BG Note | News - What We're Reading (April 11, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

AISD board debates how to prevent a financially insolvent school district (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

When Austinites passed the $1 billion Austin Independent School District bond that was intended for major improvements in school facilities as well as transportation and district-wide improvements to technology for teachers and students, they knew they were voting to provide the school district with a much-needed financial boost. However, even with a significant amount of aid from the public, annual taxes are still required to fund teachers’ salaries and educational programming, and the city’s school district is still finding themselves pinched for cash.
At the April 9 meeting of AISD’s board of trustees, Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley announced that for the upcoming 2019 school year, the administration has an estimated budget deficit of $30 million...

Task force: Bond decisions up to Council (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The city’s 2018 Bond Election Advisory Task Force sent a recommendation to City Council for a November bond ballot of $851 million – more than $200 million above the amount recommended by city staff, and one that is estimated to require a 2-cent property tax increase.
Tom Nuckols, chair of the task force, told Council at its work session on Tuesday that when the task force voted to send the $851 million recommendation to Council, several of the task force members did so with the expectation that Council would reduce the package before presenting it to voters...

Study reveals income difference between people who move to and from Austin (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

In fast growing cities like Austin, residents are feeling the effects of domestic migration and the high incomes that come with healthy economies. A new study details the differences in incomes of people moving in and out of cities across the country, including the capital of Texas. The study uses data from the American Community Survey from 2005 to 2016, as well as from the Zillow Home Value Index. According to the study, as people move to a more expensive metro area with higher incomes, a sharp income difference appears between those arriving and leaving. The high cost of housing can deter potential newcomers, “especially if their incomes are low, which drives up the income levels of those who are ultimately observed moving in,” writes Issi Romem for BuildZoom...

Austin office market keeps humming along (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The Austin-area office market kept rolling in the first quarter, with rents for top-quality space at a record high and the occupancy rate also up from a year ago, the latest figures show. In its latest quarterly report, commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Austin said rents for Class A space rose, on average, to $39.93 a square foot per year. That’s an all-time high, and up from $37.86 per square foot in the first three months of 2017. The occupancy rate for Class A space averaged 90.3 percent, up from 90.1 in the year-ago quarter, the report said...


Several Central Texas school districts affected by STAAR glitch (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Many students were temporarily kicked off the online version of the state standardized test on Tuesday, the first day of major statewide testing. A server went down that caused a 20-minute outage in the morning and resulted in students losing access to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the test, was able to fix the problem and students were given extra time if they needed it, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson.
“When (students) logged back in, the work was still there. To our knowledge, no student data or information was lost,” Culbertson said. She added that district officials who had issues were encouraged to contact Educational Testing Service support...

Texas General Land Office releases plan for $5 billion in disaster relief (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Eight months after Hurricane Harvey, the Texas General Land Office has released its plan to distribute $5 billion in federal block grants for disaster relief. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated the grant in November, and now that the GLO has submitted their action plan for the funds, it's open for a two-week public comment period. After that, HUD has to approve the plan before funds can be distributed. According to GLO press secretary Brittany Eck, this approval process has taken months in the past, but the GLO is doing everything it can to expedite it...

Incumbents nearly impossible to beat on Bexar County Commissioners Court, historical data show (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY

When Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo filed for re-election in mid-November, he said “there’s a lot of scalps all over the place” from three decades of winning elections for his Precinct 2 seat. But since an early 1990s round of redistricting strengthened partisan advantages in some precincts, Elizondo, 82, in reality has had hardly any scalps to go after. This year, however, he may be at his most vulnerable since the redistricting shift with a May 22 runoff looming. In his safely Democratic precinct, Elizondo has won every general election contest since 1994 without a Republican opponent, and with an average primary victory margin of 38 points...

Air pollution in Houston/Galveston region could increase under EPA-created loophole, study finds (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY

Air pollution in the Houston and Galveston areas could more than double if eligible companies take advantage of an air emissions "loophole" created by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt earlier this year, a new report finds. In January, Pruitt reversed a 1995 policy known as "once in, always in," under which all "major" air polluters, such as power plants and factories, would always be regulated under stricter standards even if they reduced pollution. Pruitt's decision would allow them to get out from under those stricter standards once their pollution fell within the legal limits, a move that was billed by the EPA at the time as "reducing regulatory burdens." In the Houston/Galveston area, 18 facilities fit that bill — a fact that could prove disastrous for the area's air, according to a report released Tuesday by the Environmental Defense Fund...


Mark Zuckerberg Tells Senate: Election Security Is An 'Arms Race' (KUT) LINK TO STORY

Mark Zuckerberg faced dozens of senators — and the American television audience — to take "hard questions" on how Facebook has handled user data and faced efforts to subvert democracy.
"We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I'm sorry," the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, uncharacteristically wearing a suit, said in his opening remarks. "I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."
Zuckerberg testified Tuesday before a joint session of the Senate commerce and judiciary committees...

LGBT workers are protected from workplace discrimination, Texas judge says in 'earth-shattering' new ruling (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

For the first time in Texas, a federal judge said LGBT workers should be protected from employment discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Judge Lee Rosenthal, the chief judge in the Houston-based Southern District Court of Texas, said in a decision last week that federal employment law protecting workers from discrimination based on sex also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Nicole Wittmer, an engineer who alleged she wasn't hired by energy company Phillips 66 because she's transgender, couldn't prove her claim, Rosenthal ruled. But if she had proof, the judge added, Wittmer would have had cause to sue under federal law...

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