BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 10, 2019)




As reported previously here, the City of Austin is exploring potential requirements that would mandate that 

  1. New developments submit water balance applications;

  2. Developments over 250,000 square feet use alternative and onsite waters to meet indoor and outdoor non-potable water demands. 

The timeline is particularly quick as City staff is working to develop proposed ordinance language by this fall… (LINK TO BLOG)


Guernsey announces retirement (Austin Monitor)

After 34 years with the city of Austin, Greg Guernsey, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, announced his retirement Tuesday. Guernsey’s last official day is July 31, but he’s planning to take vacation time, so his last day in office will be next Thursday, July 18.

Guernsey started working for the city in June 1985, when the Land Development Code was brand-new and Austin’s population was only about 350,000. He started as a Planner 2 in the Office of Land Development Services and has worked for seven different planning departments in the city. City Manager Toby Futrell named him director of Neighborhood Planning and Zoning in February 2006 upon the retirement of Alice Glasco. The department was renamed the Department of Planning and Development, and then in April 2015, City Manager Marc Ott split development services from planning to create the current configuration.

Guernsey said his greatest accomplishment with the city was shepherding the creation of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, which provides the grand vision for planning the city. He said it was “something the city tried to do in the ’80s, then tried in the ’90s.” When Ott arrived in 2008, Guernsey told him about creating the plan and Ott agreed. The plan was completed in 2012… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin Mayor visits Seattle, Los Angeles to learn what they “wished they had done” (KXAN)

Austin Mayor Steve Adler will begin a trip to Los Angeles and Seattle Tuesday morning to meet with city leaders there about how they handle mobility and homelessness. The latter is in the spotlight after the Adler-led Council approved sweeping rule changes, decriminalizing many aspects of homelessness.

Adler hopes to learn how to move forward as the city council expects to take action when the city manager reports back in August with specific recommendations. “What should we be doing now that LA and Seattle wished they had done earlier, so we can learn from those experiences,” said Mayor Adler… (LINK TO STORY)

UT Austin To Give Free Tuition To Low-Income Texas Students (KUT)

The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted Tuesday to offer full tuition assistance to more UT Austin students, adding $160 million to an endowment to help cover costs.

Undergraduates from Texas who come from families making up to $65,000 will have their tuition and fees covered for all four years. Texas students whose families make up to $125,000 will get partial assistance. In-state tuition is about $10,000 a year.

“College affordability is one of the most important issues facing families of middle and low income," UT President Greg Fenves said, "and being able to provide this level of financial support will enable more students with need to be able to come to UT Austin.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Eckhardt proposes land swap with city for Palm School (Austin Monitor)

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is willing to give the city of Austin the historic Palm School building. But she wants a lot in return.

In a July 3 letter addressed to Mayor Steve Adler and City Council, Eckhardt proposed a deal whereby the city would get the Palm School in exchange for two city properties. In addition, Eckhardt proposed that the city allow the county to take over a portion of the Hotel Occupancy Tax that is currently flowing into city coffers.

Mayor Adler and Council leaders have said they want the Palm School, a county office building that was originally an elementary school serving mostly Mexican American children, to be restored and to serve as a public place celebrating Chicano culture. The building is part of an ambitious vision to revitalize the eastern part of downtown, most notably by expanding the convention center and establishing the Waller Creek Chain of Parks… (LINK TO STORY)


U.N. human rights chief "deeply shocked" by border processing center conditions in Texas (Texas Tribune)

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday she is “appalled by the conditions” being forced upon migrants after crossing the southern U.S. border and admonished the federal government for failing to find noncustodial alternatives.

“Any deprivation of liberty of adult migrants and refugees should be a measure of last resort,” she said, adding that where detention is necessary, it should be for the shortest period and under conditions that satisfy international human rights standards… (LINK TO STORY)

As Texas seeks to overturn Obamacare, attention focuses on a potential swing judge (Texas Tribune)

On the left was Judge Carolyn Dineen King, an appointee of Jimmy Carter; on the right sat Judge Kurt Engelhardt, a nominee of Donald Trump, and in the center sat Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, the George W. Bush appointee expected to represent the critical swing vote on a three-judge panel now charged with deciding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

It was that perhaps fitting seating arrangement that greeted attorneys for Texas on Tuesday afternoon, as the state and its allies asked this three-judge panel on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down the sweeping health law known as “Obamacare,” a legal means to a political end that has eluded conservatives for the better part of a decade.

Texas won a major victory in its bid to end the law in December, when a federal district judge in North Texas sided with the state, declaring that the law is unconstitutional in its entirety after Congress in 2017 gutted one of its important provisions, a tax penalty for individuals who chose to remain uninsured. The U.S. Department of Justice, in a highly unusual move, has declined to defend the law… (LINK TO STORY)

How Ross Perot Transformed The Political Landscape - And Paved The Way For Trump (KUT)

A billionaire businessman rises from celebrity to the presidential stage, shaking up the establishment and raising nostalgic hopes about making America great again. Nearly three decades ago, that described Ross Perot, the plain-talking Texan who died Tuesday at age 89, leaving a lasting political legacy.

Perot was the most successful independent presidential candidate of the last century. In the 1992 election, he collected nearly 20 million votes, 19% of all votes cast.

And that, says NPR Senior Editor Ron Elving, might have cost George H.W. Bush his shot at re-election.… (LINK TO STORY)


U.S. Appeals Court Rules Trump Violated First Amendment By Blocking Twitter Followers (NPR)

A federal appeals court in Manhattan says President Trump cannot block critics from his Twitter account, calling it "unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination."

In a 29-page ruling on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court's decision that found that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked certain Twitter users, because he uses his Twitter account "to conduct official business and to interact with the public." By preventing critics from accessing his feed, the president is barring them from participating in what the judges deemed a public forum… (LINK TO STORY)


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

Today we share Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham’s March 2019 feature on the The Lobbying Show, a podcast profiling lobbyists and government affairs professionals working in D.C. and state capitals across the country. (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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