BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 22, 2018)



Travis County Early Voting Locations for the November 6, 2018 General Election (Travis County)

These early voting locations will be open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

LINK to Travis County voting locations

See a list of polling places for Williamson County here, Hays County here,  and Burnet County here. Find your early voting location in Bastrop County here.

Here are the candidates running to be Austin’s next mayor (Austin Monitor)

If you’re tired of hearing about the face-off between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, maybe it’s time to turn your attention to local elections, like the mayor’s race.

Mayor Steve Adler is fighting to retain his seat against six challengers, most of whom are political newcomers with some wild ideas – including building a dome around Austin to keep out “foreigners and California refugees.” (Uber would pay for it.)


Since he won his first bid for mayor in 2014, Adler has established himself as an earnest mediator – even when, well, his best intentions fall short. In 2016, for example, he tried to broker a last-minute backroom deal with Uber and Lyft, but the rest of City Council could not sign off, and the ride-hailing companies left the city. (Then came back.)

Adler’s biggest threat comes from Laura Morrison, a former Council member and big critic of CodeNEXT, the city’s defunct rewrite of its Land Development Code. Morrison has also been critical of a deal on the table (though not yet finalized) to bring a Major League Soccer team to Austin.

“When you add this fiasco to the CodeNEXT failure, it’s clear that Austin needs new leadership at City Hall,” Morrison wrote in a press release. “We need a mayor who brings the community to the table, works for what is fair and equitable, and plans for growth responsibly.”…

Link to story

Will Conley to face off against Ruben Becerra in Hays judge race (Austin American-Statesman)

With Hays County Judge Bert Cobb stepping aside after eight years on the job, his seat is up for grabs next month and voters will have to decide between a longtime county commissioner and a well-known community figure.

Long seen by many as Cobb’s heir apparent, Will Conley stepped down as commissioner to run for the role about a month after the judge announced in August 2017 he was taking medical leave. Conley has been laying the groundwork for a run for county judge for more than a decade.

First elected commissioner in 2004 for Precinct 3, which includes San Marcos and Wimberley, Conley has been a fixture on the court. The auto services small-business owner has carved out a niche for himself in the area of transportation and has overseen hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of roads projects during his time on the court. He’s served as chair of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board since 2012…

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Scientists warn flooding to be more common in Central Texas (Austin American-Statesman)

The rain that has soaked Central Texas the last few weeks has not packed the one-time intensity of a hurricane-level rain. But climate scientists say the steady, above-normal rainfall — nearly 15 inches have fallen in Central Texas since Sept. 1, more than double the average for that period — that has led to flooding across the region is a foretaste of the sort of deluge and destruction that Austin might come to expect.

In September, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration released an analysis that found significantly higher rainfall frequency values in parts of Texas, redefining the amount of rainfall it takes to qualify as a 100-year event. In Austin, for example, the 100-year rainfall amounts for 24 hours increased as much as three inches, up to 13 inches. Precipitation previously classified as 100-year events are now 25-year events. The new classifications will have real consequences for infrastructure design, flood insurance and flood plain development…

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After period of relative stability, drama returns to UT Board of Regents (Austin American-Statesman)

The unexpected decision by Sara Martinez Tucker to step down as chairwoman of the University of Texas System’s governing board comes at a delicate time for a board that has largely maintained stability after years of turmoil under then-Gov. Rick Perry.

Not only is the system’s new chancellor, James B. Milliken, just getting his feet wet, having started Sept. 17, but the Legislature is coming to town in January for its every-other-year session of 140 days. The UT System, like other state entities, is busy preparing to defend its budgetary and policy interests, and it helps when all hands on deck are rowing in the same direction. The system oversees 14 academic and health campuses across the state, including the Austin flagship. Martinez, a former U.S. undersecretary of education under President George W. Bush, told Gov. Greg Abbott via email Oct. 15 that it was “with regret” that she has decided to step down as chairwoman and as a member of the Board of Regents on Jan. 15… 

Link to story

For new Texas HHS chief, some familiar problems await (Houston Chronicle)

Four years ago, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was in a state of disrepair. The child welfare division was floundering after a disastrously failed privatization experiment, Medicaid managed care was racked with delays, and officials were on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in federal fines.

Hoping to restore some semblance of order at the embattled agency, Gov. Pete Ricketts turned to a young outsider named Courtney Phillips. The Louisiana native, now 39, faces the same task this week as she takes the helm at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission amid great upheaval. The agency has come under fire most recently for mishandling contract bids and allowing the state’s Medicaid managed care providers to rake in billions while denying essential services to medically fragile Texans. Former executive commissioner Charles Smith, considered a close ally of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, retired in May, just two years into the job. If Phillips’ record in Nebraska is any indication, it won’t be easy…

Link to story 

Two Harris County judges responsible for one in five children sent to state juvenile prisons (Houston Chronicle)

Two Harris County judges accounted for more than one-fifth of all children sent to the state’s juvenile prisons last year, driving up the county’s Texas Juvenile Justice Department commitments even as those figures fall in the rest of the state.

The two courts — overseen by Judges Glenn Devlin and John Phillips — not only sent more teens to juvenile prison, but they also sent them younger and for less-serious offenses than the county’s third juvenile court, where Judge Mike Schneider presides. And, from all three courts, the kids sent to state lockups were almost all — about 96 percent — children of color. The high incarceration numbers surfaced in a judicial grievance filed earlier this year against one of the three jurists, and experts said the data raise red flags regarding local judicial practices. “This confirms to me that Houston is still the center of the pipeline to juvenile detention,” said Jay Jenkins, project attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition…

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Overshadowed by Permian, but Eagle Ford making its own comeback (Houston Chronicle)

Oil companies, contending with rising costs and shortages of workers, materials and pipelines in the Permian, are beginning to make new bets on the Eagle Ford’s 90 million-year-old shale rock.

In the communities surrounding the formation, which stretches 400 miles from north of College Station to the Rio Grande near Laredo, people offer a sense that the hard times are ending, even if the Eagle Ford is no longer the epicenter of the nation’s oil and gas industry, as it was in 2012. “I’d say it’s a rebirth,” said Rick Saldana, production superintendent for SM Energy, a Denver company drilling near Catarina, not far from the Mexican border. “It’s not a boom, but there’s a resurgence here in the Eagle Ford.”…

Link to story


Trump doubts Saudi account of journalist’s death: ‘There’s been deception, and there’s been lies’ (Washington Post)

President Trump strongly criticized Saudi Arabia’s explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi late Saturday, saying that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.” At the same time, Trump defended the oil-rich monarchy as an “incredible ally” and kept open the possibility that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not order Saudi agents to kill Khashoggi.

“Nobody has told me he’s responsible. Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point .?.?. I would love if he wasn’t responsible,” Trump said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. The kingdom’s claim that Khashoggi was killed after a fistfight escalated inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul was met with a torrent of international skepticism Saturday over how a team of Saudi agents could fly to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi and eventually kill him without the knowledge or consent of the crown prince, the de facto leader. Trump had told reporters Friday that the Saudi explanation was credible, but U.S. officials said he has privately grimaced that his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s close relationship with the crown prince has become a liability and left the White House with no good options…

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