BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 8, 2018)



Council debates how to convert downtown property into affordable housing (Austin Monitor)

Almost every member of City Council agrees that the city should use two pieces of prime downtown real estate for affordable housing. However, questions and potential disagreements remain about how the land should be used to provide housing.

Some Council members are adamant that the city partner with a developer to build housing on the two parcels that used to house the HealthSouth rehab center and its parking lot at 1215 Red River St. and 606 E. 12th St.

“I think it’s critical that we provide housing in the Central Business District, where there are so many amenities,” said Council Member Ora Houston as Council deliberated Thursday on a resolution that instructed city staff to issue requests for proposal relating to the property. The resolution urged for the development to target housing at 60 percent of the median family income.

Houston cited the proximity of job centers as making the site ideal for housing targeting low- and moderate-income families. It would likely be an attractive option for people who work at City Hall, she said.

“You could probably walk or bike or scoot here,” she said.

As the city seeks proposals from developers, Houston wanted the instruction to city staff to be to focused on proposals on the HealthSouth site, not elsewhere…

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Affordability, CodeNEXT and displacement steer candidates in District 3 forum (Austin Monitor)

The city’s failed CodeNEXT process – a nearly two-year rewrite of the Land Development Code that was scrapped in August – continues to be one of the most provocative issues in local politics. One needed only to listen in to last week’s forum hosted by KUT, the Austin Monitor, Glasshouse Policy, Austin Tech Alliance and A Functional Democracy for candidates running for the District 3 City Council seat to hear how divided those on the ballot and community members in attendance are on the matter.

Answering a question about how the city should reboot from the expensive and ridiculed process, Council Member Pio Renteria defended the work of the city staff and consultants who worked to implement a tool to guide growth and address growing affordability and transportation issues.

“If you don’t like CodeNEXT, then like what you’ve got right now,” he said. “If you live in this part of East Austin, your land value is going to go up to $400,000 next year. We have studied other cities, and if you look at San Francisco, there’s no children there because the families can’t afford to live there.”…

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Austin to get another nonstop flight to Europe (Austin Business Journal)

Austin travelers will soon have another way to get to Europe directly.

German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG announced Thursday nonstop flights between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Frankfurt, Germany, starting May 3, 2019.

Condor, another German airline, also flies from ABIA to Frankfurt, but it's only on a seasonal basis. The Lufthansa route will be year-round and will fly five times a week, everyday except Tuesday through Thursday. Flights on the Airbus A330-300 jet airliners from Austin would leave in the late afternoon and land in Frankfurt the next morning, according to the announcement. Return flights would leave Frankfurt in the morning and reach Austin in the afternoon after a roughly 10-hour flight…

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Even after Harvey, Houston keeps adding new homes in flood plains (Houston Chronicle)

One in five new homes permitted in Houston in the year after Hurricane Harvey is in a flood plain — some on prairie developed for the first time after the storm — even as new rainfall data showed existing flood maps understate the risk posed by strengthening storms.

The city Planning Commission also approved 260 plats in Houston’s flood plains during the same period, signing off on developers’ requests to redraw property lines to create hundreds more parcels awaiting development in flood-prone areas, a Houston Chronicle analysis found. About 615 of the home construction permits were issued in the 100-year flood plain, the area deemed to have a 1 percent chance of being inundated in any given year, city data show. Another 600 were approved in the 500-year flood plain, the area deemed to have an annual 0.2 percent chance of inundation, according to the Chronicle analysis…

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Refugee resettlement in Texas hits historic low under Trump administration (Texas Tribune)

Once a hub for refugees starting new lives and reuniting with their families, refugee resettlement efforts in Texas are now a shadow of what they once were.

In the last federal fiscal year, which wrapped up Sept. 30, the number of refugees resettled in Texas dropped to 1,697 from 4,768 the year before. The 64 percent drop in caseloads marks an all-time low for resettlement efforts in the last decade in Texas and comes after years of growing political hostility toward the United States' longtime commitment to take in people feeling violence and terror in their home countries.

Total U.S. refugee admissions in 2018 were 22,491 — well below the federal government’s cap of 45,000 and a remarkable drop from the the last few years of resettlement under the Obama administration when the United States welcomed about 70,000 to 80,000 refugees each year…

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Brett Kavanaugh Sworn In As Newest Supreme Court Justice (KUT)

A sharply divided Senate — reflecting a deeply divided nation — voted almost entirely along party lines Saturday afternoon to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A little more than two hours later, Kavauangh was sworn in during a private ceremony as protesters stood on the court's steps.

Kavanaugh becomes the nation's 114th Supreme Court justice and President Trump's second appointment to the court, creating a conservative majority on the nation's highest court for years to come.

The Senate vote was 50-48. Only one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined Republicans in backing Kavanaugh. One Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted "present" although she said she opposed the nomination. One GOP senator was absent during the vote because of his daughter's wedding thousands

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McConnell signals Senate open to Trump SCOTUS nominee vote in 2020 (Bloomberg)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that a Republican Senate would take up a nomination to the Supreme Court made by President Donald Trump in 2020, the next presidential election year.

McConnell blocked Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016, arguing at the time that voters should have a say in the matter in that year’s election. Garland wasn’t granted a hearing or a vote. Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if the same logic would apply in 2020, McConnell said “we’ll see if there is a vacancy in 2020.” The Kentucky senator then said that the tradition in the Senate since 1880 has been that a vacancy is not filled by a president in an election year -- if the Senate is controlled by the opposing party. That appears to indicate the Garland rationale wouldn’t apply if a Republican president has a Republican Senate majority. McConnell also said Saturday’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is his proudest moment as a senator. In a separate appearance on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” the majority leader predicted that the anti-Kavanaugh protests will backfire by energizing the Republican base in the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, in which the GOP is looking to hang on to its majorities in the House and Senate…

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