BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 13, 2019)



Debates continue over impacts, enforcement of new homelessness ordinances (Austin Monitor)

Recent changes to ordinances covering camping and soliciting by homeless people continue to be a hot topic of debate at city meetings, with residents and special interest groups pushing for a reversal to the June vote, or significant changes in how Austin police enforce the rules.

Last week’s City Council meeting featured an item not directly tied to the ordinances, giving the OK to create a public-private fundraising body that would help provide money for housing the homeless. Nearing 1 a.m., that item was passed unanimously by Council, though it was preceded by 30 minutes of public comment about the impact of allowing homeless people to sit or lie down in public spaces.

Among the speakers was Travis County GOP chair Matt Mackowiak, whose petition urging Council to reinstate the camping and panhandling bans had gained nearly 25,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon. Mackowiak, who had no opinion on the agenda item itself, said the accumulation of litter and human waste around homeless campsites is creating a highly visible public health and safety problem for residents… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin ISD move to new South Austin headquarters taking place through October (Community Impact)

Austin ISD is currently in the process of relocating its headquarters to 4000 S. I-35, Austin. District departments began moving Aug. 12 from the Carruth Administration Center—located at 1111 W. Sixth St., Austin—to the new site and will continue to do so one by one through Oct. 4, according to the district’s website.

AISD sold the Carruth Administration Center in 2017 and purchased the former Southfield building as a replacement.

District board meetings will still be held at the old Carruth Administration Center Board Auditorium until November, when meetings will start being held at the new building. The current schedule is subject to change based on construction. … (LINK TO STORY)

Dark kitchen from ex-Uber CEO is coming to Austin, site plan confirms (Austin Business Journal)

Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens, headed by ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, is setting up shop in Austin as demand for food delivery surges.

The former Baby Acapulco restaurant at 5610 N. I-35 will be demolished to make way for a 15,665-square-foot “dark kitchen,” according to public records, equipped with 40 individual commercial kitchens where other businesses can set up delivery-only operations. The new building will also have an employee break area and processing center.

CloudKitchens is part of a new crop of companies that run what are known as dark kitchens or cloud kitchens, which is when a single, centralized location can handle food preparation for multiple restaurants. Shared kitchens have been around for years but now are gaining increased importance in the wider restaurant business… (LINK TO STORY)


Greg Abbott said San Antonio could teach Austin how to help homeless people. Experts disagree. (Texas Tribune)

Just a couple of months ago, Steve Harrell got a ticket just for sitting in downtown Austin. It was around 4:30 p.m. and he was among a group of other people experiencing homelessness when a police officer approached, pointed at him and issued the citation, he told officials at an Austin City Council meeting last month.

“There has to be a better way,” he said at the meeting.

Two weeks later, the law that got him the ticket was changed when the City Council reformed three municipal ordinances criticized for criminalizing homelessness… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas Rangers asked to investigate allegations against House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (Texas Tribune)

The Texas House General Investigating Committee voted Monday to request that the Texas Rangers look into allegations against House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and one of his top lieutenants in the lower chamber.

The committee vote, which was unanimous, followed roughly an hour of closed-door deliberations among the five House members who serve on the panel. At issue is whether Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, offered hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan media credentials for his organization in exchange for politically targeting a list of fellow GOP members in the 2020 primaries… (LINK TO STORY)

Democrats launch Texas offensive with redistricting in mind (Wall Street Journal)

Democrats have talked for several election cycles of turning this deep-red state blue, but following 2018 gains and a series of Republican congressional retirements, the party sees 2020 as its best opportunity in a generation to win at the federal and state levels.

Population growth in major metropolitan areas of Texas has made around a half dozen formerly-safe Republican congressional seats vulnerable in 2020. GOP retirements in three districts where the 2018 margin of victory was less than 5 percentage points have further sharpened Democrats’ focus on the state. “Twenty years ago, no one envisioned the population and economic growth that Texas has experienced,” said state Rep. Phil King, the Republican chairman of the Texas House Redistricting Committee. “It’s been wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it has changed voting patterns throughout the state.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Texans get ready for beer to go and booze delivery (Texas Tribune)

Starting Sept. 1, Texans will be able to leave brewery taprooms with a case of their favorite craft beer, and order wine and beer for delivery, thanks to two laws passed by the Legislature this year.

Brewers and beer lovers around the state fought for beer to go, saying it will boost business and drive tourism to Texas.

“It's going to be a really cool opportunity to showcase our ability in a different light,” said Rachael Hackathorn, taproom manager at the Austin-based Zilker Brewing Co. “For an out-of-town guest to take our beer back home with them and share it with their friends, that's really what beer culture is about."… (LINK TO STORY)


House Judiciary leaders demand answers from Bureau of Prisons on Epstein death (The Hill)

The leaders of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday sent 23 questions to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) about the death in federal custody of accused sex trafficker and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“The apparent suicide of this high-profile and — if allegations are proven to be accurate — particularly reprehensible individual while in the federal government’s custody demonstrates severe miscarriages of or deficiencies in inmate protocol and has allowed the deceased to ultimately evade facing justice,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) wrote in a letter to acting BOP Director Hugh Hurwitz regarding Epstein's death Saturday at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC)… (LINK TO STORY)

[BG Blog]

Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham appointed to Rosewood Community Development Corporation (LINK TO POST)

On Thursday Austin City Council approved the appointment six new members to the Austin Rosewood Community Development Corporation including CEO and Founder A.J. Bingham. A.J. was nominated by District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison for this position.

The Corporation is charged with overseeing the operation of Millennium Youth Entertainment Center (MYEC), a 55,000 sq. ft. entertainment facility located in East Austin. MYEC’s mission is to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable environment (free from drugs, gangs, crime, and violence) where families can enjoy a wide range of affordable, high quality recreational and entertainment activities and attractions… (LINK TO POST)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

BG Podcast Episode 28: Rodney Gonzales, Director of Austin’s Development Services Department, on department initiatives

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Rodney Gonzales, then Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD). The department was created in 2015 to handle residential and commercial permitting issues separately from zoning issues.

Rodney discusses his background and path to DSD, and current department initiatives with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham… (LINK TO SHOW)

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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