AIBA Blog
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AIBA was delighted to meet with a small group from Japan in the US to learn about advancing regional tourism. The State Department recommended they meet with AIBA to discuss the value of local business and how to market local business to tourists. We were honored to be the only Austin organization that they met with. 

We met with Harumi Tokuoka, Executive Director of the Iriomote Island Ecotourism Association; Aya Takeda, Sales Manager for Hotel Metrololitan Sendai; and Yoko Akagi, Executive Managing Director of the Beach Hotel Sunshine Ishigaki Island. While all three sopke some English, we had an interpreteur from the State Department.

AIBA is by nature, hyper local-focused. It's wonderful to connect with others from around the world focusing on the same things we are. Across oceans and cultures, we shared stories and goals. I was proud to represent Austin and local business to our foreign visitors. From our recent advocacy on tourism, I felt quite educated about Austin's tourism industry and able to share knowledge and views freely.

Thank you to our visitors who took the time to share with us and to Global Austin for hosting the meeting. Activities like this broaden our horizons too. #Think Globally Shop Locally!

At the time of this writing, two things have happened:
1. The implemination of the Ordinance is in limbo. Originally passed to take effect on October 1, 2018, lawsuits, appeals and counter suits have put this date on hold. Only the courts can activate this so it’s in a wait and see position. Of course the Texas Legislature (in session in January) can kill the ordinance passed by the Austin City Council, rendering it null and void.
 
So what is a business owner to do? The on, off, on, off again process has left the local business community confused about implementation. My advice is to treat your employees like family (in all the good ways), be fair always and generous when you can. Prepare for the regulations and stand by.
 
2. The Rules for Investigation of Complaints and Assessment of Civil Penalties under City Code Chapter 4-90 (the Earned Sick Time Ordinance) have been approved and contain a couple of surprises. The entire document is 411 pages and includes comments and answers during a public participation period addressing, not the ordinance, but the rules. Most all of the comments are contained in an 80 page chart which I did read. 
 
At the end of this input, the city made a few changes to the rules. The most concerning is that they increased the penalties to businesses, effectively doubling the fines of businesses with fewer than 14 employees. Just to note, of 80 pages of comments, 12 people requested that the fines be raised and thus it was so. 
 
The time investigators have to schedule interviews was shortened from 10 days to 8 days. The time to complete a final determination was shortened from 120 days to 75 days. 10 people requested some form of shortened process time.
 
While the most requested change (from both sides of the issue) was to add an appeals process. 13 people requested this. There is no option for an appeal of a determination in the rules and none was added. 
 
No request for any adjustment from a business or business entity was granted.
 
Once again, it appears that divisiveness rules the day and local business loses.
AIBA is here for you, our member. We take that very seriously and we want to be the organization you want us to be. But we need to know what you want.
We haven't done a membership survey in several years but we're asking you now. Please take just a few minutes to tell us your thoughts, what you need, what you want (we all know wants can be different from needs), what would thrill you and maybe even what you'd like for us to stop doing.
The survey will take 9 minutes or less. To make you feel extra special about filling out our survey, respondents will be entered into a drawing for:
 
     1. A free year of membership added to your current membership.
 
     2. A free upgrade to your current membership.
 
     3. A $50 Gift Card to Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill
 
This survey is for AIBA's use only. Your name and business name are completely confidential. Any data used for advocacy purposes will be aggregated and unidentifiable to the individual.
Independent We Stand is a national organization promoting shopping at locally owned businesses. They host an Indie Business of the Year contest in which your favorite business could win big!
 
The eighth-annual Indie Award competition is now underway and the grand prize for one lucky small business will be a $25,000 marketing makeover! Entering is quick and easy. Just tell us a short story about how your favorite business went above and beyond to deliver great customer service and/or community support.  But enter now because the earlier you enter the better chance they have of winning! 
Anyone who has used Austin 3-1-1, the City of Austin's one call for information and answers, knows how effective the resource is. Staffed by a knowledgable crew, we've found them to be exremely helpful. Often, when members contact AIBA about a question or issue, we refer them to 3-1-1 because it's the quickest way to find what you need.
 
Over the past few months, 3-1-1 has met with the Development Services Department (DSD) to learn about the services provided, and have undergone extensive training in navigating the DSD website and online tools to learn where to find information for the customer and how to direct customers to find information in the future. In September 2018, 3-1-1 became the primary point of contact for all calls to the DSD. Callers dialing DSD’s primary phone number, 512-978-4000, are automatically routed to 3-1-1 Ambassadors who will provide immediate, responsive and quality customer service to DSD customers seeking assistance and guidance 24/7, including holidays.
 
Along with improved customer service, this partnership will also:
 
·      Support continuous service in the event of a City shutdown due to inclement weather  
·      Provide a memorable phone number for DSD customers to easily remember
·      Track the rate of responsiveness to customer inquiries
·      Track types of calls and frequently asked questions, which will help in improving DSD’s service levels. 
 
If the requested information is not available or rises to a technical level, 3-1-1 will generate a Service Request routed to DSD Customer Service Representatives. Each request will be assigned a tracking number, which the customer can use to recall their request if they have follow-up questions and view their request status online at 311.austintexas.gov.  
 
DSD is a partner of AIBA which allows us a closer relationship to work together and help local business. This is just one of many improvements coming you way!
Project Dox, the ePlan software utilized by DSD will be upgraded on September 22, 2018! The new version 9.1 features several improvements to increase usability.
The upgrade will be completed in two phases:
Phase I rolls out September 22 and allows the use of any browser to view drawings and PDF files. Other enhancements include a better screen layout, ability to search and sort all columns, and more intuitive button names. Additionally, Project Dox now integrates with Bluebeam for file review.
Phase 2 will be launched later this year and will include a more streamlined workflow and simpler one-step task acceptance, file upload, and completion.
 
View screenshots of some of the enhancements.
 
For more information, contact Christopher Summers.
 
NEXT WEEK
Applicant Overview webinar
Wednesday, September 19
12:00 noon - 1:00pm
Dear Local Businesses,
I’ve spent more than 10 years advocating for you at city hall. Some of that effort included educating and wooing city officials. Some of that time was spent fighting for you even when the odds weren’t in our favor. 
 
I’m not one to shy away from a good fight for a good cause. But the fights this year have not been good, they’ve been divisive by design. They’ve been created to make a point. While the victors relish their success at any cost, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment of the damage left behind. The damage of disregard and disrespect of local business. The damage of allowing the demonization of local business at city hall.
 
I have been deeply affected by this damage and find myself in a dark place. The community of local businesses that I care so much for is under attack. Our beloved local businesses have been labeled the enemy. This is a new reality that is difficult to face and even harder to comprehend. It’s led me to many sleepless nights and a lot of soul searching. Not only for me, but for all the amazing local business owners I know. This is painful. I know you to be kind, supportive community folks who strive to do good and turn a modest profit, not at the expense of your employees but in concert with your team. How has an orchestrated political agenda come to define us otherwise?
 
Should public policymaking include great debates? Of course. Should stakeholders fight hard for what they believe in? Certainly. But we don’t destroy one another in our quest to win—until now. 
 
Many of you know that Jim Murphy recently sold Sweetish Hill Bakery. I wrote to him saying AIBA would miss him. His reply was shocking:
 “And I have to say that council meeting was a real turning point for me. I walked out of there and decided I was done owing a business in Austin. And it had nothing to do with the Sick Pay ordinance, but rather the way business owners were treated by the council and the Mayor.” 
 
While Jim took immediate and drastic action, he is not alone in this sentiment. Who believes that destroying someone’s business so painstakingly built is acceptable damage? 
 
Austin is filled with smart, creative and compassionate people. We are better than this. I’ve grappled with how to engage in challenging this new reality. I am unwilling to damage others in pursuit of, well, anything. I am unwilling to demonize employees or anyone else to make a point. I care too deeply about the importance of having thriving local business to let short-sighted political agendas divide us. 
 
I am an unapologetic and optimistic idealist. I believe that the only effective way to solve community problems is to work together. I believe that most people are inherently good and do try to do the right thing. I believe in you, Austin. And that is the light that brings me out of this dark place.
 
AIBA has begun charting a path to bring us together to solve our issues with A Better Process Proposal. This was crafted with a team of two conservatives and two liberals working together to produce a draft that gives us a starting point for gathering the best ideas to address community problems in a way that achieves the best long-term results for everyone-—employees, businesses and the public. 
 
Thank you awesome local business owners for being who you are. You are my light.
 
Warmest regards as always,
Rebecca
 
Rebecca Melançon, Executive Director, AIBA
In an effort to keep you informed, we wanted to notify you of proposed pass-through rate changes. 
 
Each year during the City of Austin budget process, Austin Energy trues up fees and charges paid by customers that are “pass-throughs.” These are charges meant to collect what we actually pay as an expense and include power supply costs, customer support programs and transmission services, among other items.
 
There is good news this year for commercial customers. We recommend dropping that basket of charges for a net decrease of 0.2 percent system-wide. As always, the effect for each customer will depend on your rate class and how you use energy.
 
We propose no change to the base rate, which last changed in 2017 and provided a $37.5 million cost reduction for commercial customers.
 
The Austin City Council is scheduled to vote Sept. 11 on the budget and proposed pass-through rate changes.
 
Significant changes in the fees include a reduction in the Power Supply Adjustment of 2.4 percent and a reduction in the Regulatory Charge of 1.6 percent. These reductions are partially offset by an upward change in the Community Benefit Charge. As over or under collections occur, adjustments are subsequently made in pass through charges.
 
The Key Accounts Budgeting Tool has been updated with these proposed rate changes. You can see the impact on your bills and budget accordingly.
 
 If you have any questions or need access to the Budgeting Tool, please contact your Key Account Manager. We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to serve you.
 
Sincerely,
Kerri Davis
s
 
Kerri Davis | Manager, Commercial & Key Accounts | Austin Energy
721 Barton Springs Rd. | Austin, TX 78704 | 512-322-6574
Locally owned businesses play a central role in healthy communities and are among the best engines that cities and towns have for advancing economic opportunity and building resilient places. Small business ownership has been a pathway to the middle class for generations of Americans and continues to be a crucial tool for expanding prosperity and community self-determination. Here, we outline five important reasons for local officials to support independent businesses, based on a growing body of research. READ MORE.
There’s a movement afoot.
 
The recent rise in activism for workers’ rights was born partly of frustration over the economic inequality sweeping the nation. 
 
Capitalism is a tremendous driver of innovation and growth. But left unchecked, it can harm the many for the gain of the few. Many of America’s biggest corporations are examples of this. We all know that Walmart and Amazon employ millions of people but also cause harm to workers and local businesses alike. These business goliaths don’t build communities—like local businesses do—they build only profit. Employees are often seen as a disposable workforce rather than a valued team.
 
Local businesses are a crucial part of our community. Entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to create small local businesses exemplify the hopes and dreams of everyone who wants to control their economic destiny. Their employees are part of their team, some consider them family. Local business owners care for their team in every way they can. We’re stewards of culture and commerce.
 
Austin politics today are divided—workers vs. business, or more directly, workers are good and business is bad. This is unnecessarily divisive and destructive. Our community faces challenges in dealing with employer-employee issues such as paid sick leave, livable wages, and predictive scheduling. We have a great opportunity to come together to address these issues and find solutions. We are a smart, creative city. We can find solutions to even the most difficult problems—if we work collectively and respectfully.
 
The recent destructive battles over paid sick leave left Austin at the mercy of lawsuits and the Texas Legislature—never a desirable outcome. AIBA refused to take part in any legal action against the ordinance. If the courts or the Legislature overrides local control, Austin loses. AIBA was never opposed to paid sick leave, per se. AIBA objected to portions of the ordinance and the rush to enact it without due process. We sought to contribute ideas that might work for everyone, such as establishing a risk pool for very small businesses. We asked that the ordinance be given time for review. Instead it was rammed through in 17 days from initial draft to passage. We asked that implementation be delayed until January instead of the October 1st because businesses hadn’t budgeted for it this year. We proposed an exemption for the smallest of local businesses. We proposed providing incentives rather than regulations punitive to local business. In a political climate that only provides for black and white—business is bad, workers are good—our reasonable concerns fell on deaf ears.
 
No one wants to go to work sick and no employer wants sick people at work. But the issue was framed, not as a compromise achieved by discussing the best ideas, but as “for the workers” or “against the workers.” In the process, local business was demonized as the enemy of the worker. Local businesses can’t survive without employees and with Austin’s low unemployment rate it’s increasingly difficult to even find enough people to allow businesses to flourish. And employees need the jobs that local business provides. It is a symbiotic relationship. The idea that employees are being systematically exploited by all businesses is not only wrong but counterproductive. To succeed, the employer-employee relationship must ensure mutual benefits.
 
It seems likely that if the courts don’t override this ordinance the Texas Legislature will. If that happens, nobody wins. We haven’t helped one person. We’ve divided our community for absolutely nothing. It’s time to look for a better way.
 
Cooperation will achieve the best results
 
A few months ago, AIBA formed a Better Process Committee with a few of our members who are interested in working on these issues. We began by researching other cities and other states to find better alternatives to achieve our shared community goals. What we found led us to create a proposal for a better process to address employer-employee issues. 
 
First, we propose a local study of each issue to identify the full scope of the problems. This will lead to better, more targeted, solutions that won’t give lawmakers cause to deprive us of home rule. 
 
The second step is to convene a Workplace Task Force of organizations representing all segments of business and employee organizations. This task force would be charged with reviewing a problem and finding solutions to recommend to the City Council. 
 
The third step is to take the time to do an impact study of any proposed policies. The speed of enacting the paid sick leave ordinance created an ordinance fraught with unintended consequences.
 
Good government governs in the best interest of all the people, not just one group. Local policy should not provide benefits for one segment by punishing another. By working collectively, other communities have found ways to address their issues that worked for everyone. AIBA is proposing that Austin do the same. 
Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was largely seen as destructive and divisive. AIBA would like to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
 
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
 
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (some municipalities are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don’t know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions. 
 
AIBA conducted a local business survey in July to give local businesses a chance to weigh in and to direct AIBA in our advocacy. 
 
95% do not support the City Council creating an ordinance regulating predictive scheduling.
 
79% of respondents said that scheduling has not been a problem for their employees. Many cited the flexibility as a benefit that their employees liked. While the answers were fairly consistent, they varied by industry. 
 
While 30% said they can and do schedule two weeks out, only 11% could accommodate advanced scheduling three weeks out. 
 
98% could not afford to pay extra for changed schedules.
 
 
This issue leaves us to wonder “What problem are we trying to solve?” There are part-time employee with multiple jobs that might have difficulty with last minute schedule changes since that could affect the schedule of other jobs. It is also understandable that if just one employee changes their schedule, the employer must change the schedule for another employee to fill in the shift. We also saw in our survey that many employees like the flexible shift model precisely because they do engage in other activities. They can take off at will by finding another employee to take their shift. 
 
According to our survey, most local businesses with shift work begin the scheduling with what the employees want and let a voluntary system work for picking up extra shifts when available. This system work most of the time for both employers and employees. It gives employees the flexibility they desire and gives the employer the needed staff for each shift. Sometimes employees work a shift they’d rather not work and sometimes employers fill in short shifts.
 
But some policies plan to penalize the employer by enforcing a possible time and a half wage on any shift that changes. Essentially, if one employee changes a shift, it forces the employer to change a shift for another employee. The employer would be penalized for accommodating the employee. The word affordability comes to mind on all fronts. Many of our respondents said that this penalty would force them to be less flexible on scheduling so as not to invoke the additional costs. In this case, employees lose the flexibility they desire.    
 
But this policy brings to the forefront a question of economic and workplace dynamics. Is it the responsibility of every small, local business to provide a job that suits every employee? Is it the responsibility of each employee to find the job that best suits their needs? If unpredictable shift work is a problem for an individual employee, then isn’t it more reasonable for that employee to find a job that fits their needs rather than change entire industries? What are the unintended consequences of too much regulation on a free market system? A policy tightly regulating employee scheduling has the possibility of denying flexibility options to the majority while delivering stability to the few. 
 
The Austin City Council will be charged with creating regulations and policies that provide our citizenry with the opportunity for a better life. But targeting small local business is not the answer. 

AIBA is excited to welcome three new boad members to the AIBA Board. Michael Searle, Executive Director of The Austin Fund, Hoover Alexander, Owner of Hoover's Cooking and Hill Abell, Founder and CEO of Bicycle Sport Shop have joined us in leadership roles at AIBA. Please join us in welcoming them. We look forward to their perspectives and experience guiding AIBA as we move forward.

We believe that the pursuit of owning a local business is the pursuit of happiness.
 
We believe that locally owned businesses run by people who care about our community are the foundation of a healthy local economy, not by creating commerce over people but by creating commerce with people. 
 
We believe that local business is more than the exchange of money for goods and services. It is the action of needs being fulfilled, of human to human interaction. The “hello, how are you doing?” from a clerk, the smile from a waiter or a warm greeting from your favorite barista give us connectivity and a sense of place. Yes, I do need a cup of coffee. But I also need your smile, the chatter of other customers, the scent of warm pastries. 
 
We believe that connectivity means more than 100 people in a room exchanging business cards. That’s an exchange of information. True connectivity comes from shared experiences, shared struggles, shared hopes and dreams. Local business owners share a connectivity because of who they are—they all had the ambition and courage to pursue a talent, a passion, a dream.
 
We believe in sharing while competing. Competition makes us all better at what we do. It compels us to push harder and strive longer. But competition should not be at the destruction of others. We all benefit from a healthy local business ecosystem and helping others is part of that. 
 
Come join us in these beliefs. Come join your peers. Become an AIBA member.

We are pleased to announce exciting changes at AIBA. We’re doing a bit of rebranding to bring greater attention to local business and to buying locally. We began by redesigning our logo. Of course Indie the armadillo is still our icon but he’s cleaned up a bit and given a sharper, fresher look. We changed the “i” to help emphasize that we’re not ABIA—the airport and bolded INDEPENDENT BUSINESS to bring greater attention to the focus of our organization.
 
In advocacy and marketing for local business, I often talk about why local business is so important to Austin. What are we to Austin? There’s the economic impact and healthy local economy side, but there’s also the cultural side of our importance as local businesses. ‘We’re local’ gives us a geographic place but doesn’t embrace the uniqueness of this amazing city called Austin. We’re more than a location. We are a way of life. We’re AustinTRUE®.
 
How do you get to be Certified AustinTRUE? Glad you asked. Join us in the only organization in town that now represents more than 1,000 locally owned businesses. We certifiy our members as AustinTRUEwith a certificate saying so and a door sticker let your customers know that you are Certified AustinTRUE. Display them proudly!
 
Know other local businesses that need to be Certified AustinTRUE? Spread the word and share the attention! Bring your colleagues into the AIBA Community through www.ibuyaustin.com/join. And tell them to put your name as referred by so we can publicly thank you for the connection. 
 
We also have new member “Local Spoken Here” door stickers. Get yours now!
 
In addition to the new branding, we’ll soon have a sparkling new website that will showcase our members even better and engage viewers on a whole new level. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Last year, AIBA attended meetings of the Visitor Impact Task Force to present the idea that our unique local businesses are a huge tourist draw. Not only are tourists seeking the unique Austin experience but dollars spent at a local business puts more than three times the money into our local economy. This benefits us all without tourists spending more money—just spending it at a locally owned business.
 
We were successful in getting the Austin City Council to allocate a one-time $200,000 grant to marketing local business to tourists. The money comes for the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) that visitors pay when they stay at an Austin hotel. This is also called the bed tax since it is charged per night. We are the only city in the nation to devote some of these funds to promoting local business. This was quite an achievement.
 
AIBA did submit a proposal for this grant but we were not awarded the grant by the City Council. We have been unable to obtain a copy of the proposal from LookThinkMake, LLC so have no idea what they intend to produce with the grant. But the time frame for completion was only a few months so the execution of the project should be very visible very fast. Look for a new campaign around Austin promoting local business.
Since 2012 the City of Austin has imposed or facilitated mandatory recycling programs. This is part of an effort to comply with Austin’s Zero Waste goal to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90% by 2040. 
 
The Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) supports Austin’s Zero Waste goal by requiring affected property owners to ensure that tenants and employees have access to convenient recycling. The ordinance is intended to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts, and encourage economic development. Since last October, all commercial properties are subject to this policy. Read more in this quick and easy chart.
 
The Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO)’s Organics Diversion standards also support Austin’s Zero Waste goal by requiring food permitted businesses to reduce or divert organic material (e.g. wasted food, yard trimmings) from the landfill. The URO intends to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts and encourage economic development. While this was instituted in October 2016, all businesses must comply by October 1, 2018. Read more in this quick and easy chart.
 
If you have any questions about wither of these policies, please contact the Business Outreach Team at 512-974-9727 or CommercialRecycling@austintexas.gov.
It’s complicated. Like everything in CodeNEXT. But there may be some good news for local businesses depending on where you are located and how your property is zoned. It will take a bit of research on your part to find what your new parking rules will be but here are some links and information to help you.
 
CodeNEXT’s changes to parking can be summarized as requiring less parking yet prescriptive in the location of parking spaces.  Some of the specifics, however, are not as straightforward as in today’s code.  
 
Number of Parking Spaces
• Parking requirements are determined by zoning category (check your zoning), size of the retail space, as well as by use.  In contrast, today’s parking is determined by use only.  
• Main Street (MS), for example:  Restaurants, retail, offices and bars require no parking if a business (not structure) is smaller than 2,500 sq. ft.  Zilker Neighborhood Association has compiled a helpful chart for all zones
• If a property lies within a Regional Center zone, it will require no parking.  Regional Centers are indicated on the Imagine Austin map and include downtown. 
• In addition, there are maximum parking restrictions for some zones, including developments over 10,000 sf in Main Street (MS).  
• Commercial uses are eligible for additional cumulative reductions of up to 40% for reasons such as location in the “urban core,” providing a shower at work or providing additional bicycle parking. 
 
Parking Placement
Placement of parking spaces is very prescriptive.  
• Creates requirements for setbacks
• If parking does not meet these requirements then parking is possibly nonconforming although this is not clear like with structures and uses
• Below is an example from the requirements for MS2C. 
 
ADA Parking
If no parking is required, such as for businesses less than 2,500 sf, then ADA parking is not required.  This fact was affirmed by the city’s Legal Department.  
 
This is the third articke in a series to help you better understand CodeNEXT. Read the other blogs
Originally Published in The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, ILSR
 
Amid all the news from the U.S. Supreme Court in recent weeks, two rulings in particular have important implications for independent businesses and the future of efforts to check the power of big companies, especially tech giants like Amazon. In this episode of our Building Local Power podcast, ILSR's Stacy Mitchell and Nick Stumo-Langer dig into these two cases.
 
In the case Ohio v. American Express, the Court's 5-4 ruling has both immediate and long-term implications for monopoly power. Its direct impact is to give credit card companies wide latitude to extract fees from merchants and consumers, while its broader impact is to advance a theory that will make it more difficult for the government to bring cases against "platform" monopolies like Amazon. Nick and Stacy discuss the case, and where the anti-monopoly movement goes next.
 
In the case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the Court granted states the authority to require out-of-state and online retailers to collect state sales taxes. It's a victory for independent businesses, but Nick and Stacy discuss how the decision is long overdue, and how significant its delay has been in Amazon's growth and dominance of e-commerce.  Listen to the Episode
 
If you enjoy these conversations, make sure that you don't miss an episode — and help us reach more people — by subscribing in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Several employee benefit issues are being brought before the Austin City Council for new regulation such as the Paid Sick Leave ordinance in February. AIBA is seeking to engage our members and the larger local business community in dialogue about possible upcoming issues with the intent of having a voice in the larger community debate. 
 
The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance was destructive and divisive. We want to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.
 
So what is coming? It is called many things, but some of the common names are: “Predictive scheduling”, “fair scheduling” or “secure scheduling”. We will call it “predictive scheduling”.
 
What is it? Predictive scheduling, as it is commonly called, is a policy being proposed across the nation that requires business owners provide employees with their schedule a certain number of days in advance (in some municipalities it is X days and others are proposing as much as 60 days in advance). This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and  landscaping. The policy says, if the employee is not given their schedule that many days in advance, the business must pay time and a half for those shifts without adequate advanced notice. Since the Austin policy has not been written yet, we don't know what the advance notice is or the penalty for non-compliance but those are the key provisions. 
 
The City Council will likely address this issue with specific parameters that must be adhered to or penalties will be applied. The specific ordinance is yet to be written but it will determine specifications such as how much advance notice is required (could be a few days to several weeks), what happens if an employer needs to change the schedule after it is set and what penalties will apply.
 
We would really value your input on this issue. Please take a few minutes to give us your thoughts. We will share your voice with our elected officials.
 
 
This survey was created by AIBA's Better Process Committee. The Committee seeks to add civility and respect to the governance of our city and the creation of its policies. The information gathered in this survey will help us advocate for local business. All indetity and contact information will be kept confidential.
On February 15, the City Council passed the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance mandating specified paid sick days for all employees working within the city limits. (See City of Austin Mandated Paid Sick Leave Ordinance). The ordinance takes effect on October 1, 2018.
 
The Rules for Investigation of Complaints and Assessment of Penalties has been issued and it appears to be more cause for concern. The administrative rules are the details of how the city will investigate complaints regarding the paid sick leave policy and what they will do about it in what time frame. 
 
One large looming question is what defines a violation. I called Jonathan Babiak, City of Austin contact for this issue, and posed a scenario question. If an employee is sick for four days and thinks that they have earned those four days as paid sick leave but the employer thinks they haven’t, is this one violation or is it four violations (one per day). They answer was that a violation wasn’t defined so the city doesn’t know. This has been logged in as an official question now. 
 
It’s important because the business could be fined and increasing amount per incident. According to the Rules (Section 6) the business could be fined $150 the first day, $300 the second day and $500 for each day thereafter. I’ll keep you posted on the official answer.
 
But the more alarming language comes in Section 6B which states that the Administrator(the city employee who oversees the complaint) can increase or decrease the amount of the penalty under certain circumstances. Examples cited are a demonstrated hardship to the business or, on the increased side, a repeat offender. However Section 6B(1)c, states “the Respondent’s (the business) indifference toward...its obligations...” In other words, you can face an increased fine because of your attitude. The ordinance was very punitive to business but this is the only case I know of where fines can increase because of attitude. 
 
This may not be what was intended. Mr. Babiak repeatedly stated that it was for people who clearly weren’t going to follow the policy. But this is one of the results of unintended consequences from an ordinance passed in 17 days. As with so many city policies, what is intended is not necessarily what is implemented. Or is it?
 
I urge every business to read these rules and comment to Jonathan Babiak, 512-972-3200, jonathan.babiak@austintexas.gov. You have the opportunity to ask questions and leave comments but the deadline is 5pm, July 19. 
This is the second in a continuing series on how CodeNEXT might affect your business. Te see how your property is zoned, please see the first article: CodeNEXT will affect local businesses. Here's what you can do. Austin’s current code includes “safe harbor” provisions that allow structures and uses to be grandfathered even if the new code disallows them. This allows older buildings developed before setback and other requirements to be legal. These “safe harbor” provisions are not included in CodeNEXT.
 
Instead, CodeNEXT includes:
  • Language that explains how and why structures and uses will become nonconforming.
  • Minimums and sometimes maximums in setbacks, height, parking placement etc.
  • New commercial zones that do not match uses currently on the ground, such as many existing auto-related businesses not allowed in the proposed Main Street (MS) zones. 
 
Below is an example of prescriptive setbacks in Main Street 2B (MS2B) (mapped for parts of South Congress, Lamar and Burnet, among other places)
For instance, if your MS2B zoned property is less than 5’ or more than 10’ from the front property line, it will be nonconforming under CodeNEXT.  
 
In order to figure out if your property will be nonconforming:
1. Look up on the map what the proposed zoning will be under CodeNEXT
2. Examine the corresponding section of the code to find the requirements for setbacks, height, impervious cover, uses, etc.  
3. Look at another section of CodeNEXT, 23-4D-5050*, that applies to “narrow interior lots less than 65’ wide” to see if your property is exempt from the setback requirements (so therefore would be grandfathered in setbacks)
4. Measure your property to see if it meets the requirements of the new zoning  
 
The impact of being nonconforming 
  • CodeNEXT itself states that the intent is to “discourage the long-term continuation of nonconformities by limiting investments in them and restricting expansions and alterations”
  • Cannot do additions unless bring entire building into compliance
  • May be more difficult to get loans
We all know local business is, by nature, nonconforming and it's a good thing. But this nonconforming is not a good thing. Shaping how our city looks and functions is an important and crucial endeavor. Getting rid of local business properties because they don't conform to new ideas is an unfolding tragedy. Added to the alreay in full swing unaffordable Austin and we're making it harder and harder for local business to just survive. 
 
Please take the time to see how this affects your business and communicate your concerns with the City Council directly by email (http://www.austintexas.gov/email/all-council-members).