BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 13, 2019)



Kitchen backs reopening Butler Park golf course contract (Austin Monitor)

City staff has been directed to examine options to reopen the bid process for management of the Butler Park Pitch and Putt golf course so the longtime owner of the course can be considered for a contract extension.

City Council Member Ann Kitchen, whose South Austin district includes the parkland property off South Lamar Boulevard where the course sits, told the Austin Monitor that the five-year contract currently up for consideration will likely be reworked so current owner Lee Kinser can have her bid evaluated along with two other finalists. Kinser, whose family has owned and managed the course for 70 years, had her bid disqualified because she neglected to include one signature in the 80-page document.

“I think it would be appropriate for the city for the Pitch and Putt contract to be reconsidered,” Kitchen said Friday. “That could be rebidding, maybe canceling the (request for proposal) and redo the process. Staff will bring their ideas to us and then we’ll go from there. Whatever happened there, it’s not a lot to be gained to leave behind a company that’s been a part of the community for a long time, and not have them even be evaluated.”… (LINK TO STORY)

City Announces Economic Development Department Finalists (City of Austin)

Following an extensive recruiting process, three candidates are now considered finalists for Economic Development Department Director.

The finalists are Veronica Briseño, Al Latimer, and Larry Westerlund.

"The finalists are exceptionally talented professionals," said Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales. "All three have a wealth of skills and experiences strongly aligned with the Economic Development Director profile developed by internal and external stakeholders."

Austinites interested in learning more about the finalists are invited to attend a meet and greet Thursday, May 16, 2 to 4 p.m., Council Chambers, City Hall. (LINK TO STORY)

Travis County Is One Of The Most At-Risk Counties For A Measles Outbreak, Study Finds (KUT)

Travis County is one of 25 counties in the U.S. that is at highest risk for a measles outbreak, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and UT Austin ranked Travis County 22nd on the list, citing its high rates of nonmedical childhood vaccination exemptions and its high volume of international travel. 

Two other Texas counties made the list, as well. Harris County ranked ninth and Tarrant County ranked 12th. So far in 2019, Harris County has reported four cases of measles. Statewide, there have been 15 reported cases of measles this year.

Along with Honolulu and and Salt Lake counties, Travis is one of the most at-risk areas near an international airport that has yet to report a measles case. The study's authors said travel from countries including India, China, Mexico, Japan, Ukraine, Philippines and Thailand appeared to pose the greatest measles risk... (LINK TO STORY)

Facebook hiring surge turns Austin into key hub for social media giant (Austin American-Statesman)

In an Austin metro area where tech is taking over, Facebook is making sure it’s part of the story. The social media giant has been growing rapidly in Central Texas, with more than 30% of its entire Austin workforce having been hired in the past two and a half years.

The uptick in employment is part of global hiring push and has made Austin into Facebook’s third-largest U.S. hub outside of its Silicon Valley headquarters. More than 1,000 employees now work at offices in downtown Austin and at the Domain development north of the city. As Facebook plans even more hiring here, the tech company said the business environment, which includes many small and medium-sized operations that use Facebook’s marketing tools, has enabled the company to flourish locally… (LINK TO STORY)


Does business support matter in San Antonio mayoral races? (San Antonio Express-News)

Twice in the past six months, San Antonio’s business leaders have publicly allied themselves with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and against the city’s public safety unions — and came up short. Some of the city’s wealthiest executives spent nearly $1.7 million on a campaign to defeat a trio of union-backed charter amendments aimed at kneecapping a loyal ally of theirs, then-City Manager Sheryl Sculley.

The result? San Antonio voters approved two of the amendments in the November elections. Sculley announced her resignation soon after. A week ago, District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse — supported by the police and fire unions and social conservatives — forced Nirenberg into a runoff despite heavy business support for the incumbent heading into the municipal elections… (LINK TO STORY)

Bill taxing e-cigs, vapes dies in Texas House after Big Tobacco, Gov. Greg Abbott push late changes (Dallas Morning News)

At the urging of the nation’s biggest tobacco company, Gov. Greg Abbott launched a late-hour push to change Texas legislation creating a 10% state retail excise tax on e-cigarette and vapor smoking products.

That legislation died in House action Thursday night due to a legislative maneuver, known as a point of order, offered by Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford. It has no realistic chance of revival because of legislative deadlines and the mandate that tax measures originate in the House, not the Senate. "I'm disappointed, to say the least," Dallas Democrat Nathan Johnson, the author of the Senate version of the bill, said in a text message. "This bill would protect kids and save public costs. It had overwhelming support in the House."… (LINK TO STORY)

Houston’s budget gap could widen after House approves bill to cut cable TV fees (Houston Chronicle)

The Texas House on Thursday approved legislation that would limit fees telecommunication and cable companies pay cities to use their rights of way, likely opening up a new spending gap of at least $12 million two days after Mayor Sylvester Turner laid out his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Senate Bill 1152, authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, passed the House on a 92-50 vote on the third and final reading Thursday. The legislation, which had received Senate approval early last month, heads back to the upper chamber, where lawmakers will decide whether to approve the House version. The measure would eliminate what cable companies and some lawmakers say is an outdated double tax levied on companies that transmit cable and phone services over the same lines. The bill would eliminate the lesser of the two charges, starting next January… (LINK TO STORY)


Border detention cells in Texas are so overcrowded that the U.S. is using aircraft to move migrants (Texas Tribune)

Overcrowding at Border Patrol stations in South Texas has become so acute in recent days that U.S. authorities have taken the rare step of using aircraft to relocate migrants to other areas of the border simply to begin processing them, according to three Homeland Security officials.

The first flight left McAllen on Friday, transferring detainees to Border Patrol facilities in Del Rio. There are daily flights scheduled for the next several days, with two planned for Tuesday, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the operations.

The flights are conducted by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, but the detainees remain in the custody of the Border Patrol, officials said. Though ICE routinely uses aircraft to move detainees among its detention facilities, it is very unusual for the Border Patrol to fly recent arrivals from one part of the border to another to perform routine booking procedures… (LINK TO STORY)

Proposed Rule Could Evict 55,000 Children From Subsidized Housing (KUT)

Tens of thousands of poor children — all of them American citizens or legal residents — could lose their housing under a new rule proposed Friday by the Trump administration.

The rule is intended to prevent people who are in the country illegally from receiving federal housing aid, which the administration argues should go to help only legal residents or citizens.

But the proposal targets 25,000 families that now receive such aid because they are of "mixed" status, which means that at least one member of the family is undocumented while the others are citizens or legal residents. These families now pay higher rents to account for their mixed status… (LINK TO STORY)


Episode 45: Political Talk with Houston Chronicle Metro Reporter Erica Grieder

On today's BG Podcast Houston Chronicle Metro Reporter Erica Grieder discusses Texas and National politics, including the current legislative session and 2020 elections, with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham.

Check out Episode 45 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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