BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 19, 2019)



Casar: Our pro-housing, anti-gentrification movements can co-exist in Austin (Austin American-Statesman)

Two weeks ago, I was the lone ‘no’ vote on the Austin City Council in opposition to the rezoning of the Riverside Drive Mesh Apartments, home to over 300 Austin renters. The rezoning would add hundreds of new homes to the area, but in doing so, these existing apartments would be demolished. Some have come to consider my votes on the City Council to be regularly pro-housing, so I’ve been asked why I’m opposed to this project.

My record is clear: If we care about working-class and middle-class families, we must build more housing and also prevent large-scale displacement. When I imagine Austin 20 years from now, the question that haunts me is whether or not City Council districts like mine — diverse, thriving, and largely working-class — will even exist at all.

To maintain our diverse communities and fight for housing justice, we must be both pro-housing and anti-gentrification.

Growing cities like ours face housing shortages. In any housing shortage, it’s not high-income people that lose out — it’s those without the economic power to compete for limited housing. Housing shortages push up rents, and thereby speed up gentrification. To counter this, we need more housing, especially in areas west of I-35 that aren’t facing the same gentrification pressures as our Eastern Crescent. We also need alternatives to the proliferation of expensive McMansion style homes, through both subsidized and market-rate housing for working people…

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Planning commissioners push for more transit-oriented mobility plan (Austin Monitor)

City Council is scheduled to take up the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan at its next meeting on March 28. In recent weeks, various city commissions have offered comments on the plan, which aims to shape city transportation policy over the next 20 years.

Last week, members of the Planning Commission offered input on the plan and heard comments from members of the public. While commissioners and citizens offered a number of critiques, both major and minor, the dominant theme was a call for the plan to be even bolder in encouraging alternatives to cars.

ASMP’s chief goal is to get a larger share of the population to embrace alternatives to cars. Currently, 74 percent of Austin residents drive to work alone. The plan calls for reducing that to 50 percent by 2039, while increasing the public transit share from 4 to 16 percent, bike share from 1 to 4 percent, and walking share from 2 to 4 percent. The plan also envisions roughly doubling the percentage of teleworkers to 15 percent and maintaining the carpool share at 11 percent.

Several activists from urbanist organization AURA showed up to demand more ambitious action from the city to move away from cars…

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See also:

Episode 36: The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan

Nearly 434,000 Scooter Rides Were Taken During SXSW 2019 (KUT)

Dockless scooters were the headliner in their first year at SXSW.

City data show the scooters outpaced rentable dockless bikes over the festival, accounting for nearly 434,000 rides over the 10 days of SXSW – 12.3 percent of the 3.5 million scooter rides since the scooters descended upon Austin last April.

Still, nearly 32,000 riders hopped on dockless bikes, accounting for nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the rides since the city began tracking ridership in April last year…

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Tiger Woods is headed to Austin for Dell Match Play (Austin American-Statesman)

Tiger Woods, the best-known golfer in the world, is headed to Austin.

He confirmed Monday that he’ll be competing in next week’s Dell Technologies Match Play that’s set to start March 27 at Austin Country Club.

The tournament is in its fourth year in Austin, but this is the first time Woods has been eligible to play here. The first two years he was recovering from back surgery. Last season, he wasn’t ranked among the top 64 in the world, so he didn’t earn an invite.

As of Monday, Woods ranked 13th, which means he’ll be one of the top seeds during three rounds of pod play. He’s using the tournament to prep for the Masters, which is set for April 11-14. His other option was to play at the Valero Open in San Antonio…

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Texas House committee backs budget plan with extra $9 billion for school finance, property tax reform (Texas Tribune)

A panel of House budget writers gave initial approval Monday to a budget that would spend $115 billion in state funds, including a $9 billion infusion of new funds for Texas public schools and property tax relief.

Now that the House Appropriations Committee has approved the 2020-21 spending plan, House Bill 1, the legislation moves to the floor of the 150-member House.

“I believe that we can all be very proud of the bill that you’ve all worked so hard on,” state Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and the chamber’s chief budget writer, told fellow House Appropriations Committee members.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, was the committee’s lone no vote…

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Effort would erode local historic zoning laws in Texas (Austin American-Statesman)

In what could become a battle pitting property rights against historic preservation, a pair of Central Texas state lawmakers have proposed barring cities from designating a building a historic landmark over an owner’s objection. Such a designation, used by dozens of Texas cities including Austin, can mean tax breaks for an owner — but it also generally prevents the structure from being demolished, limiting the development potential of the property.

House Bill 2496 by Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, says that a city “may not designate a property as a local historic landmark unless the owner of the property consents to the designation.” Preservation Austin, a nonprofit that promotes historic preservation, issued a “call to action,” saying the bill and its Senate companion would “fundamentally weaken our ability to save important historic places.”…

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Fire At Petrochemical Facility Outside Houston Isn't Dangerous, Company And Texas Officials Say (KUT)

Chemicals detected from a fire at a Deer Park petrochemical storage facility do not represent a public health concern, according to the company that owns the facility.

"All hand-held air monitoring was conducted in the breathing zone,” officials with Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) said at a news conference, releasing a report from the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health. The air quality is being monitored with devices in the facility and surrounding community.

The fire at the facility, about 15 miles southeast of Houston, started Sunday morning and has spread to multiple tanks. ITC spokesperson Alice Richardson said three tanks were on fire as of Monday afternoon and another three were experiencing intermittent fires…

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Medical cannabis expansion has high support in the Texas Legislature. But Dan Patrick might stand in the way. (Texas Tribune)

State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, was on the floor of the Texas House in 2015 trying to convince her colleagues to open up the state to medical cannabis, and it was not going well.

One lawmaker yelled, “This is a bad bill.” Others booed as Klick argued that her bill would legalize medical cannabis in the most narrow way possible. It only allowed the sale of specific medical cannabis products if they contained low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC — to Texans with intractable epilepsy who had already tried two FDA-approved drugs and found them to be ineffective. Patients also needed to be permanent Texas residents and get approval from two doctors listed on the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.

Getting her measure across the finish line in the House amounted to nothing short of a floor fight. Yet the bill, dubbed the Compassionate Use Act, ultimately passed both chambers that year, sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott, who later signed it into law. Three dispensaries have since opened in Texas…

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O'Rourke Raises $6.1 Million In First 24 Hours – Beating Sanders And All Other 2020 Contenders (KUT)

Beto O'Rourke raised $6.1 million for his presidential campaign in his first 24 hours as a candidate, beating every other 2020 Democrat who has disclosed first-day figures, according to his campaign.

The haul surpasses that of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who raised $5.9 million in the 24 hours following his campaign launch.

O'Rourke's campaign said the $6.1 million came from online contributions. He also said that he didn't take any PAC money, and that he received contributions from every state and territory in the nation…

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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


Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham featured on The Lobbyist Show Podcast

Posted on Monday, Episode 39 of THE LOBBYING SHOW featured our CEO, A.J. Bingham. Recorded in November 2018 at a pivotal time for the firm, A.J. discusses his path to lobbying, working at the state and municipal level, and the drive to launch Bingham Group.


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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