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


[Austin Metro]

Developer: $22.5M offer intended to open McKalla Place for alternative proposals (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

A local development partnership has offered $22.5 million to purchase the North Austin property that is currently being considered as the site for a professional soccer stadium.
The offer letter from developers John Chen and Marcus Whitfield was submitted on Friday to City Manager Spencer Cronk and Alex Gale, assistant director of the city’s Office of Real Estate Services. It includes offers to purchase the property for cash outright or enter into an 80-year lease for the roughly 24-acre parcel for $2.2 million per year, with an annual increase of 1.5 percent.
The offer for the parcel known as McKalla Place includes a general description of their plans for the property, which mirror those given at a Tuesday meeting of the Gracywoods Neighborhood Association: a mixed-use development anchored by a grocery store with residential including 12 percent of units with three or more bedrooms, office and live/work spaces, parks, and additional retail use.
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Manley tapped to be permanent Austin police chief, pending council OK (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk has tapped Brian Manley to be Austin’s permanent police chief and does not plan to conduct a national search for the city’s top law enforcement officer.
Cronk confirmed his plan to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Friday.
The appointment of Manley would require approval by the City Council, which is expected to consider the measure next week, and would resolve a leadership question that the department has faced in the 19 months since former Police Chief Art Acevedo departed in November 2016 to lead Houston’s police force.
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Environmental Commission rejects Planning Commission CodeNEXT amendment (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

At their June 6 meeting, members of the Environmental Commission found themselves faced with an unusual question: “What if developers had the right to build up to 90 percent of their base impervious cover without having to abide by the city’s many development regulations?”
At its last meeting, the Planning Commission passed a recommendation to amend CodeNEXT to say that “an applicant seeking to develop or re-develop property within the zoning jurisdiction of the City shall be entitled, without the necessity of any variance, adjustment, waiver, exception or alternate compliance decision, to develop or re-develop the property” to 90 percent of impervious cover, 90 percent of the building coverage and 90 percent of the floor-to-area ratio allowed by the zoning district.
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ARCH shelter among Austin’s ‘greatest failures’ in addressing homelessness, downtown leader says (Community Impact) LINK TO STORY

Several community leaders criticized Austin’s response to the growing homeless population during a public safety discussion this week, blaming much of the issue on a lack of adequate services.
Bill Brice, vice president of the Downtown Austin Alliance, said the city has continually fallen short in addressing the issue. He specifically called out the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or the ARCH, for its inadequacy.
“The ARCH represents one of the greatest failures of our community to address this problem,” Brice told the Public Safety Commission on June 5. “Who would want homeless services in their community when in everyone’s mind’s eye they see what lies outside the ARCH every single day?”
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Texas GOP meets to elect a leader; will censuring Cornyn be on agenda? (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

In her campaign to lead Texas Republicans, Cindy Asche has cast the current state party chairman, James Dickey, as an untrustworthy character dating back to his partnership in a hedge fund that lost the Art Institute of Chicago $20 million in 2001.
The episode landed Dickey and his fund on the front page of The Wall Street Journal as a “cautionary tale” and in the sights of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a 2006 final judgment, Dickey agreed, without admitting guilt, to pay $35,000 in “disgorgement” — legalese for ill-gotten gains. “I think perpetrating a financial fraud that is documented in court records would cause anyone to question whether or not they would want to invest with that person, and … I think it’s terrible that somebody like that would put themselves out there to represent our party,” Asche, a nurse from Frisco, told the American-Statesman.
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Lucrative Los Alamos National Lab contract awarded to team that includes Texas A&M (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

The Texas A&M University System is part of an alliance that was awarded a lucrative contract to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the U.S. atomic bomb.
The U.S. Department of Energy, headed by A&M alumnus and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, announced Friday that a five-year contract has been given to a limited liability company called Triad National Security, which consists of A&M, the University of California System and Battelle Memorial Institute, a research and development organization.
The University of Texas System also bid for the contract, which is worth an estimated $2.5 billion a year and can be extended for five one-year increments following the five-year base period. The New Mexico lab's current management contract expires at the end of September but will be adjusted to allow for a four-month transition period, according to the Energy Department's news release.
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Culberson’s response to Harvey under political attack (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY

After Hurricane Harvey flooded much of Houston - including the hotly contested Seventh Congressional District - Republican incumbent John Culberson used his position on the House Appropriations Committee to stamp his name on billions of dollars in disaster recovery funds. By February, he could claim a leading hand in securing $141 billion in congressional appropriations to help the victims of the 2017 hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 
But as the nine-term congressman faces an unusually tough reelection against Democratic challenger Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, the city’s troubled history of flooding and the federal government’s long backlog of flood control projects has come under sharp political attack. Fletcher, a Houston attorney making her first run for office, argues that Houstonians are paying the price for Culberson’s small government philosophy and a Republican-led Congress that she says has been slow to fund critical improvements to the Addicks and Barker dams, both aging structures that were deemed to be at “high risk” of failure as early as 2004.
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Top Trump donor in Dallas helped embattled EPA chief with science panel picks (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly stocked a science advisory board from a list provided by a major GOP donor from Dallas, and crafted by a Texas climate change denier spurned by the Senate for a White House job overseeing environmental policy. EPA emails obtained by the Sierra Club also show that Toyota offered Pruitt a private test drive last summer in one of Lexus' latest models, after a visit to the company's headquarters in Plano.
It's unclear if Pruitt took the company up on the offer. But the revelations add to the string of headaches for Pruitt, who has drawn fire for renting an apartment from a lobbyist, spending $1,500 on fountain pens, trying to use his position to help his wife get a Chick-fil-A franchise, demanding an unusual 24/7 security detail and first-class airline seats, and asking aides to acquire a Trump hotel mattress and to fetch protein bars, dry cleaning and Ritz Carlton hotel moisturizing lotion on government time.
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U.S. Justice Department won't fight Texas' efforts to end DACA (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Agreeing with a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas against the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the U.S. Justice Department told the courts late Friday the program should be terminated. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the administration May 1, alleging the Obama-era program was unconstitutional. The Department of Justice’s response isn’t likely to shock DACA recipients or immigrant advocacy groups since President Donald Trump announced in September he was ending the program. Separate courts have since ruled, however, that the Trump administration must continue receiving both DACA renewals and new applications.
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