BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 14, 2018)



Ballpark Apartments protesters disrupt Planning Commission meeting (Austin Monitor)

This week’s Planning Commission meeting came to an unexpected and abrupt pause on Tuesday. Around a dozen protestors from Defend Our Hoodz, or Defiende el Barrio, chose to stand and chant in the middle of the agenda reading rather than during the citizen communication portion of the meeting.

“We don’t need to be a part of your process, your process is bullshit,” one activist said when warned that they were out of line with the meeting regulations. “We will not play by the rules of the gentrifiers.” (Defend Our Hoodz declined to release names of the speakers to the Austin Monitor.)

The crowd chanted, “Hey Michael Whellan, withdraw the application.” One of the protesters yelled profanities, called Whellan a snake, and threw rubber snakes at the lawyer, who is representing the developer in the rezoning case they were protesting.

The application in question seeks to rezone five properties at South Pleasant Valley Road and East Riverside Drive to mixed-use zoning. Currently, the property is home to the Ballpark Apartments. At Tuesday’s meeting, Planning and Zoning Department staff requested an indefinite postponement on the cases…

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Plenty of PACs for November bond election (Austin Monitor)

District 2 Council Member Delia Garza wants to make sure that when Austin voters go to the polls to vote on the city’s $925 million bond package on Nov. 6, they understand how important it is to support Proposition E, which would provide funding for a new neighborhood and health care facility in Dove Springs.

Assisting Garza in the effort is Jesús Garza (no relation), who served as Austin’s city manager from 1994 to 2002 and after that as CEO of Seton Healthcare until his retirement last year. Council Member Garza asked the former manager to be the treasurer for Yes on Prop E, the new political action committee formed specifically to advocate for the Dove Springs center.

Council Member Garza told the Austin Monitor, “My experience with bonds is there’s often a big effort to pass all of them, and I was concerned about this one being the one standalone health and human services facility for a very specific part of town.”…

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Tight labor market starts to drag on Austin economy (Austin American-Statesman)

Kerbey Lane Cafe’s newest restaurant will employ an assistant general manager recruited from Florida when it opens this year — but not because the homegrown chain wanted to add geographic diversity to its leadership ranks.

Instead, it’s simply having trouble finding employees locally amid an extremely tight Austin labor market that is straining businesses from retail stores and restaurants to software developers and construction firms.

The widespread hiring difficulty is starting to slow the growth of Austin’s long-booming economy, recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas indicates.

“It has never been easy to hire (in Austin), but it is more challenging today than it has ever been,” said Mason Ayer, Kerbey Lane’s chief executive…

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Google partnership adds momentum to Houston’s tech dreams (Houston Chronicle)

Houston energy investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. is launching a partnership with Google’s new oil, gas and energy division, strengthening the energy sector’s connection to Silicon Valley as it works to reinvent itself for the 21st century. The partnership will give Google a more visible presence in Houston as one of its oldest industries works to cut costs in the wake of the oil bust and remain competitive as electric vehicles and renewable power sources gain market share. The energy unit, based in California with an office in Austin, has been building its business here from a distance.

“It’s a very important bridge to be built,” said Darryl Willis, who in March became the division’s vice president after about 25 years at BP. “Houston is ground zero for all things energy.” He added that the division, which provides cloud computing and data analytics services to energy companies, would consider opening an office in Houston if it developed a strong local customer base. Economic development officials see the partnership as a step toward proving that Houston is open to Silicon Valley disruption as it strives to establish a startup ecosystem that would foster new, cutting-edge companies to support the digital transition in the energy sector and other industries underpinning the regional economy. The city, passed over last year in Amazon’s hunt for its second headquarters, has struggled to attract a major technology company with the potential to catalyze the sort of innovation economies that characterize Austin and other tech-focused cities… 

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The Border Patrol is trying to stop truck drivers from smuggling migrants. But cases have increased. (Texas Tribune)

A sign reading “They’re humans, not cargo!” hangs in the shower corridor of a Flying J truck stop in this border city, urging drivers to report human smugglers and to look out for people hiding in truck compartments.

The sign is part of Operation Big Rig, an initiative launched by the U.S. Border Patrol in November to combat immigrant smuggling by tractor-trailer drivers.

But despite law enforcement efforts to curb the smuggling, cases have increased.

According to Joseph Quartarone, a Border Patrol agent who gives presentations to trucking students, 58 trailer smuggling cases have resulted in 971 apprehensions and one death in the Rio Grande Valley during the 2018 fiscal year, which ended in August. That’s up from 45 cases and 600 apprehensions in 2017…

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Congress planning to avert government shutdown (Washington Post)

Congressional leaders from both parties have finalized a plan to avert a government shutdown at month’s end over President Trump’s demands to fund a border wall. Instead they will aim to postpone that fight until after the November midterm elections. The bipartisan pact, announced on Thursday by Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), reflects the desire of Republican leaders to avoid a nasty shutdown fight weeks before the midterm elections — even if it means sacrificing, at least for now, one of Trump’s most prominent policy goals…

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Pope Francis meets with U.S. bishops as more leaders face allegations of harassment and cover-ups (Washington Post)

Top American bishops met in the Vatican with Pope Francis on Thursday to discuss the sexual-abuse crisis that the leader of the U.S. Catholic Church said has “lacerated” the church. That leader, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was himself accused this week of covering up the actions of an abusive priest in his archdiocese — prompting questions about DiNardo’s fitness to lead reform efforts. “It’s too early to say, but just looking at the case, it looks very bad. It seems like a violation — is he the guy who should be leading at this point?” David Gibson, the director of the Center on Religion and Culture at the Catholic university Fordham said of DiNardo.

“What he’s got to be seen to be doing is pushing for a very rigorous policy. Can he do that if he himself has not been as diligent, to say the least, as he should be?” The moral authority of bishops across the United States has come under new scrutiny after one cardinal resigned this summer and another publicly stated he might do so, and a bishop was removed from ministry by Pope Francis on Thursday…

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