BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 29, 2019)



Austin can afford to build only 3% of the 2,580 miles of sidewalk it wants, audit finds (Austin Monitor)

The city of Austin has the resources to build out only 3 percent of its missing sidewalks, according to a new city audit.

The mobility bond Austin voters approved in 2016 set aside $37.5 million to build and maintain city sidewalks over an eight-year period, but the audit released today suggests the Public Works Department is spending that money more quickly than anticipated. The city’s 2016 Sidewalk Master Plan, which has guided sidewalk projects, identified 2,580 miles of missing sidewalks in the city. All told, that $37.5 million could construct only 40 to 60 miles of sidewalk.

But the auditor’s office notes the Public Works Department did well following the master plan’s recommendations last year. Four miles of sidewalk were built in District 1, the most in any district, followed by 2.6 in District 4 and 2.2 in District 9… (LINK TO STORY)

Circuit of the Americas denied second chance at $25 million (Austin American-Statesman)

An effort to allow Circuit of the Americas officials to seek reimbursement from a state economic development fund for the 2018 U.S. Grand Prix fell short in the waning days of the legislative session.

The House had approved a measure, tacked onto a bill relating to the Texas Motor Speedway, that would give event organizers more time to submit a human trafficking prevention plan as part of an application to the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program. Because circuit organizers had missed a deadline to submit the plan, Gov. Greg Abbott denied their request for $25 million through the program, used to reimburse eligible events for the economic impact they bring to the state. The House measure would have given race promoters a second chance to apply for the reimbursement… (LINK TO STORY)

H-E-B at South Congress and Oltorf set to undergo two year-long renovation (Community Impact)

The longest-standing H-E-B in Austin will be undergoing a major renovation. The grocery store at 2400 S. Congress St. opened in 1957, and H-E-B will expand and renovate the location to offer additional services, according to a media release. Construction is set to begin next year, according to H-E-B, and the company expects renovations to finish in 2022.

The current store will stay open through the permitting and planning process, according to H-E-B, then when construction begins a temporary store will open at the Twin Oaks Shopping Center.

The current store is 69,000 square feet, and that space will expand to more than 100,000 square feet after the renovation. H-E-B said in the media release that new features will include a food hall with indoor and outdoor dining spaces, two levels of underground parking, and a beer garden… (LINK TO STORY)


House Speaker Bonnen pours water on Texas GOP’s civil war as legislative session ends (Houston Chronicle)

Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen tried to snuff out any remnants of the GOP civil war Monday, saying attacks from the party’s arch conservatives are not worth stressing about and threatening consequences for House members who campaign against each other in the next election. With the legislative session over, lawmakers will soon turn their attention to the 2020 elections. Each of the 150 members of the House is up for re-election.

Bonnen threatened political retribution against members who campaign against each other ahead of the 2020 elections, as had happened in the 2018 midterms. That year, for example, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, sent members of his staff to Houston to campaign against Republican Rep. Sarah Davis. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott also opposed Davis, as well as two other incumbent GOP lawmakers, in primary races… (LINK TO STORY)

Border wall on private land near El Paso lacks necessary permits, local officials say (Texas Tribune)

The organization that raised millions of dollars to construct a border barrier on private land over the Memorial Day weekend will be issued a cease-and-desist letter due to a lack of permits needed for the project, a spokesperson for the city of Sunland Park, said Tuesday.

The group, We Build the Wall, used millions raised from a GoFundMe page to fund construction of about a half-mile barrier near the Texas-New Mexico state line across from Mexico. The site is on land owned by American Eagle Brick Co. and is just a few miles from downtown El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso. The site is in the U.S. Border Patrol's El Paso sector… (LINK TO STORY)

Bonnen says it `wouldn’t be right’ to seek speakership in 2021 if House turns blue (Austin American-Statesman)

Last Thursday I interviewed Speaker Dennis Bonnen for a story in Sunday’s paper, Through bipartisanship, Bonnen seeks to secure GOP grip on Texas House. In the course of that conversation I asked the speaker if Democrats won a narrow House majority in 2020, whether it was “hypothetically possible that you could be speaker in a Democratic House”come 2021.

“That wouldn’t be right for the House,” Bonnen replied. “I don’t think it’s possible and I wouldn’t even consider it.” Now, that might seem an obvious answer to a kind of stupid question. But here’s why I asked it. Almost three weeks ago I was talking with state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, about the speaker. Nevárez was among the Democrats tapped by Bonnen for important chairmanships this session, leading the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee… (LINK TO STORY)

HPD Chief Acevedo blasts bill allowing unlicensed Texans to carry handguns in public after disasters (Houston Chronicle)

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on Monday blasted a bill that would allow people without a handgun license to carry pistols in public — openly or concealed — for a week after a disaster is declared.

“We experienced one of the worst disasters in Texas history during Harvey,” Acevedo wrote. “This bill wasn’t needed then and isn’t needed now. This will embolden 20,000+ gang members & will not help LE [law enforcement]. Let’s hope it isn’t signed.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Dallas, McKinney urge Gov. Greg Abbott to veto bill limiting cities' construction regulations (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas and McKinney are among cities urging Gov. Greg Abbott to veto a bill that would limit cities' ability to regulate construction of housing and commercial buildings.

Advocates maintain that the proposed bar on cities imposing construction regulations exceeding basic national standards will reduce costs by quashing mandates now in place that benefit dominant vendors. Model codes that would rule are written by groups combining industry and government fire and building safety officials. Lee Kleinman, a Dallas City Council member and the council’s legislative liaison, wrote Abbott urging him to veto House Bill 2439, which the House sent Abbott last week… (LINK TO STORY)


U.S. Warns Of Spy Dangers Of Chinese-Made Drones (NPR)

Drones have become an increasingly popular tool for industry and government.

Electric utilities use them to inspect transmission lines. Oil companies fly them over pipelines. The Interior Department even deployed them to track lava flows at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.

But the Department of Homeland Security is warning that drones manufactured by Chinese companies could pose security risks, including that the data they gather could be stolen.

The department sent out an alert on the subject on May 20, and a video on its website notes that drones in general pose multiple threats, including "their potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy."… (LINK TO STORY)

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