BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 21, 2018)



BG Podcast - Special Episode: 2018 Thanksgiving Round Up

We’re off this week, so thought we’d touch back on some of our popular shows (10) from this season. Check those out below!

We’d also appreciate you helping us with a short listener survey, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Austin ISD faces unpopular options to fix budget: Closing schools and redrawing boundaries (Austin Monitor )

It’s time for the Austin Independent School District to do something drastic to improve its financial situation, says a member of a task force studying its budget.

On the table: closing schools and changing boundaries.

“There are some really key things that the district can look at and they’ve known about and quite frankly they’ve just avoided dealing with for decades now, because they were just politically difficult,” said Robert Thomas, one of the chairs of the Budget Stabilization Task Force. “They no longer have that flexibility.”

The district is expected to run through its reserves in the next few years if it doesn’t change its spending. To try to prevent that, the district gathered a group of 30 community members who spent the last five months reviewing the budget and looking for ways to save.

AISD is in this financial situation for a few reasons. Its enrollment continues to decline as students leave for charter schools or schools in more affordable districts. Because districts receive money from the state based on how many students are enrolled, AISD is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars…

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MetCenter developer sues city of Austin over deal gone wrong (Austin Business Journal)

Zydeco Development Corp. executives thought a $31 million deal to move Austin Municipal Court to the MetCenter office complex was a done deal. Now they're taking the city to court after the deal turned sour.

Met Center Partners-11 Ltd. — a limited partnership controlled by Zydeco — sued the city of Austin Nov. 19 in Travis County District Court, accusing it of fraud and negligence. Zydeco is seeking more than $1 million plus legal fees.

The legal battle pits the developer of MetCenter, a sprawling business park near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, against the city as it looks to provide relief for the outdated Municipal Court, which is currently located on East Seventh Street.

The lawsuit named as defendants interim Assistant City Manager Sara Hensley along with Alex Gale and Gloria Aguilera, staffers in Austin's Office of Real Estate Services.

In May, Austin City Council authorized staff to negotiate and execute a 10-year agreement to move the Municipal Court into 96,000 square feet at MetCenter, which is mostly owned by Zydeco. The $31.3 million deal would have included an option for a 10-year extension — but it never came to fruition…

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Austin’s B-cycle was riding high. Then scooters came to town. (Austin American-Statesman)

Dockless scooters and bikes, suddenly a fixture in Austin’s urban core, are squeezing out the city’s original street bike rental program.

B-cycle, the dock-based bike rental program owned by the city of Austin, has seen a sharp decrease in rides taken in most parts of the city since dockless transportation first began to appear on Austin streets this spring, said Elliott McFadden, who runs Bike Share of Austin, the nonprofit that has operated B-cycle on behalf of the city since 2013.

“It’s definitely impacted the overall ridership and sustainability of the system, and that’s something we’ve tracked and is a direct correlation to the number of (dockless) vehicles that have been permitted. Each time the city allows a new vendor in, we do see a new dip in ridership,” he said, noting that B-cycle remains competitive around the University of Texas. The nonprofit started offering free rides to students in February.

In October, slightly more than 9,000 rides were taken by people who weren’t UT students, compared with just more than 20,000 rides in October 2017, according to B-cycle data.

B-cycle revenue and ridership downtown has dropped 40 percent since the beginning of the year, McFadden said.

The city and the nonprofit renewed a contract for five years this spring, following five years of relative success. B-cycle has covered most of its operating costs through membership fees, McFadden said. Amid dropping revenue, B-cycle has been forced to lean heavily on revenue generated from advertisements displayed on the bikes and docks, McFadden said…

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See Also:

BG Podcast - Episode 18: Talking Scooter Share with Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation

BG Podcast - Episode 14: Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation Department

Dissatisfied with lack of compromise, Historic Landmark Commission stalls (Austin Monitor)

After its fourth public hearing, the Clarksville storybook house remains a point of contention between owner, commission and the Clarksville Community Development Corporation.

Priscilla Glover, the owner of 1002 Charlotte St., told the commissioners at their Nov. 19 meeting, “I have heard your comments on the design of my house. I’m not changing it.”

She noted that all three of her directly adjacent neighbors were supportive of her design, and that as the home is designed in the Tudor revival style, it fits within the character of the community, which she called “eclectic.”

To corroborate her claim, neighbor Sharon Miller came to show her support of the home and presented a slideshow of properties that contribute to the Clarksville historic register district. There were two Tudor revival homes, a contemporary structure, a prairie home, and one with no stylistic influence. “In addition to them, (Clarksville cottages) we have a wide variety of contributing properties in the Clarksville,” Miller said. She explained that the variety of structures that have been constructed over the years contributes to making Clarksville such a unique historical district…

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Analysis: For Texas politicians, the season of receiving has arrived (Texas Tribune)

Politics, like farming or television, has its regular seasons. There’s the election season that just ended, and the governing season that follows.

In Texas politics, the season of groveling — it’s also known as “the late train,” “sack-dragging” and the more functional “fundraising” — comes in between.

Fundraising actually goes on most of the time. Candidates go through a yearlong stretch that begins in the last two months of odd-numbered years, in the lead-up to filing for office. It continues in earnest leading up to the March party primaries and, for an unlucky few, into May runoff elections. The visits and phone calls to donors continue through the summer and peak again in the fall, as candidates get closer to the November general elections…

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With federal agents redeployed to manage migrant caravan, Texas border-crossers expect long holiday waits (Texas Tribune)

Keep calm and come on over.

That’s the holiday message city and business officials here are sending to their neighbors directly across the Texas-Mexico border.

Given that local Customs and Border Protection Agents have been redeployed to California and Arizona ahead of the anticipated arrival of a caravan of Central American migrants to those border states, wait times are likely to spike at Texas' key ports of entry — ahead of the busiest international shopping season of the year.

“This is historically a very busy period,” Hector Mancha, Customs and Border Protection's director of field operations in El Paso, said in a statement. “Border-crossers should take steps to help themselves and also plan to build extra time into their schedules to accommodate what will be longer-than-normal processing times.”…

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Trump Says U.S. Will Remain 'Steadfast Partner' Of Saudis, Despite Khashoggi Killing (KUT)

President Trump declared on Tuesday that his administration will remain a "steadfast partner" of Saudi Arabia, despite the CIA's assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally approved the killing last month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't," Trump said of the crown prince's knowledge of the killing.

The president's statement suggests he has no plans to further punish the crown prince or the Saudi government, although Trump said he would be open punitive measures if Congress demands them. But he stressed he would weigh any such steps against American interests as he sees them…

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Trump defends daughter Ivanka’s use of personal email for government work (Washington Post)

President Trump defended his daughter Ivanka’s use of a personal email account for government business Tuesday as newly empowered House Democrats vowed to investigate whether she violated federal law.

Trump dismissed comparisons of his daughter to Hillary Clinton, whom he repeatedly criticized throughout the 2016 presidential campaign for use of a personal email server for her work as secretary of state in the Obama administration. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33,000. She wasn’t doing anything to hide her emails. I looked at it just very briefly today and the presidential records — they’re all in presidential records. There was no hiding,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he departed for Florida. “There was no server in the basement like Hillary Clinton had,” he continued, “you were talking about a whole different, you’re talking about fake news. So what Ivanka did, it’s all in the presidential records. Everything is there.” Questioned on whether he would allow congressional Democrats to interview her, Trump answered: “Ivanka can take care of herself.” Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence. She first used her personal email to contact Cabinet officials in early 2017, before she joined the White House as an unpaid senior adviser, according to emails obtained by American Oversight and first reported by Newsweek. When she joined the White House, Trump pledged to comply “with all ethics rules.” But she continued to occasionally use her personal email in her official capacity, people familiar with an administration review of her email use told The Washington Post…

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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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