BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 17, 2019)



NEW -> Episode 52- The Internet of Things and Austin Tech Philanthropy with Silicon Labs CEO Tyson Tuttle (LINK TO SHOW)


Affordability is the goal, but Austin lawmakers disagree on how to get there through land code (Community Impact)

In the midst of a development boom and growing affordability crisis, producing the highest number of affordable housing units has been the central policy goal of Austin City Council as it works to rewrite its land development code—the rules governing what can be built in the city and where—a project that began around 2012.

When staff provided the mayor and City Council with a progress report Sept. 11, the conversation resurfaced disagreements between the elected officials over how to achieve those affordable units.

Tools available to a city for producing affordable housing in Texas are essentially limited to two options, said Erica Leak, the manager of housing policy and planning for Austin. A city can provide subsidies to make market-priced units affordable for a lower-income bracket, or the city can offer incentive programs that trade entitlements, such as additional height, for community benefits, such as income-restricted housing units. In Austin, the incentive program is called density bonus… (LINK TO STORY)

How Austin’s failed attempt to regulate Uber and Lyft foreshadowed today’s ride-hailing controversies (VOX)

Uber, Lyft, and the places where they operate still can’t quite agree on how to regulate the companies’ relationship with their thousands of employees — sorry, the independent contractors whose cars, time, and energy make the companies run.

Uber has also spent hundreds of millions on marketing to get out from under the #DeleteUber campaign after the company incentivized drivers to work during taxi boycotts after Trump’s travel ban; 14 women just filed a case against Lyft claiming they were sexually assaulted by drivers; and both are pouring tens of millions of dollars into supporting a ballot initiative in California to carve out a special form of non-employment for drivers to help them avoid paying benefits and the minimum wage… (LINK TO STORY)

City launches map to track bike network projects (Austin Monitor)

The city is anticipating a major push for bicycle infrastructure over the next year. As part of that broader effort, the Austin Transportation Department launched an interactive tracking tool this week to help residents follow the progress of ongoing and future projects.

To stay on course with its self-imposed goals, the city will need to have built at least half – roughly 200 miles – of the All Ages and Abilities Bicycle Network by the end of 2020. Transportation says it plans to meet that deadline by accelerating development and construction of bicycle network projects leading up to 2021.

As the name suggests, the network is intended to provide a connected web of safe, comfortable bikeways for cyclists of all ages and abilities… (LINK TO STORY)


 Texas redistricting is hard enough when politicians trust the mapmakers (Texas Tribune)

The Texas Legislature’s once-every-decade* quest for new political maps will get a twist in 2021: The Texas House will have either a speaker whose trustworthiness is suspect or a brand-new speaker who’ll be riding in the wake of a scandal.

What’s at stake, for lawmakers, is whether they’ll have a chance at staying in office with the new maps. (The process is already underway, as of last week.) That’s how it goes with redistricting and the Texas House: The representatives of 150 political districts decide how to protect themselves and ruin their enemies by moving the lines around. Powerful members do better, on average, than weak ones. Members in the majority do better, on average, than members in the minority. And members who are on management’s good side do better, on average, than members who are not… (LINK TO STORY)

State Rep. César Blanco to run for Texas Senate (Texas Tribune)

State Rep. César Blanco, D-El Paso, is running for the seat being vacated by state Sen. José Rodríguez.

In a video published Monday, Blanco alluded to the deadly mass shooting last month in El Paso, and said El Paso and West Texas "need a fighter."

"Now more than ever, El Paso needs leaders willing to stand up to those that try to turn our community into a political punching bag by promoting dangerous rhetoric and hateful policies meant to tear us apart," Blanco said… (LINK TO STORY)


Purdue Pharma, Accused Of Fueling Opioid Crisis, Files For Chapter 11 (KUT)

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday night, just days after striking a settlement with more than 2,000 local governments over its alleged role in creating and sustaining the deadly opioid crisis.

The filing in New York follows the Sackler family agreeing to relinquish ownership of the lucrative company. The family also agreed to provide $3 billion in cash over several years and future revenue from the sale of OxyContin to assist communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

On Sunday, Purdue's board of directors approved the settlement, which includes 24 state attorneys general who sued the company, accusing it of fueling the nationwide addiction crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin while downplaying its potential for addiction… (LINK TO STORY)

U.S. prepared to tap emergency oil reserves, Perry says no decision yet (Reuters)

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Monday it was too soon to say whether the United States would tap emergency oil reserves after attacks in Saudi Arabia halved the crude output in the world’s largest oil exporter.

The weekend attack, that triggered the biggest jump in oil prices in almost 30 years, was carried out with Iranian weapons, a Saudi-led coalition said on Monday, as U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington was “locked and loaded” to hit back… (LINK TO STORY)


Economic Development: Opportunity Zones

The term “Opportunity Zone” has been buzzing around for a little while but it seems like things could be ramping up. While the tax benefits associated with the program accrue at the federal level, the City of Austin is also exploring how they might be able to leverage City resources to realize greater benefits… (LINK TO STORY)

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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