BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 25, 2018)



Austinites pour loads of cash into Trump re-election coffers (Austin Business Journal)

Perhaps surprisingly to those familiar with Austin's reputation as a haven for Democrats, the Texas capital is showing up notably in new campaign data illustrating where Trump finds his financial backing. The 78739 ZIP code in Southwest Austin — that's where the affluent Circle C Ranch neighborhood can be found — is among the U.S. ZIPs funneling the most to Trump's coffers. The city ranks fourth nationwide for the most donations to Trump.

The findings are part of a Business Journals analysis of the U.S. cities and ZIP codes where residents gave the most financial support to the president's official re-election committees between Jan. 1, 2017, and June 30. The delegate-rich states of Florida and Texas accounted for roughly one in five of the areas highlighted in the Federal Election Committee data used for this story. Among major U.S. cities, Houston ranked No. 1 for Trump donations with $74,679 in contributions as of June 30. No. 3 Dallas and No. 4 Austin also showed strong levels of support for Trump, with donors contributing $41,373 and $40,614, respectively…

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Report highlights flaws in city contracting (Austin Monitor)

City auditors found major flaws in how the city manages its contracts, with many of those weaknesses persisting citywide for several years, according to a special report issued this week.

Audit Manager Katie Houston told the City Council Audit and Finance Committee Wednesday that the contracting weaknesses negatively impact the city’s ability to safeguard city resources, maintain public trust and ensure delivery of services to Austinites. The audit staff looked at the results of 28 projects their office had done between Fiscal Year 2010 and FY 2018 to compile the report.

Ellen Troxclair, who chairs the committee, told the Austin Monitor that after studying the report she concluded, “There are really a lot of holes in a lot of different areas that are exposing the city to risk within our contracts or not ensuring that our city projects are being done on time and on budget.

“And considering that we have 2,700 total contracts with an authorized value of $5.5 billion, I think it’s an issue that we really need to address,” she added…

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Special events ordinance on pace for April 2019 implementation (Austin Monitor)

After six years of drafts and revisions, it appears Austin’s long-brewing special events ordinance will go into effect in April 2019, giving event producers during spring festival season – cityspeak for South by Southwest and spring break – another year to plan for the changes.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board, representatives from the Austin Center for Events gave a progress report on the ordinance, which was approved on its third reading by City Council in May but had to undergo a separate rules-making process guided by staff and a series of community feedback sessions before it can be implemented.

The current timeline has the first draft of the rules for enforcing the ordinance expected to be posted by mid-November for comments and feedback, with revisions made through January. The updated rules reflecting that feedback will be posted in February, allowing for the ordinance to finally go into effect in April…

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Austin Bold Breaks Ground On Soccer Stadium At Circuit Of The Americas

There will be professional soccer in Austin next year, just not a Major League Soccer team. With Formula One out of the way, Circuit of the Americas broke ground Wednesday on a 5,000-seat soccer stadium for the Austin Bold FC.

Roberto Silva, the Bold's general manager, said the team upgraded from its original plans to covered seats, not bleachers. He said it is also looking at ways to integrate the team with other events at COTA.

“I think there are so many cool things we can do together, you know?” he said. "We’re actually looking at this moment at doing a game on the weekend of Indy Racing next year. It is on the books; we’re trying to make that happen.”

The Bold’s stadium is scheduled to be ready by the 2019 season, using a lot of existing infrastructure at COTA…

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In a Dallas state Senate district held by the GOP for decades, incumbent Don Huffines is in a tight race (Texas Tribune)

Four years ago, state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, claimed victory in a nail-biter of a GOP primary race against incumbent John Carona, ousting a fellow Republican who had served a whopping six terms in the Texas Senate.

With no general election opponent, Huffines coasted to the Legislature, and by all appearances, seemed safe in his seat for years: Senate District 16 has been represented by Republicans for more than three decades. Huffines has the backing of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. He’s raised more than $1.3 million since the start of 2017.

But with mere days until Election Day, Huffines’ re-election is no longer seen as sure-fire. In fact, based on his district’s recent voting history, he’s emerged as one of the most vulnerable senators in the Legislature and is one of three sitting Republicans whose seat in the upper chamber is considered in play…

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Pete Sessions has soap opera moment after Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings backs Colin Allred for Congress (Dallas Morning News)

Pete Sessions says what hurt the most about Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' endorsement of his opponent, Colin Allred, was the end of their relationship. Rawlings didn't realize they had one. Like sands through the hourglass of time, these are the days of our midterm elections.

"It's mostly the loss of the friendship, not what he did. Evidently he feels that he won't be calling anymore," Sessions said. When contacted by phone, Rawlings was perplexed by Sessions' reaction to his decision. "I didn't know we were that close," he said. "I really didn't call him that much. The last time I called was when there were rumors that I was going to run against him. I told him I wasn't running for anything, he said 'I know.' That was the last time I called him." In relationships, though, you can bruise someone without knowing. That's what apparently happened to Sessions. "To assume that Mike and I are not important to each other is a misnomer," Sessions said. "I have helped him with things that he knew he could count on my support. I would simply say that maybe he feels that he doesn't need me anymore."…

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Pipe bombs sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN offices (New York Times)

Pipe bombs were sent to several prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, setting off an intense investigation on Wednesday into whether figures vilified by the right were being targeted.

From Washington to New York to Florida, where a congresswoman who is the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee has her office, the authorities intercepted a wave of crudely built devices that were contained in manila envelopes. In the center of Manhattan, the Time Warner Center, an elegant office and shopping complex, was evacuated because of a pipe bomb sent to CNN, which has its New York offices there. It was addressed to John O. Brennan, a critic of President Trump who served as Mr. Obama’s CIA director. None of the devices harmed anyone, and it was not immediately clear whether any of them could have. One law enforcement official said investigators were examining the possibility that they were hoax devices that were constructed to look like bombs but would not have exploded…

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When Trump phones friends, the Chinese and the Russians listen and learn (New York Times)

When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said.

Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them. Mr. Trump’s use of his iPhones was detailed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss classified intelligence and sensitive security arrangements…

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As border crossings surge, some migrants say they came now because family separation is over (Texas Tribune)

Nelson Enrique Sánchez said he got the call in September: Come now, his mother-in-law said, and bring the boy with you.

So Sánchez did as he was told. Led by smugglers, he and his 10-year-old son, Michael, traveled north from Honduras to join her in Louisiana — first by car, then on foot, then on a raft across the Rio Grande, before they surrendered to Border Patrol agents.

“He was our ticket, our passport,” Sánchez said, gesturing toward his son, arms wrapped around his father’s knees. “We had the opportunity to make it through, and he was our way out.”

If they had arrived a few months earlier, they likely would have been split up, the boy sent to a shelter or foster care and his father kept in detention — the result of a “zero tolerance” policy meant to deter immigrants from crossing the border illegally. That policy saw the government separate thousands of families as it prosecuted adults who crossed the border illegally while following a court agreement that says children cannot be detained for longer than 20 days

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Episode 20: Talking Local Control and Paid Sick Leave with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)

This week’s BG Podcast features a conversation with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) on the upcoming Texas legislative session, in particular brewing battles around local control, one being municipal paid sick leave ordinances.

This discussion was recorded on September 24, 2018.


BG Podcast - Episode 10: Policy Discussion Rob Henneke on Paid Sick Leave and Local Control

BG Podcast - Episode 11: Meet James Hines, SVP of Advocacy and In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business

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