BG Reads + BG Podcast | News You Need to Know (January 9, 2019)
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Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. We spoke to her in May on the very first episode of the BG Podcast, and were excited to have her back on.
Elected after a runoff on December 11, 2018 and sworn-in on January 7, 2019, she represents Austin’s Council District 1, encompassing Central and East Austin. The Council Member and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss her 2019 policy priorities, as well as her path to public office.
The Austin Council meets for their first regular meeting on Thursday, January 31.We wish the Council Member Harper-Madison much success in her new role!
This episode was recorded on December 21, 2018.
Public Viewing Announced For World War II Veteran Richard Overton (KUT)
A public viewing for Richard Overton, who was the nation's oldest man and World War II veteran, will be held Friday.
Members of the public can pay their respects from noon to 6 p.m., at Cook Walden Funeral Home, 6100 N. Lamar Blvd., in Central Austin, according to Overton's obituary.
A funeral service will be held Saturday at Shoreline Church in North Austin at 11 a.m., followed by a 2 p.m. interment at the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin. The funeral and interment are open to the public…
Delia Garza, now Austin’s first Latina mayor pro tem, calls symbolism a ‘powerful asset’ (Community Impact)
By most measures the role of mayor pro tem in Austin City Hall is a symbolic title, but District 2 Council Member Delia Garza, who became the city’s first Latina to hold the position during Jan. 7’s council inauguration, called symbolism a powerful tool.
“Symbolism is one of the most important ways we show our values as a community and a representative government,” Garza said following the unanimous appointment from her council colleagues. “Symbolism is a powerful asset when fighting for those who need your voice most.”
One council member is elected to act as mayor pro tem in the absence of the actual mayor. A large part of Garza’s new duty will be to run City Council meetings when Mayor Steve Adler is away.…
Austin school board pushes back against task force recommendations (Austin American-Statesman)
Some Austin school board members are pushing back against a budget-cutting task force’s recommendations to shutter multiple schools, redraw boundaries and cut magnet programs, saying they need more scrutiny.
The board will examine the report as the district confronts a $30 million budget shortfall and with its enrollment projected to keep dropping.
“These are big ideas. Nobody is acting on these yet,” Trustee Ann Teich said. “I want this to continue to inform our work.”
The report, presented at Monday’s seven-hour board meeting, states that an unsustainable amount of money is tied up in fixing aging, underenrolled schools, resulting in millions of dollars being diverted away from academics.
The report doesn’t detail which schools should be closed, but it indicates closures and consolidations should be examined across the district, which should increase the socioeconomic and cultural diversity at schools. The district could save up to $1.2 million for each closure, according to the report. Closing up to 15 schools, the number of elementary campuses with fewer than 300 students, would lead to as much as $18 million in savings, plus eliminate ongoing maintenance costs. The group’s report said that while consolidating underenrolled campuses might be the easiest approach, the district also should redraw school boundaries to ensure shuttered campuses aren’t solely on the east side of the district.
Trustee Yasmin Wagner warned against a wholesale redrawing of boundaries…
Texas House Elects Dennis Bonnen As New Speaker (KUT)
Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) is the new speaker of the Texas House. The 150-member body selected him 147-0 shortly after being sworn in for the 2019 legislative session Tuesday.
Bonnen told lawmakers the agenda of the House is up to the House.
"My job is simple," he said. "I'll bring passionate people to the table, then keep you in the room until we find a solution."
During the nomination process, a bipartisan list of House members spoke of their hopes and expectations from a Bonnen speakership. Most focused on how they believe he will work to bring together a body that has become bitterly partisan in recent years…
Analysis: A Texas House speaker’s first act is to put together a list (Texas Tribune)
Now that Dennis Bonnen has been elected speaker of the Texas House, his first big decision will show the rest of us who is in power and who is not.
In a few days — the timing is purely up to him — Bonnen will make committee assignments, telling the people who elected him what they’ll be doing for the next 20 weeks.
It sounds simple enough, right? But it’s one of those leadership powers that looks administrative but is purely — and dangerously — political.
The announcement of those assignments will be the moment when members find out the difference — if there is one — between their expectations and reality. It functions as a kind of ranking of the House, based on politics, expertise, friendship, ability, demographics — and the goals of the speaker himself…
Harris County's first Latina county judge takes the helm (Texas Tribune)
Lina Hidalgo spent much of her childhood running from dysfunctional government.
The 27-year-old immigrant — who will preside over her first Harris County Commissioners Court meeting as the newly-elected county judge on Tuesday — was born in Colombia when the government's battles with drug lord Pablo Escobar, guerrilla groups and paramilitaries made even going to the grocery store a risk. When she was 5, her father, an engineer, got a job in Peru where things were more stable but corruption still was rampant. The family’s next stop was Mexico, where political corruption also was the norm.
When she and her family moved to Cypress — the sprawling suburb northwest of Houston — it was like a dream to the 14-year-old, filled with tennis courts and science class pig dissections and seemingly limitless opportunities. She was able to secure enough scholarship money and need-based aid to study political science at Stanford University, where she wrote an undergraduate thesis that explored good governance, visited Cairo a year after the Arab Spring to study the political fallout and went to China to compare the Tiananmen Square and Tahrir Square protests. Hidalgo graduated with honors in 2013, then moved to Thailand to work for the Internews Network — an international non-profit that trains journalists and advocates for press freedom — just before the country’s armed forces launched another coup…
Tarrant County GOP set to vote on whether to remove vice-chairman because he's Muslim (Texas Tribune)
Shahid Shafi identifies as a Republican because of his firm belief in small government, lower taxes and secure borders. But his commitment to core GOP values hasn’t shielded him from ire within his own party.
A group of Tarrant County Republicans will vote Thursday evening on whether to remove Shafi as vice-chairman of the county party after a small faction of members put forth a formal motion to oust him because he's Muslim.
Those in favor of the motion to recall Shafi, a trauma surgeon and member of the Southlake City Council, have said he doesn’t represent all Tarrant County Republicans. They've also said Islamic ideologies run counter to the U.S. Constitution — an assertion many Texas GOP officials have called bigoted and Shafi himself has vehemently denied…
Trump urges Democrats to fund border barrier, but stops short of ordering military to build it (Texas Tribune)
After claiming that illegal immigration disproportionately affects black and Hispanic Americans and fuels smugglers' abuse of women and children, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged federal lawmakers to see his way on border security and fund his long-promised wall.
“All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration.” Trump said. “It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans.”
His speech, which came days before a planned trip to the Texas-Mexico border, unsurprisingly drew immediate ire from Democrats in the state's Congressional delegation…
Democrats Reject Trump's Wall Argument After Oval Office Address (KUT)
Democrats again rejected President Trump's demand for a wall on the Southern border following an Oval Office address Tuesday night in which Trump insisted the wall is the only solution to an influx of migration from Mexico and Central America.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Trump's decision to shut down the government over the wall "just plain wrong" in a televised response to the president's address. The speeches were part of an aggressive public relations campaign to win public support in the standoff over the 18-day partial government shutdown.
Both speeches hewed closely to a set of familiar demands and talking points that have dominated the debate over the wall since before the shutdown began in late December. Trump insisted a wall is the only solution and Democrats refused to approve funding to build it…