BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 29, 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)


Austin City Clerk OKs Petition To Put Convention Center Expansion To A Public Vote (Austin Monitor)

An effort to put a planned expansion of the Austin Convention Center to a public vote is one step closer to its goal. Today, the city clerk certified a petition that will send the issue to the city council.

The political action committee leading that charge, Unconventional Austin, says it received word this morning that the clerk had certified nearly 30,000 signatures. The petition hopes to sideline the Austin City Council's $1.2 billion plan to nearly double the convention center's size and purchase the historic Palm School, which was approved unanimously in May.

The petition ordinance would require any proposed expansion above $20 million within a four-year period be put to a vote… (LINK TO STORY)

Council, neighbors plan meetings on how to manage South Austin shelter (Austin Monitor)

City leaders and residents are planning a series of meetings in the coming weeks to help them move forward and provide some clarity on efforts to manage the city’s growing homeless population.

The Aug. 8 City Council meeting – the first since the July recess – is expected to include discussion about creating a local government corporation in order to fund housing options for those experiencing homelessness. On Aug. 6, the community group SAFE (Safe Austin For Everyone) Project will hold a forum at Woodlawn Baptist Church to primarily focus on plans to open a housing center for the homeless in South Austin.

City Council approved a maximum budget of just over $8 million for that purchase and renovation in June, along with guidelines to staff to create a plan for managing the property to increase safety for the surrounding neighborhood… (LINK TO STORY)

Potential, limitations come into focus for new economic development tool proposed in Austin (Austin Business Journal)

There could soon be a new player in Austin's economic development arena.

Austin City Council is set to consider a resolution Aug. 8 to create an economic development entity to help the city's housing, redevelopment and revitalization efforts.

Council Member Kathie Tovo said the resolution she's sponsoring will culminate years of work to create an economic development corporation, or a similar type of organization, to address city priorities on affordability.

The resolution would direct city staff to take the first steps toward creating an economic development organization, as well as identify potential sources of revenue and gather feedback on how the entity would be run. The city could also contract with a "subject matter expert" to develop an implementation plan.

And Council would direct staff to structure the new entity broadly enough to manage a range of projects like affordable housing development, acquiring and preserving creative space and aiding private-led development, such as the South Central Waterfront… (LINK TO STORY)

MoPac construction at Slaughter and La Crosse faces delays over environmental concerns (Austin American-Statesman)

Construction along a stretch of MoPac Boulevard is facing delays after crews discovered dozens of fissures and holes in the ground along the freeway that help recharge the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs.

The discovery of 72 so-called karst features has forced the Texas Department of Transportation to redesign the La Crosse Avenue bridge over MoPac (Loop 1) and push its opening to late this year at the earliest. TxDOT has not given a firm timeline on how much of a delay the finding will have on its overall plans to upgrade the highway’s intersections with Slaughter Lane and La Crosse Avenue.

TxDOT is building underpasses at the two intersections. Already in place at Slaughter Lane is the novel “diverging diamond intersection,” which forces eastbound and westbound motorists to, in effect, switch sides just before getting to MoPac… (LINK TO STORY)


Facing accusation of targeting GOP lawmakers, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen pushes back (Texas Tribune)

Less than three weeks after state lawmakers wrapped up their 2019 legislative session, an unusual meeting convened with unlikely conferees from opposite ends of the Texas Capitol power structure.

On one side: Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and top ally Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, both fresh off a first session that had left lawmakers trumpeting the no-nonsense, landmark school finance and property tax legislationset to soon become law.

On the other: Michael Quinn Sullivan, a hardline conservative activist, whose Empower Texans organization had just unsuccessfully fought a number of the big measures that passed, prompting political observers to wonder whether the group’s influence within the Republican Party had hit a new low… (LINK TO STORY)

Some San Antonio City Council members say they would have handled the paid sick leave lawsuit differently in hindsight (San Antonio Express-News)

When the San Antonio city attorney and business groups agreed last week to delay the start of the city’s controversial paid sick leave law, there were 11 people who seemed to be conspicuously absent from the deal: Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the City Council. Nirenberg and three other council members did tweet that they disagreed with staff attorneys’ strategy to delay the law, but they never mustered any effort to change it.

A fifth council member, Melissa Cabello Havrda, said she opposed a delay — after the court hearing. Two members have yet to publicly voice their views on the matter. It looked as if City Manager Erik Walsh and City Attorney Andy Segovia were left to deal with the politically sensitive issue as they saw fit. Nirenberg said Friday he notified the city attorney’s office of his misgivings before it filed the agreement with businesses, but prefers to focus on the future… (LINK TO STORY)

'Human right' or 'unnecessary red tape'? Dallas businesses scrambling over new paid sick time law (Dallas Morning News)

Ebony Ollison said when she lost her voice, she lost her paycheck and her home. Ollison worked at a call center in Dallas and, after coming down with laryngitis, she couldn't effectively talk to customers over the phone. Her bosses sent her home. But she couldn't kick the illness. In April 2018, after she was sidelined for nearly a month and couldn't pay the rent, she said her apartment complex told her to leave or face eviction. "I was devastated," said Ollison, 42. "I was losing everything because I couldn't work."

Some Dallas City Council members pointed to tales like Ollison's earlier this year when they passed, on a 10-4 vote, new regulations that mandate that businesses in the city provide earned paid sick time for employees. But uncertainty abounds about the new ordinance, which is set to take effect Thursday. While workers and some groups are elated with the new regulations, many businesses are still scrambling to sort out how to comply… (LINK TO STORY)

Four file for mayor on first day to get on Houston's November ballot (Houston Chronicle)

Four candidates filed to run for mayor Monday on the first day of the month-long period to get on the November ballot.

The first to file paperwork for Houston's top office were journalist and activist Derrick Broze, millionaire attorney Tony Buzbee, businessman Naoufal Houjami and Mayor Sylvester Turner. Turner filed for re-election shortly before 9 a.m., followed shortly by Houjami and Broze. Buzbee filed his paperwork just before 11:30 a.m., then held a rally on the steps of City Hall… (LINK TO STORY)


With a month of victories, Pelosi shows who holds the reins in a fractious House (Washington Post)

The House was already well on its way to passing a crucial budget agreement Thursday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled aside Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer in a hallway outside the chamber. Democrats had already cast 216 votes for the bill, Pelosi told Hoyer. But two more votes would send a message: that the party was so united, it could pass a compromise negotiated with President Trump and Republicans with an absolute majority of the House.

Moments after Hoyer walked onto the floor, three more Democrats voted for the bill — including two members of the liberal “Squad” of newly elected women — vividly demonstrating that despite the frequent turmoil in their ranks, Pelosi and her leadership team stand in firm control of House Democrats. Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters afterward that she wanted to make a statement about her caucus’s unity, and at a news conference Friday, she held forth on her leadership of a rambunctious group… (LINK TO STORY)

Trump says he will nominate Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace director of national intelligence (Dallas Morning News)

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is leaving his job next month, ending a two-year tenure marked by President Donald Trump's clashes with intelligence officials.

Trump announced Coats' departure on Aug. 15 in a tweet Sunday that thanked Coats for his service. He said he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to the post and that he will name an acting official in the coming days. Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller last week during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.… (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)

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