BG Note | News - What We're Reading (March 2, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

Council member: City, chamber mishandling Amazon pursuit (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

An Austin City Council member says the city is mishandling its pursuit of Amazon’s planned $5 billion second headquarters project by failing to be transparent about the process, which she says so far has kept even the City Council in the dark.
Council Member Leslie Pool says city leaders erred by having the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce lead the region’s recruitment pitch for the Amazon project, which has been dubbed HQ2 and promises to bring highly paid 50,000 jobs to the city that wins it...

At Austin’s permitting office, wait times are down, use of temps is up (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Three years after a controversial report recommended massive overhauls of its permitting processes, five months after city leaders denied it more staff and nearly four months after they called for a review of its fees, Austin’s Development Services Department is charting what to do next.
The department last fall requested an additional 51 positions for 2018 for an extra $5.2 million. The request was an attempt to comply with recommendations in the Zucker Report, a 2015 review that found the city’s permitting system was beset with staffing deficiencies and massive delays...

CodeNEXT Draft 3 makes significant changes to water-quality and drainage regulations (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

After months of waiting, last month the third and final staff draft of CodeNEXT was released. After allowing adequate reading time, on Feb. 21, Matt Hollon, the manager of the Watershed Protection Department Planning Division, gave the Environmental Commission an overview of the relevant changes between drafts two and three.
“Spoiler alert, there are almost no changes,” explained Hollon. “I actually had to read pretty closely to tell the difference between these two (drafts)” in most sections, he said...

Council buys local on computer training contract (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

City Council rejected the advice of city staff and awarded a technology training contract to a local group over a national nonprofit that only recently arrived in Austin.
Staff had recommended that the city contract with Community Technology Network to manage seven computer labs and provide a range of digital literacy services. The programs are aimed at helping those without access to or experience with computers acquire skills that they need to find and keep jobs in an increasingly digital economy.
CTN’s bid for the solicitation scored higher than the group that the city has contracted with for years, Austin Free-Net. While the latter had earned points due to its local presence, CTN was graded higher in terms of training experience, staffers explained...

Council extends paid sick leave to city’s temporary employees (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

On Thursday, City Council made good on its promise to apply the same sick leave requirement to city government that it voted two weeks ago to impose on private employers.

In a 9-2 vote, Council approved a resolution directing city staff to establish a paid sick leave policy for the city’s many temporary employees who currently lack it. Beginning in October, all city employees will earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. They can earn up to eight paid sick days per year...


Texas sets early voting record in non-presidential year (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY

Texans have already set a record for early voting in a non-presidential primary election year, and there’s still one more day to go on Friday. More than 602,000 voters had cast ballots in the state’s largest counties in either the Democratic or Republican primaries through Wednesday.
That does not count Thursday’s totals that were not available late Thursday, or Friday’s, when polls will again be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Four years ago, fewer than 600,000 people voted in the entire early voting season. Harris County has also seen a new record. More than 116,000 people have voted early or by mail already with two days remaining to add to that total. Four years ago, just 105,508 people in Harris voted during the entire early voting period...

Outgoing House Speaker Straus spends big to support Republican allies in tough primary races (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY

On his way out of office, House Speaker Joe Straus is funneling campaign cash to political allies who Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is trying to oust in the March 6 primary.
Since January, the San Antonio Republican has poured $600,000 into two GOP political committees backing sitting House members who face challengers from the right, finance reports show. The five-term speaker also cut a $10,000 campaign check in January to Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, who is facing Abbott-endorsed Chris Fails, the Hollywood Park mayor...

Gov. Abbott, other Texas Republicans silent on Trump's embrace of gun control (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Since his days as Texas' attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott has made his defense of the Second Amendment central to his political identity. For eight years, he had a perfect foil: then-President Barack Obama. Whenever Obama called for a new gun control policy, Abbott pounced, making statements denouncing him, fundraising pitches aimed at gun owners, or both.
mex"Unlike President Obama, I don’t believe disarming the good guys is going to solve our crime problems," Abbott wrote in an email to supporters in 2015. In a 2016 fundraising email, he trumpeted: “The president wants a fight over our gun rights, so let’s give him one."...


U.S. ambassador to Mexico stepping down, and ex-AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre may be the top pick to fill the post (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

U.S. Ambassador Roberta S. Jacobson announced in a memo to her staff Thursday she plans to resign in May, joining a long list of other State Department diplomats who have bolted in recent months from countries considered U.S. key allies — perhaps none more important than Mexico. Texas native Edward Earl Whitacre Jr., a former top executive at leading U.S. corporations, including Dallas-based AT&T, and friend of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is considered the likely nominee to succeed Jacobson.
That news was first reported Thursday by Mexico City-based Reforma newspaper and confirmed by sources to The Dallas Morning News, but the sources couldn’t say whether Whitacre was interested in the post...

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