BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 20, 2019)



City Manager names Assistant City Managers for Safety and Mobility (City of Austin)

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk has selected Gina Fiandaca and Rey Arellano as Assistant City Managers as part of an ongoing process to align his executive team with Austin’s Strategic Direction.
Mr. Arellano will oversee departments and projects focused on safety. Ms. Fiandaca will manage efforts on mobility.
Safety and Mobility are two of the strategic outcomes that are part of the City’s Strategic Direction 2023. The first seeks to make sure families are safe in their homes, at work, and in our community. The second is designed to secure real progress in getting us where we want to go, when we want to get there, safely and cost-effectively.
"Gina and Rey are going to be instrumental in helping us meet our goals in the areas of safety and mobility, which have been identified as key strategic priorities for the City," said Cronk. “They will be leading multi-talented teams working to tackle some of the top challenges facing Austin."…

Link to press release

Higher fines for bikes and scooters raise questions of equity at UTC (Austin Monitor)

Now that the Austin Transportation Department has decided to take extra time to consider feedback on three of its dockless mobility policy proposals, City Council will only be considering the department’s proposed changes to Chapter 12-2 of the city code, regarding appropriate use of bicycles, at its March 28 meeting.

In a presentation to the Urban Transportation Commission on Monday evening, Jason Redfern, parking enterprise manager at ATD, said the amendment would essentially add “shared mobility devices to the landscape of what’s regulated.”

Under the current code, a bicyclist may be fined $20 for a first offense and $40 for a subsequent offense. The ATD amendment would double both of these figures so that a first-time offender on either a bike or scooter may be fined up to $40 and a repeat offender up to $80.

Commissioner Samuel Franco said the proposed fines are excessive and run counter to the city’s broader goal of incentivizing use of alternative modes of transportation. Franco said the fines also contradict the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan’s goal to use transportation solutions to promote equity in lower-income and historically underserved parts of the community.

In including dockless units in section 12-2, ATD proposes using the new umbrella term “micromobility devices,” which includes all electric or non-electric compact mobility devices such as bicycles, scooters and skateboards. Under the updated code, scooters and bikes would be regulated equally…

Link to story

Neighbor takes out grievances over ADU at the Board of Adjustment (Austin Monitor)

Although the Board of Adjustment prefers not to take neighborhood disputes into account when members consider variance requests, sometimes these conflicts can be difficult to ignore.

Before hearing any cases at its March 11 meeting, the Board of Adjustment warned those who were going to testify that personal quarrels have no place in any case. Even so, when Josh Westheimer came to argue his case to retain an already constructed but non-permitted carport on his property at 1802 Cloverleaf Drive, he could not resist mentioning that the only neighbor within 300 feet who did not support his request was someone who had an ongoing issue with his recently constructed ADU.

Karen Pagani came to oppose the variance request that would allow the Westheimers to keep the carport that has been on the property since 2003, which she pointed out encroaches into the setback and overburdens the property…

Link to story


Kids' Lemonade Stands Are Illegal In Texas. State Lawmakers Are Taking A Stand To Change That. (KUT)

Lemonade stands aren't legal in Texas, but House lawmakers gave a preliminary OK today to a bill that would undo that legislative oversight that's dragged on for 85 legislative sessions.

A bill from Fort Worth Republican state Rep. Matt Krause would allow the sale of lemonade and other non-alcoholic beverages on private property and in public parks. Krause told a committee late last month the legislation was spurred in part by a county sheriff shutting down a lemonade stand outside Tyler.

In that case, two sisters from Overton were raising money to take their dad to a waterpark, KLTV reported. Overton police shut down the girls' stand because lemonade requires refrigeration so it doesn't spoil, they said.

"House Bill 234 would ensure that anyone under the age of 18 is free of any kind of fine, fee or regulation when they want to start those first businesses," Krause said before the House vote. "We heard compelling testimony in committee about these young entrepreneurs. We want to keep that spirit alive and well."…

Link to story

 Texas lawmakers push for child care safety improvements (Austin American-Statesman)

A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers on Tuesday announced a coordinated effort to pass a package of bills aimed at improving child care safety and oversight.

“The number of incidents of abuse and neglect and exploitation to children at child care facilities and homes is alarming,” Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said at a Capitol news conference with other lawmakers and child advocates. “There should be no greater priority of ours than doing what we can to make these environments safer for the children of Texas.”

Many of the bills were inspired by “Unwatched,” a yearlong, 12-part investigative series the American-Statesman published in December that revealed that 88 children had died as a result of abuse or neglect at day care facilities over the previous decade, that another 450 were sexually abused and that the state’s efforts to crack down on unsafe day cares are often inadequate, allowing some facilities with more than 100 violations to remain open.

On any given day, there are about 1.1 million Texas children in child care centers and at-home day cares. The Statesman investigation found large gaps in state oversight for some of the most dangerous types of child care settings and scant resources for efforts that could help make safe day cares more affordable, placing a spotlight on a child safety issue long overshadowed by high-profile failures in Texas’ foster care system and Child Protective Services…

Link to story

Trump's emergency declaration could mean Texas' military installations lose millions for future projects (Texas Tribune)

Texas’ largest military bases could lose tens of millions of dollars already earmarked for future projects if President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border barrier withstands legal challenges and the administration diverts money from the military for wall construction.

The bases include U.S. Army and Air Force installations at Joint Base San Antonio, Army installations at Fort Bliss in El Paso and Fort Hood in Killeen, and the Naval Reserve center in Galveston, according to the office of U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

In all, about $265 million for construction and other projects on military bases in Texas could be diverted to build walls on the southern border, according to a list of potential projects the Department of Defense released to lawmakers Monday…

Link to story


Two veterans groups, left and right, join forces against the forever wars (New York Times)

The relationship began in the most Washington way ever: on the set of C-Span. Will Fischer, then the director of government relations for VoteVets, the liberal political action committee, was tapped to face off with Dan Caldwell, the executive director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

It was a continuation of a yearslong and contentious dialogue over veterans issues, including disputes over health care, which candidates care more about matters important to veterans, as well as their dueling views on the nefarious nature of the Republican or Democratic parties. But then the two found an unanticipated policy bridge, and have now gone on to work together to persuade Congress to finally revoke authorizations of military force passed after Sept. 11, 2001, which both believe have been bent and stretched to justify wars far beyond Congress’s intentions nearly two decades ago…

Link to story


Episode 39: Brand Building and Entrepreneurship with Drew Hanish, Principal and Co-Founder, Pravo Construction

(Run time - 15:57)

On today’s episode we speak with Drew Hanish, Principal and Co-Founder of PRAVO Construction, and Austin-based general contracting firm.

Nearly three years old, PRAVO came to our attention through its innovative thinking about its brand. This includes hiring a Head of Brand and Content Creation, as well as its their white papers and employee investment through PRAVO University.

Drew and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss some of the issues and policy concerns relevant to general contractors in Austin, and also delve into defining a firm’s brand and its importance, particularly with relatively new to a market.

The latter portion of their discussion is applicable to entrepreneurs, new businesses, and even established firms looking for market differentiation…

Link to Episode 39


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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