BG Note | News - What We're Reading (December 20, 2017)


[Austin Metro]

Council selects Minneapolis official Spencer Cronk as new city manager (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

City Council unanimously selected Spencer Cronk to be the next city manager.

Cronk has been the Minneapolis city administrator since 2014. Before that, he worked for New York City’s Department of Small Business Services.

“Austin is fortunate to have Spencer Cronk as our city’s next CEO,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. He “excels at bringing people together to address tough community challenges. He’s a proven manager who gets Austin’s special spirit and soul because it’s within him, too.”

Cronk was up against Howard Lazarus, who ran Austin’s Public Works Department for nearly eight years. He left Austin last year to become the city administrator in Ann Arbor, Michigan...

Austin fields eight potential sites for new soccer stadium (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

City Council is weighing eight potential sites to house a professional soccer stadium after the Ohio-based Columbus Crew soccer team expressed an interest in moving here. But Council members decided to hold off on a final decision for now, postponing a vote until Feb. 15.

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department issued a memo last week outlining potential locations for a stadium, and Crew owners have expressed interest in the Butler Shores Metropolitan Park. Earlier this month, they released renderings of a potential stadium on the site near Lady Bird Lake.

The proposal is already facing pushback. Council Member Ann Kitchen, who represents the area, said at last week’s Council work session that she would not support building a stadium on the site...

Valid petition helps broker compromise in Montopolis rezone (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The Planning Commission recommended to limit the units for a Montopolis condominium project proposed in a rezoning request at its Dec. 12 meeting, largely in response to strong opposition from the neighborhood.

“I think this is a testament to you all and your neighborhood,” Commissioner Nuria Zaragoza said at the meeting. “I think any other group, likely we would have approved this on consent, probably little discussion.”

The commission had heard the case originally at its Nov. 14 meeting. The application to change the zoning for the vacant lot at 2404 Thrasher Lane from General Commercial Services (CS) to Urban Family Residence (SF-5) had almost been recommended for denial, but a substitute motion had been made to postpone for a month in hopes that the Montopolis Neighborhood Association and owner Vahonia Realty could reach a compromise in the interim...

Police decline further contract talks for now (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The Austin Police Association on Tuesday resoundingly rejected the City Council’ s request that it continue its current contract for a few months and return to the negotiating table.
Groups that had urged Council to reject the new contract were apparently surprised by APA’s rejection, which means that Austin police will be operating under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 143 “except for those provisions that were extended via the contract for twelve months (evergreen) to allow for continuity,” according to a letter the union sent to Interim City Manager Elaine Hart.
City staff is currently doing research to see which parts of the old contract fall under the “evergreen” category. One of those will allow APA President Ken Casaday to continue to work full time as president, rather than taking on additional police duties...

Austin school district awarded $4.5 million for mental health clinics (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The Austin school district has received $4.5 million to open mental health centers in 22 elementary schools in the eastern part of the city during next semester. The one-year pilot program could be extended, depending on the program’s efficacy and need, among other factors. Mental health centers currently operate in 18 middle and high schools in an effort to help students who have experienced trauma...


Amid Texas transportation battles, toll lanes scrapped while bullet train survived (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

While tolled highway projects were dropped or sent back to the drawing board amid fierce opposition, plans for a high-speed train between Dallas and Houston survived legislative battles this year. Here's a look at the biggest changes on the state transportation front in 2017:...

Former state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon has died (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Former state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, who represented San Antonio for two decades at the Capitol, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer and other ailments. 

She was 74. 

“It was very peaceful,” said former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who served alongside McClendon for years in the statehouse. 

McClendon stepped down from her seat in 2016 after health issues forced her to use a scooter to get around for the 2015 session...

New verdict in federal fraud case gives defenders of indicted AG Ken Paxton 'momentum,' experts say (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Attorney General Ken Paxton, who's still battling securities fraud indictments as he enters re-election year, may just have picked up a new tool to fight the felony charges against him. For the third time in two years, the federal government has failed to prove investors were willfully swindled into backing a little-known tech startup called Servergy, Inc. The first two times, it was Paxton who was cleared of civil fraud charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission...

State lawyers say they can’t stop GOP from nixing Farenthold’s name (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The Republican Party of Texas managed to clear a path Tuesday in federal court for its chairman, James Dickey, to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name from primary ballots.

But as of press time, a party spokesman said Dickey still had not reached a decision on the fate of the congressman’s name on the ballot.

The drama late Tuesday came after a remarkable half-hour hearing hours earlier in Austin’s federal courthouse, where lawyers for the state said that, while state law requires the inclusion of Farenthold’s name because he withdrew from the race after the filing deadline, the secretary of state had no power to enforce that law...


Congress is on track to send a massive tax cut package to Trump. Here's how Texans voted. (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

The U.S. House voted for a major overhaul of the American tax code on Tuesday afternoon, a measure that, if also approved by the U.S. Senate, would mark the first significant legislative achievement of the Republican-controlled government under President Donald Trump.

The House passed a compromise bill hammered out between the two chambers on a 227-203 vote. The 36-member Texas delegation vote fell along strict partisan lines...

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