BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 8, 2019)



Google to bring ultra-fast Webpass wireless internet to Austin (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin is now home to Google’s ultra-fast Google Fiber Webpass wireless internet service, making it the first city with both Google Fiber and Webpass.

Google Fiber acquired Webpass in 2016 as part of an effort to expand its high-speed internet business. Webpass offers wireless internet speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second — similar to Google Fiber speeds — and has “tens of thousands” of customers, according to the company. Webpass is available in seven other cities, including Denver, Miami and San Francisco.

Webpass announced the move to Austin in a blog post Tuesday, saying it will bring “the best of both Google Fiber and Webpass together in the same city.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Public Safety Commission recommends increased funding for mental health first responder program (Austin Monitor)

The Austin Police Department is working to revamp its tactics when handling calls related to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Fulfilling that goal starts with training officers so they are equipped to help in these tense situations.

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Harris pointed out at the Aug. 5 meeting of the commission that even with the training APD officers receive, when people experiencing a mental health crisis encounter police, the officers are not always prepared to handle these situations effectively. As a result, “We’ve had a stream of pretty high-profile deaths,” he said.

According to a report released last year by the Office of the City Auditor, of the 15 most populated cities in the U.S., APD has the “highest per capita rate of fatal police shootings involving persons believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Legislature cuts farmers market fees, costing city (Austin Monitor)

Passage of a little-known bill, Senate Bill 932, which establishes a $100 maximum fee for food sales permits at farmers markets, will cost the Austin Public Health Department about $4,000 in the current fiscal year and an estimated $41,485 in Fiscal Year 2019-20, department director Stephanie Hayden told Council during Tuesday’s work session.

Hayden explained that the current fee schedule ranged from $177 for a permit to sell prepackaged foods and beverages to $622 for the sale of foods cooked and prepared on-site. Because the law takes effect Sept. 1, Council will consider an item to reduce the fees on today’s agenda.

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan asked Hayden how they would make up for the lost revenue and Hayden told him that the department would be collecting more fees on different kinds of inspections, so that overall the deficit for inspections would only be about $15,000 next year… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas House committee to probe allegations against Speaker Dennis Bonnen (Texas Tribune)

The powerful Texas House General Investigating Committee is set to launch an investigation into allegations that Speaker Dennis Bonnen offered a hardline conservative organization media credentials if it politically targeted certain Republican members in the lower chamber.

"Last night, I initiated internal discussion with General Investigating staff about procedure with the intention of launching an investigation. Our committee will be posting notice today of a public hearing which will take place on Monday, August 12," state Rep. Morgan Meyer, a Dallas Republican who chairs the committee, said in a letter dated Wednesday… (LINK TO STORY)

Greg Abbott invoked mental illness after the El Paso shooting. There's been no indication that was a factor. (Texas Tribune)

Hours after a white gunman walked into an El Paso Walmart on Saturday and killed nearly two dozen Hispanic shoppers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addressed a room full of reporters in the border city and expressed grief and support for the community.

As high-profile mass shootings continue to erupt across the country — three of which occurred in Texas in the last two years — a reporter asked the governor what he planned on doing to ensure one doesn’t happen again.

Abbott, a Republican, hesitated, then spoke at length about how the state Legislature reacted to the 2018 high school shooting in Santa Fe, eventually focusing on what he said was the most agreed-upon need: addressing mental health issues… (LINK TO STORY)


Obama: Americans must not let racist views become normalized (Associated Press)

Former President Barack Obama said Monday, in his first public statement since a pair of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, that Americans must “soundly reject language” from any leader who “feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”

The statement , which did not mention President Donald Trump directly, also reminded Americans that “we are not helpless” in the face of the nation’s high frequency of mass shootings compared to other countries.

“And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening,” Obama wrote… (LINK TO STORY)


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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