After a deluge of public testimony, the Austin City Council took a midnight vote on the motion to hire a construction manager for the first phase of WTP4.
Council member Spelman made a motion to delay the vote two weeks to get clarification on information disputed at the hearing. Council member Morrison seconded. The motion failed on a 4-3 vote. Besides Spelman and Morrison, Riley supported the delay.
On the overall motion, once the amendment was defeated, the vote was 6-1 in support. Council member Morrison was the sole opponent.
Here is my take on the policy position expressed by each Council member in their statements during the amendment and the main motion.
Mayor Leffingwell emphasized that at some point it was likely that the initial phase of the plant would be needed and that the greenhouse reductions were real and should not be overlooked. In tone, he was clearly strongest supporter.
Council member Cole echoed the Mayor’s arguments and was particularly keen on emphasizing cost savings for the first phase of construction due to the current labor market. Proponents estimated 25% savings, though the methodology was not shared.
Council member Martinez sort of hedged and said this was not the final decision and looked forward to additional debate. He was not as skeptical as the other “further debate” advocates.
Council member Shade took a similar position, pointing out that she considered October the point of no return, but expressing greater frustration and the substantial disparities in demand estimates and technical implementation risks.
Council member Morrison also wanted further clarification on the demand estimates, and actually went into a discussion of regression. This warmed my quant heart, unfortunately, she made some errors in her presentations of the material and it appeared that Council member Spelman – who teaches social science stats – sort of politely grimaced at moments since he agreed with the substance of her point but not its exposition. Unlike everyone else, she voted against the motion.
Council member Spelman made the strongest anti-WTP4 arguments on the basis of fiscal and ratepayer expense, but ultimately voted for the hiring. He indicated that we has not fully convinced by either side yet.
Council member Riley also emphasized the fiscal and ratepayer arguments but voted for the hiring.
One other piece of news…Council member Shade indicate that on or around September 17th there will be a live face-off debate between Austin Water and the opponents in the environmental community at the behest of the Council. Unlike last night’s format, it will be a deliberative session with back-and-forth conversation, instead of truncated testimony. Will keep you posted as that should be an exciting event.