BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 30, 2019)



Episode 48 - Policy Update on Palm School and the Austin Convention Center

On this episode, Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña updates on discussions around Austin’s Palm School.

Significantly, at its 5/23 meeting the Austin City Council unanimously voted a resolution directing city staff to begin extensive study of information related to preserving the Palm School. Also included there were directions to study the expansion of the Austin Convention Center (itself a point of contention on the dais).



Under tax cap, Austin projects $58 million funding gap by 2024 (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin will see an estimated $58 million gap between its revenue and expenses by 2024, the city’s deputy chief financial officer said last week, because of bills approved by the Texas Legislature that will reduce the amount property tax revenue can increase and limit the franchise fees the city can collect.

The tax measure, approved by the Texas House and Senate and expected to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, will reduce from 8% to 3.5% the amount a local entity’s property tax revenue can increase year over year without approval from voters. It is set to go into effect Jan. 1 — too late to affect the 2020 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 — but is projected to lead to an immediate expenditures-revenue gap for fiscal year 2021… (LINK TO STORY)

Parks board critiques Butler Pitch & Putt solicitation, recommends change of hands (Austin Monitor)

Parks board members were less concerned about the golf course character than the city procedures that have put Kinser, who has operated her small business for over 35 years, in this situation.

Board Member Romteen Farasat proposed taking no action on the staff recommendation to send a strong message to Council that the city needs to look into updating that solicitation process.

“Right now what I’m seeing is that a small business is being choked out, an iconic small business is being choked out in the city of Austin, and I don’t know if we have any authority at this point in time to reverse the current situation, but you know, at the very least what we can do is take this as a learning opportunity and fix it for future situations,” Farasat said.

While sympathizing with the intent, other board members preferred to take action. Following Board Member Fred Morgan’s motion of approval, Board Member Rich DePalma drafted additional language to address the solicitation process flaws and prevent a similar situation from happening again… (LINK TO STORY)

Citing discrimination, City Council considers changing homelessness ordinances (Austin Monitor)

City Council has decided it is time to take a hard look at the city’s policies associated with homelessness and take dramatic action.

The homeless population in Austin is continuing to grow as the city’s population swells. According to the annual study conducted by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, homelessness increased 5 percent between 2018 and 2019. That was on top of the 5 percent increase that the city experienced from 2017-18.

Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza and Council members Greg Casar, Natasha Harper-Madison and Pio Renteria are bringing forward a resolution at the June 6 Council meeting in an effort to repeal or amend ordinances that target the homeless by prohibiting panhandling, camping and sitting on the sidewalk.

Additionally, Council will be allocating around $8 million in funds to directly address the lack of housing and support services for the homeless… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin FC announces first crop of youth academy players (Community Impact)

Local soccer fans will be able to watch players donning an Austin FC jersey as soon as fall 2019 after the Major League Soccer club announced its first-ever roster of youth academy players.

The Under 14 team, composed exclusively of Austin-area boys born in or after 2006, is the first academy team announced by Austin FC. According to a May 29 press release, the U14 team will begin playing in fall 2019 against other MLS academies and other youth soccer clubs in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy system.

“Austin is very rich in talented youth soccer players,” Junro Narita, head coach of the U14 team, said in a press release. “This group represents a genuine integration of players with diverse backgrounds, skill sets and personalities that reflect this vibrant community.”… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

BG Podcast Episode 46: Austin FC Updates from Club President Andy Loughnane


Texas Republicans and Democrats already using legislative session to rally support in 2020 elections (Dallas Morning News)

As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visited lawmakers on the House floor before they adjourned, he beamed about the significance of the legislative session. "I can't be more pleased," he said Tuesday. "It was a home run." When asked whether the success of the session would help Republicans hold control of Texas, the governor said "yes," just before a standing ovation prevented him from elaborating.

Republicans needed a home run –– perhaps a grand slam –– to stop the momentum Democrats enjoy after the 2018 midterm elections, when they flipped 12 seats in the Texas House and two in the Senate. For Republicans the 2019 legislative session was a reset, as lawmakers attempted to show Texans that they could mostly put aside wedge issues to find solutions for lingering problems like school finance and property tax relief… (LINK TO STORY)

Energy exports help Laredo to become top U.S. trade hub (Houston Chronicle)

Booming energy exports and shifting patterns in international commerce have made the Port of Laredo the nation’s top center for trade, supplanting the longtime leader, the Port of Los Angeles.

In March, $20.1 billion of combined imports and exports moved through the Texas border city, surpassing the $19.7 billion through the Port of Los Angeles, according to recently released statistics from Commerce Department. Two key factors propelled Laredo ahead of Los Angeles —growing U.S. trade with Mexico, much of which goes through Laredo, and declining trade with China, L.A.’s top trading partner, as tariffs and counter-tariffs in the recent trade war take their toll… (LINK TO STORY)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings endorses Joe Biden for president, snubbing Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is backing Joe Biden for president, saying the nation needs someone who will beat Donald Trump in 2020. "Job No. 1 is to make sure Donald Trump is not president for four more years," Rawlings told The Dallas Morning News in an exclusive interview. "Joe Biden is the candidate I know will beat him."

Biden, the former vice president, is in Dallas Wednesday for a fundraiser hosted by several prominent Democratic donors. He'll then join Rawlings for a public event related to education. "Closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots is tops on his agenda," Rawlings said. "That's right up my alley."… (LINK TO STORY)

After blocking David Whitley's confirmation, Senate Democrats see bills die on Abbott’s desk (Texas Tribune)

In the final days of the legislative session, with a Senate confirmation looking increasingly unlikely for embattled Secretary of State David Whitley, Gov. Greg Abbott ramped up efforts to confirm his longtime aide, calling several Senate Democrats individually to his office to try to change their votes.

Democrats stayed united with a bloc large enough to prevent Whitley from keeping his job — but they feared that there might be retribution.

And then on Monday, minutes before the Senate gaveled out — and minutes after news broke that Whitley had resigned from the post — the Republican governor publicly doled out what some Senate Democrats see as punishment for holding firm. A Senate clerk read out the news: Abbott had vetoed four seemingly uncontroversial bills authored by several of the Democrats whose opposition had doomed his nominee… (LINK TO STORY)


Uber To Start Banning Passengers With Low Ratings (NPR)

Uber has unveiled a new policy that enables the company to kick riders with low ratings to the curb.

For years, Uber allowed passengers to rate drivers on a star system, ultimately allowing customers to influence whether drivers can stay behind the wheel. Internal charts from 2014 published by Business Insider showed that drivers with ratings of 4.6 or below were at risk for the boot.

Though drivers could rate passengers, there was no equivalency in consequences. But now Uber's drivers will have a greater say about the behavior of passengers.

"Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability," Kate Parker, Uber's head of Safety Brand and Initiatives, said in a statement released Tuesday. Parker added, "While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it's the right thing to do."… (LINK TO STORY)

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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