BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (August 3, 2018)
As CodeNext withers, Planning Commission weighs fruits of its labors (Austin American-Statesman)
Despite CodeNext’s demise being all but guaranteed, many members of the volunteer commission that spent hundreds of hours agonizing over the all-inclusive zoning project remain hopeful that their work can be salvaged. “I see it as a new beginning,” James Shieh, the new chair of the Austin Planning Commission, said Thursday. “It is a really bold move by the council, one that is appreciated by a lot of people. I see it as blowing CodeNext apart, but all the pieces are still salvageable.”
The Planning Commission, the city’s 13-member land-use board, met for about 80 hours in May alone to consider CodeNext, the first comprehensive reworking of Austin’s land-use rules in 34 years. To track the hundreds of amendments made to CodeNext, then-Chair Stephen Oliver created a more than 60-page spreadsheet that many commission members printed out on 11-by-17-inch paper to track their changes, which arose out of marathon meetings that often stretched late into the night.
The work was highly technical, as the City Council-appointed commission members worked bit by bit to nail down hundreds of pieces of minutiae in the now-doomed land use rewrite, with hopes of delivering a workable recommendation to the council. On May 25, the third and final draft of CodeNext — 1,574 pages long — was sent to the City Council...
Dallas company in driver’s seat on 12th Street corridor (Austin American-Statesman)
In recent years, a Dallas-based real estate company has gone on an extraordinary buying spree in East Austin. Eureka Holdings has purchased 114 parcels, many of them along and around the 12th Street corridor, according to county records. They range from small vacant lots and older residences to a historic site and the Mount Carmel Village Apartments, a 50-year-old affordable housing complex.
The company’s central East Austin portfolio exceeds $50 million, public records show. That doesn’t make it Austin’s largest or wealthiest real estate company; the developers of downtown’s “Jenga” skyscraper are spending an estimated $300 million on a single building.
But by accumulating so many properties in the East 12th Street corridor, once the heart of the city’s historic African-American community, Eureka has in effect become the largest shareholder of one of Austin’s most iconic and culturally sensitive neighborhoods. The company’s managing partner, Rene Campos, said he is committed to creating the community locals want and need. “We’re long term, so we don’t have the short-term immediate pressures some other organizations might have,” he said. “We want to do quality developments that fit in with the neighborhood.”
Eureka has so far revealed little about its intentions, though, and in a city that has seen its African-American share of the population shrink in recent years, the company’s leverage has created deep anxiety among locals...
Michigan city hires Austin Assistant City Manager Mark Washington (Austin American-Statesman)
Less than a week after new Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk announced a shakeup of his executive team, Assistant City Manager Mark Washington is taking a new job in Michigan.
City commissioners in Grand Rapids voted 6-1 Tuesday to hire Washington as city manager, according to MLive. Commissioners there touted him for his experience in Austin, especially involving issues of racial equity. Washington plans to take the job, but a contract has not been drafted yet, and his start date has not been determined, he told the American-Statesman.
“Grand Rapids is a great place to live, a great place to work, a great community,” he said. “There’s many similarities, not with the weather, but with the things they’re facing in their community given the rapid growth and attractiveness of culture.”
Washington will be the first city manager there to come from outside of Grand Rapids City Hall in more than 30 years, according to WOOD, a Grand Rapids television station. The Michigan city had an estimated population of 198,829 as of July 1, 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.
“I get to come in asking questions, not out of investigation, but out of curiosity,” Washington told the station...
Top Baylor donors renew criticism of regents after McCaw allegations (Waco Tribune-Herald)
Top Baylor University donors on Thursday renewed calls for a shakeup of the school’s board of regents, along with a review of the 2016 investigation into the university’s responses to sexual assault and a report detailing the financial costs of the scandal. “Other universities have been able to move forward by telling the whole truth and then taking steps to make sure something like this could never happen again,” said John Eddie Williams, a Houston lawyer and the main donor for Baylor’s football field and law school library.
“All the facts will be revealed in litigation. Our (Bears for Leadership Reform) leadership is deeply disturbed that the Baylor family has a lot of questions. None of them have been answered.” The group, dubbed Bears for Leadership Reform, cited new allegations from a deposition of former Athletic Director Ian McCaw as a reason for the new push for accountability...
Does Cruz lead O'Rourke by six points or two? Here's how to evaluate Texas polls. (Texas Tribune)
So who should you trust? When analyzing polls, experts advise not relying on the results of only one survey. And remember, no one is going to be 100 percent accurate — especially months away from an election.
“Even for the best polls under optimal circumstances, there’s going to be natural error. Polls can only do so much,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. “One lesson for anyone interpreting polls is to not rely on any single poll. Look at all the credible polls together and then take the average of their results.”
“That’ll give you your best estimate as to what things will look like in November,” he added.
The numbers coming out now are just snapshots of a moment in time, experts say. And the results are highly likely to change...
City clerk verifies paid sick leave signatures (San Antonio Express-News)
The movement to bring paid sick leave to San Antonio inched forward Thursday with the certification of signatures on a petition that forces council members to take action, ratcheting up tension between the business community, activists and the city. City Clerk Leticia Vacek’s announcement did not require action from the council; instead, council members are planning to gather public input at a hearing Wednesday. Mayor Ron Nirenberg has said he plans to put paid sick leave on the agenda for the council’s Aug. 16 meeting, when council members are expected to decide whether to enact it as an ordinance or place it on the November ballot.
The proposed sick-time ordinance would require that private-sector employees, even those at nonprofits and small businesses, earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work, which would accrue to a minimum of 48 or 60 hours, depending on the size of the company. If approved, the ordinance would take effect for most businesses Aug. 1, 2019. For those with five or fewer employees, it would be implemented Aug. 1, 2021...
Analysis: After this election, Texas judicial races might never be the same (Texas Tribune)
Texas elects its judges, leaving the nearly anonymous people in charge of the third branch of state government in the hands of voters who have only the vaguest idea of who they are.
It’s one of the built-in problems of running a big state. Ballots are long. Attention spans are short. Judges are almost as invisible as they are important — a critical part of government located a long way from the noisy and partisan front lines of civics and politics.
The top of the ballot gets the attention. The bottom of the ballot gets leftovers.
When a party’s candidates at the top of the ticket are doing well, it bodes well for that party’s candidates at the bottom — for the time being anyway. For at least one more election, Texans will be able to cast straight-party votes — choosing everybody on their party’s ticket without going race-by-race through sometimes long ballots.
Texas lawmakers decided last year to get rid of the straight-ticket option starting in 2020. It’s a Republican Legislature and governor and straight-ticket Democrats in Dallas and Harris and other big counties have been making early retirees of Republican judges in recent elections...
RNC warns donors to steer clear of Kochs (Politico)
The Republican National Committee is sending a warning shot to major GOP donors not to play ball with the powerful Koch political network, escalating a fight between President Donald Trump’s allies and the Kochs. The move follows a weekend retreat in Colorado at which Koch network officials criticized the Trump administration, hinted they would work with Democrats, and announced they would not help a Republican candidate in a key 2018 Senate race. “Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote in a memo to party contributors on Thursday afternoon. “This is unacceptable.”...