BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 18, 2019)



City manager presents options for a new land development code (Austin Monitor)

City Manager Spencer Cronk released a memo on Friday proposing the first steps of a new process to rewrite the land development code. The memo comes seven months after City Council voted unanimously to suspend its last land use code rewrite effort, CodeNEXT, and instructed Cronk to propose a new process.

Cronk’s memo outlines five key questions on which he wants City Council members to provide input before city staff begins drafting changes to the code.

The first question asks whether staff should simply make changes to the existing code, or pursue an entirely new code. And if the latter, should Council do the text of the code and the zoning map concurrently or do the text and craft a zoning map separately?

The other four questions relate to specific land use issues: compatibility standards, parking requirements, housing capacity, and so-called “missing middle” types of housing such as triplexes, fourplexes and townhomes…

Link to story

See also:

Memo to Council RE : Land Development Code Revision (Resolution 20180809-111)

After new admissions scandal, former Regent Wallace Hall says University of Texas' rules are a "joke" (Texas Tribune)

Acting outside the normal admissions process. A back door for the rich and powerful. Secret favoritism.

No, it’s not the college admissions scandal that broke this week.

That’s how former Regent Wallace Hall once described the process powerful Texas lawmakers used to circumvent normal admission procedures in an effort to get their own kids and constituents into the University of Texas at Austin.

In an interview [last] week, Hall said he wasn’t surprised that UT Austin was tied to a nationwide investigation that pointed to a different kind of back door — and one university officials have condemned: allegations of outright bribery designed to secure admission into the state’s most prestigious state university…

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Body found in Maserati linked to downtown Austin shootout (Austin American-Statesman)

Two overnight shootings, including one in which four police officers returned fire, punctuated a weekend of gun violence as South by Southwest festivities drew to a close in downtown Austin, prompting Police Chief Brian Manley to pledge more security for the city’s entertainment district.

It was the second consecutive night that officers were called to multiple shootings. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, three separate shootings across the city, all occurring within a four-hour span, sent five people to the hospital with three of them seriously injured, authorities said.

Within 24 hours, two more shootings occurred. Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services medics responded just before midnight to a shooting in the 300 block of East Sixth Street. They took a man thought to be in his 20s to a hospital for a gunshot wound at 11:58 p.m.

Austin police said via Twitter that “individuals have been detained” in the shooting, but investigators were still searching for others who might have been involved.

About 2:50 a.m. Sunday, officers responded to another shooting at the Interstate 35 North frontage road and Seventh Street, and they traded gunfire with an unidentified man at the intersection, police said. By Sunday afternoon, police in the Mueller neighborhood in East Austin found the body of a man in a vehicle that was involved in the shooting…

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Texas Has 'Significant Shortages' Of Low-Income Rentals, Study Finds (KUT)

Texas is lacking in low-income housing, according to a new study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The availability of affordable rental housing for extremely low-income renters in Texas – those making below the federal poverty level or 30 percent of an area's median income – was 29 homes available for every 100 renters. The national rate is 37 homes.

"There’s a supply problem throughout the country," said NLIHC Senior Vice President of Research Andrew Aurand. "In Texas, the supply is even worse, relatively speaking."…

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Senate Democrats unmoved as DPS shoulders blame for voter purge errors (San Antonio Express-News)

Senate Democrats still pledge to block the confirmation of embattled Secretary of State David Whitley, even as a top Texas law enforcement official is taking blame for major errors in a list of suspected non-citizen voters.

“I take full responsibility as the leader of the Department of Public Safety,” Steven McCraw told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this week. Had the department assigned a “senior level person” to the project, he said, it wouldn’t have turned over bad data that included thousands of people who had already proven their citizenship. “I can tell you throughout the entire project, the secretary was not involved in any of it because he wasn’t there at the time.”…

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Texas Supreme Court justices call for beefed-up Michael Morton Act (Austin American-Statesman)

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by a former Nueces County prosecutor who said he was fired for refusing an illegal order to hide evidence favorable to a criminal defendant. But the ruling came with a pointed warning, and a plea for action by the Legislature, from three of the court’s nine members.

The Supreme Court was unanimous in deciding that Eric Hillman could not sue the county and the district attorney’s office because, as government agencies, they are immune from lawsuits over wrongful termination. The court rejected Hillman’s argument that the 2013 Michael Morton Act, named for a Williamson County man who spent almost 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, waived government immunity from Hillman’s lawsuit because the act makes it a state crime to hide favorable evidence from defendants…

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Turner playing with political fire as Prop B dispute rages in election year (Houston Chronicle)

As 2017 ended, things looked good for Sylvester Turner’s re-election two years down the road. Halfway into his first term, the Houston mayor had locked in his landmark pension reform package by selling $1 billion in voter-approved bonds and navigated the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey without major gaffes.

Since then, however, Turner has been locked in a bitter labor dispute with the Houston firefighters’ union that shows no sign of abating anytime soon as he gears up his reelection campaign against at least two challengers. Despite a Turner-led campaign opposing it, voters last November approved a “pay parity” charter amendment known as Proposition B that requires the city to give its firefighters the same pay as police of corresponding rank and experience…

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Are malls back? New York attempts to prove it with Neiman Marcus as the draw (Dallas Morning News)

They poured in by the thousands in designer duds to see the Shops at Hudson Yards, New York’s newest mall, at an invitation-only preview party. Neiman Marcus alone was jam-packed with 3,000 people during its private event Thursday night. The scene was enough to ask the question: Is New York about to make malls trendy again?

Manhattan, long envied for its street-level shopping, walkability and local retail, just opened its third new mall in five years. As the rest of the country faces a salvage yard of obsolete enclosed shopping centers, the Shops at Hudson Yards opened Friday, anchored on its top three levels by Dallas-based Neiman Marcus…

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The parents of more than three dozen unvaccinated kids want them back in school. A judge said no. (Washington Post)

In a county at the epicenter of New York’s worst measles outbreak in decades, a group of parents are pushing to get their children back in school. The problem? The children aren’t vaccinated.

Normally, children and their families are able to claim a religion-based exemption from required vaccinations. But Rockland County’s health department has said these are not normal times. Across New York, there have been more than 300 confirmed measles cases, more than 150 in New York City and 146 in nearby Rockland County. In Rockland, most of the cases were found in those who were unvaccinated and under the age of 18…

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Episode 38: Texas School Finance with Austin ISD CFO Nicole Conley

(Run time - 25:35)

On today’s episode we speak with Nicole Conley, Chief Financial Officer for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). In this role Nicole is responsible for AISD’s $1 billion+ annual operating funds and the over $800 million Bond program.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss AISD’s current fiscal position, the significant state mandated recapture (or Robin Hood) plays, and the what that means for the district. Under this system local tax dollars from property-rich districts, like Austin, are redistributed to property-poor districts. In Fiscal Year 2019, AISD anticipates the district will submit $669.6 million to the state in recapture funds. This amount is expected to increase by $115 million in Fiscal Year 2020…

Link to Episode 38

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