Resource Management Commission deadlocked on toxic materials resolution

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 by Willow Higgins

Resource management Commissioners recently came up against a motion for a resolution ordering Austin Energy staff to facilitate a task force to consider how to deter builders from using toxic materials. The resolution ultimately did not pass, ending in a tied vote 4-4, with one abstention.

Ultimately, there was some confusion over what exactly the resolution was intended to do – whether to improve Austin Energy’s performance green building point system, which ranks buildings based on their sustainability, or taking on the larger project of ensuring Austin’s buildings are made with non-toxic, environmentally friendly materials. But the conversation mostly centered on whether or not RMC should better engage and collaborate with Austin Energy staff on the task force’s responsibility before handing it over to the task.

failure resolution refers to the hazardous qualities of building materials commonly used in the construction of multi-family homes and single-family homes, disproportionately exposing low- and middle-income people and people of color to health risks. “Modern energy-efficient buildings with less ventilation” exacerbate dangerous health effects, the resolution reads. He decided that the task force, which is expected to be made up of industry professionals, Austin Energy employees, environmental and health experts, tenant advocates and RMC members, will forward its recommendations. to the commission by August 1.

While the committee voted and approved some amendments to the wording of the resolution, committee chair Jonathan Blackburn suggested at the outset that the resolution be tabled until the commissioners had discussions with Austin Energy on how the project should be continued.

“My preference would be for the sponsors to take this up, take the feedback we got tonight, meet with the Green Building staff who will ultimately be responsible for implementing one of these changes, and get their feedback on it and their buy-in, because really if we want this to be implemented effectively and not just a resolution for the record, staff buy-in is crucial,” Blackburn said.

But some members of the commission, particularly those who co-sponsored the resolution, thought otherwise. They argued that the commission had discussed this effort at several other meetings and that the resolution was on the agenda for the meeting, where Austin Energy staff members are usually present.

“I believe in leadership,” Commissioner Louis Stone said. “There are times when you can collaborate and you can go back to someone, but you have to be able to say sometimes, ‘This is the direction we want to go, and we need you to continue with us.’ Austin Energy is well aware of what this commission has been talking about for a few months now – it is by no means a surprise to them. They can always come back and say, “We don’t think we can meet the August 1 deadline,” and then we can work with them on that, if necessary. »

After much discussion, Richard Genece, an Austin Energy vice president who was at the meeting, finally made a comment, asking staff to have time to meet and review the resolution as it stands. proposed.

He recalls discussing the project at a previous meeting convened by Blackburn, which included members of the RMC and Austin Energy staff, but has not heard from it since.

“We’re literally sitting here saying, ‘Why was the decision never made to hire Austin Energy people to make what RMC wants to do more productive?’ “That would be my question,” Genece said. “Meetings are an opportunity to engage, but not in real time. We would like to have the opportunity to examine, co-develop and co-create things, not when the resolutions are actually written on the spot. … This is the first time that we see what is proposed as a resolution.

After the vote was over, Commissioner Tom “Smitty” Smith urged his colleagues to communicate better with each other.

“I would note that the phone works both ways and has become this kind of dominant attitude on the part of this commission and Austin Energy personnel who do not communicate with each other,” Smith said. “And it’s okay to pick up the phone. You know who each other is. Austin Energy, if you had any issues with this, a call to the sponsors could have avoided another meeting where we have to deal with this and a lot of disappointment on both sides. And the sponsors of this resolution, so do you. It’s a waste of time. »

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