BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (June 14, 2018)

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[Austin Metro]

Austin Council Member Ora Houston won’t run again, Dem party chair will (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

A wide-open City Council election awaits East Austinites as four candidates with civic experience line up to replace outgoing Council Member Ora Houston.
Houston said Wednesday that she will not seek a second term in the fall, surprising several colleagues. Only hours after her announcement, Vincent Harding, outgoing chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, said he would join three others in running for the seat.
First elected to the council in 2014, Houston said she made the decision to leave after “months of personal discernment and conversations with confidants.”
“It has been a joy, privilege and a huge responsibility to represent the ‘blended family’ of District #1,” Houston said in the statement. “Over the next seven months there are major issues to address and votes to take which will impact our city for generations, and the individuals who live here now and in the future.”
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Why some say new Austin taxi proposal would be bad for business (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The Austin City Council on Thursday likely will loosen regulations on the taxicab industry, an effort to level the rides-for-hire playing field long after ride-hailing companies have run up a substantial lead.
The proposed ordinance, which Council Member Ann Kitchen said “should fly through” to passage, would remove city control of taxi rates and fleet sizes, leaving those decisions to the city’s four cab franchise holders. Those three companies and one nonprofit could change those rates based on time of day or for special events, as long as the current rates have been shared with the city’s Transportation Department and posted both on online and in the taxi.
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$29.5M appraisal backs claims city eyed McKalla for commercial use (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

A 2016 appraisal of the city-owned property commonly known as McKalla Place found that it had a market value of $29.5 million if used for “commercial development, including retail, office and multifamily development.”
The appraisal, performed by Paul Hornsby & Co. of Austin, was requested by the city’s Office of Real Estate Services and was a product of research by city staff into how the long-idle former industrial parcel of 24 acres could be put to best use. It also recommended a yearly lease rate starting at $1.9 million with 2 percent annual increases if the city wished to retain ownership in a commercial development agreement.
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34-story downtown Austin tower hits milestone (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

A 34-story residential tower under construction in Austin’s Rainey Street district has reached its highest point of construction, a milestone referred to as “topping out.”
Called 70 Rainey, the building on downtown’s southeastern edge will have 164 luxury condominiums ranging in price from the $400,000s to $5 million, with an average price per square foot of more than $800.
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[STATE]

Airbnb collected $15.3 million in hotel taxes from Texas guests (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Just over a year after home-sharing service Airbnb began to collect hotel- occupancy taxes from guests who booked in Texas, the company says it has delivered $15.3 million in tax revenue to the state. The amount is double the $8 million originally projected, the California-based company said in an announcement Wednesday.
“Statewide data indicates that the short-term rental community is complementing — rather than competing with — the Texas hotel industry,” the announcement said. In a tax agreement forged with the Texas Comptroller’s Office in April 2017, the home-sharing platform was authorized to automatically collect a 6 percent tax from people who booked in Texas and remit the revenue directly to the state.
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GOP Platform Committee kills bid to censure Cornyn at state convention (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

On a voice vote, the Texas Republican Convention’s Platform and Resolutions Committee extricated the party from a potentially embarrassing situation by killing a resolution that could have left U.S. Sen. John Cornyn facing a censure vote on Saturday for backing spending bills.
Only Ray Myers, a Kaufman County tea party leader, emitted a quiet “aye” Wednesday on a resolution to censure Cornyn and three North Texas members of the state’s GOP delegation — U.S. Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Michael Burgess of Lewisville. The resolution came from the Tarrant County Senate District 9 Republican Convention in March. The overwhelming sentiment laid to rest any possibility that the biennial Texas Republican Convention would make headlines by censuring Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, who will address the convention Friday.
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STAAR woes continue as Texas tosses more tests and districts scrutinize scores (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

On Wednesday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced that the number of students affected by computer glitches during standardized testing this year was much higher than previously reported: up to about 100,445 students across the state. Some kids were kicked out of online testing for up to three hours because of server issues while taking the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness tests. Others had to log in multiple times because of problems with the system.
The latest reports are emerging even as local school administrators are becoming increasingly concerned about the whole testing program. Garland ISD reported that its tests were delivered to the wrong district — in Houston. And several districts say they had a suspiciously high number of students score zeros on high school essay portions of the tests.
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Texas No. 1 'hotspot' for vaccine exemptions (Houston Chronicle) LINK TO STORY

Four Texas cities, including Houston, rank among the 15 metropolitan "hotspots" of vaccine exemptions, more than any other state, according to a new study.
The study found Austin, Fort Worth and Plano also are among the nation's cities with the highest number of kindergartners not getting vaccinated for non-medical reasons. Since 2009, the proportion of children opting out of such recommended vaccines increased in Texas and 11 other states, the study showed.
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Advocates say arming Texas school employees won’t cost that much. But many districts don’t want to do it. (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Flanked by several Dallas-area lawmakers on May 30, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott laid out a 40-page school safety plan in response to a southeast Texas school shooting that left 10 people dead.
At the heart of his proposal: “hardening” Texas schools, in part by providing money to districts that join existing state programs for arming school staff. The idea received immediate pushback from many educators, who don’t like the idea of guns in schools and worry that programs that arm teachers would be too expensive in a state that’s already struggling to fund education.
But those who support the idea say armed staff can help stop a dangerous gunman. And, they say, the school marshal plan that Abbott is touting wouldn’t actually cost that much.
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