BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (July 11, 2018)
Some areas of the city care a lot more about CodeNEXT (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY
What do Austinites think about CodeNEXT? It’s hard to say.
A poll conducted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, which supports CodeNEXT, found 45 percent in favor, 36 percent opposed and 19 percent unsure.
When City Council recently held two public hearings for residents to voice their opinions on the proposed overhaul of the Land Development Code, 170 said they were opposed, 99 said they were in favor and 47 rated their position as “neutral.”
What is clear, however, is that some parts of the city are far more engaged on the issue than others. Here is a look at those who turned up at the CodeNEXT meetings.
Travis County unveils site, developer of civil courthouse (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
More than a decade after officials first started talking about the need for it, Travis County has settled on a site and a developer for its new civil and family courts facility.
Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced Tuesday that the county had entered into exclusive negotiations with Hunt Development Group to build a courthouse at 1700 Guadalupe St., a 1.46-acre site.
The project will be co-developed with Chameleon Companies, and companies including Hensel Phelps, Gensler and CGL Companies will handle project design and construction.
The courthouse will replace the 85-year-old Heman Sweatt Travis County Courthouse, which officials have said is overcrowded and dilapidated. In 2015, voters rejected a $287 million bond package to build a new courthouse at 308 Guadalupe St., sending county officials back to the drawing board.
A Two-Horse Race for Mayor: Can Laura Morrison hope to edge out Steve Adler? (Austin Chronicle) LINK TO STORY
“The Mayor Who Does Stuff" vs. "The Clear Choice"? That's one way to think about the upcoming mayoral campaign between incumbent Steve Adler and former Council Member Laura Morrison, as reflected in their own current thoughts about the race. "I think the defining issue is trying actually to do stuff," Adler said in a recent interview. "To be really clear-eyed about the challenges we face, and the need to do things to address those challenges, rather than just hoping they'll go away."
But Morrison told the Chronicle, "I've been talking to people all over town. People are looking for a clear choice. There's a deep concern about the path we are on, and the leadership we have. I think I represent that clear choice."
Those are not the most precise self-descriptions, but they do reflect broad distinctions between the candidates as they look toward November. In his press releases, Adler points to the accomplishments of his first term, with his City Council colleagues, as having made progress not just on local issues – affordability, mobility, homelessness – but on national issues such as immigration, discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, and climate change. Morrison's counterargument is less about "doing stuff" than how that stuff is being done. She says the mayor has relied too much on "backroom deals" and "top-down" politics, instead of reaching out to a broad city constituency and finding ways to work "from the bottom up."
Pflugerville to ease food truck restrictions with pilot program (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY
More food trucks might be coming to Pflugerville soon as the city plans to ease restrictions on mobile food vendors.
The city will roll out a pilot program next week following approval by the city manager’s office in May. The program is set to run until the end of the year.
Planning director Emily Barron said the program will take into consideration health and food safety and allow food trucks to set up shop at any location within city limits. A fee for food permits for mobile food vendors will also be removed for the duration of the program.
“We hope that this will encourage them so that we can get real feedback,” Barron said.
Texas eager to spend sales tax windfall, however modest, from online retailers (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY
The U.S. Supreme Court may have freed up states to collect more sales tax on internet shopping, but the ruling probably won't result in a huge windfall for Texas. Still, the new money could help with matters such as Hurricane Harvey recovery and school security, a key Texas budget writer said last week.
"This isn't a huge windfall anymore," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas, referring to a 6-year-old settlement that forced online giant Amazon to fork over sales tax on items it directly sells to Texans. In late 2014, then-Comptroller Susan Combs' office estimated that if Congress passed a proposed federal law to lower barriers to state and local taxation of internet sales, Texas could gain $840 million annually and its local governments, $200 million.
But Amazon and some other big online retailers already remit the tax on direct sales to Texans, reducing the potential gain, experts said. Spokesmen for Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, declined to discuss how Texas should respond, now that it's free to pursue more online retailers for sales tax.
Down in San Antonio, another battle over mandatory sick leave takes shape (San Antonio Business Journal) LINK TO STORY
The San Antonio City Council would run afoul of state law if it were to mandate that private employers in the city provide paid sick leave to their workers, the Texas Attorney General's office warned on July 9.
David Hacker, special counsel for civil litigation under Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a letter addressed to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, said that while the city's charter requires it to vote on an ordinance as described in a petition calling for paid sick leave, such an ordinance can't be enforced.
"No matter the Council's decision or the result of any ballot initiative, Texas law preempts a municipal paid sick leave ordinance," Hacker wrote.
San Antonio aviation leader addresses airport's 'shortcomings,' criticisms (San Antonio Express-News) LINK TO STORY
In December 2016, San Antonio officials hired Russ Handy to lead the city’s airport system including San Antonio International Airport and Stinson Municipal Airport. Under Handy’s leadership, San Antonio International Airport saw record passenger traffic last year and has aggressively added dozens of nonstop routes to destinations demanded by leisure and business travelers. Yet San Antonio International Airport often draws criticism, most recently from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff who called it a “shortcoming” when it came to the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.
“None of us here on the airport system team are shy about the fact that we’ve got work to do. That said, I think we’re making some dramatic improvements in the areas of both optimizing air service and optimizing the customer experience. In many, many of the categories, we’re making progress, and we have a lot more work to do,” Handy said in a discussion with the Express-News.
Judge Rejects Trump Administration's Bid To Detain Migrant Children Indefinitely (KUT) LINK TO STORY
When President Trump signed the executive order last month that ended the separation of migrant families, he effectively swapped one controversial practice for another — in this case, the indefinite detention of whole families. And the questions weren't long in coming from some observers, who pointed out that the order appeared to violate a 1997 legal settlement that has been interpreted as barring such indefinite detentions.
At the signing last month, Trump acknowledged the likely legal battles on the horizon: "There may be some litigation," he conceded, instructing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request modifications to that settlement.