BG Reads + Podcast | News You Need to Know (September 6, 2018)



BG Podcast - Episode 13: Community Discussion with Dr. Collette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President/CEO, Huston-Tillotson University

Today's podcast was originally recorded on August 27, 2018 and features a discussion Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Huston-Tillotson University (HT), a private historically black university located in Austin’s East Side.

The East Side is one of the most active areas for commercial and residential development in Austin. Our conversation covers Dr. Burnette’s vision for how HT (which owns several blocks) will navigate the wave, as well as connections to the Austin community overall...

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Advocates Threaten To Sue If Austin ISD Doesn't Do More To Help Students Of Color (KUT)

A group of education advocates has released what it is calling a manifesto, demanding the Austin Independent School District immediately address inequities for schools in East Austin.

The group is demanding that the district make the student achievement of minority and low-income students it first priority, compensate and train teachers to work with these populations of students, and address segregation in the district by redrawing boundary lines.

A main point the coalition discussed at a press conference Wednesday was the issue of segregation within the school district and how it affects student achievement...

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H-E-B to open tech facility in Austin (Austin American-Statesman)

Grocer H-E-B said Wednesday that it plans to open a “world-class” tech facility in East Austin next year that will employ several hundred people.

The grocery chain said it will be leasing a two-story, 81,000-square-foot office at 2416 East Sixth Street, just blocks away from its East 7th Street store.

The space will be renovated into what H-E-B said will be a “creative and collaborative workspace for Austin-based partners,” which include an H-E-B digital team, as well as staff members from Austin-based delivery service Favor.

H-E-B said the center will be completed next spring.

“This state-of-the-art space will be a hub for creativity and innovation as we continue to develop the ultimate digital experience for our customers,” Jag Bath, chief digital officer at H-E-B and Favor CEO, said in a written statement Wednesday. “Bringing H-E-B and Favor closer together will allow us to promote collaboration between our two companies.”...

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UT to levy $150 fine for improper use of scooters on campus, officials say (Austin American-Statesman)

Dockless scooter companies and riders will face fines for improperly operating or parking the stand-up scooters on the University of Texas campus.

Blanca Gamez, transportation and administrative assistant director for parking and transportation services at the university, said an impound fee of $150 will be applied to companies whose scooters are found to be improperly parked, plus an additional $25 per day of storage.

“We’re really trying to work with the companies to avoid that if we have to,” she said. “It’s going to be more work for our staff to do this is we have to, so we are really trying to push for voluntary compliance.”

After a fine is assessed, it’s up to the company to decide how, and who, will pay...

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Passage of record-high $925 million bond in November is Austin’s top priority, mayor says (Community Impact) 

Exactly two months before the November election, advocates, stakeholders and elected officials gathered in front of Austin City Hall on Wednesday to kick off a campaign aimed at gaining public support of a taxpayer-funded $925 million loan to the city to finance several high-priority, high-cost projects.

The loan, officially known as a general obligation bond, will be up for a vote in November, among the dozens of other elections voters will weigh in on this fall.

The proposed bond sets the bar in a couple ways. It is the largest municipal bond proposal in Austin’s history and it includes the single largest public investment in affordable housing the city has seen—$250 million.

“It feels like everything Austin City Council has done, since it switched to a district representation system in 2015, has led up to this upcoming bond vote,” District 4 Council Member Greg Casar said at Wednesday’s event...

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Council members talk about the budget (Austin Monitor)

As City Council begins its final work session on the budget this morning in preparation for next week’s budget setting meetings, the Austin Monitor asked Council members to tell us the most important aspects of the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget.

Both Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Greg Casar said increasing the minimum wage for all employees to $15 an hour was perhaps the most important thing this budget would accomplish.

Adler said that increasing investments in affordable housing and services for the homeless was also very high on his list of accomplishments. He noted that in the coming year the city would allocate about $40 million for affordable housing, including $5.3 million for the housing trust fund.

Currently, the tax exemption for the disabled and people over 65 is $85,500, Adler noted. He said he would like to raise that to $90,000 for the upcoming year, but he did not indicate that he would push strongly for the increase this year...

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Gov. Greg Abbott wants to change the Texas Constitution to ban the possibility of income tax (Dallas Morning News)

Texas doesn't have a personal income tax, and Gov. Greg Abbott wants to make sure it never will by adding the ban to the state constitution. Abbott announced the new policy proposal at a Republican rally held in McKinney on Monday. "

Did you know that currently the Texas Constitution allows an income tax to be imposed in the state of Texas?" Abbott asked. "I say that it's time we amend the Texas Constitution to eliminate the possibility of an income tax."

In 1993, the Texas Constitution was amended to take the power to levy such a tax away from lawmakers and give it to voters; an income tax can only be imposed, Article 8 of the Constitution says, if it's approved by a majority of registered voters in a statewide referendum and any net revenues must used for the "support of education."...

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn defends Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's impartiality at hearing (Texas Tribune)

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn worked to pick apart Democrats' concerns about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's impartiality on Wednesday, the second day of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

In response to Democrats bringing up Kavanaugh's tenure as a staff secretary in Republican President George W. Bush's White House, Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, sought to reaffirm the nominee's commitment to impartiality by bringing up a 2012 case that came before him when he was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia where the defendant was Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard and driver.

When asked by Cornyn why Kavanaugh ruled in favor of the defendant — and wrote the majority opinion in the case — despite his having worked in the White House after Sept. 11, Kavanaugh responded, "Even the most unpopular possible defendant is still entitled to due process and rule of law, and I’ve tried to do that as a judge."...

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As NAFTA talks resume, U.S. and Canada aren’t budging on key priorities (New York Times)

Talks between the United States and Canada to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement resumed on Wednesday, but a quick resolution seemed unlikely amid tension between President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Describing the Nafta talks as “intense,” Mr. Trump accused Canada on Wednesday of “taking advantage” of the United States and said that it did not need Canada to remain in the agreement. “If it doesn’t work out, it that’s going to be fine for the country, for our country,” Mr. Trump said during remarks at the White House. “It won’t be fine for Canada.”

Mr. Trudeau, for his part, said in a radio interview that Canada would insist on certain safeguards because Mr. Trump “doesn’t always follow the rules.” Tension between the two leaders has been high since the Group of 7 summit meeting this summer, when Mr. Trump accused Mr. Trudeau of being “very dishonest and weak.” On Wednesday, it was evident that a lack of trust between the officials was one factor hindering the trade talks. Mr. Trump has continued to insist on a deal that benefits American farmers and businesses and has repeatedly pointed to the trade imbalance between the two countries as evidence that Canada is “unfair” to the United States...

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Justice Department warns tech companies as Facebook and Twitter defend themselves in Congress (Washington Post)

The Justice Department warned on Wednesday that leading technology companies may be “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas” and hurting competition, an ominous development for an industry already under fire from Capitol Hill, President Trump and a range of conservative critics. The two-sentence statement, which didn’t elaborate on the allegation or explicitly threaten legal action, echoed tweets by Trump last week claiming that the technology industry was biased against conservatives. The White House later threatened new regulation of the search giant Google, which legal experts said would violate constitutional protections on free speech.

The Justice Department made its announcement at the conclusion of a Senate hearing in which Facebook and Twitter executives faced sharp questioning on a number of subjects — including allegations that social media platforms mute conservative voices. Google offered to send an executive to the hearing, but the Senate committee rebuffed him because it wanted the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to appear. The combination of government action, including a coming meeting between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several attorneys general, alarmed the technology industry. It has been playing defense for nearly two years over allegations that it failed to adequately combat the spread of phony news reports and Russian disinformation during the 2016 presidential election...

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