Joint Project Connect vote canceled as officials consider update to fairness and legal language


AUSTIN (KXAN) – The City of Austin, Capital Metro and Austin Transit Partnership participated in a vote on Project Connect on Friday amid concerns from residents and council members about public participation and the legal language used.

The tri-council group was due to vote on the Joint Powers Agreement on Friday, which is a document that outlines the project’s goals and initiatives with respect to equity, labor rights and community engagement. The JPA also indicates which entity would be responsible for running specific parts of Project Connect.

During Friday’s meeting, some community members and city leaders expressed concerns about the closeness of the APP language to the city’s contract with voters reached in the November 2020 elections. Austin City Council member Ann Kitchen responded to a statement from Randy Clarke, President and CEO of CapMetro, about changes in project sequences and timelines and the need for those changes to come back to the fore. the board for consideration.

“With all due respect, this is not how the contract with the voters is written,” she said.

Board members and city leaders reviewed an updated version of the APP at Friday’s meeting. A specific timeline on when the updated JPA was delivered to city officials has not been confirmed to KXAN.

Emily Timm, co-executive director of the Workers Defense Project, spoke during the public commentary in support of low-income workers in Texas and said she appreciated the recent changes to the language of the JPA that would require accredited construction monitors. on the spot.

However, she said it was important to monitor independent standards from the city, CapMetro and ATP to ensure oversight and adherence to salary and safety standards. She also added that there must be timely adjustments to ATP’s executive leadership to create a proper system of checks and balances. Clarke currently holds the position on an acting basis.

João Paulo Connolly, director of housing and community development for the Austin Justice Coalition, said he appreciated the work invested in the updated JPA project, but still wanted to see anti-displacement measures strengthened and influence of the community advisory committee in subsequent decisions taken.

He criticized the recently updated JPA documents and said there was no possibility of meaningful community input on these latest updates. He also said that each of the executive leaders of the three bodies should be independent from each other to avoid any conflict of interest that could impact the project.

Other speakers on Friday shared their broad support for the changes made and their support for the project. Nancy Crowther of ADAPT of Texas said she voted for CapMetro to come to Austin and has seen tremendous progress in her influence on public transportation since.

“It was a fight. A very big fight in the 80s and 90s to even get people on the buses, ”she said. “Now they voted and they said yes. We see the light.

She said that a central goal of ADAPT of Texas is to make all transit systems and services accessible to all people, including people with disabilities as well as older people with disabilities. She said it was important to ensure that the services provided through Project Connect are fair to all members of the community, and added that she appreciates the work done so far.

With a decision due to be made on Friday, a difficult meeting end time of 1:30 p.m. resulted in a delay in the approval and execution of the APP.

Austin City Council has consistently approved a resolution and ordinance regarding the design, construction, operation and licensing of Project Connect. The boards of directors of ATP and CapMetro both approved a resolution asking each entity to work with the city on regulatory procedures “that ensure the on-time delivery of the Project Connect program”.

Representatives from CapMetro told KXAN that a delayed vote on the JPA would not impact the start of items related to Project Connect. A future meeting date to review the updated APP has yet to be announced.


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