BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (August 2, 2018)
CodeNext to code nixed: Adler, council members abandon code rewrite (Austin American-Statesman)
CodeNext was all but bulldozed into rubble Wednesday after Austin Mayor Steve Adler abruptly called for a halt to the comprehensive rewrite of the city’s land development code.
The over-budget project has endured numerous delays, but it was the divisive rhetoric surrounding CodeNext that appears to have doomed it. Since the first draft of the revised land-use rules was released in early 2017, CodeNext has laid bare the ideological differences between pro-density urbanists and neighborhood preservationists, who have sniped at one another for months in public meetings and through social media.
“The need to revise this land development code is greater than ever before,” Adler wrote Wednesday in a 1,500-word post to the City Council’s online message board. “Yet, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the CodeNext process, so divisive and poisoned, will not get us to a better place.”
CodeNext also spotlighted divisions among council members, who are nearly in lockstep when it comes to championing progressive and liberal ideals but were essentially riven into two camps when it comes to CodeNext.
In Adler’s post, he noted that CodeNext did not have “sufficient consensus” from the council, even though previous votes related to the project showed it was likely to eventually pass by a 7-4 ratio.
Council seeks clarity – and more money – in soccer negotiations (Austin Monitor)
Wednesday’s City Council meeting dedicated to the ongoing push that could bring Austin a professional soccer team frequently resembled a public bargaining session, with Council members pushing staff and hired legal counsel to extract more concessions and precise terms and conditions in any legal agreements.
The biggest monetary ask on Wednesday came in the morning session when Council Member Delia Garza reviewed her new proposal that would ask Precourt Sports Ventures – owners of the Columbus Crew team that may relocate to Austin – to contribute $3 million and a $1 transit fee on each game ticket to the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pay for construction of a rail station next to the McKalla Place property that is owned by the city.
Council’s discussion covered everything from asking for a list of the city’s costs of risks and liabilities in the proposed agreement, to questions about how the city and PSV split responsibility for traffic impacts and safety costs on game days, how the affordable housing complex Council pushed for on the property will be realized, and what specific community benefits will be included in the final stadium agreements that will largely be finalized between the two sides in private...
As under-enrollment trend continues, AISD searches for ways to keep kids and money in district (Austin Monitor)
The Austin Independent School District’s enrollment numbers are predicted to continue their downward trend in the coming school year, affecting long-term district decisions regarding budgeting and other financial policy. According to the most recent demographic study, the district will lose an estimated 4,266 students by 2026.
This downward trend influences every part of district funding decisions. It’s estimated that since 2013, the peak of the district’s enrollment, AISD has lost nearly $115 million to under-enrollment. According to Travis Zander, director of budget and planning for AISD, this year’s $1.4 billion budget, which is $11.9 million less than the previous year’s, was crafted with the anticipated student losses in mind.
“As long as we are continuing to lose students, this is going to continue to happen,” Zander said. “The district can’t artificially prop up in perpetuity the same funding levels we had in 2012 and 2013, at the peak of our student enrollment. We don’t get funded at that. So as we continue to see those declines in student enrollments, there’s going to have to be some difficult decisions that are going to have to be made because of us not having the same resources.”...
Ted Cruz leads Beto O'Rourke 49-43 in Quinnipiac poll (Texas Tribune)
A new poll released Wednesday morning suggests a tightening race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke.
The newly released poll from Quinnipiac University gives Cruz a 6-point lead: 49 percent of registered Texas voters reported backing the Republican incumbent while 43 percent said they support O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat. The poll's margin of error is 3.5 percent. The results are closer than a poll Quinnipiac released in late May, which showed Cruz holding an 11-point lead over his opponent.
“U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has a slight, by no means overwhelming, lead," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll. "Congressman Beto O'Rourke has done a good job making the race competitive. With three months until Election Day, he is clearly in contention. A Democratic victory in the Lone Star state would be a serious blow to GOP hopes of keeping their U.S. Senate majority.”
Silicon Valley hits out at proposed tariffs on Chinese e-bikes (Austin Business Journal)
Uber, Bird and Lime have hit out at proposed US tariffs on electric bicycles and scooters imported from China, pitting some of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing companies against US President Donald Trump.
In written submissions to the US trade representative, Uber condemns the 25 per cent import duty as a “penalty tax on US companies, job creation, and consumers”, while Lime said the proposals were “misguided, and would result in increased prices for the public”. Bird said that any such move would “hurt American innovation” at a time when no alternative scooter suppliers were readily available in the US.
E-scooters and pedal-assist bikes have recently grown in popularity in the US with the emergence of app-based rental schemes from Bird, Lime and Uber-owned Jump, which have together received almost $1bn worth of investment during the past 12 months...
Paul Manafort’s defense team opens trial by blaming associates (New York Times)
Paul Manafort’s trial on financial fraud charges opened on Tuesday with an effort by his defense team to deflect blame to the government’s star witness in the case, Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s longtime political consulting partner. The defense strategy pits the credibility of Mr. Manafort, a former campaign chairman for President Trump, against that of Mr. Gates, who has pleaded guilty to charges in the same case and is cooperating in the inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. And it sets up a dramatic courtroom showdown between Mr. Gates, who is scheduled to take the stand for the prosecution, and Mr. Manafort, who worked closely with him in aiding pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine for a decade and also in 2016 on Mr. Trump’s campaign...