BG Note | News - What We're Reading (April 9, 2018)
Is Austin finally ready for light rail? The answer may come in 2020. (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
The gloom settled in quickly at Threadgill’s near downtown after the early votes came in on Austin’s 2014 light rail bond proposition. The three dozen or so people on hand, including then-Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, drinks in hand, soon broke into clutches of quiet conversation. What was billed as a victory party took on the aspect of a wake.
“It’s dead until somebody revives it,” Leffingwell told the American-Statesman that November night, when 57 percent of the voters said “no” to the rail bonds. “And that will be a long period of time.” Capital Metro, with its release of a draft “Project Connect System Plan,” has revived it. If things go as planned — far from certain given Austin’s history of preparing for rail elections — Austin voters could be asked as soon as 2020 to authorize the construction of light rail. For a third time...
Austin threatens impoundment as rental scooters launch on city streets (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
The electric scooters put on Austin streets Thursday by Bird Rides Inc. will be impounded, Austin Transportation Department officials said in a statement Friday afternoon, if left within city right of way for 48 hours or more.
The Austin City Code, the statement said, “protects the public from unsafe obstructions and other illegal activity within the public realm.”
Impoundments may not be necessary. The company, in an earlier statement shared with the media, had said it will collect all of its several dozen scooters each night and then re-launch them again in the morning at “nests,” businesses that have agreed to host the scooters.
The city also confirmed that it will include scooters in the ongoing discussion about a pilot program for dockless bike-sharing. City officials as recently as earlier this week had said only bikes would be part of that pilot...
Office development on unincorporated land draws neighborhood opposition (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
Anxieties over traffic, safety, environmental degradation and more pushed the Travis County Commissioners Court last week to postpone action on an item that would clear the way for the construction of two new office buildings on a rural but rapidly growing stretch of Hamilton Pool Road.
Joe Mansour, founder of Accord Interests, told the court during a public hearing at its Tuesday voting session that he wants to build the offices primarily to house his company.
“There is simply no office space out there, and there are a lot of homes out there,” Mansour explained. “We believe there is ample need in that area for some of these residents to be able to go a short distance and office and we would be able to provide that.”...
Council approves preservation projects with $5.5M from hotel tax (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
More than a dozen projects related to the preservation of Austin’s historic buildings will move ahead, with more to follow in coming budget years, using moneyq from the city’s portion of its Hotel Occupancy Tax.
Last month City Council approved a budget transfer of $5.5 million to the city’s historic preservation fund to pay for 17 projects determined by staff to be of the highest priority from an initial list of 28 projects with a price tag of more than $13 million. The larger list was compiled using criteria from the statute that created the hotel tax and stipulates HOT funds must be used for efforts related to local tourism.
The approved projects include renovation of local attractions such as the O. Henry Museum, Austin History Center and Elisabet Ney Museum, as well as the acquisition of the Montopolis Negro School property for an amount to be determined...
Texas National Guard Deploys Troops To Texas-Mexico Border (KUT) LINK TO STORY
In response to President Donald Trump's call earlier this week to mobilize the U.S. military for border protection, the Texas National Guard deployed a handful of troops to the Texas-Mexico border on Friday evening, with plans to send 250 more in the next 72 hours.
"As early as tomorrow, notifications will go out to soldiers who will be called up as a part of the follow-on phase," Brigadier General Tracy Norris said at a news conference Friday evening at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's Armed Forces Reserve Center. "This mobilization supports the priorities of the governor and the president in securing our borders."...
Gallego and Gutierrez gunning for Uresti’s state Senate seat (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY
Several months before a federal grand jury indicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti on 11 felony charges in May, and well over a year before a jury ultimately convicted him on all counts, state Rep. Roland Gutierrez figured Uresti’s Senate seat would eventually fall into limbo. So he started campaigning across the sprawling, 35,000-square-mile district, visiting West Texas every six to eight weeks to build connections among communities such as Alpine and Pecos before returning to San Antonio, where he practices law between legislative sessions. Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, a Democrat who entered the race Thursday, sees West Texas — including his hometown of Alpine — as the center of his strongest support. He’s aiming to win Uresti’s seat using the network he built from 22 years in the Legislature and a single term representing the 23rd Congressional District...
Development tactic questioned in post-Harvey era (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY
Newland Communities executives spent two years buying up Katy Prairie cattle pastures to assemble the 3,600-acre site of the company’s new master-planned community. They dubbed it Elyson — a tribute to Ely Freeman, one of the original settlers of the Katy area. The location, adjacent to the Grand Parkway, was ideal. The fine public schools in Katy ISD would be a big draw for families. The topography, though, was a problem: Three flood plains crossed parts of the property. Developers prefer to avoid the regulations involved in building in flood plains, and prospective buyers are leery of the risks and the relatively high flood insurance premiums. To overcome these obstacles, Newland turned to a well-established procedure: the company decided to raise homes above the flood plain with dirt, or fill, excavated from other areas of the site...
Democrats fund start-ups to leapfrog RNC technology (Politico) LINK TO STORY
They want to be like the Koch brothers and the Mercers for campaign tech, but much cheaper, faster and smarter — and for Democrats. Higher Ground Labs, the incubator fund that last year put $2.5 million behind 12 startup companies specifically focused on pumping up Democratic campaigns, says its beta test worked, so it will unveil its second round of financing on Tuesday for 11 new companies. Each is getting $100,000 of seed capital, with the rest of the money on reserve for programming and follow-up funding for successes. The fund, which takes 6 percent to 8 percent equity in each company, says profits will be reinvested in future expansion...