BG Note | News - What We're Reading (May 3, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

Divisions over city’s future on display at CodeNEXT forum (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

After a similarly lengthy forum on Saturday, members of the city’s two land use commissions – the Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission – endured four hours of public testimony Tuesday night over CodeNEXT, the proposed overhaul of the city’s land development rules.
The 80 members of the community who spoke at the hearing represented a fairly equal mix of neighbors on both sides of the perennial debate over development in Austin. One group worried that new development would threaten the character of Austin’s single-family neighborhoods and lead to further displacement and gentrification, while another group generally encouraged the city to embrace greater density as a way to facilitate more affordable housing and transit-oriented growth...

RideAustin battles to survive in space dominated by Uber, Lyft (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

RideAustin will need people like David Goss if it’s going to survive. Every weekend, Goss, a 42-year-old sales engineer at Dell Technologies, opens his RideAustin smartphone app to hail a ride to the bars and restaurants that line Rainey Street Historic District downtown. Goss has been using RideAustin exclusively since the ride-hailing service began operating here in 2016. He’s become a fan of the app’s local feel, as well as its status as a nonprofit organization. And he says the service has been equal to that of Uber and Lyft...

Austin scooter startup fears 'insurmountable uphill battle' after California competitors jumped the gun (Austin Business Journal) LINK TO STORY

"It's important to have clarity right now, particularly since we've had one instance already where two companies [Bird and LimeBike] go into our market without working with our staff," said Council Member Ann Kitchen. "This will make it crystal clear what the expectations are for our community."
But Michael Schramm, the CEO and owner of Austin-based scooter company Goat, told Council on April 27 that local businesses have already been put at a disadvantage with the publicity Bird and LimeBike got from their early launches.
"When we approached the city in March to launch our dockless scooter company, we were told that a process would be put in place and that we needed to wait and that we needed to work with the city to bring this to market," Schramm said. "We trusted the process."
"This left the market wide open for two California companies to move in and exploit this open market with no competition whatsoever," he added. "We now face an insurmountable uphill battle once the city finally allows local companies to compete in the dockless scooter market."...

AISD Board of Trustees contemplates deep cuts to the budget (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The Austin Independent School District’s preliminary budget for the 2018-19 school year was released on April 23. On April 30, the members of the AISD Board of Trustees weighed in with their thoughts on how to continue to fund administrators and teachers while grappling with the staggering $30 million deficit that the school district is facing.
Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley Johnson summed up the scenario in which AISD finds itself in her introduction. “Revenue is far lower than what it costs to maintain operating expenses in the district,” she said...


Lupe Valdez agrees to debate Andrew White at UT (Austin Amerincan-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Lupe Valdez, the front-running candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, has accepted an invitation to debate rival Andrew White a week from Friday at the University of Texas. The debate is being organized by a coalition of groups including State Tejano Democrats, Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, Texas Stonewall Democrats, Texas Young Democrats, Texas College Democrats, the Travis County Democratic Party and others. “We are excited to bring the candidates together, face-to-face in Austin,” said James Lee, the Texas Democratic Party’s Hispanic Caucus state committeeman. “With both candidates polling within single digits of the incumbent, there is a lot of grassroots energy out there. Voters deserve a chance to hear from the candidates on their vision for Texas, and the future of the party.”...

Texas ruling on $11,000 ER bill may have long-lasting effects, experts say (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

The health care industry is closely watching a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court that some say could have broader implications on how hospitals and health insurers negotiate their rates. The court sided with an uninsured woman who was billed $11,037 after an emergency room visit. The justices said that in order to prove her bill was “reasonable” compared with what an insured patient would be billed, the medical center would need to share in court details about the discounted rates it had with health insurers, data that’s generally seen as proprietary and confidential...

Blake Farenthold tells Gov. Abbott he won't pay for special election to replace him (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Blake Farenthold — a disgraced former Republican Texas congressman who resigned last month — will not fund the special election to replace himself, he wrote in a Wednesday letter to Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott, also a Republican, had asked that Farenthold pay for the election, set for June 30, as a form of recompense: Farenthold resigned in April, months after it came to light that he had settled a sexual harassment claim from a former staffer with $84,000 of taxpayer money. The election could cost upwards of $200,000, according to local officials...

Dallas Democrat launches unlikely bid for Texas House speaker (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, launched a long shot bid for Texas House speaker Wednesday. “What Texas needs is a strong, pro-growth, progressive leader presiding over the Texas House to act as a counterbalance to a far-right governor and lieutenant governor. I am running for speaker to help restore normalcy to Texas state politics,” Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. Johnson, who was first elected in 2010, is running unopposed in the November election. He faces an uphill battle to win the top post in the chamber, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 95-55. Three Republicans already are running for the speaker post — Phil King, R-Weatherford; John Zerwas, R-Richmond; and Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound...


As NRA comes to Dallas, Texas Republicans split on punishing banks that cut ties with gun industry (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Republican lawmakers are locked in a policy standoff over whether to punish big banks like Citigroup and Bank of America for curtailing ties with the gun industry in the wake of recent mass shootings. That divide holds true even in gun-friendly Texas, which plays host in Dallas this week to the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. Some Texas GOP'ers, such as Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler, want to cancel government contracts with financial institutions that are backing away from the firearms market. But others, while angry at the banks, are wary about intruding upon a private entity’s business decisions...

GOP lawmakers nominate Trump for Nobel Peace Prize over North Korea (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Three Texas lawmakers have joined a move to nominate President Donald Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize over his efforts to denuclearize North Korea through economic sanctions and other pressure tactics. Eighteen Republicans in the U.S. House signed the letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Three Texans signed: Michael Burgess of Pilot Point, Brian Babin of Woodville and Pete Olson of Sugar Land. They urged “recognition of Trump's work to end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean peninsula, and bring peace to the region...

Trump Adds Clinton Impeachment Lawyer, Bracing for a Fight on Multiple Fronts (New York Times) LINK TO STORY

President Trump hired on Wednesday a Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, a sign that the White House sees no immediate end to its legal problems and is girding for a combative relationship with a new Congress after the midterm elections. The new lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, will replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who persuaded Mr. Trump to cooperate with the special counsel for the first year of its investigation. Mr. Cobb assured the president that doing so would bring the investigation to a swift end. That has not happened, and lawyers say the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is unlikely to conclude his work soon. Mr. Trump’s advisers see a new peril on the horizon: If Democrats win control of the House, they would have the authority to issue subpoenas or even convene impeachment hearings...

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