BG Note | News - What We're Reading (May 16, 2018)


[Austin Metro]

Charter amendments could bring significant shifts in Austin governance (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

After months of weighing what needs to change in Austin’s governing structure, a Charter Review Commission has answers. The commission will recommend eight major changes to the city charter that City Council members could add to the general election ballot in November.
The proposals range from creating a new public finance system for City Council candidates to revamping the ways Austinites can overturn government actions... (Read more)

Planning commissioners spar over reduced lot sizes in CodeNEXT (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The 13 volunteer citizens appointed to the city Planning Commission spent eight grueling hours Monday night proposing and debating changes to CodeNEXT.
It was a stark contrast to the the treatment the proposed code overhaul received from the city’s other land use panel, the Zoning and Platting Commission, whose final recommendation last week was simply that the city give up on CodeNEXT.
While there were a number of issues that all or nearly all of the commissioners agreed on, the recurring division emerged between those pushing for more urbanist planning, notably smaller lots and more multifamily housing, and those defending larger lots and single-family zoning... (Read more)

Austin-area home sales, median price hit April records (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Central Texas home sales and median home prices both climbed last month to the highest level of any April on record, the Austin Board of Realtors said Tuesday. The likelihood that mortgage interest rates will soon creep higher could be prompting some people to buy sooner rather than later in the year, local real estate agents said. In its latest monthly report, the board said 2,611 home sales closed last month, a 4.1 percent increase over April 2017... (Read more)

Contractor apologizes for racist remark at county meeting (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The contractor who used a racial slur against Latino immigrants during a Travis County-sponsored meeting last week is apologizing.
Aaron Cabaza, president of Aaron Concrete, sent an email to county staff on Tuesday afternoon expressing regret for his remarks at a stakeholders discussion focused on recommendations that would augment protections for workers on county projects.
According to several people present at the meeting, Cabaza referred to construction workers as “wetbacks.”... (Read more)

McKalla Place MLS site plan: 3 access points, canopy, walking trail (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Precourt Sports Ventures’ vision for a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place includes three access roads, limited on-site parking and a canopy encompassing the entire seating bowl.
The Columbus Crew SC owners on Tuesday revealed their site plan for the 24-acre, city-owned property in North Austin. They aim to make a proposal to the city within the next two weeks, and the city staff has a June 1 deadline to deliver its detailed analysis of McKalla Place.
Currently the site, largely vacant since it was purchased from a chemical company in 1995, has limited access, only on McKalla Place. The PSV plan is to allow access from Burnet Road and Braker Lane as well... (Read more)


Texas sues national drug maker for ‘deceptive’ opioid practices (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Accusing a national drug manufacturer of helping to fuel the deadly opioid crisis, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday that his office had filed suit against Purdue Pharma and was considering taking legal action against other drug makers as well.
Filed in state district court in Travis County, the lawsuit accused Purdue Pharma of violating state law by misrepresenting the risk of addiction associated with its opioids, particularly OxyContin, in a “sophisticated marketing scheme aimed at consumers and health care providers alike,” Paxton said... (Read more)

Proposed rules for food assistance have critics up in arms (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY

A Republican-led effort to impose stricter work requirements on those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, prompted two congressmen to sound the alarm Monday over what the new rules would do to low-income families. “An idea has overtaken some in Washington that people who struggle financially are freeloaders,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, speaking at a news conference at the San Antonio Food Bank. “What they don’t realize is that many (who depend on SNAP) are often hardworking people.” Castro and and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, joined food bank CEO Eric Cooper to decry the proposed regulations, part of the 2018 Farm Bill, scheduled to be voted on by lawmakers in Washington later this week... (Read more)

STAAR test takers briefly plagued by online glitches Tuesday, officials say (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Some students experienced glitches while taking the STAAR test Tuesday morning, the Texas Education Agency said. Problems included frozen screens, slowness, difficulty in starting sessions and some students getting locked out because of connectivity issues, state education officials said. The TEA did not know how many students experienced problems but said 110,000 were testing this morning on the reading portion of the test. “It was recommended that the students that were experiencing difficulty take a break,” Ronnie Burchett, a spokeswoman for the TEA, said. All issues were resolved by 11 a.m., the TEA said... (Read more)

Seawater desalination plant proposed for Corpus Christi area (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

A seawater desalination plant is in the initial planning stages for construction in the Corpus Christi area, according to a public notice from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality posted May 7. In Texas, desalination has often been earmarked as a source of water that can stand up to significant drought, and Texas Water Development Board records show 49 plants operating in the state that desalinate brackish water — water that has more salinity than freshwater but less than seawater. The Port of Corpus Christi's proposed plant, which it would construct on land the port owns in the city of Gregory, is unusual because no desalination plant in Texas currently operates solely off of seawater for industrial or municipal use... (Read more)


CIA nominee Gina Haspel condemns Bush-era interrogation methods, clears path to Senate approval (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

The path to confirmation as CIA director cleared Tuesday for Gina Haspel after she explicitly condemned the brutal Bush-era interrogation methods used on terror suspects. Haspel had assured senators last week at her confirmation hearing that in hindsight, methods such as waterboarding -- viewed as torture by critics -- harmed America's image in the world, and she would not restart the program. That wasn't good enough for some senators, given her central role in the program. President George W. Bush, with encouragement from Vice President Dick Cheney and other advisers, and with the blessing of top government lawyers, ordered "enhanced interrogation" to pry secrets from Al Qaeda operatives and others after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001...

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