BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 14, 2019)



Neighborhood planning poised to change (Austin Monitor)

The Planning Commission was recently briefed on the future of small area planning by Planning and Zoning staff.

Austin has focused its small area planning around the neighborhood planning strategy since a 1997 City Council resolution. But subsequent to a resolution passed in September 2017, staffers have come up with three new planning services that aim to be more “sustainable and equitable” than the current model for neighborhood planning.

The three planning efforts are 1) the Imagine Austin Centers and Corridors plans, which will be prioritized based on their potential to leverage mobility investments and other cross-departmental city initiatives; 2) the Complete Communities plans, which are meant to improve access and opportunity for residents’ basic daily needs; and 3) the Special Studies plans, which include citywide planning initiatives and exclusively urban design-focused plans.

Council will be asked to consider a staff recommendation implementing two pilot programs along North Lamar Boulevard and South Pleasant Valley Road. The pilot program will follow the tenets of the new planning services.

Commissioner Karen McGraw expressed frustration with the possibility of the neighborhood planning strategy being eliminated…

Link to story

Thanks to ambitious goals, Austin wins Bloomberg climate change challenge (Austin American-Statesman)

Citing Austin’s aggressive environmental goals, which include making municipal operations carbon neutral by 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies on Friday announced that the Texas capital has won a national climate change challenge. The honor means Austin will join a two-year accelerator program that will give the city access to as much as $2.5 million in technical assistance and support.

Austin is one of 25 cities and, along with San Antonio, one of two in Texas to win the competitive Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, a $70 million program launched in June to help cities reduce their carbon footprint. The program aims to support mayors who have pushed to reduce carbon emissions after the Trump administration pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by former New York City Mayor and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg, said it selected Austin based on its innovative plans to reduce air pollution from its transit and building sectors, which typically account for 80 percent of a city’s emissions…

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Music commission pushes for action on ‘agent of change’ (Austin Monitor)

Members of the city’s Music Commission are pushing staff for action to produce an “agent of change” ordinance that City Council can vote on to bring some clarity to friction between entertainment venues and nearby hotels and residences.

At last week’s meeting, commissioner Rick Carney expressed frustration that the agent of change concept – which would place clear expectations and enforcement on any business that opens in areas where noise complaints could arise – has lingered for more than three years. The issue became a topic of concern beginning in 2015, when the newly opened downtown Westin hotel began logging noise complaints against a nearby nightclub that had already been in operation.

“I wanted to keep it on the agenda so it doesn’t fall by the wayside the way it seems to have since I’ve been on the commission, which is going on three years,” Carney said. “We all were in great agreement that it was very important to figure out something to be codified, but people have been reluctant to take that step.”…

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Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro Announces He's Running For President (KUT)

Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, announced Saturday that he is running for president.

The 44-year-old told a crowd of about 2,000 people gathered at Plaza Guadalupe in San Antonio about his life there – from going to school to becoming mayor. He thanked everyone who had helped him get from then to now.

But, he said, there's more work to do; the country is falling backward instead of moving forward.

"I want to make sure the promise of America is available for everyone," he said.

He then announced – in both English and Spanish – that he was running for president…

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As session gears up, Texas business groups ready to fight for economic priorities (Austin American-Statesman)

If Texas business leaders wanted an excuse to slack off during the just-started legislative session, they might point to the state’s historically low unemployment rate, solid economic growth and robust job creation and opt to sit this one out.

Instead, they’re gearing up to convince state lawmakers that those trends didn’t happen by accident.

“The ‘Texas Miracle’ came about because we had a plan of action,” said Jeff Moseley, president of the Texas Association of Business, using a term coined early this decade to describe the state’s strong economy. “There is competition (nationwide) for high-wage, high-benefit jobs, and we better be prepared” to fight for them.

Moseley’s organization and other business lobbying groups in Texas consider preservation of the state’s taxpayer-funded economic incentive programs — derided as “corporate welfare” by critics but lauded as essential in many economic development circles — to be a priority during the legislative session that began Tuesday and runs through May 27…

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Bill would prevent Texans from unknowingly buying homes in areas designed to flood (Texas Tribune)

State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, on Friday filed legislation that would require sellers of residential properties to notify buyers if a property is located in a flood-prone area — and whether it has previously flooded.

Senate Bill 339 would change a provision of the state’s property code to force sellers to tell buyers whether properties are in a 100- or 500-year floodplain or partly inside a reservoir or reservoir “flood pool” — an area next to a reservoir that is usually dry but is designed to hold floodwater. The bill also would require sellers to disclose whether the property has flooded before, whether it might flood under “catastrophic circumstances,” and if it’s located within 5 miles downstream of a reservoir.

If a seller doesn’t disclose the information, the law would allow buyers to terminate the contract — or sue.

Currently, sellers only have to disclose whether a home is in a 100-year floodplain…

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Hospitals must now post prices. But it may take a brain surgeon to decipher them. (New York Times)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, responding to a new Trump administration order to begin posting all hospital prices, listed a charge of $42,569 for a cardiology procedure described as “HC PTC CLOS PAT DUCT ART.”

On Jan. 1, hospitals began complying with a Trump administration order to post list prices for all their services, theoretically offering consumers transparency and choice and forcing health care providers into price competition. It’s turning into a fiasco. “This policy is a tiny step forward, but falls far short of what’s needed,” said Jeanne Pinder, the founder and chief executive of Clear Health Costs, a consumer health research organization. “The posted prices are fanciful, inflated, difficult to decode and inconsistent, so it’s hard to see how an average person would find them useful.”…

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Trump concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration (The Hill)

President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson. The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries…

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BG Podcast Episode 29: A 2019 Conversation with Austin Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison (D1)

(RUN TIME - 26:22)

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.

Link to Episode 29

See also: BG Podcast - Episode 1: A discussion with East 12th Street Merchants Association President Natasha Harper-Madison

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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