BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 25, 2019)



Cronk announces new timeline for code rewrite (Austin Monitor)

City Manager Spencer Cronk announced this week that Council should expect to first vote on the new Land Development Code in early December – not October, as proposed by Council in May. According to the newly released timeline, Cronk has set Oct. 4 for public release of the new code draft and zoning map.

Although the timeline is not as ambitious as Council was hoping for this spring, Mayor Steve Adler, at least, is not concerned about the timing. He told the Austin Monitor via text: “The LDC rewrite process needs to move forward only as quickly as allows the process to be done well. The city manager is delivering on that schedule.”

According to the schedule posted online, there will be an open house with community input in mid-October and staff will release a revised report in late October. If all goes as planned, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the new code on Oct. 26 and will vote on it in early November. Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing in mid-November before taking a vote on first reading in December… (LINK TO STORY)

New Austin rules on homelessness, street camps test police power to search (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin police are trying to figure out what kind of additional steps they will need to take to search tents and other shelters used by people experiencing homelessness, especially as their camps become larger and more sophisticated.

During a public forum Tuesday, Police Chief Brian Manley said patrol officers are coming across street camps in places they weren’t before, in greater numbers and in more elaborate shelters after the Austin City Council in late June voted to allow camping, sleeping and sitting in public spaces, provided it does not obstruct a pathway or pose a danger. Those rules went into effect July 1, leading police to do some soul searching about privacy for people without a place to call home.

Manley said the question is not necessarily a new one, but now that people experiencing homelessness are allowed to camp in public, officers have to draw the line between public and private spaces… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin Community College board passes annual budget as longstanding discussions continue on adjunct faculty salaries (Community Impact)

The Austin Community College District board of trustees adopted a budget July 8 for fiscal year 2019-20 that will include salary raises for employees across the district, including a 3% increase for full-time faculty, adjunct faculty and non-faculty staff based on cost-of-living increases and a $15 minimum wage set for all hourly employees.

District staff project ACC will bring in about $406.85 million in revenue in FY 2019-20, including an additional $22.61 million in property taxes than it had last year. That revenue will help the district fund a 5.07% increase in its expenses while keeping its base tuition and fee rates the same. The district will set its tax rate in the fall once the local appraisal districts certify their respective property tax rolls… (LINK TO STORY)

Zoning request highlights role of commission, need for new land use code (Austin Monitor)

The Planning Commission went against the official staff suggestion Tuesday evening, recommending the addition of a Vertical Mixed Use designation to the current General Commercial Services-Mixed Use Combining District-Neighborhood Plan Combining District zoning of 3706 Goodwin Ave., near the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Springdale Road.

Michael Whellan, who was representing the applicant, said the vertical mixed use zoning, located in the heart of the Imagine Austin Springdale Station activity center, will make it possible to redevelop the site with the housing, both market-rate and affordable, that the area needs.

Because the site is also located in a federal opportunity zone, providing tax benefits to investors in exchange for economic investment, Whellan urged the city to take the opportunity to secure housing at the site. Since investors in opportunity zones stand to gain more tax benefits with commercial and office space than with housing, Whellan said, denying this request could lead to exclusively commercial or office redevelopment in the future… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas' 2021 Political Maps Won't Need Federal Oversight, Court Rules (KUT)

A U.S. district court has ruled Texas doesn't need federal oversight of its 2021 redistricting efforts.

Wednesday's decision is part of a larger lawsuit from voters who challenged the state’s 2011 political maps. Courts have found Texas officials intentionally discriminated against racial minorities when they drew those maps and ordered parts of the maps to be redrawn.

Because the maps were redrawn in 2013, though, the U.S. District Court in San Antonio denied a request from plaintiffs to require the next round of redistricting in Texas to be supervised, or put under “preclearance.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Implementation of San Antonio paid sick-leave requirement delayed amid court fight (Texas Tribune)

A district judge signed off on a deal Wednesday to delay the implementation of a paid sick-leave ordinance slated to go into effect Aug. 1 — dealing yet another blow to community organizers who have championed the rule in some of Texas’ biggest cities.

The decision comes after city officials and the business groups suing over the policy agreed Friday to postpone the ordinance’s implementation from August until December. A spokesman for the city argued the delay would give San Antonio a chance to refine the proposal… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas college students take on too much debt, with the heaviest burden on black families, study finds (Dallas Morning News)

Texas students at public universities are taking on more debt than state leaders consider manageable, with black students facing the biggest financial challenges, according to a new study.

State and national leaders want to reel in the student debt crisis and ensure that college graduates can afford the loans they take out to earn degrees. Texas set a goal for student debt load to be no more than 60% of a student's first-year earnings by 2030. But on average, Texas students borrowed $25,794, while their starting salaries were about $34,132. That equates to a debt-to-income ratio of 74%, according to the study by Southern Methodist University. And when parents' loans were factored in, that ratio jumped to 92%… (LINK TO STORY)

New state law prohibits city rules on nationally accepted building materials (Denton Record-Chronicle)

A new state law has stripped Texas cities of the authority they used to have to protect neighborhoods and, by extension, the investment individual homeowners have in their property.

HB 2439 prohibits cities from adopting an ordinance that regulates building materials allowed in national building codes. For example, some fire-prone communities have banned wood shingles as a roofing material. But because wood shingles are allowed in national building codes, no Texas city can ban their use under the new law. HB 2439 came late to the latest session of the Texas Legislature with wide support from the homebuilding industry. The law would address housing affordability, according to builders, who claimed that city regulation of building materials is contributing to the problem… (LINK TO STORY)


Trump proposal could end food stamp benefits for 125,000 Texans, experts say (Texas Tribune)

The Trump administration is proposing tightened requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — also known as food stamps — that could end food assistance for more than 3 million Americans and jeopardize assistance for thousands of Texans.

The proposed rule would curb states’ abilities to set eligibility requirements for the food assistance program that helps feed millions of Americans each month. It’s unclear exactly what the impact of the proposed changes will be in Texas, but state policy experts estimate it could kick at least 125,000 Texans off SNAP. In June, Texas distributed $383.4 million in SNAP benefits to about 1.5 million people — an average of $260 per person… (LINK TO STORY)


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

BG PodEpisode 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)


Progressive Justice Now Drafting MPT Delia Garza for County Attorney

Last Thursday saw the launch of Progressive Justice Now, an organization calling for Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza (District 2) to run for Travis County Attorney.

MPT Garza is the first Latina to serve on the City Council in Austin, and the first Latina to serve as Austin’s Mayor Pro Tem. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, and a law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law. She previously served as an Assistant Attorney General advocating for Texas families in the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General… (LINK TO BLOG)

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