BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 26, 2019)
UPDATE: City announces Development Services Department Director finalists (City of Austin)
The public is invited to meet the finalists for the Development Services Department Director position. There will be two opportunities to meet the finalists at Austin City Hall Council Chambers, located at 301 W. 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701, on Monday, July 29, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and again from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Three finalists will be introduced: Sylvia Carrillo-Trevino, Michael Clack, and Denise Lucas… (LINK TO BLOG)
Travis County eyes hotel tax to renovate expo center (Austin Monitor)
The Travis County Commissioners Court made a move Tuesday that could put it in direct competition with the city of Austin for millions of dollars of future revenue from hotel stays.
The three commissioners present voted unanimously to ask county staff to explore putting a referendum on the ballot this November that would commit a portion of the tax levied on local hotel guests to build a new Travis County Exposition Center.
The tax authority the county is targeting is currently being used by the city to pay off the debt associated with the expansion of the Austin Convention Center. That expansion (and the tax) was authorized by voters in 1998.
The debt is scheduled to be paid off in 2029, after which the tax would expire. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said the referendum would authorize the county to impose the tax again once the debt is paid off.
City and county leaders have long envisioned renovating the expo center, an outdated space that is notable for hosting the annual Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo… (LINK TO STORY)
Commission pushes for increased height, reduced compatibility ahead of code rewrite (Austin Monitor)
The Planning Commission voted Tuesday to initiate a code amendment that would increase the building height limit from 60 to 85 feet at properties located within a transit-oriented development or zoned as vertical mixed-use. For good measure, the amendment would also waive all restrictions based on compatibility standards for any transit-oriented development or vertical mixed-use sites that are adjacent to activity centers per the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan or along the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan’s Transportation Priority Network.
Commissioner Greg Anderson said the proposed amendment is simple enough that it should be possible for city staff to make the edits even as the Land Development Code is being updated.
“For seven years I’ve been hearing, we’ll just put that in the new Land Development Code; and meanwhile, we continue to see building after building … built at 60 feet,” Anderson said. “This is just an opportunity to sit down behind a computer for an hour and make a couple of changes to our code that could then go to Codes and Ordinances, go through that public process and come back to us, and then, if we so choose to pass that, could then go on to City Council.”… (LINK TO STORY)
Ruffling some feathers, Texas Democrats tell Austin lobby 2020 is when the Texas House will flip (Quorum Report)
In an unconventional if not unprecedented move, the minority party in this state has started briefing Austin lobbyists representing corporations on how they believe the 2020 elections may play out with a not-so-subtle suggestion that it is time to work collaboratively with Democrats, especially if they capture a majority in the Texas House… (LINK TO STORY)
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson announces he won't seek reelection (Texas Tribune)
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, announced Thursday afternoon that he is retiring from Congress at the end of his term.
The retirement sets up what will likely be one of the most competitive House races in the country. Olson narrowly won reelection last year against Democrat Sri Kulkarni, who is running again.
Olson, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, announced his retirement in a news release… (LINK TO STORY)
Newcomer power: D-FW immigrants pay $10 billion in taxes and fill half the construction jobs (Dallas Morning News)
A new study says that North Texas would be a smaller, poorer, less dynamic place without immigrants. With nearly 1.4 million foreign-born residents, immigrants accounted for 18.7% of the region’s population in 2017 — and almost half the jobs in construction — according to the study by the New American Economy that details the impact of local immigrants on the Dallas-Fort Worth economy.
In hard-to-fill STEM jobs, which use science, technology, engineering and math, immigrants held over 29% of the positions. They started almost 103,000 businesses and generated $2.9 billion in profits. They paid $10.5 billion in taxes and had $33 billion in annual spending power, the report said… (LINK TO STORY)
Competency test ordered for former Capitol staffer charged with murder (Austin American-Statesman)
A former Texas Capitol staffer accused of committing a string of apparently random shootings last summer that left his South Austin neighbor dead and two others wounded will soon undergo a court-ordered mental health evaluation.
At a hearing in a Travis County courtroom Thursday morning, state District Judge Julie Kocurek informed the defense attorney and prosecutor that she will appoint a psychiatrist to evaluate 30-year-old Charles Curry for competency — meaning he must have the capacity to understand the proceedings in court and be able to consult with his attorney. Kocurek must find that Curry is competent before the case can go forward… (LINK TO STORY)
No shower for 23 days: U.S. citizen says conditions were so bad that he almost self-deported (Dallas Morning News)
Francisco Erwin Galicia, a Dallas-born U.S. citizen, spent 23 days in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conditions that made him so desperate he almost opted to self-deport. Galicia says he lost 26 pounds during that time in a South Texas immigrant detention center because officers didn’t provide him with enough food. He said he wasn’t allowed to shower and his skin was dry and dirty.
He and 60 other men were crammed into an overcrowded holding area where they slept on the floor and were given only aluminum-foil blankets, he said. Some men had to sleep on the restroom area floor. Ticks bit some of the men and some were very sick, Galicia said. But many were afraid to ask to go to the doctor because CBP officers told them their stay would start over if they did, he said. “It was inhumane how they treated us. It got to the point where I was ready to sign a deportation paper just to not be suffering there anymore. I just needed to get out of there,” he said… (LINK TO STORY)
Scooter rider in I-35 traffic prompts call for action from Gov. Abbott (San Antonio Express-News)
The Lime scooter cuts across four lanes of I-35 traffic before the rider drifts out of view. The video, posted by Dallas-area Fox 4 News this week, was too much for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who vented on Twitter.
“That does it,” Abbott tweeted. “I believe in less government. But allowing these scooters on crowded interstate highways is bad government and endangers public safety. Action is needed.”… (LINK TO STORY)
Russian hack of elections system was far-reaching, report finds (New York Times)
The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time, but at the demand of American intelligence agencies the committee was forced to redact its findings so heavily that key lessons for the 2020 election are blacked out.
The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came just 24 hours after the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.” It also landed hours after Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, personally stepped forward to block consideration of a package of election security bills… (LINK TO STORY)
We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:
BG Podcast Episode 20: State Rep. Diego Bernal- District 123 (D-San Antonio)
Today'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. (LINK TO SHOW)