On September 12, the Wooten Neighborhood Association met to discuss neighborhood activity.
Administrative (Reoccurring Items)
- Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:05 pm. The meeting was held at the lunch room in the Redeemer School. The meeting was called to order by the acting president.
- Introduction: The attendees went around introducing themselves, including how long they have lived in the neighborhood and where they live.
- Reading of Minutes: The acting president went over the previous minutes to discuss what occurred in the last meeting and indicated that updates on the old business would be provided during the meeting, including efforts to contact and work with the schools in the neighborhood to come and give an update. The acting president did note that research was still going on about getting more signs made for the neighborhood to advertise the meetings. A follow-up email will be occurring on this item.
- Treasure Report: The finances of the neighborhood were discussed. Currently, there is $25 in Savings and $1411.80 in checking. The Wooten Park fund has $1992.46 available. Questions were asked about fundraising efforts done to grow the Park fund. Information was provided that the park had signs to help fundraisers as well as other events. In addition, questions were asked about how there is accountability on the money spent. The acting president provided information that typically the expenditures, specifically for the park, are discussed in this meeting.
- A request was made to make the ledger available at the next meeting or post it online. The acting president made a note and this is a follow up item.
- Planning Committee: New officers have been elected. A call for new members was asked. The planning committee discussed that their role is for zoning efforts.
- Park Update: It’s Park Day on November 5th and volunteers are needed. On that day, they will plant new trees and mulch the area.
- Closing: The meeting was closed around 8:30 pm.
Council member Vela Discussion
District 4 Council Member Jose “Chito” Vela introduced himself as well as provided an update on the city activities and information on his vision for the city.
Vela informed the association that he ran for the vacant city council seat after previous council member Cesar decided to run for Congress. As an immigration lawyer and previous LBJ School graduate, public service and policy have been important to him. He was sworn in as a council member on February 7, 2022. He lives in Windsor Park and was on the Board of the Workers’ Defense Project.
Housing is his biggest priority. He mentioned the cost of living in the City of Austin was too high and wanted to make sure the city stayed affordable for the working and middle class.
Vela provided an update on the city budget. In the most recent budget, the city has strong tax revenue to invest in more homeless services and raise the minimum wage for city employees to $20 per hour. He also mentioned that there are investments in transportation, including the light rail that will be built near Wooten. The light rail should not add more traffic to the city and there is hope to see housing around the light rail.
Neighborhood Question and Answer
Chela answered questions from those that participated in the meeting including the following:
- Diversity of the District: The district has vast diversity and the goal is to keep that diversity.
- Prioritization of neighborhood needs: Questions arose on whether Vela would make sure the needs of the neighborhood would be prioritized as previous council members had ignored requests and information from Wooten citizens. Vela said that he is here to help, but that there may be other neighborhoods that need more pressing attention because of code compliance violation (e.g., housing is inhabitable) or crime. He said he would have his representative at the meetings to listen and answer questions and that he would also be available for questions.
- Homelessness: Concerns came up about the city’s plan for the homeless. Vela discussed that it was a big issue for the city. There isn’t enough housing for people. Currently, the city is clearing the homeless camp but they reappear in other parts of the district. The city is investing a substantial portion in affordable housing, including putting $40 million for housing in the last council meeting. It takes time, however, to build and make it sustainable and believes it’ll take 2-3 years to get the needed housing. Unfortunately, there is no plan in the short term to help reduce the homeless and housing issue.
- Anderson Lane: People drive fast on Anderson Lane, going at least 20 miles above the speed limit. The intersection between Tisdale and Anderson Lane is dangerous and there are no good crossings for people that are walking. Vela discussed having micro mobility where we can make improvements to make it safer in the neighborhood. Vela discussed Vision Zero, which helps make street safers. He discussed the city has gone after funding to help improve and reduce unsafe crossing areas. The funding should go to help get rid of these dangerous crossings. Vela said he would check to see if Anderson was on the list, but would work to help reduce the unsafe nature of street crossing. This is a follow up item.
- Policing: The neighborhood would like to see more policing to help with the speeders in the neighborhood. This led to a conversation about the city having difficulty hiring people for policing, emergency services, water, and park and making it difficult to appropriately staff the essential services. The city increased its wages to help recruit more, but they are losing people because they have to commute in and there are other companies that pay more without having to deal with potential trauma.
- City Owned Utilities Cost and City code to landscape issues also were brought up, including the increased cost of the city owned utilities.
- I-35: A discussion occurred on expanding I-35. This was an area of interest for the council member and the district as I-35 runs through the neighborhood. TxDOT is planning to expand it and the city is trying to get TxDOT to bury the highway so we can have more open space or use it for affordable housing. More information to come and a representative that is leading the effort may come to the next meeting. This is a follow up item.
The acting president stated that they had reached out to Burnet Middle School, Navarro High School, and Wooten Elementary School to see if they could get representatives at the meeting. They had only been successful getting Wooten Elementary, through the PTA, to participate in future meetings. They will continue to work different angles to get representatives and have more collaboration. Question came up on how Wooten NA has supported the schools before and it was clarified that not much has occurred. This is part of the initiative of having more communication to be a partner with the school.
Neighbors would like more updates on infrastructure projects from the city prior to commencement of projects as well as getting an update on when Google Fiber will be available for the entire neighborhood. The council member said he would reach out to Google Fiber and get an update. This is a follow up item.
5 G towers: Two new towers have been put up but no one knows who put them up.
Tisdale Apartment: Questions arose about getting speed bumps on Tisdale and what needs to be done with the association. This is a follow up item.
NA Association Volunteer and Activism
A conversation took place on the need to have a more active neighborhood association. The acting president agreed but said that means having more volunteers, which we do not have. The more people are willing to help out on parks and other items, the more we can grow and be more active. Discussion occurred about supporting the association by telling folks what the needs are, other than serving as officers.
7912 Tisdale House
They are trying to sell one of the original houses in the neighborhood and a local team is trying to buy it to redevelop it. The project may need the historical endorsement from the neighborhood.