BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (June 29, 2018)
Austin City Council approves $925 million voter bond (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
The Austin City Council approved a $925 million bond package Thursday that will be put to voters this November.
The bond measure will include a $250 million package for affordable housing, which is by far the largest affordable housing measure ever included in a local bond package.
The vote, taken just shy of 11 p.m., was 8-3 with council members Ellen Troxclair, Ora Houston and Jimmy Flannigan against.
“This is a historic level of funding for housing, and it is time to have that conversation with the community,” said Council Member Ann Kitchen, who proposed the $925 million bond. “I hope the community is ready and I think the community is ready. We need to ask the community to vote for this. This is such a critical need.”
The bond package would likely increase the average Austin homeowner’s property tax rates by an estimate 2 cents. It was unclear what that might mean for their property tax bill, as any debt would be issued over the course of several years if voters approve the full bond package.
The bond will come before the council again in August, when the council will make more specific decisions on what projects that bond would fund.
Negotiations to start with PSV as Austin also will accept other proposals for McKalla Place (Community Impact) LINK TO STORY
Austin City Council members approved a pair of resolutions in the early hours of Friday morning that could determine whether the city gets a Major League Soccer team.
The resolutions direct the city to begin negotiations with Precourt Sports Ventures to construct an MLS stadium as well as to also receive plans from other developers for the 24-acre city-owned property at 10414 McKalla Place in North Austin. Both items return to council Aug. 9 for further discussion and possible approval of a deal.
“The thing that is clearest to me is how we all want the best deal for this city, and I appreciate that,” District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool said. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I am less than impressed with PSV’s first offer. But it is just that.”
PSV submitted its proposal on June 1 to build a 20,000-seat stadium and relocate the Columbus Crew team to Austin. The soccer park proposal also includes a music venue and public access to the park for recreation and community events.
Austin hopes deregulation will save taxi companies (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
Austin’s City Council on Thursday approved a radical change in the city’s taxicab regulations that the Transportation Department drew up in the hopes of saving the industry.
The most important of the changes is the deregulation of fares. That means each individual taxicab company will be able to determine the rates for its fleet, and different companies can charge different rates during peak usage or when there is high demand, such as during a festival or another large-volume event.
The department requested the change in an attempt to save taxicab companies, which are in danger of being run out of business by low-cost ride-hailing transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft. Jacob Culberson, acting Mobility Services Division manager, explained the need for such a big change to the Urban Transportation Commission earlier this year.
Austin may be getting a new department to oversee labor rights laws (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
City Council members voted Thursday to ask the city manager to look into creating a new department to oversee its labor rights laws – including rules that guarantee rest breaks for construction workers and mandate paid sick leave for private employees.
These laws are currently overseen by at least two departments – the Code Department and the Human Resources Department.
“You have multiple departments trying to both handle internal city operations and external labor and civil rights protections, and it can lead to, in my view, a lack of focus,” said Council Member Greg Casar, one of the item’s sponsors.
Hays County residents fear the fight to protect their water was all for nothing (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
Hays County residents thought their water was saved.
Houston-based Electro Purification had plans to pump 5.3 million gallons of water per day from the Trinity Aquifer. The area wasn't regulated by any groundwater conservation district, meaning the water was considered the company's private property, and it could pump as much as it pleased, even if it meant running neighbors' wells dry.
A 2015 law changed that, annexing the company's leased parcels of land into the control of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. Any pumping would need a permit from the district. Residents assumed the fight was over.
Gov. Greg Abbott urges Trump to reconsider tariffs that 'threaten future economic growth' in Texas (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday urged President Donald Trump to reconsider his approach on trade, telling his fellow Republican that tariffs on steel and aluminum "may threaten future economic growth both in our state and across the country."
Abbott, in a letter to Trump, highlighted particular harm to Texas. The governor noted that Texas imports more steel and aluminum than any other U.S. state. He pointed out that the tariffs endanger Texas' booming energy sector.
He cited data that many more Texans work in industries that depend on the metals than in those that produce them. "The new tariffs could jeopardize the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Texans and other Americans employed in the oil and gas industry," he wrote. Abbott's letter adds another voice to the chorus of concern in Texas over Trump's trade strategy, particularly as tariffs have set off an ever-growing trade war with even close U.S. allies.
Republicans and Democrats in Texas have united to implore Trump to pursue a different course than his protectionist agenda. Many business in the state have bemoaned the import levies, with one Texas company going so far as to sue the Trump administration over the issue.
Texas-New Mexico water fight could be impacted by SCOTUS ruling (Austin Monitor) LINK STORY
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on Wednesday in a water fight between Florida and Georgia could have implications for a similar legal battle between Texas and New Mexico over the Rio Grande water supply, legal experts said.
Five years ago, Texas sued New Mexico, asserting that New Mexico is in violation of the Rio Grande Compact, an interstate agreement that has governed water allocations between the two states and Colorado for 80 years. New Mexican farmers pumping the river’s groundwater cause river levels in Texas to drop, depriving Texans of the water they're obligated to, the state argued.
Over 1,000 miles away, along the Florida-Georgia border, the Sunshine State is accusing its neighbor of taking more than its fair share of water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.
How Cities Became the New Unions (Politico) LINK TO STORY
The $15 minimum wage was just the beginning. Now Seattle is trying to build a whole safety net for workers—and triggering a war with its biggest companies. In 2015, the City Council passed a law allowing drivers to bargain collectively.
Now, the city was considering a law to force ride-share companies to nearly double the base rate paid to their drivers. City officials argued the new rate was necessary to ensure that drivers earn Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage. But Uber, king of the budget ride, was having none of it. After blasting an email to its Seattle-area customers warning that the city “wants to double your rates,” Uber dispatched a small army of company-friendly drivers to City Hall to lobby the council in person. Seattle, a city famous for promoting innovation, was innovating in a way that Uber didn’t appreciate.
Yet, it’s the kind of assertiveness that Uber and the rest of corporate America will probably have to get used to. Ever since 2014, when Seattle became the first major municipality to adopt a $15 minimum wage—over the objections of its own business community—the famously left-of-center city has rolled out a series of ambitious, often controversial laws aimed at shielding workers from the chaos of the fast-changing, technology-disrupted urban job market.
The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.
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