Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole withdrew two charter amendments from consideration for inclusion on the Nov. 6 ballot at Austin City Council's work session Aug. 14.
The first item would have allowed the council to establish an independent board to oversee city-owned utilities. Outside ratepayers—Austin Energy customers that live outside Austin city limits—have expressed discontent with the current system, which places the council in charge of the utility.
Both legal staff and members of the Electric Utility Commission said it would be possible for the council to establish an independent board with limited powers without placing the item on the agenda, and the EUC is preparing a report to present to the council that should be ready by Oct. 31.
"I think we should in good faith be able to establish some type of board and work with the information that we receive, and be able to lay that out to the voters, because ultimately it is a local decision, and work with outside ratepayers to set up that board," Cole said.
Her motion to withdraw passed 6-0, with Councilman Bill Spelman off the dais.
The second charter amendment Cole motioned to withdraw from consideration would have given the council the authority to sell or lease a substantial part of the facilities of a municipal utility. The council considered the item at its Aug. 2 meeting, and it passed on first and second readings with a vote of 6-1, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell voting against the motion. He took issue with the language in the motion that would have required the city to send any sale or lease to voters.
"The reason I voted no is because I believe it was too restrictive and it doesn't give us the flexibility that we need," Leffingwell said. He added later, "I would support it if it were modified on third reading to be said that it could be done by a two-thirds vote of the council."
Several council members said they had heard input since Aug. 2 that had caused them to reconsider their position, and Cole made the motion to withdraw the item. Leffingwell voted against withdrawal.
"I think the utility has to be able to conduct its business in a businesslike way, in a competitive way," Leffingwell said.