BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 10, 2019)
On today’s episode the Bingham Group team marks its Two Year Anniversary!
Public Affairs Associate Intern Julie Potrykus speaks with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham about the start of the firm, reflecting on the past two years, and what’s ahead. She also speaks with Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña who recently joined the firm about his experience in the Austin market.
Land development code rewrite: Council works through responses to Cronk’s memo (Austin Monitor)
According to Brent Lloyd, assistant city attorney at the Development Services Department, Austin City Council has already provided the “raw material” that will be necessary to guide city staffers as they begin to take up the task of writing a new land development code this year.
Council members have been drafting their responses to City Manager Spencer Cronk’s five questions and discussing them on Council’s online message board in preparation for Thursday’s public hearing and discussion. Prompted by an initial joint response by Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza and Council Member Greg Casar, nearly all of the Council members had drafted an initial response to each of Cronk’s questions prior to Council’s Tuesday morning work session.
On the first question, concerning the scope of the code revision, each of the Council members agreed that a new code would be preferable to amending the existing code. With a few exceptions, most also agreed that a development code text and map should be developed at roughly the same time, providing that parts of the mapping could be postponed so that the initial zoning process would not be held back by a few areas where Council members would prefer more detailed plans.
The question of mapping, more than the text part of the code, quickly led Council into the weeds as members discussed the issue at the Tuesday work session. Objections to a thorough remapping process ranged from the insistence by Council Member Ann Kitchen that a number of areas will need greater “context sensitivity” than a zoning map could provide, to the concerns of Council Member Kathie Tovo that the four neighborhood conservation combining districts, like Hyde Park in her own district, would lose their hard-fought battles to preserve special zoning designations.
Admittedly already frustrated by the conversation, Garza said that insisting on “context sensitivity” was shortsighted because “context changes over time.” She added it wasn’t so long ago that context sensitivity led to the city plan that racially segregated Austin… (LINK TO STORY)
Austin startup Frog leaps into crowded e-scooter market (Austin American-Statesman)
There’s another four-letter startup to add to Austin’s growing list of electric scooter companies: Frog.
Austin-based Frog, which debuted Tuesday, joins Bird, Lime, Jump, Spin, Lyft, Uber and a number of other small ventures that have filled city streets with the dockless e-scooters.
But Austinites won’t see Frog scooters around town until the company tests markets in Portugal and Chile, company executives say.
Felipe Correa, the company’s chief operating officer, said he expects Frog to expand into the U.S. and Texas by mid-year and be on four continents by the end of the year.
“I hope that when we do come forward in Austin, our hometown will take a close look at us and help us become part of the landscape,” Correa said. Frog has 10 employees based in Austin, with plans to more than double that number by the end of the year.
Correa, who has been based in Austin for more than two decades, said he and his business partners decided to base the startup here because they “live and breathe this town.”
Frog is aiming to be the good guys of the e-scooter industry, promising to work with cities and municipalities in an effort to avoid relying on freelance “chargers,” who pick up scooters around the city. Instead, each area will have full-time territory managers and local staff members that manage their own Frog fleet.
“We believe that our owner-operator model allows us to have quality control over our fleets,” Correa said. “This allows us to be a presence in the communities, and that allows us to have local accountability.”… (LINK TO STORY)
Akwasi Evans, Longtime Austin Publisher And Activist, Dies At 71 (KUT)
Longtime Austin publisher and civil rights activist Akwasi Evans has died. He was 71.
"Akwasi had a wonderful spirit. He was a fighter," said Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, adding that Evans had been dealing with health issues. "He worked really hard to make sure that the East Austin African American community was represented and that it had a significant role in the development of Austin. He was one-of-a-kind and will be sorely missed."
The Commissioners Court held a moment of silence after Travillion announced his death Tuesday morning.… (LINK TO STORY)
Texas could soon increase the legal age to buy tobacco, though active military members might be exempt (Texas Tribune)
The age of Texans who can legally buy tobacco products could soon raise from 18 to 21 years old — except for active military members.
The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed Senate Bill 21 in a 20-11 vote after state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, amended her own legislation to include the military exemption. State Sen. John Whitmire of Houston was the only Democrat who voted against the bill.
The bill faced some opposition from Republicans who criticized the age raise because, they said, it denied the right for young adults who enlist in the military to choose to use tobacco products, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday. The exception for military members allows Texans who are 18 and older and serving in the armed forces to purchase tobacco products if they have a valid military ID.
A companion bill in the lower chamber passed unanimously out of a Texas House committee last month but did not have the exception for active military. The author of the House bill, Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, said he would accept an exemption for active military as it would still keep tobacco products away from high school students, according to the Dallas newspaper. Zerwas was not immediately available for comment… (LINK TO STORY)
Texas Senate Passes Budget With Money For Property Tax Cuts — But No Plan For How To Spend It (KUT)
The Texas Senate on Tuesday approved a two-year, $248 billion spending plan that includes $2.7 billion for a nebulous goal of property tax “relief” — but with seven weeks left in the 2019 legislative session, the upper chamber has yet to rally behind a way to spend those funds.
The Senate budget also includes a $6.3 billion boost for public schools — about $4 billion of which would increase teachers’ and librarians’ annual salaries by $5,000, with $2.3 billion set aside for unspecified aid to school districts. And it orders the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to cut Medicaid expenses by nearly $1 billion, without identifying a way of doing so.
“We must take action this session to provide meaningful, lasting property tax relief,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican and the Senate’s lead budget writer.
The $2.7 billion in state funds set aside to pay for local property tax cuts “will conform to whatever solution for tax relief is agreed to this session,” she said… (LINK TO STORY)
Dallas, Houston considered for new migrant shelters as monthly apprehensions expected to reach 100,000 (Dallas Morning News)
Thousands of asylum-seeking children could be headed to Dallas as the federal government looks to relieve pressure on a bloated immigration system and overwhelmed nonprofit shelters along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has contacted Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to gauge the county's willingness and ability to house some migrants as shelters along the border become overwhelmed by the number of asylum seekers vying to stay in the U.S… (LINK TO STORY)
Trump heads to Houston Wednesday to boost oil and gas sector (Houston Chronicle)
President Donald Trump will travel to Houston Wednesday to announce executive orders aimed at speeding up pipeline and other energy projects and expanding oil and natural gas production, a senior White House official said.
The president is scheduled to appear at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, a union-run training facility spread over 265 acres. There he is expected to speak about how he plans to aid the United States' booming domestic oil and gas production and further shift away from foreign imports… (LINK TO STORY)