BG Note | News - What We're Reading (October 2, 2017)
Council puts off ethics rules vote (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
City Council postponed a vote on the proposed new ethics ordinance Thursday, raising questions about whether a new request for proposal for handling city biosolids might become the subject of lobbying.
That was certainly not Council’s intent, according to Council Member Leslie Pool. Pool, chief sponsor of the new ethics ordinance, asked her colleagues to postpone the matter for three weeks, so it will now appear on the Oct. 19 agenda. The city suspended its ethics ordinance as to matters surrounding solid waste contracts last spring, “because that is a huge source of disagreement with the various vendors,” Pool said. “The only way that we could bring all the vendors to the table to talk about the ins and outs of their contracts and try to get some agreement on fixes to the ordinance was to suspend the very document that they claimed was preventing them from talking with us about these matters.”
At the same time, the Austin Water Utility is anxious to release its request for proposal for a new biosolids contract. Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros told the Austin Monitor it is critical to get the request for proposal out as soon as possible.
Main Street Hub plans 1,000-person HQ in East Austin (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
An Austin-based online marketing firm has ambitious plans for the future, saying Friday it will construct a new corporate headquarters on the city’s east side capable of accommodating more than 1,000 employees.
Main Street Hub co-CEOs Matt Stuart and Andrew Allison told the American-Statesman that the building, which is set to open in mid-2019, will consolidate about 600 product, engineering, sales and operations workers currently based in three offices: two in downtown Austin – at 111 Congress Ave. and 600 Congress Ave. – and one in New York.
The 100 New York workers will relocate to Austin over the next three months, Stuart and Allison said, and will temporarily be based out of Main Street Hub’s two existing offices here until construction on the new headquarters is completed.
“They’re really excited to move to Austin and work alongside their teammates,” Stuart said of the New York employees.
Audit reveals why so many Austin projects go over budget (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
Austin officials initially priced the Shoal Creek storm drain improvement project at about a $1 million. But when the final bill was paid, the project actually cost Austin taxpayers about $7 million.
The renovations to City Hall and the City Council chambers to make room for the larger, 11-member council that took office in 2015 was originally priced at $1.4 million. The costs soared to $6.4 million.
Those two projects were just a few in a recent audit of Austin’s Public Works Department that found almost one-third — 29 percent — of the 48 projects it reviewed had costs balloon at least 50 percent higher than staff’s original estimates.
“The City often did not prepare accurate project cost estimates or collect reliable data to do so,” the audit said.
Capital Metro board approves new budget (Austin Metro) LINK TO STORY
The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority will cruise through its next fiscal year with a budget of $419 million.
The agency’s board of directors approved that budget with a unanimous vote – minus an absent Board Member Terry Mitchell – during its regular monthly meeting on Friday.
The new budget reflects the tenuous position the agency maintains when it comes to external economic conditions.
“Most of our service expansion will be funded by lower diesel costs next year,” Budget Director Kevin Conlan told the board.
A large chunk of the coming year’s spending – $152 million – will go toward capital projects including the expansion of the MetroRail’s Downtown Station and a brand new park-and-ride facility beneath State Highway 71 near South Lamar Boulevard.
Houston mayor calls off property tax hike after Abbott delivers $50 million (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
Gov. Greg Abbott presented Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner a $50 million check for Hurricane Harvey relief Friday, prompting Turner to rescind a proposed property tax hike for his city.
The money, which comes from the $100 million disaster relief fund appropriated to Abbott's office during the last legislative session, will go toward immediate relief needs such as reconstruction, Abbott and Turner said at a joint news conference in Houston. Abbott said long-term recovery and preventive measures would be funded by the federal government and the state's $10 billion savings account, known as the Rainy Day Fund, but not until exact costs for recovery are known.
"The time to use the thrust of the Rainy Day Fund is when the expenses are known," Abbott said. "So the members of the Legislature know how best to use the Rainy Day Fund."
Facing Texas loyalists, Cruz grapples with GOP inaction under Trump (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was ticking through his hopes for Congress this year before a Tea Party group here Saturday when one of his comments drew a sarcastic retort from the audience.
“I believe we will get tax reform done,” Cruz said.
“In my lifetime?” a man blurted out.
Cruz, not missing a beat, responded with his own question: “How old are you?”
How a Texas insurance lobbyist ended up in the anti-swamp Trump administration (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY
Dan Brouillette - in the language of President Donald Trump - is a "swamp creature."
A sober-looking 55-year-old with a greying beard, Brouillette spent more than a decade as a staffer on Capitol Hill, learning how to make deals and get legislation moving. Then he took the connections he made and moved onto corporate lobbying, first for the automaker Ford Motor Co. and then with the Texas-based insurance giant United Services Automobile Association or USAA.
It would not be a notable story in Washington, where movements between public service and the private sector have long been the norm. Except now he is back in government again -- as Energy Secretary Rick Perry's deputy -- at a time Trump is promising to "drain the swamp" and rid the capital of the lobbyists and "deep state" bureaucrats who have long made Washington go.