BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (July 3, 2018)
Judge: Decision on CodeNEXT petition will come ‘as soon as possible’ (Community Impact) LINK TO STORY
After hearing the city and petitioners argue whether the question of a public vote on CodeNEXT should be on November’s ballot, Travis County District Judge Orlinda Naranjo said she understood the question’s “short fuse” and will decide “as soon as possible.”
Austin is undergoing a five-year, $8.5 million rewrite of its land development code—known as CodeNEXT—in response to the pressures caused by rapid population growth. Proposed zoning changes that would add housing density in central city neighborhoods have dominated much of the debate, and in March, the city clerk received a valid petition signed by more than 31,000 Austinites demanding CodeNEXT’s fate depend on a public, not City Council, vote.
City Council’s rejection of the public vote notion resulted in a lawsuit—heard Monday—between the petitioners and city leaders. Should Naranjo side with the petitioners the city would have to ask voters whether they think they have the right to vote on a land development code rewrite. The city has until Aug. 20 to put that question on the November ballot. Otherwise, City Council is expected to vote on CodeNEXT this fall.
Possible changes to panhandling ordinance draw concern from business leaders (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
A possible revision of the city’s ordinance regulating panhandling is drawing concern from downtown business leaders who say the proposed changes would allow aggressive requests for money and could create safety issues in areas with heavy foot traffic.
The amendments to the city’s solicitation ordinance had been on the agenda for Thursday’s City Council meeting, but the item was withdrawn last week so city staff could gather more public input on the new language. The city’s Public Information Office said there is no schedule or timeline for when the changes will go before the public or be put back on a future meeting agenda.
The amendments came about because the city auditor found in a November report on issues related to homelessness that “ordinances that limit or ban camping, sitting or lying down in public spaces, and panhandling may create barriers for people as they attempt to exit homelessness because they can lead to a criminal record or arrest warrants.”
CodeNEXT targets major obstacle to density: Compatibility standards (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
One of the major divisions over CodeNEXT was brought into sharp relief during a Wednesday City Council special called meeting. The issue: compatibility standards and transition zones.
Currently, what one can build on a property is based not just on how the lot is zoned, but whether it is within a certain distance of a single-family home. Therefore, an empty lot may be zoned to allow a tall commercial or residential building, but if a single-family home is built within 540 feet, the property owner no longer will be allowed to build such a tall structure. A structure within 25 feet of a single-family home can be no taller than 25 feet, for instance. A 50-foot-tall building must be at least 200 feet away from the nearest single-family home.
As a result, explained Peter Park, one of the CodeNEXT consultants, there are large areas even along the city’s major corridors – planned locations for additional density – that are not able to develop to their full capacity. Park called Austin’s rules “uncommonly suppressive” of development.
Big plans for Shoal Creek Trail unveiled (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
The nonprofit steward of Austin’s premier urban trail has published its draft plan for extending the hike-and-bike path north from Central Austin all the way to the Domain.
The Shoal Creek Conservancy on Friday publicly debuted its Shoal Creek Trail: Vision to Action Plan, a document that calls for more than tripling the length of the existing 4-mile trail that runs from Lady Bird Lake to West 38th Street.
The strategy, which also includes improving conditions along the downtown segment of the trail, is broken into four phases and comes with a projected cost of $66 million.
Mexico's new president is promising big changes. Will that affect trade with Texas? (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
Only time will tell if Andrés Manuel López Obrador will go down in history as one of Latin America’s ineffective left-wing prophets or an underdog politician who led Mexico on a course to sustainability and independence. But one thing is certain a day after the 64-year old populist, referred to by Mexicans as “AMLO,” won that country’s presidential election by a landslide: Texas’ business leaders and elected officials are taking note of how the election could possibly upend Texas' robust trading relationship with its southern neighbor.
Eddie Aldrete, the senior vice-president of International Bank of Commerce and chairman of the Texas-Mexico Trade Coalition, said it’s too soon to tell what type of president López Obrador will be. But he said investors, business owners and elected officials will get a better glimpse in the months ahead; López Obrador won’t take office until December.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he will donate metal detectors to Santa Fe ISD after school shooting (Texas Tribune) LINK TO STORY
More than a month after a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School left 10 dead and 13 injured, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is taking steps to tighten security in the southeast Texas school district, part of an effort by the state’s Republican leadership to “harden” schools as targets.
Patrick announced Monday that he’ll donate “up to 10” metal detectors to the Santa Fe Independent School District, a Galveston County district of about 4,700 students. A private metal detector company, Garrett Metal Detectors, has also agreed to donate metal detectors to the district, as well as perform a security analysis and train staff at no cost, Patrick said.
Those new security protocols will be in place before the start of the school year, pending district approval, Patrick said.
NSA purging hundreds of millions of call records (New York Times) LINK TO STORY
The National Security Agency has purged hundreds of millions of records logging phone calls and texts that it had gathered from American telecommunications companies since 2015, the agency has disclosed. It had realized that its database was contaminated with some files the agency had no authority to receive. The agency began destroying the records on May 23, it said in a statement. Officials had discovered “technical irregularities” this year in its collection from phone companies of so-called call record details, or metadata showing who called or texted whom and when, but not what they said.
David Kris, a founder of the Culper Partners consulting firm who led the Justice Department’s National Security Division in the first term of the Obama administration, called the disclosure “a failure” of the implementation of the USA Freedom Act, which is set to expire next year if Congress does not enact new legislation extending it. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., blamed telecoms — not the government — for the problem. “Telecom companies hold vast amounts of private data on Americans. This incident shows these companies acted with unacceptable carelessness, and failed to comply with the law when they shared customers’ sensitive data with the government.”
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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