BG Note | News - What We're Reading (April 26, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

Real estate leaders tackle equity, housing affordability at ULI breakfast (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

Austin’s ability to continue its rapid economic and population growth while trying to keep longtime residents from being forced out due to affordability issues was the topic of the day at Wednesday’s breakfast meeting for the Urban Land Institute. The professional trade group focused around property developers, brokers and other professionals in the real estate industry tackled the question of the role the private sector can play in planning and creating equity, and how local governments can work with them, in the Building Equitable Cities panel discussion.
With the city cited in 2015 as the most economically segregated city in the U.S., the discussion covered how Austin is attempting to increase the earning power of its middle class, what sections of the city offer opportunity for affordable mixed-use housing close to transit options, and why friction with established neighborhood groups is a barrier to affordable housing in all fast-growing cities...

Austin-area home starts up 13.1% in 1st quarter (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Home construction continued to boom in Central Texas in the first quarter, with builders starting work on 13 percent more houses than in the same quarter last year, the latest figures show. “Austin continues to ride the wave of buyer demand into the spring selling season,” said Vaike O’Grady, Austin regional director for Metrostudy, which tracks housing markets locally and nationally. “There’s no evidence of any slowing in demand, especially for homes with base prices below $300,000. At the same time, it’s becoming more challenging for builders to provide housing in that segment, due to rising construction costs for both materials and labor.”...

Travis County overhauled legal representation for the poor, but lawyers are still overwhelmed (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

When Travis County overhauled its system of providing legal representation for the poor back in 2015, criminal justice advocates, judges, attorneys and prosecutors had high hopes. An independent agency would oversee most indigent defense in the Austin area, with a staff of nearly a dozen and an annual budget of more than $1 million. With the help of nearly $2 million in state funding over the last three years, the agency would make sure private lawyers who agreed to represent low-income people were doing a good job for their clients and weren’t juggling too many cases at once. If it worked, they thought, Travis County’s solution could become a model for the whole state...

Libraries plan to designate areas for petitioning (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

After a month of consultations with the Law Department over the language of the rules governing petitioning on library property, the Austin Public Library may have found a compromise.

Instead of limiting petitioning to sidewalks surrounding the libraries, which groups have said restricts their access to library customers, the department is suggesting designating a location at each of the 21 library branches where groups and individuals can hold a public forum.

So far, spots for public forum have been designated at 10 branch libraries. There are currently no diagrams of where these will be held on each property...

Bruno Mars and Britney Spears will play Formula 1 weekend (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Circuit of the Americas announced Wednesday morning that Bruno Mars and Britney Spears are this year’s headliners for Formula 1 weekend. Mars will play the COTA Super Stage on Saturday, Oct. 20, after qualifying rounds, and Spears will be the big Sunday, Oct. 21, headliner after the race.

Mars sweeps into Austin at the tail end of his “24K Magic World Tour” supporting the 2016 album of the same name. The album cleaned up at the Grammy Awards this year, winning four trophies, including Album of the Year . The single “Uptown Funk” won Record of the Year...


Some Blue Cross policyholders could pay 100% of ER bill if visit is not life threatening (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

The already baffling emergency room billing landscape is about to become even more perplexing for some consumers covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the largest health insurer in the state. Starting in June, when some policyholders go to the emergency room, if their ailment is later determined to be not be serious enough, they could be on the hook for 100 percent of the medical costs. In a memo shared with brokers and consultants on April 18, Blue Cross said the new policy — which takes effect June 4 — applies to fully insured group and retail HMO members. An HMO is a type of health insurance plan that limits coverage to in-network providers, except in emergency situations. About 500,000 of the more than 5 million Texans insured with Blue Cross statewide have that type of plan....

Abbott asks disgraced congressman to foot bill for special election (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Gov. Greg Abbott wants Blake Farenthold to foot the bill for a special election the governor has called to replace the former disgraced congressman. Abbott on Wednesday sent a letter to Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican who resigned from Congress in early April amid sexual harassment claims, demanding that he cover all costs for the upcoming emergency special election for the 27th Congressional District. Farenthold had previously pledged to pay back an $84,000-taxpayer-funded settlement to a former female aide...


In Intense Arguments, Supreme Court Appears Ready To Side With Trump On Travel Ban (KUT) LINK TO STORY

During intense arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the justices, by a narrow margin, seemed to be leaning toward upholding the third and current version of the Trump travel ban.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often the deciding vote in closely contested cases, for example, made repeated comments suggesting that the court does not usually second-guess a president's national security decisions — even in the context of an immigration law that bans discrimination based on nationality...

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