BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 15, 2019)



Group opposing Austin Convention Center expansion says it has enough signatures for November public vote (Community Impact)

The question of whether an expansion of the Austin Convention Center should depend on a public vote moved one step closer July 12 to landing on this November’s election ballot after a group submitted a petition they say has more than 30,000 signatures from Austinites who want a say in the process.

Quickly after Austin City Council voted in May to explore a potential $1.3 billion expansion of the city’s downtown convention center, political action committee Unconventional Austin was formed in opposition. Hired canvassers showed up on street corners and community events, collecting signatures in support of a two-part citizen-initiated ordinance. The first part would require a public vote for any expansion of the convention center exceeding $20 million; the second part would adjust the formula on how much of the city’s hotel tax revenue—collected from local taxes on hotel overnight stays—is spent on the convention center.

On July 12, Unconventional Austin representatives said they submitted that petition to the city clerk with more than 30,000 signatures. A city spokesperson confirmed the submission; however, the true number of signatures will remain unknown until the city has counted and validated that the signatures belong to actual Austinites who are eligible to vote.… (LINK TO STORY)

Three Austin-area roads could be reversible in 2045 (Austin American-Statesman)

Three Austin-area roads could have reversible lanes by 2045 under a proposed plan this is already receiving mixed reviews by local officials. But area transportation officials said implementing the directional changes, where a lane of traffic may travel in either direction depending on the time of day to alleviate congestion, are a long way from being recommended.

A regional study released in June by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization proposes to implement reversible lanes on Bee Cave Road, RM 2222 and FM 969 during peak morning and evening hours. It is part of the CAMPO’s regional arterials study, a component of its 2045 transportation plan. CAMPO’s plans also include adding other flexible lane options to regional and major local corridors using non-tolled managed options such as HOV or restricted lanes… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin FC stadium ‘on time so far’ ahead of planned September groundbreaking (Community Impact)

Construction on McKalla Stadium, future home to Major League Soccer team Austin FC, remains on schedule to begin in early September, according to a presentation given by team and city officials on July 11.

According to the presentation given by Precourt Sports Ventures President Dave Greeley and Austin Commercial executives, construction on the stadium is staying on its original timeline, which calls for the stadium to open in spring 2021. PSV selected Austin Commercial this spring as the construction manager to build the stadium at McKalla Place.

Austin FC submitted its site plans for the stadium at McKalla Place to the city in March, according to city documents. The team’s site plans and building plans must be approved by the city of Austin before construction can begin on the stadium.

“The city will have to approve our site development permit and then we can start mobilizing on [the]site,” said Jordan Enke, vice president of stadium operations for Austin FC. “We’re on time so far.”… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

Episode 46: Austin FC Updates from Club President Andy Loughnane

Austin-area office rents hit record highs as strong job growth continues (Austin American-Statesman)

Central Texas’ office market continues to flourish, with demand for space unabated and rents hitting an all-time high in the second quarter, the latest figures show.

At mid-year, rents for top-tier (Class A) space hit a record $43.73 a square foot , up from $40.17 at the end of June 2018, according to commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield Austin.

The occupancy rate for Class A space averaged 90.4% in the second quarter, up from 89.3% in the year-ago quarter, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

For all classes of space, both new and old, rents in the Austin area averaged $38.50 a square foot — a record high, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s numbers.

“Fueled by strong job growth and corporate relocations, we’re still witnessing rental rates increase as vacancies decrease,” said Mike Brown, senior vice president in Austin for Transwestern, a commercial real estate services firm… (LINK TO STORY)


As legalized gambling gains momentum nationwide, could Jerry Jones lead the charge in Texas? (Dallas Morning News)

A white-haired, 68-year-old Beaumont used car dealer pleaded guilty in June to running what a Homeland Security special agent called one of the nation's largest illegal sports gambling and money-laundering operations. The feds don't mess around. Larry Tillery had been at it for only 30 years before they wised up.

Larry's case was big but didn't come close to the state record, which is also the national record. In 2013, Plano cops and the feds shut down an operation headed by a Southlake resident, Albert S. Reed Jr., that, over a four-year period, handled $5 billion in sports bets. All of this is to say that sports gambling has long been big business in Texas –– generating annual revenues of $300 million, according to one estimate –– and will continue as such. Simply a question of whether it'll ever be legal… (LINK TO STORY)

Alamo Colleges launches free-tuition program for grads of 25 area high schools (San Antonio Express-News)

The Alamo Colleges District board unanimously voted Saturday to launch the first phase of a program that eventually is to offer all new graduates of Bexar County high schools free tuition at its five community colleges.

Officials said Alamo Promise will cost the district $300,000 in funding for the first year, to cover graduates of the 25 high schools whose seniors have historically had the lowest college-going rates in the county or have higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students. The estimated loss of tuition revenue that the district must cover the first year will be relatively small because so many of those graduates qualify for federal Pell grants and other assistance, but is expected to jump to about $3 million in the second year when the program expands to all 45 high schools, officials said… (LINK TO STORY)


House Democrats who tangled with leader not backing down (Associated Press)

Days after tensions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boiled over publicly, several House Democrats sent a message to Washington: We’re not backing down.

Three members of the “squad” — the cadre of liberal freshman lawmakers who are struggling with their party’s more centrist members over impeachment, immigration and other issues — defended their approach Saturday while appearing on a panel at the annual Netroots conference. All are young women of color, a fact not lost on supporters who have bridled at the criticism thrown their way… (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)



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)

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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