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



BG Podcast - Episode 27: Community Conversation with Pastor Joseph C. Parker, Jr.

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Joseph C. Parker, Jr., Esq., D. Min., the Senior Pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in East Austin.

A respected community leader, he has been described as “called by God, shaped by experience, a man of action, and a Renaissance man.”

A respected voice and bridge builder on many key Austin issues, including civil rights and gentrification, Pastor Parker has been described as “called by God, shaped by experience, a man of action, and a Renaissance man.”….

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After re-election, Adler in ‘do stuff’ mode for 2019 (Austin Monitor)

As upbeat as Mayor Steve Adler stays most of the time when talking about the stalled and heavily criticized CodeNEXT rewrite of the city’s land use code, it’s still easy to hear the exasperation and disappointment that lingers over the issue.

Adler still thinks pulling the plug on the process this summer was the right move, even though it had become saddled with political baggage. In an election year that included a mayoral re-election campaign, it was an issue that could have dogged him had it remained an active piece of daily life at City Hall.

So with the land use rewrite guaranteed to be back on the front burner in 2019, what does Adler think about putting a different name on the process – to get away from the negative branding associated with CodeNEXT?

“The first thing is, I hope I’m not going to spend a lot of time on figuring out what to call it or what to brand it,” he says, flatly. “What’s more important is for us to figure out how to get it done.”…

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Cronk reflects on first year in Austin (Austin Monitor)

Less than a year after taking over as Austin’s city manager, Spencer Cronk calls himself “the luckiest person in the world.” He recognizes the many challenges Austin faces, but city administration is what he has chosen to do with his life, and he was expecting some challenges.

Not that he hasn’t been surprised by some of them. As Cronk told the Austin Monitor, Austin has had an “unprecedented” number of “unprecedented” problems in the short time he has been here, from the Austin bomber in March to the extreme November rainfall and flooding upstream that brought the city to a water crisis.

The crisis was precipitated by what Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros told Council was equivalent to four and a half times the amount of water flowing over Niagara Falls. The result was an acute water shortage, extreme amounts of silt entering the water treatment plants, and finally, an order for residents to boil water…

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Harper-Madison wants more housing, transportation options for District 1 (Austin Monitor)

Above all else, Natasha Harper-Madison, the incoming City Council member for District 1, wants to use her new platform to connect more people to the decisions made every day at City Hall.

The campaign Harper-Madison waged for the Council seat over the past year has given her hope that people want to be engaged, though it has also highlighted the major barriers to engagement.

“More people care about municipal politics than we give them credit for,” she said during an interview with the Austin Monitor at the Cookbook Bar & Cafe at the new Central Library. “However, the system is virtually impenetrable for newcomers and laymen.”

Therefore, “We have to make the system more accessible and we have to make the understanding of the hierarchy of the system more accessible.”

For instance, she said, “I think most people don’t even know there’s 56 boards and commissions” that play a major role in shaping city policy. She wants to make more people aware of the impact they can have by attending the meetings of boards and commissions – or even better, by serving on them.

Harper-Madison said it will be a major priority of hers to diversify commissions, so that “they actually represent the citizenry of the city.”…

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UT Regents Approve Arena Proposal To Replace Frank Erwin Center (KUT)

The University of Texas Board of Regents on Thursday officially approved a new arena for UT Austin. The new building will replace the 41-year-old Frank Erwin Center. 

Regents also named Matthew McConaughey the "Minister of Culture" for the arena.

UT said it will have the new arena up and running by 2021 without bearing much of the cost, thanks to an agreement with the Oak View Group.

Oak View is no stranger to the arena business. It has partnerships with some of the most famous arenas in the country, including New York’s Madison Square Garden, Dallas’ American Airlines Center and San Antonio’s AT&T Center…

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While Apple grabbed attention, Williamson County OK'd an even bigger development deal (Austin Business Journal)

Apple Inc.'s $1 billion campus wasn't the only major project to receive a boost from Williamson County this week.

Williamson County Commissioners voted Dec. 18 to join an incentive agreement to support Wolf Lakes Village, a 164-acre planned unit development at the northwest corner of I-35 and Highway 29 in Georgetown. In all, the project's backers could receive $130 million in government reimbursements.

The county government will join the city of Georgetown in a tax increment reinvestment zone, which will funnel new property tax revenue back to developers to reimburse them for infrastructure costs.

The mixed-use project is expected to include offices, amenities, open space and up to 2,500 residential units, mostly in multifamily development. The PUD zoning for Wolf Lakes Village was approved by Georgetown City Council last week…

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Report: Feds Investigating Southwest Key, Migrant Shelter Operator For Thousands Of Kids In Texas (Texas Tribune)

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Southwest Key Programs, an Austin-based nonprofit that currently houses 3,644 migrant children at more than a dozen facilities across Texas, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported Thursday that the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas has launched a probe into whether the nation’s largest operator of shelters for migrant children misused government funds. A separate Times report published earlier this month said that the shelter operator, which has received $1.1 billion in federal funds since the start of 2016, had engaged in potential financial violations, including self-dealing with top executives.

The Texas Tribune reported in September that Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez is part owner of a property leased by Southwest Key; that stake was not disclosed on the non-profit's tax return.

Spokesman Jeff Eller said Southwest Key has “not yet been contacted by the US Attorney’s office or the FBI.”…

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Former state Sen. Kevin Eltife named new chair of the UT System board (Texas Tribune)

University of Texas System regents unanimously named former state Sen. Kevin Eltife their new board chair on Thursday, elevating to the top job an outspoken critic of system-level spending, and an architect of plans to curtail the system administration's role.

Eltife, who represented Tyler in the Senate as a Republican, abstained from the vote.

"I'm extremely honored to be named chair," he said in an interview after the meeting. "I hope I leave the place better than I found it."

The decision follows a series of personnel changes at the system, including the appointment of a new chancellor in August, several high-level departures, and the unexpected announcement that former board chair, Sara Martinez Tucker, would resign her position two years before her term was expected to end…

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Criminal justice overhaul passes U.S. House, heads to Trump for signature (Texas Tribune)

The U.S. House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a sweeping overhaul of the federal prison system, a measure that sailed through the U.S. Senate earlier in the week by a similarly large consensus.

The so-called "First Step Act" — long championed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas — passed the House with a 358-36 vote with most members from Texas supporting the legislation. It will now head to President Donald Trump's desk, where he is expected to sign the bill into law.

It will require the U.S. Department of Justice to move low-risk inmates to less expensive and less restrictive confines, allow inmates to reduce their sentences if they participate in programs designed to reduce their risk of reoffending, limit the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners, work on reducing prison rape, improve prison guard training and enhance prisoner preparation for re-entry into society…

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Legislation To Make Lynching A Federal Crime Clears Historic Hurdle In Congress (KUT)

For the first time in U.S. history, the Senate has moved to make lynching a federal crime.

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed the "Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018," which, if enacted, would add a section on lynching to the part of the U.S. code of law that deals with crimes related to civil rights. The section on lynching would be added right after the section on hate crime acts.

The legislation was proposed in June by three African-American senators – Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C. It now goes to the House of Representatives…

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