BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 8, 2019)



Austin Council Member Delia Garza and 2 Travis judges might run for new offices (Austin American-Statesman)

In what would bring additional star power to an already loaded ballot in local Democratic courthouse races next year, Austin City Council Member Delia Garza says she might seek an elected legal position and longtime Travis County judges Elisabeth Earle and Mike Denton have expressed interest in the party’s County Attorney nomination.

Garza and the two judges are household names who carry influence in local Democratic circles. They have not formally announced their plans and probably would hold off from doing so until closer to the December filing deadline. But in recent conversations with the American-Statesman, they each confirmed rumors of their interest in new positions for 2020.

Garza released a statement this week saying she is considering a pivot to the courthouse, but would not say whether she would run for a judicial bench on the criminal or civil courts, or for one of two elected prosecutor positions.

A lawyer licensed through the state bar, Garza handled child support cases for the Texas Attorney General’s office before winning a Council seat in 2014.

“Serving in the justice system at some point seems like a natural progression that would allow me to continue my passion for social justice advocacy,” Garza said. “Currently, I’m concentrating my efforts on serving District 2 and all of Austin. As I decide on next steps for the future, I’ll be weighing where I could have the greatest impact for our community.”… (LINK TO STORY)

With affordability funding looming, housing proponents have questions (Austin Monitor)

With housing project applicants angling for portions of the city’s coming $250 million in general obligation bonds for affordable housing, city leaders charged with finding the right mix of new units are starting to wrestle with questions of how much new affordable housing should cost and where those units need to go.

A recent meeting of the Housing Investment Review Committee – an advisory board that reviews quarterly applications for affordable housing funds and gives input to city staff – showed how committee members and those on other boards are negotiating the complex calculus of price, size, location and city policy. With 11 projects up for review offering a mix of single-family versus multifamily projects, high and low price points and per-unit subsidies, the committee is weighing impacts to surrounding land values that could cause further gentrification while trying to increase affordability.

Take for example the ThinkEAST development off Springdale Road, which has a 97-unit affordable housing component under development by the Cesar Chavez Foundation that is on pace to receive a subsidy of about $40,000 per unit with an average price of $220,000 per apartment.

At first glance, some viewed that price as out of bounds to be considered affordable. But with more than half the units being two or three bedrooms – a commonly addressed need for new housing – committee members saw the project and its subsidy level as reasonable for a growing part of the city.

“I raised the point that you’ve got lots of bedrooms with 97 units and only 44 are single-bedroom, and if there’s two families you can house more people – versus if it’s all efficiencies, that’s only one or two people per unit,” committee member Dave Sullivan said.

The applicant pool was for projects looking to tap money still on hand from the city’s 2013 affordable housing bond vote and money contributed to the city’s trust fund for affordable housing by developers, but Sullivan and others said there is growing debate about how the city will deploy the bond money from November’s general election vote… (LINK TO STORY)

How A Wave Of Tech Expansion Could Further Strain Affordability In Austin (KUT)

Fred McGhee, an outspoken advocate for the Montopolis neighborhood in Southeast Austin, said Thursday that City Council Member Greg Casar lacks experience in how to effectively enact affordable housing policy.

McGhee made the comments during a news conference in front of City Hall called by a group of prominent East Austin activists, who are demanding the City Council act on a proposal they set forth more than a year ago to stem gentrification.

McGhee, a member of the city’s Community Development Commission, criticized Casar several times for not pushing the group’s so-called People’s Plan. Casar, whose North Austin district is bisected by Interstate 35, has been the council’s most outspoken advocate for affordable housing, but his policy experience is lacking, McGhee said.

“Perhaps he has a few more rungs to climb before he matches our expertise,” said McGhee, noting that the community activists on hand had more than 100 years of combined experience in advocating for affordable housing.

In an emailed statement, Casar said his “record fighting for affordable housing and against displacement speaks for itself.”

Casar was a leading proponent of Proposition A, the $250 million affordable housing bond that passed in November. The council also recently passed a resolution he sponsored that calls for the creation of a citywide affordable housing program… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas Public Policy Foundation is a big player in Texas conservative causes (Austin American-Statesman)

Shortly after the Austin City Council passed an ordinance a few years ago on a hot-button issue, the Texas Public Policy Foundation sprang into action. According to a solicitation obtained by the American-Statesman, the influential, conservative think tank asked benefactors to contribute $250,000 to pay for an attorney general opinion request, litigation, research, media outreach and video production on the issue.

“Using the foundation’s existing relationships with elected officials, the Foundation would seek a legislator willing to submit this opinion request to the Texas Attorney General,” the solicitation says. The person who provided the solicitation asked that the issue not be identified because the person was not authorized to share the private document. Texas Public Policy Foundation Executive Director Kevin Roberts confirmed the document’s authenticity. The solicitation says money would help “develop the research and craft the legal argument demonstrating why (the ordinance) does not fall within the scope of municipal authority.” … (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

BG Podcast Episode 2: Robert Henneke- General Counsel and Director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation

BG Podcast - Episode 10: Policy Discussion Rob Henneke on Paid Sick Leave and Local Control

San Antonio mayor’s fundraising far outstrips his primary challenger, but unions could help narrow the gap (San Antonio Express-News)

Heading into the homestretch of San Antonio’s mayoral campaign, challenger Greg Brockhouse has much less money in the bank than almost any serious mayoral contender in recent memory — but he has a not-so-secret financial weapon.

Brockhouse had less than $15,000 on hand as of March 25, compared with $283,183 for Mayor Ron Nirenberg, according to campaign finance reports filed by the candidates this week. Brockhouse, a city councilman, has raised $51,290 and spent $44,527 since the start of the year. Nirenberg’s report shows contributions of $152,238 and $159,128 in expenditures… (LINK TO STORY)

Former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway sentenced to 56 months in federal prison (Dallas Morning News)

A federal judge on Friday sentenced former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway to 56 months in prison for his role in a corruption case that shook City Hall and took down an agency responsible for the transportation and safety of schoolchildren.

The sentence marked the tragic conclusion of Caraway's lengthy city government career, which began after several failed council runs, included a stint as acting mayor and ended with his guilty plea in August for accepting about $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks between 2011 and 2017. During the hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn often referred to the positive work Caraway had done. But, she said, all the good things he accomplished were erased the moment he became "just another bought and paid-for politician."… (LINK TO STORY)

Here’s how different proposals at the Texas Capitol could change property tax bills (Texas Tribune)

Top state leaders have toured the state promising Texans they will feel less financially cramped by oversized property tax bills after the legislative session. So far, the two legislative chambers have taken different approaches to keep that promise, meaning they will have to hash out an agreement this spring.

To make a difference in the average homeowner’s tax bill, lawmakers must address school districts, which levy more than 50 percent of all local property taxes in the state. A few proposals on the table would provide some amount of tax relief for residents with different home values.

How would those proposals affect you next year? It depends on where you live and what kind of home you own… (LINK TO STORY)


Barack Obama: I worry progressives may undercut Democratic allies (The Hill)

Former President Obama expressed concern about the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, saying he feared it could end up undercutting allies. Speaking at a town hall event on Saturday for the Obama Foundation in Berlin, the former president spoke about the need for compromise in politics, citing the Affordable Care Act as something that he said signified progress even though it did not achieve all of his aspirations for U.S. health care.

"One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States —maybe it’s true here as well — is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,' and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a 'circular firing squad,' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues. And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens," he said… (LINK TO STORY)

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen leaving Trump administration amid surge of migrants on U.S.-Mexico border (Texas Tribune)

President Donald Trump announced Sunday that Kirstjen Nielsen has resigned as secretary of homeland security, marking the exit of a second top immigration official in a matter of days as the White House continues to grapple with an influx of migrants on the southern border.

Replacing her on an acting basis will be Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Trump said Sunday. The announcement on Twitter came shortly after Trump and Nielsen met at the White House, according to two senior administration officials.

“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening. “I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”… (LINK TO STORY)

Trump picks Herman Cain for Fed seat, another step toward transforming board (Wall Street Journal)

President Trump said Thursday he intends to nominate former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, signaling his desire to remake the nation’s central bank after complaining about it for months.

The selection of Mr. Cain, following the president’s decision to nominate his former campaign adviser Stephen Moore, marks an effort to install two Fed critics and loyal Trump supporters on the central bank’s powerful seven-seat board. While the nominations would be subject to Senate confirmation, they would underscore Mr. Trump’s growing unhappiness with Fed policy under Jerome Powell, whom the president tapped to lead the central bank… (LINK TO STORY)


Heartbeat of the City by Jan Buchholz - A BG Media Group Production

Check out the first feature from BG Media Group: Heartbeat of the City, a three episode pilot podcast from Austin real estate insider Jan Buchholz, an award-winning reporter known for her journalism in the Austin Business Journal and her website, ATX Real Estate News.

All three episodes are up and we’d love your review and comments. You can find them here.

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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