BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (July 26, 2018)



IndyAustin targets stadium proposal, suggests petition for referendum (Austin Monitor)

The local political action committee that helped to force an upcoming public vote on the implementation of CodeNEXT has set its sights on the city’s McKalla Place property and the push to build a professional soccer stadium there.
IndyAustin is in the very early stages of a possible petition drive to bring about a vote on any agreement City Council reaches with Precourt Sports Ventures, the owners of the Columbus Crew soccer team, to construct a 20,000-seat stadium that would become the team’s new home as early as 2021. In an announcement on its website the group lists a public vote as one of the political options for opponents of the proposed deal, with recall campaigns and support for opponents of incumbent Council members as two of the other options.
City staff are currently negotiating a possible deal on the 24-acre parcel with PSV and Council is expected to vote on the deal at its Aug. 9 meeting. IndyAustin’s announcement says the negotiation has been rushed and Council members are likely to secure a less attractive deal than what would happen in a more traditional bargaining scenario to bring a pro sports team to the city...
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Austin seeks $30 million to scale its homelessness solutions (Community Impact)

In August,  Austin City Council will vote on whether to send a $925 million bond proposal to voters which would allocate $250 million to affordable housing.
This decision comes on the heels of other efforts by City Council to address Austin’s rising cost of living–and the attendant issues it creates.
In April, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, a local nonprofit, announced the results of its 2018 Point-in-Time Count. The homeless population in the city of Austin and Travis County increased 5 percent since the previous year’s effort.
That same day, City Council voted to approve an action plan to end homelessness, which requests an additional $30 million annually–double the current spending from public, private and nonprofit sources–to achieve a functional zero homelessness rate, meaning that the number of people experiencing homelessness never exceeds the number of people returning to housing.
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Affordability on the minds of housing experts gathered in Austin (Austin Monitor)

Business leaders from throughout the real estate industry spent most of this week in Austin focused on solving the affordable housing shortage that is reaching crisis levels in Austin and most other major cities around the country. The draw for the roughly 1,000 visitors was the annual Texas Housing Conference, organized by the Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers to bring together lenders, agents, developers and others looking to add more housing throughout the state that is affordable to middle- and lower-income buyers.
The state’s major cities had already spent recent years grappling with rising property values making homes near jobs and transit corridors harder to afford, but a trifecta of federal tariffs on building materials, increased immigration policing and rising interest rates have caused even greater affordability headwinds, said Nicole Asarch, a TAAHP board member...
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Job openings grow as Austin area battles ‘skills gap’ (Austin American-Statesman)

The latest sign of the surging economy in the Austin metro area is, literally, a sign — “Help Wanted.”

Postings for local job openings topped 43,000 last month, 10 percent more than in June 2017, according to data compiled by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. The figure also substantially outpaced the 38,092 people in the metro area that the Texas Workforce Commission counted as unemployed last month.

Labor experts said Wednesday that the trends point to a disconnect between the skills of many local job seekers and the qualifications sought by employers...

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After grading error, all Austin high school rankings to get audit (Austin American-Statesman) 

After a grading glitch incorrectly ranked Reagan High School’s valedictorian as No. 2, Austin school officials are planning to hire an independent auditor to review the final 2018 class rankings at all 13 of the district’s high schools.
Officials are soliciting bids for the work and anticipate the audit to be complete by October. It is unclear how much an audit will cost; if quotes come in over $50,000, the district must seek proposals in a more formal bidding process.
Naomi Lands, 17, graduated at the top of her 2018 Reagan class, the school district’s only black valedictorian this year and the first in Reagan’s recent history (school records don’t go farther back than 2011 and officials couldn’t immediately recall other African-American valedictorians).
But a programming error improperly weighted one of Lands’ advanced courses, mistakenly lowering her GPA and ranking her No. 2. Lands was honored as salutatorian at the school graduation ceremony on May 29. The school didn’t discover the error for weeks and notified Lands a month after graduation.
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As more states legalize marijuana, advocates see signs suggesting Texas may move that way (Texas Tribune)

Texas isn’t likely to be the next Colorado or California. The state almost certainly won’t be the next one to legalize recreational marijuana use. But there are signs that both the public opinion and political calculus on pot are shifting in Texas, with advocates hopeful that those shifts could yield significant progress during next year’s legislative session.
For over a decade, Texas lawmakers have filed bills aimed at weakening Texas' rigid marijuana laws. Those always went nowhere until 2015, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized the sale of a specific kind of cannabis oil for Texans with intractable epilepsy. Three dispensaries have since opened in Texas to produce and sell the oil...
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UT-Dallas reaches coveted state research designation, unlocking millions in funding (Dallas Morning News)

When Heather Hayenga, an assistant professor at University of Texas at Dallas, started her research nearly five years ago, she only had an idea of how to help save people from dying of heart disease - an illness that took her own dad's life. It would require nearly half a million in investment from UT-Dallas for her to buy a top-line, high-tech microscope, grow delicate cell samples and hire graduate students to help write and run coding for the experiments. Now UT-Dallas has reached an elite designation that secures millions in state dollars to jump start research efforts similar to the one Hayenga is leading for years to come. Officials announced Wednesday that the school now qualifies for the National Research University Fund, one of only three schools in the state to do so. "This is validation of a high level of performance at UTD. ... It's one of prestige," university President Richard Benson said...
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Jerry Jones calls President Trump’s anthem comments problematic; will not support players not standing for pledge (Star-Telegram) 

While NFL and the NFL Players Association remain in discussion on the league’s anthem policy and how to handle player protest, Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones remains unequivocal on his team’s stance. “You know where I stand, our teams know where I stand. That is where we are,” Jones said in a press conference to open training camp in Oxnard, California, on Wednesday. “Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe on the line.” Jones said the Cowboys will not support players who choose to remain in the locker room for The Star-Spangled Banner rather than standing on the field. Jones’ statement is a departure from what had been a standstill agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association to stay the new policy that was voted on last May...
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Texas GOP weighs trading speaker votes for Rep. Kay Granger's bid for the Appropriations gavel (Politico)

Texas Republicans, the largest GOP delegation in the House, are debating whether to use their leverage in a speakership race to plant one of their own atop the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Several Texas Republicans — well aware that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy needs their support to succeed Speaker Paul Ryan — have discussed pushing Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) to lead the spending panel in return for their votes for speaker. The idea, which has been closely guarded, came up at a recent Texas delegation lunch. Some members of the group are more supportive of the idea than others, according to interviews with nine Texas Republicans.
Though many support Granger for the chairmanship, two Texas Republicans said they don’t need to formally make the demand because they believe McCarthy will back Granger for the position. Others, however, worry that McCarthy will throw his support to another candidate. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who is next in line for the gavel in terms of seniority, also wants to chair the committee. So, too, does Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, a close McCarthy ally, and Tom Cole of Oklahoma. The contentious contest for the Appropriations Committee gavel demonstrates how the infighting over prestigious committee posts could spill into McCarthy’s bid to become speaker...
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