BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (June 27, 2018)



Precourt releases new McKalla concept with onsite affordable housing (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Precourt Sports Ventures released Tuesday a conceptual site plan that, if implemented, would add affordable housing and additional parking to the proposal for a Major League Soccer stadium in North Austin.
The new concept calls for up to 130 affordable housing units and a four-story parking garage for up to 600 cars near the south corner of the McKalla Place site. The previous concept showed a parking/staging area with 300 parking spaces in that location.
Richard Suttle, a lobbyist for PSV and MLS, said that the affordable housing would be built in partnership with Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit that provides affordable housing and other services. It is not clear how much the development would cost or how it would be funded.
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City of Austin’s paid sick leave law clears its first legal hurdle (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance will remain on the books, at least for now. On Tuesday, state District Judge Tim Sulak denied a request for a temporary injunction from a coalition of business interest groups who challenged the law passed in February. But his ruling was far from one-sided in favor of the city and the advocacy groups defending the ordinance. Sulak tossed the Workers Defense Project from the case, ruling that the group had no standing to intervene as a defendant in the suit.
The judge also ruled that the Texas attorney general’s office, which believes the city’s ordinance violates state law, can remain a plaintiff in the case. Implicit throughout the hearing was that no matter the outcome, the 353rd District Court will not have the final say on the ordinance, set to take effect Oct. 1.
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Elfant updates Commissioners Court on Tax Office troubles following arrests (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The Travis County Tax Office says that the first of four satellite offices that closed down after a fraud investigation netted seven arrests last month won’t reopen until late July at the earliest.
Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant delivered that news along with a collection of other updates to the Commissioners Court on Tuesday afternoon.
He explained that he hopes to have the Pflugerville satellite office opened by July 25.
“Before they can reopen, we’re required to conduct an inventory of our license plates and other materials at all the satellite offices. We have to reinstall computers. We have to check the cameras to make sure they’re okay,” Elfant explained. Additionally, new supervisors will have to be assigned, and other processes, such as cash handling, will have to be reformed.
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City wants to keep taxi franchise system (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The city of Austin doesn’t want to give up on traditional taxicabs, but it acknowledges that they need to adapt to survive in the face of competition from cheaper ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft.
On Thursday, City Council will take up a measure recommended by city transportation staff that would maintain the current “franchise” system for traditional cabs. Under that model, which was first introduced by the city in 1952, the taxi business is strictly regulated by the city, which only grants a certain number of cab franchises.
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After complaints, inspectors find bedbugs, code violations at ARCH (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or ARCH, will boost pest control efforts after city public health officials documented a list of code violations, including bedbugs, in a recent investigation.
City officials were responding to complaints about the facility submitted earlier this year, Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden wrote in a memo to the City Council late Monday. Last week, inspectors found various city code violations that included bedbugs, potential occupancy issues, problems with the water temperature in showers, fire doors that were propped open, a hole in a bathroom wall and a leaking water valve.
The city owns the building at 500 E. Seventh St. that houses the ARCH, but a nonprofit called Front Steps operates the shelter.
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Austin police union head blasts ‘Freedom City’ policies on ‘Fox & Friends’ (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The head of Austin’s police union appeared on the “Fox & Friends” TV show early Tuesday and accused the Austin City Council of “grandstanding” and “race-baiting,” after members this month approved two “Freedom City” resolutions: one aimed at addressing racial disparities in police arrests, and one that scrutinizes federal requests for immigration assistance by local police.
The first resolution directs City Manager Spencer Cronk to work with police leaders to end most discretionary arrests, which happen when officers choose to arrest a person for an offense punishable by either a citation or a trip to jail.
Some of the offenses — as listed by the resolution’s author, Council Member Greg Casar — include city ordinance violations, disorderly conduct, and driving with a suspended license.
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Texas officials rage against ‘crazy’ Farenthold election (Politico) LINK TO STORY

Texas officials are fuming over the tab for the upcoming special election to replace former Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold.
The cost of the June 30 election to replace Farenthold, who resigned in April amid reports he had used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, is expected to be at least $157,000 — and many of the 13 largely rural counties holding the election say they can’t afford their share of the bill. Worse, they argue, the special election is a pointless and needlessly costly exercise since the contest is likely to go to a September runoff — meaning the eventual winner will likely serve in Washington for less than 90 days.

Former state Sen. Carlos Uresti sentenced to 12 years in prison (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY

Standing before a federal judge in a San Antonio courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, former state Sen. Carlos Uresti was contrite.
“I truly feel remorseful, ashamed, disappointed, disgraced, angry at myself and sad,” Uresti told the court, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
But shortly after, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse about his plans to appeal a 12-year federal prison sentence he said he does not “believe is fair and just,” the two-decade veteran of the Texas Legislature seemed anything but remorseful.
The sentence he received Tuesday — and the $6.3 million in restitution he’s been ordered to pay to victims of a Ponzi scheme he was convicted of helping carry out — is “just another obstacle,” Uresti said.

Councilwoman to catering firm: give up profits (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY

Since learning last week that San Antonio’s oldest catering firm was feeding migrant children, some separated from their parents, at a tent city in the desert outside El Paso, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales has led a behind-the-scenes campaign to pressure the RK Group to give away what it’s earning from the enterprise.
Gonzales urged Greg Kowalski, president of the RK Group, and his 94-year-old mother Rosemary Kowalski, chairman emeritus of the firm, to relinquish any profits earned at the site in Tornillo to a nonprofit that would help reunite separated children with their parents — and even threatened to no longer support the catering firm’s lucrative contract to provide food at the city’s Convention Center. The RK Group has held that contract, currently valued at $225 million over 10 years, since 1972.


Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s Travel Ban, Delivering Endorsement of Presidential Power (New York Times) LINK TO STORY

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from mostly-Muslim nations, delivering a robust endorsement of Mr. Trump’s power to control the flow of immigration into America at a time of political upheaval about the treatment of migrants at the Mexican border. In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservatives said the president’s statutory power over immigration was not undermined by his history of incendiary statements about the dangers he said Muslims pose to Americans. 
Mr. Trump, who has battled court challenges to the travel ban since the first days of his administration, hailed the decision to uphold his third version of an executive order as a “tremendous victory” and promised to continue using his office to defend the country against terrorism and extremism. Mr. Trump and his advisers have long argued that presidents are given vast authority to reshape the way America controls its borders. The president’s attempts to do that began with the travel ban and continues today with his demand for an end to “catch and release” of illegal immigrants.
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