BG Note | News - What We're Reading (May 17, 2018)
Safety, transit planning among priorities at start of budget input sessions (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
If the opinions expressed during the second of the city’s 11 community budget input sessions is any indication, City Council members will be considering sizable shifts in public safety resources later this summer before adoption of the city’s next $3.9 billion budget.
In an interactive session that saw feedback offered digitally by attendees and those watching online, respondents expressed a desire to commit less of the general fund budget to police and public safety. Nearly 60 percent of those who answered a question about the appropriateness of the city’s level of safety spending said less money needs to be spent in that category, with a majority saying fair administration of justice is their biggest concern related to safety overall... (Read more)
‘Snoopy PUD’ a model for future development (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
After many months of work, hearings, arguments and tweaks to its design, the “Snoopy PUD,” also known as the 425 W. Riverside Drive Planned Unit Development, and also known as the “Hooters PUD,” has finally made it through the City Council approval process.
The new zoning will allow a building of up to 195 feet for office space, some retail and the possibility of residential uses. The developer has agreed to a green roof, participation in Austin Energy’s Green Building program, planting at least 100 caliper inches of native trees, as well as native landscaping, at least 15 percent of which “shall be pollinator-friendly species as identified by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.”
The developer has also committed to “water quality and storm detention ponds designed as an amenity,” rainwater harvesting, and a space for public art.
And because of all the work done not only by the developer’s team, but also members of city staff and the city’s Planning and Environmental commissions, the end result should be a model for future development under the South Central Waterfront Plan, according to Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the Planning and Zoning Department... (Read more)
City still looking for Municipal Court building funds (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
Last week, during discussion of whether City Council should approve a 10-year lease for Austin’s Municipal Court at the Met Center in Southeast Austin, Council Member Ora Houston opposed the $31 million contract with Zydeco Development. Her reasoning was partially based on a map on the company’s website that was insulting to Latinos, but also because she thought the price was too high.
Although Council approved the contract, with Houston and Council Member Pio Renteria voting no and Council Member Leslie Pool abstaining, Houston made it clear that she wanted to find out why the city had not built a new Municipal Court with bond money... (Read more)
Must be 21 to buy tobacco? Some City Council members like the idea (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
Four members of the Austin City Council on Wednesday mulled whether the city should raise the minimum age for people to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
The council members appeared to be united in their support of the change, but they took no official action.
“I think it is compelling, and I hope it is something we take consideration of in Austin,” Council Member Kathie Tovo said during a meeting of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee... (Read more)
Teachers union urges Austin district president to resign over texts (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
The teachers union Education Austin on Wednesday demanded that Austin school board President Kendall Pace resign immediately after she said in a text message that a grant to fund struggling campuses would only get approved if officials “ignore the special interest groups and crazy ignorant community activists and poverty pimps.” Pace, who was elected to the Austin Independent School District board in 2016, said she had planned to leave as president next month but remain on the board. “We will elect new officers Monday. I had intended on stepping down in June anyway,” Pace told the American-Statesman... (Read more)
Abbott, local officials in new fight over Harvey money (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY
Local officials in Houston and dozens of Gulf Coast jurisdictions devastated by Hurricane Harvey on Wednesday asked the state to tap its Rainy Day Fund savings account to pay for billions in disaster mitigation projects, the latest political fight to erupt over state funding. Gov. Greg Abbott immediately responded with a letter of his own to Houston: Stop complaining. Plenty of money is available, but you haven't applied for any of it. In addition, he told Houston that of the $50 million the state lent it last September to cover emergency costs, the city has spent less than $5 million... (Read more)
Houston to require firms to give more to get tax breaks (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY
Houston on Wednesday approved new rules outlining additional community benefits companies seeking tax breaks for development projects will need to provide in order to get financial incentives from the city. The new benefits — including improved training and affordable housing for the local workforce — are geared in part toward helping development in economically challenged communities. The city "took an important step in bringing balance, fairness and equity to our economy," said Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, one of several community organizations that had been pushing the city to improve its guidelines for what companies and developers need to provide in return for tax breaks... (Read more)
Valley lawmaker wants to legalize sports betting in Texas (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY
Rep. Eddie Lucio III said Tuesday he has drafted a bill to legalize sports betting in Texas, after the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to set their own rules. “When Texans utilize gaming in other states, they are paying for Louisiana public schools and New Mexico roads — it’s time to keep this revenue here at home,” said Lucio, D-Brownsville. Efforts to expand gambling, however, have been given the cold shoulder in the Republican-majority Legislature... (Read more)
Moderate Republicans are outspending their more conservative counterparts in Texas House races (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY
Republicans in Texas House runoffs Tuesday are wallowing in money. From eight days before the March primary to Saturday, the 14 GOP hopefuls vying for seven seats collected more than $3.5 million. The average haul over those 10 weeks and five days was just north of a quarter million — $252,915, according to candidates' finance reports to the Texas Ethics Commission this week. Their fundraising success derives partly from a prolonged intraparty fight over the Legislature's future direction. But it's also a tribute to the Texas GOP's complete dominance of state politics... (Read more)
Former Richardson mayor indicted, accused of supporting developer in exchange for money, gifts, sex (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY
Former Richardson Mayor Laura Jordan and a land developer she married have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges, including bribery, the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Texas has announced. The seven-count indictment announced Wednesday accuses Jordan, 53, and Mark Jordan, 51, both of Plano, of honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. Laura Jordan — at the time named Laura Maczka — was Richardson mayor from May 2013 through April 2015, and her now-husband was a land developer, the release states. The indictment states that contrary to campaign promises, Laura Jordan voted in favor of zoning changes to make way for Mark Jordan's development and allow apartments to be built even though an "overwhelming number of citizens" opposed the plan... (Read more)
How the "bathroom bill" helped push a Republican PAC to spend millions on moderates in Texas (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
In September, the Texas Capitol was finally starting to calm down. A couple of contentious legislative sessions had pitted the Legislature’s Republican centrists against hard-line conservatives, largely over measures regulating which restrooms transgender Texans could use. Members had returned to their districts, almost certain the “bathroom bill” would surface as an issue in the 2018 primaries. And House Speaker Joe Straus ’ surprise retirement announcement was still weeks away. For the Associated Republicans of Texas, it was time to go all out... (Read more)
Mueller’s team told Trump’s lawyers the special counsel cannot indict a sitting president, Giuliani says (Washington Post) LINK TO STORY
Special counsel Robert Mueller III's team told President Donald Trump's lawyers recently that prosecutors do not believe they can charge a sitting president with a crime under Justice Department guidelines, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday. The special counsel's conclusion signals that it would be left to Congress to address any finding of wrongdoing by Trump in the investigation. Mueller's team is scrutinizing Russian interference in the 2016 election, whether the Russians coordinated with any Trump associates and whether the president has sought to thwart the probe... (Read more)