BG Reads | News You Need to Know (December 26, 2018)



For Garza, D2 growth brings services and focus on land use (Austin Monitor)

There’s a blown-up map of Southeast Austin in the office of District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, with multicolored overlays providing a look at the total scope of residential and commercial development in progress in the area.

There are dozens of them, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise since low property values east of Interstate 35 have helped to draw much of Austin’s growth that way in recent years. In neighboring districts – 1 and 3 specifically – that growth has caused waves of displacement and gentrification and the attendant concerns that come with longtime residents being priced out of their homes.

Gentrification isn’t the main concern Garza expresses when discussing all the new rooftops coming to her district, since much of the development is taking up property that was previously vacant or underused. Instead, her hope is that the families and newcomers moving into District 2 will start to attract more city services and bring commercial offerings closer to residents in traditionally low-income areas like Del Valle, where she said residents have been waiting more than a decade for a proper grocery store…

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Renteria looks at 2018 and beyond (Austin Monitor)

As he starts his second four-year term at City Hall, District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria says he plans to concentrate on affordable housing in the coming year, just as he did in 2018 and the three previous years.

Fresh off a runoff victory against his sister, Susana Almanza, Renteria told the Austin Monitor he wasn’t happy about running against her again. But now that he’s won, Renteria is taking the attitude, “It’s over with, just one of those things.”

He won with 64 percent of the vote, compared to Almanza’s 36 percent in the Dec. 11 runoff.

Renteria has been very pleased with the Council’s major hire of the past year, City Manager Spencer Cronk. He said Cronk is doing more to get to know city employees than his predecessor ever did; for example, he attended the city of Austin’s employee Olympics. Renteria also praised Cronk for his willingness to listen, a trait other Council members have noted.

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Greg Casar optimistic but ready to fight in 2019 (Austin Monitor)

Council Member Greg Casar has a lot of good things to say about 2018.

“In January we laid out a set of goals,” he said, referring to his staff. “We accomplished all of the big priorities.”

“Even though we’re under state leadership that is hostile to those sorts of goals, I think that the community and the Council came together around really important issues this year,” he adds.

First, Council and voters approved a $250 million affordable housing bond. The bond, which voters backed overwhelmingly in November, was far larger than the $87 million initially proposed by city staff last year. Casar vocally advocated for a much larger measure, arguing not only that the city’s housing crisis demanded more, but that voters, who only six years ago rejected a $75 million measure, were ready to do something drastic on housing.

Another major policy victory for Casar came when Council approved a paid sick leave ordinance making Austin the first city in the South to require employers to offer paid time off for an illness or a family member’s illness…

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Cronk picks one familiar face, one newcomer for executive team (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk named his first two executive team hires Friday, passing over two interim assistant city managers in favor of one alternate in-house hire and one newcomer.

Rodney Gonzales, the director of Austin’s Development Services Department, will become the assistant city manager overseeing economic opportunity and affordability. Christopher Shorter, the director of Washington, D.C., Public Works, will be assistant city manager over health, environment, culture and lifelong learning.

Sara Hensley and Joe Pantalion, who have been filling those roles on an interim basis, were both finalists for the positions. They will now return to their previous roles as directors of the Parks and Recreation and Watershed Protection departments, respectively.

Cronk made waves at City Hall over the summer when he announced he would replace all five of his assistant city manager positions with new roles, forcing the city’s top staffers to reapply for their jobs alongside external candidates. Two of the assistant city managers, Mark Washington and Robert Goode, departed for other jobs after the announcement…

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Who’s No. 1? Austin, not Dallas, tops the charts for best places to live and start a business (Dallas Morning News)

Last week, Inc. magazine unveiled the 50 best places to start a business, and Austin led the list of top surge cities. Dallas came in at No. 17.

Last spring, U.S. News and World Report ranked the best places to live in America, and Austin was No. 1 for the second year in a row. Dallas was 18th. Just over a year ago, Moody’s Analytics did a deep dive on 65 metros to determine the best location for Amazon’s second headquarters. Austin ranked first, based on several dozen data points, while North Texas was far behind — Dallas-Plano-Irving at 34th, Fort Worth-Arlington at 55th. All this (and there’s more) might be enough to give D-FW an inferiority complex, except that it’s one of the country’s leading economies. This region has added about 100,000 jobs annually for several years and is on a similar pace this year. But Austin is definitely having a moment, and it seems to be lasting for the better part of a decade. And it’s not just about winning beauty contests with the media and economists. Austin has been growing jobs at a faster rate than Dallas and pulling in over 2,400 residents a year from North Texas. It’s also landed some major projects that would have made Dallas leaders scream for joy. This month, Apple unveiled a billion-dollar expansion plan that will add 5,000 to 15,000 jobs in Austin. In October, a Honeywell spinoff named Resideo (annual revenue of $4.5 billion) designated Austin as its headquarters. In July, the Army chose Austin for its Futures Command HQ, which will lead to billions in new research and development…

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ICE dumps hundreds of migrants with nowhere to go at a bus station on eve of Christmas without warning shelters (Texas Tribune)

EL PASO – Hundreds of asylum-seekers spent part of Christmas Eve in a downtown parking lot here without knowing where they’ll end up next.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents began dropping off the migrants late Sunday at a local bus station without warning local shelters that usually take in large groups after they seek asylum and are released by federal agents. About 200 arrived Sunday, about 200 more arrived Monday and the total number could exceed 800 by Wednesday, according to U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso.

Normally, ICE would alert the Annunciation House, a local shelter that has taken in tens of thousands of migrants and has several locations across this border city. But that didn’t happen Sunday night, O'Rourke said…

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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus launches advocacy group as he steps down (San Antonio Express-News)

Come January, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus will hand over the gavel after 10 years in power. But the San Antonio Republican won’t be leaving the state’s capital. Straus plans to use the remaining $8.5 million in his campaign coffers to launch a new organization to advocate for issues he cares about — public education, infrastructure and water needs, to name a few.

“I won’t be a constant presence and I have no plans to spend any time at the Capitol, but I’ll be around and be involved in helping from the outside,” he said this week, sitting for an interview at long, wooden table in a third-floor conference room of the Capitol. Straus has already vacated his second floor office — and the adjoining apartment — for maintenance. “I’m not planning to disappear,” he added. Straus, however, is leaving the chamber at a pivotal moment. His record-tying five terms as Speaker ended on a sour note, after public clashes with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over contentious social issues and a censure from the State Republican Executive Committee. Others in the GOP faulted Straus for opposing issues promoted by Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott. But now — with school finance reform poised to be a top priority for Texas Republican leaders in 2019 — Straus sees a victory. “It seems that a lot of the priorities we worked on are now becoming priorities for everyone,” Straus said. “And, so I think that’s a very good feeling for me to walk out of here knowing that things have come around.”…

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For Trump, ‘a war every day,’ waged increasingly alone (New York Times)

When President Trump grows frustrated with advisers during meetings, which is not an uncommon occurrence, he sits back in his chair, crosses his arms and scowls. Often he erupts. “Freaking idiots!” he calls his aides. Except he uses a more pungent word than “freaking.”

For two years, Mr. Trump has waged war against his own government, convinced that people around him are fools. Angry that they resist his wishes, uninterested in the details of their briefings, he becomes especially agitated when they tell him he does not have the power to do what he wants, which makes him suspicious that they are secretly undermining him. Now, the president who once declared that “I alone can fix” the system increasingly stands alone in a system that seems as broken as ever. The swirl of recent days — a government shutdown, spiraling scandals, tumbling stock markets, abrupt troop withdrawals and the resignation of his alienated defense secretary — has left the impression of a presidency at risk of spinning out of control. At the midpoint of his term, Mr. Trump has grown more sure of his own judgment and more cut off from anyone else’s than at any point since taking office. He spends ever more time in front of a television, often retreating to his residence out of concern that he is being watched too closely. As he sheds advisers at a head-spinning rate, he reaches out to old associates, complaining that few of the people around him were there at the beginning. Mr. Trump is said by advisers to be consumed by the multiplying investigations that have taken down his personal lawyer, campaign chairman, national security adviser and family foundation. He rails against enemies, who often were once friends, nursing a deep sense of betrayal and grievance as they turn on him. “Can you believe this?” he has said as he scanned the torrent of headlines. “I’m doing great, but it’s a war every day.”…

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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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