It can be a bit overwhelming and densely procedural for the unfamiliar, so today we’re gonna knock down some of those walls and explain what exactly happens on Thursday mornings at City Hall. 

When, what, where: 

When: Generally, the council meets every other week on Thursday at 10 a.m., but this schedule can be thrown off its regular cadence by holidays or other things. You can find the 2024 meeting schedule here

What: Want to know what they will be talking about each week? Each meeting’s agenda is posted online 13 days prior to the meeting at this link. You can also find agenda’s for the council’s work sessions, which typically happen the Tuesday before a council meeting.  

Where: The meetings take place at Austin City Hall, which is downtown on 2nd Street. If you want to attend, there’s a paid parking garage beneath the building, and you will have to go through metal detectors to enter the building. You are free to come and go in the room, though, or can watch along at home here

The procedure:

The agenda is usually separated into consent and non-consent items. 

The consent agenda usually contains routine items, such as recurring contracts, that are approved together via a single vote. Any items requiring a public hearing or on which two or more people have registered to testify will not be placed on the consent agenda. Any council member can request an item to be removed from the consent agenda. 

Occasionally, the council will go into an executive session, which is not open to the public. These sessions are used to discuss legal issues with the City Attorney, deliberate real property or to discuss personnel matters. 

How to have your voice heard:  

If you want to share your thoughts with council, there are three times at which you can speak, depending on what topics you want to discuss. 

#1 — Specific agenda items. If you want to speak to something being considered that week by council, you’ll either speak at 10 a.m. for general topics or at 2 p.m. for any zoning-related items. You’re allowed to speak either in-person or online via Zoom. 

  • How to register: Online registration opens at 10 a.m. the Monday before a meeting and closes at noon the day before (i.e. Wednesday). You can also register to speak in-person at City Hall on Thursday mornings before the meeting begins. Registration closes 45 minutes before the meeting starts (or 9:15 a.m.). Find the sign-up form here

#2 — General communication. At noon, the council will hear from a maximum of 10 individuals to discuss any topic of their choice. A person cannot speak at general communication more than once out of every three regularly scheduled council meetings. 

  • How to register: Registration opens three weeks in advance and closes two weeks before the meeting. You can sign up by phone, in person or online. 

If you want to share any documents, videos or images during your presentation, you must email them to city.clerk@austintexas.gov before the meeting. 

How else can you stay informed about what City Council is talking about?

The City Council regularly discusses meetings, specific items or other council issues on an online message board. One example of big topics being discussed here — Mayor Kirk Watson announced the city’s decision to hire T.C. Broadnax as the next city manager on the message board in March. 

Want to know how a council member voted? The city now has a voting record database you can search to know how each member voted. 

Regularly appearing characters at City Council: 

You never really know who might show up to talk at a council meeting, but there are a few people and issues that have proved recurring staples over the years and more recently. Here are a few of them: 

  • Bill Bunch, the executive director at Save Our Springs Alliance and a longstanding figure in Austin’s environmental movement, can often be found protesting items he or the alliance believe will negatively impact the environment.
  • The woman who sings. Yes, there is a woman who regularly sings to City Council during the general communications period. Read KUT’s lovely profile of her. 
  • These days you’ll also find a number of speakers during the general comment period demanding that the council pass a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. A growing number of Jewish Austinites are also showing up to share how they feel threatened by some of the pro-Palestine rhetoric occurring in Austin and elsewhere. 

Cat DeLaura, Reporter

Temperature: 84 degrees | Sun: Behind clouds | What to Expect: Scattered thunderstorms

Rain and storms enter the picture again today with some thunderstorms possible in the afternoon and evening. A few strong storms are possible as the Storm Prediction Center has a low risk out for Central Texas.

Mary’s Tip:  Wine down Wednesday and bowling sound perfect right now. You can feel like a kid again without having to use your big kid salary: Enjoy half-priced bottles of wine at Pinstack Austin.

City Council this week: trans protections, charter proposals and poets

Two of the issues we mentioned in yesterday’s Sustainable Austin section will go before City Council this week: a resolution to explore the use of agrihoods and proposed amendments to water conservation and drought contingency regulations. Here are three other things to keep an eye on: 

  • Protecting transgender and nonbinary Austinites. In response to a 2023 state law restricting access to gender-affirming health care across Texas, a resolution sponsored by five council members seeks to protect transgender and nonbinary individuals in Austin who are seeking health care and those health care providers from criminal prosecution or penalties, as far as is possible under state law. The resolution seeks to do that through a number of ways, including vigorous investigation of hate crimes, making enforcement of laws like those passed in 2023 of lowest priority and by not providing requests for information from another jurisdiction with such laws if related to an investigation into an individual for seeking gender-affirming care or the care provider. Read the full resolution here
  • Changes coming for the city charter. Over the past year, various city staff and commission members have been considering what proposed changes to the city charter should go before voters in November. The council will now consider those proposals Thursday and potentially decide which should move forward. Among the proposals, one of the most controversial is a move to change the required number of signatures for voter-initiated ballot measures to 3.5% of qualified Austin voters. Currently, a petition must get either 20,000 signatures or signatures from 5% of qualified voters, whichever number is smaller. 
  • Is it time for Austin to have a poet laureate? Most of Texas’ largest cities have a poet laureate, but not Austin, a city that often prides itself on its arts. But now the City Council is considering changing that with a new poet laureate program that would launch by October. As reported by KUT, the push to create the program was led by local writer KB Brookins, who helped launch a letter petitioning the city for the program.

— Cat DeLaura, Reporter

May is the last cool month before the summer heat slaps us in the face

We're in the thick of "air you can wear" weather. The sticky humidity has been clinging to us like a damp shirt that’s a size too small.

It's not too surprising, though, given that May is typically our wettest month of the year. Rain and thunderstorms are almost a daily thing. The mix of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the dry line separating it from the semi-arid air in West Texas can lead to strong and even severe storms.

On average, we usually get around 5 inches of rain in May, but it's interesting to note that in the past 10 years, seven years had above-average rainfall. Austin’s wettest May on record was in 2015, which saw a whopping 17.59 inches of rain.

Extreme weather events are also a big May thing. The Memorial Day Flood in 1981 caused Shoal Creek to flood after 10 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours. Then, during the Memorial Day Flood of 2015, the Blanco River rose 5 feet every 15 minutes for an hour and topped almost 45 feet, breaking the previous flood record by a foot.

Plus, cold fronts can generate storms, and they're still a possibility during this time of the year, although they rarely make it to the Texas Gulf Coast. But you may still get a few refreshing days with drier air and north winds.

Typically, high temperatures average around 87 degrees, and low temperatures around 67 degrees. But toward the end of the month, our average rises to 90 and stays above that mark until late September.

Saddle up, partners. Things fixin' to get hot.

— Mary Wasson, Meteorologist

♾️ Infinity and Beyond

Today's clue is for 19 Down: Revelry on East 6th has some of these as a side to a burger or sandwich, and they are FIRE.

What'd you think of today's issue?

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.