BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 14, 2019)
Some see a plan to expand I-35 as a betrayal of Austin’s environmental values (Austin Monitor)
Last week, the Austin City Council voted to back the Green New Deal, a national plan to tackle climate change that would overhaul the U.S. economy and energy sector. It was a big gesture from a city that prides itself on its environmental leadership. But, critics say, that gesture was undercut by a vote some local leaders took earlier that week — one that would drastically expand Interstate 35.
The Capital Area Regional Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board, on which some council members also sit, approved meting out $500 million to the Texas Department of Transportation to reduce highway congestion on I-35. $400 million would go toward building out three new lanes on I-35 from Round Rock to Buda.
Supporters of the highway expansion, including the Real Estate Council of Austin, say adding lanes would help alleviate I-35’s notorious traffic. Before voting in favor of the measure, Austin Mayor Steve Adler called expansion the region’s "singular most important lift" when it comes to transportation planning… (LINK TO STORY)
Travis County leaders urge vigilance on flooding (Austin Monitor)
While heavy rains over the past two weeks have not inflicted serious damage on Travis County, with no reported fatalities or serious injuries linked to flooding, government officials are nevertheless urging residents to avoid certain waterways and to be on high alert for flooding if another storm hits.
The Parks and Recreation Department closed the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Barton Creek Pool on Friday, May 3, in response to pounding rains. It reopened the greenbelt Monday but reclosed it Wednesday. The pool remains closed, as does Red Bud Island Park and the Zilker Zephyr Train, which had some tracks “start to break away” due to flooding, the parks department said.
On Monday, after another weekend with heavy rainfall, the Austin Fire Department issued a ban on “recreational, commercial and navigational use” of Lady Bird Lake. It also issued bans on portions of Lake Travis… (LINK TO STORY)
Austin district ready to restyle school dress code (Austin American-Statesman)
Austin district leaders could revamp the dress code policy in time for next school year to remove language that some say unfairly targets female students and specific cultures.
The potential changes come just months after a local group petitioned the district to reexamine the current policy, saying it doesn’t align with district values of inclusivity and calling it “vague, arbitrary, sexist and racist.”
The Austin district last updated its dress code policy in 2007, and district leaders said it’s overdue for a change. District officials on Wednesday night will meet with a working group of 20 to 30 parents, students and employees to determine how to change the policy… (LINK TO STORY)
Democrats flex in Texas Legislature, with an eye on 2020 (Houston Chronicle)
After picking up 14 seats in the midterm elections, Democrats are using their increased numbers this session to derail key Republican priorities in a state where the left has long been out of power.
In flexing their political muscle, Democrats have blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s embattled secretary of state nominee and helped stop a sales tax hike that GOP leaders had championed in order to cut property taxes. "This session more than other sessions, the Democratic caucus has stuck together more. We’ve communicated a lot better,” said Senate Democratic Leader José Rodríguez of El Paso. "I think the midterm elections may have had something to do with the caucus being much more united."… (LINK TO STORY)
True cost of health care: New data shows routine blood tests in Texas can cost anywhere between $14 to $952 (San Antonio Express-News)
For consumers, it comes as no surprise that the world of health care pricing is unpredictable, but new research released by the Health Care Cost Institute shows just how different the prices for common medical services can be — from city to city, but also from clinic to clinic within the same market.
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the research is based on an analysis of employer-sponsored health insurance claims of 34 million Americans in 112 markets. Researchers analyzed the price of 13,517 blood tests within the San Antonio-New Braunfels area and found that prices for the test can cost anywhere from $56 to $492. It’s difficult for patients to know whether the lab they choose is charging more than the lab down the street… (LINK TO STORY)
Lagging behind, Julián Castro needs a moment (Austin American-Statesman)
At an East Austin fundraiser Wednesday evening, Julián Castro engaged his audience of about 100 in a fantasy of his first day as president in 2021, arriving at the White House with his family to usher out the Trumps.
For Castro, and the Democratic voters he hopes to appeal to, it is a sweet image, ripe with cosmic comeuppance: the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, becoming America’s first Hispanic president, replacing the man whose candidacy began with the disparagement of Mexican immigrants. For the moment, it appears nothing more than a daydream. Castro is well back in the pack of what are now 21 Democratic presidential aspirants, scoring at less than 1 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls… (LINK TO STORY)
Florida Republicans warn that Trump’s Venezuela policy is at risk of backfiring (Washington Post)
Some Florida Republicans are warning that President Trump’s Venezuela policy risks creating political problems in the must-win state, where the fate of that Latin American nation is hugely important to large Venezuelan and Cuban immigrant communities.
Trump has tied his toughness toward Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, to his domestic political message, citing it as evidence that he is fighting socialism while he accuses Democrats of embracing it. But without Maduro’s ouster, Trump’s policies could look weak and his effort could seem a failure — turning Venezuela into a political liability. That compounds other dangers for Trump among Hispanic voters in Florida. His new restrictions on Cuba win praise from older Cuban Americans, but polls in recent years show a younger generation favors more open relations.s… (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.