BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 27, 2018)



Austin navigates scooter perils, from broken bones to blocked pathways (Austin American-Statesman)

Scooter companies have four hours to respond to an issue after it is reported and verified through the city’s 311 line, said Jen Samp, a spokeswoman for the city’s Transportation Department. The scooter littering issue went viral last week after Emily Shryock spotted three scooters lined up every few feet on the sidewalk along 24th Street, leaving her without a way to squeeze her wheelchair through.
She said was on her way to the University of Texas campus, where she works in the disability services office, and called 311. Shryock posted photos of the blocked sidewalk on Facebook with the accompanying caption: “Folks need to realize not everyone has the privilege of being able to walk around these obstacles to continue on their way to work, school or play!” The post has been shared more than 2,600 times as of Friday, and Shryock said she’s received mostly positive feedback.
The Bird scooter app developed the Bird Watchers Program after seeing Shryock’s Facebook post. The company promises to work with local communities “to ensure that Birds are being parked, ridden and picked up correctly,” a Bird spokesperson said...
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Shoal Creek plan includes wins, losses for density advocates (Austin Monitor)

On Thursday, City Council unanimously approved the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Plan, a document that outlines how the neighborhood, which is bound by MoPac Expressway, U.S. Highway 183, Burnet Road and Anderson Lane, will accommodate future population growth.
The plan does not put in place any new zoning regulations. Instead, it provides a framework that city staff is supposed to reference when considering requests for zoning changes.
Both city staff and neighborhood residents described the plan as balancing the desire to maintain existing character with the need to add housing.
“Our plan is a carefully crafted compromise between trying to preserve what we love about our neighborhood and making room for new Austinites,” said Kevin Wier, president of the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association.
Critics have said that the city’s neighborhood planning process is exclusionary and rarely reflects the interests of renters, young people and low-income residents. A 2016 audit of the neighborhood plan contact teams came to a similar conclusion...
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To rebuild the brand, Austin Technology Incubator focuses on ‘deep tech’ (Austin American-Statesman)

When UT created the Austin Technology Incubator in 1989, it was a pioneer, offering Central Texas startups office space, mentoring and a pipeline to investors.
“We were one of the first to try this, and the model was simple — we dealt with every kind of entrepreneur that wanted to be there,” said Laura Kilcrease, who co-founded the incubator with famed Austin business leader George Kozmetsky. “At the time, that meant three basic industries: hardware, software and semiconductors.”
In 2018, however, Austin’s startup community has evolved, with companies breaking ground in clean tech, biotech, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain.
ATI has responded, and now focuses on helping founders take on big technical challenges using emerging technologies.
But with dozens of new incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces operating across Austin, that message has sometimes gotten muted, ATI’s leaders say.
The incubator is working to raise its profile and play a larger role within UT and the Austin startup scene.
“We’ve been under the radar, and we should not be under the radar anymore,” said Gregory Pogue, interim executive director of UT’s IC2 Institute think tank. ATI is part of the institute. “We need to reposition ourselves with the Austin community.”...
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Harris County voters pass historic $2.5 billion for flood control (Texas Tribune)

A year after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Harris County voters overwhelmingly backed a $2.5 billion bond measure Saturday that would finance at least 237 flood control projects in the Houston area.
With most of the vote counted late Saturday evening, the measure appeared on its way to a more than 85-percent approval rate.
It will help fund a vast flood-related home buyout program, the completion of several long ongoing bayou-widening projects, an improved early flood warning system, new floodplain maps and dredging behind two massive, World War II-era dams that were built to protect central Houston from catastrophic flooding but became a flashpoint after Harvey when thousands of homes on both sides of the dams were inundated.
A significant portion of the bond also will be used to secure billions more in federal matching funds...
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Candidates to replace Joe Straus aren’t the only power-seekers in the House (Texas Tribune)

TMF is back, proving that not everything in a race for speaker of the Texas House is about who’s going to be the next speaker of the Texas House. The TMF in this instance is Trey Martinez Fischer, a bull of a Democratic House member from San Antonio who gave up his seat to run — unsuccessfully — for the Texas Senate and is now poised to return to his old stomping grounds. Known around the Capitol by his initials, he was one of the leaders of the Democrats before he left. Others stepped up and could reasonably expect to keep going even though he’s back. That might be what happens.
But TMF, never a shrinking violet, sent a letter last week to some of the real and suspected candidates for speaker, urging them to show their faces, to start a dialogue over the direction of the House — to come out and play...
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Who could be appointed to John McCain's Senate seat? (Politico)

Sen. John McCain held his seat in the Senate for nearly 32 years. After McCain's death Saturday, it will fall to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to name his successor. State law gives Ducey, a Republican, the power to fill the Senate vacancy for the next two years, until a special election in 2020 for the right to complete the final years of McCain's term. The seat will then be up again for a full six-year term in the 2022 election. Arizona law also stipulates that the appointee must be from McCain's party. Ducey has avoided any discussion in recent months about which Republican he might appoint to fill McCain’s seat, citing respect for the senator and his family.
The governor released a lengthy statement Saturday praising McCain as an “icon” and “American hero,” and an adviser later told the Arizona Republic that Ducey won't move forward with an appointment until after McCain's burial. “Here at home, we were most proud to call him a fellow Arizonan,” said Ducey. “Like so many of us, he was not born here, but his spirit, service and fierce independence shaped the state with which he became synonymous.” The name most widely cited as a potential appointee is Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife...
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California Passes Bill To Expunge Old Marijuana Convictions (Huffington Post)

California lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that provides a legal framework to wipe out previous marijuana convictions. 
The state’s Senate passed AB 1793, a bill that would force California’s Department of Justice to review the records of cannabis convictions that are eligible for “recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or re-designation” under current marijuana laws.
Advocates across the country have pushed to wipe away cannabis convictions as more states begin to legalize or decriminalize the drug.
Despite the state’s relatively permissive laws, a Drug Policy Alliance study found that nearly 500,000 Californians were arrested on marijuana charges between 2006 and 2015. California first legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996 and passed a proposition legalizing recreational use in 2016...
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