BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (July 2, 2018)
CodeNext election suit might break new ground in Texas case law (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
The battle over CodeNext moves from City Hall boardrooms and neighborhood association meetings to the courtroom Monday, when a hearing begins in a lawsuit that seeks a possible referendum on the comprehensive rewrite of Austin’s land-use code.
On one side will be Fred Lewis and Bill Bunch, Austin lawyers who have been directing their ire toward CodeNext since this past fall, when they stepped up an effort to derail the $8 million project by forcing an election through a citizen petition.
On the other side will be attorneys representing the city, who at the City Council’s behest are seeking to keep the petition ordinance off the ballot.
The proposed ordinance, which was signed by more than 31,000 registered Austin voters and was certified on April 23, calls for an election on CodeNext and all future full-scale rewrites of the city’s zoning rules. It also calls for a waiting period before any land-use code rewrite is adopted. Any qualifying land-use ordinance would not be allowed to be put on the books until six months after the next regular City Council election. That could put off adopting CodeNext until 2021, according to court documents filed by the city’s counsel.
Visit Austin audit revised (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
The City Council Audit and Finance Committee accepted the results of an audit of the contract between the city and Visit Austin at last week’s meeting. The audit did not find any significant contract compliance issues with Visit Austin, which received $14.9 million from the city for the 2018 budget year.
However, auditors found that the city’s Convention Center Department could do a better job of administering and monitoring the contract between the city and Visit Austin. In the audit, auditors said the Convention Center divisions responsible for administering the contract lacked “a comprehensive approach to verify the accuracy of contract deliverables.”
Although the draft audit stated that “Visit Austin’s financial policies do not have criteria for which expenses are charged to the City versus private funding sources,” that statement does not appear in the final audit report. The Austin Monitor last month reported that statement from a draft version of the audit that was not labeled “draft.”
Council waives bidding rules, gives Austin Rowing Club another two-year contract (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
The Austin Rowing Club is going to get another chance.
After hearing dozens of people testify in support of the club, City Council voted unanimously Thursday to grant the nonprofit another two years to manage and operate the Waller Creek Boathouse on Lady Bird Lake.
The boathouse is a city-owned property whose operation and management the city contracts out to the rowing club in exchange for a cut of the revenue the club generates.
The move to grant the extension was somewhat controversial because Council took the unusual step of awarding the club the contract to the city-owned property without going through the typical bidding process.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton won't go on trial for alleged crimes before Election Day, experts say (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted for fraud nearly three years ago but is unlikely to go on trial before Election Day. Paxton's trials are on hold while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decides whether the prosecutors on the case are being overpaid. The court went on summer recess Wednesday, and won't hear any cases or issue any major opinions before the fall.
This means they won't announce a decision in the pay case until September, at the earliest, which experts said will delay Paxton's trial dates until after the Nov. 6 election — and probably into next year. "I just don't see there's any way it gets tried before the election," said Rusty Hardin, a Houston attorney who has represented everyone from Enron employees to athletes and TV stars.
"I would have doubted that the trial would have happened before the election even if the Court of Criminal Appeals would have decided today." When it begins issuing major opinions again in September, the Court of Criminal Appeals could decide that the prosecutors are being paid too much. If this happens, the prosecutors have said they will step down and new lawyers will have to take up the case, a process which could take months — or longer — to resolve. If the appeals court sides with the prosecutors and upholds their $300-an-hour fee, the Paxton criminal cases could restart in earnest as early as September. But even if this happens, court watchers said it's highly unlikely the attorney general will be tried before Election Day.
San Antonio officials request changes to controversial Alamo plan (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY
In response to sharp criticism of a proposed plan to revamp Alamo Plaza, San Antonio officials want to consider alternatives to both the demolition of historic commercial buildings and the addition of fences and gates that could hinder the public’s access to the plaza. The move by city officials suggests that they could be open to compromise about two of the more contentious elements in the draft plan, which was unveiled this month at meetings for the public and Alamo stakeholder groups.
Among the other disputed changes are permanently closing three streets around the Alamo and moving the Cenotaph south by about 500 feet. In a letter this week, City Manager Sheryl Sculley asked the plaza design team to explore the idea of locating an Alamo museum at the back of the Alamo grounds, an area known as the garden. That could be an alternative to tearing down the Woolworth’s, Palace and Crockett buildings, which are now identified in the draft plan as the place for the museum. Those historic buildings, which were purchased by the state, line the west side of the plaza and now house non-Alamo-related tourist attractions.
Addressing that criticism, Sculley wrote: “The city of San Antonio is requesting that the interpretive design team provide options that include multiple access points and options that do not include physical railings or gates around the plaza.”
Trump says he has narrowed list of possible Supreme Court picks to five (Wall Street Journal) LINK TO STORY
President Donald Trump said on Friday that he planned to interview one or two candidates this weekend at his Bedminster, N.J., resort to fill Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat, and plans to announce his final pick on July 9.
“I’ve got it narrowed to about five,” he said, including two women. The president also said he wouldn’t specifically ask candidates about Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling making abortion legal. However, a potential nominee’s approach to the issue has been a factor in creating Mr. Trump’s list of 25 conservative candidates.
Trump says he won’t sign any NAFTA deal until after midterms (Washington Post) LINK TO STORY
President Trump said Sunday he is “not happy” with the revised NAFTA deal that his administration has been hammering out with Canada and Mexico and he doesn't want to sign any new agreement until after the midterm elections in November.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador wins Mexican presidential race (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who rallied voters with his battle cry against corruption and promises to the poor, won a resounding victory on Sunday night in Mexico’s presidential election, after the concession of his two top rivals. The victory makes him the first leftist president since Mexico began its transition to democracy more than 30 years ago.
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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