BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (August 7, 2018)



Developers to make pitch to shape McKalla Place without a stadium (Austin American-Statesman) 

For weeks developers have poked holes at Precourt Sports Ventures’ proposal to build a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place, all the while suggesting they were brushed aside in the process.
Tuesday the developers will have their day before the City Council in a special called meeting, and this time they will take on each other, trying to convince members that they have the best vision for the long-dormant, city-owned North Austin property.
Six mixed-use proposals were submitted to the city by five sources, only one includes an MLS stadium at McKalla.
Ultimately, the council will have to choose between the developers, PSV or none of the above. The council, if sharply divided, could keep the status quo at the 24-acre site near the Domain and kick the can down the road.
Anthony Precourt, owner/operator of Columbus Crew SC, and the league expect an answer at Thursday’s council meeting. They have been exploring a move to Austin for nearly 10 months, and they already have delayed their timetable.
Item 19 on Thursday’s agenda would authorize negotiation of agreements with Precourt. Item 75 is an executive session discussion of real estate and legal matters involving an MLS stadium. Addendum item 109 calls for council discussion and possible action on all plans submitted for McKalla Place...
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Austinites will see a smaller than usual tax bump under draft budget (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin residents will see a tax increase in 2019, but under a proposed 2019 city budget unveiled Monday, it could be the smallest increase in years.
City staff have recommended setting the tax rate to increase revenues at just under 5 percent, not the 8 percent maximum allowed by state law that Austin typically hits.
That means an estimated increase to the city’s portion of a property tax bill of $61.48 for a median value home, worth $332,366, with a homestead exemption. Fees for transportation use also will go up, but other fees will remain stable. The average homeowner is expected to pay $4,022 for all city taxes and fees in 2019, an increase of $78...
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For game-changing public transit, Austin needs the feds to chip in (Austin Monitor)

Austin and the surrounding metro area needs a transportation game-changer, and it’s not going to come from more roads. And to build it, we’ll need some help from Washington, D.C.
That was the message that officials from Capital Metro delivered to a joint meeting on Monday of the Capital Metro board and City Council over Project Connect, the regional transportation agency’s long-term plan to build high-capacity public transportation, such as light rail or bus rapid transit.
“Only public transit can be a backbone of a multimodal system,” said Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro executive vice president of planning and development...
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Texas Senate school safety committee recommends focusing on mental health, avoids gun control (Texas Tribune)

A special Texas Senate committee devoted to fighting school violence has recommended improving mental health resources for students and increasing funding for a program that arms some members of school staff, but shied away from any measures aiming to limit access to guns.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, formed the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security following the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School south of Houston. Committee members heard testimony during four meetings in June and July on ways to improve school safety infrastructure, address mental health issues among students and consider controversial "red flag" policies that would take guns away from those deemed a risk to others...
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Texas allows insurer to deny payments for out-of-network ER visits it deems unnecessary (Houston Chronicle)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas will begin a controversial new program Monday in which it will not pay any expenses for an out-of-network emergency room visit if it is later determined the patient should have gone elsewhere for treatment. The measure was originally set to roll out June 4, but vigorous complaints from the public and physicians, as well as concerns from the Texas Department of Insurance, delayed it for 60 days of further review. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas officials and TDI confirmed late last week that the deeply contentious program will now launch and that any sticking points have been resolved...
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'Insane' 8-hour waits prove that DPS mega centers aren't working, fed-up Texas drivers say (Dallas Morning News)

Sweating through his Army T-shirt, Patrick McNevins leaned against a brick wall at the driver license mega center in Carrollton and sighed. "Once I get this driver's license, I'll be someone again," he said under the Friday afternoon sun. McNevins, 37, spent over 20 hours in the past few weeks trying to get a new license after his expired. He took a road test at a third-party company, was turned away for having the wrong paperwork and got fired from his job as a commercial electrician for taking so many days off work, he said. Now, all he had to do was wait — a tedious task that Texas Department of Public Safety mega centers were designed to alleviate. But six years after the centers debuted, customers report wait times of up to eight hours to complete a simple license renewal or apply for a driving permit. Some of those hours are spent lined up outside in the 100-degree heat before they can get a seat inside the air-conditioned building, which holds around 300. The longest waits at mega centers across the state tend to be on Mondays and Fridays, according to DPS, and the high-volume summer months don't make it any better...
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YouTube, Apple and Facebook Ban Infowars, Which Decries 'Mega Purge' (KUT)

YouTube, Apple and Facebook have removed main outlets for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars website, citing repeated violations of policies against hate speech and glorifying violence. Infowars responded by accusing the companies of censorship.
The streaming service Spotify also expanded a ban imposed last week on some of Jones' content, saying Monday that "The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform."
On Sunday, Apple and iTunes deleted five podcasts related to Infowars and Jones. The other bans then piled up in quick succession...
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U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul angles for new House leadership post (Austin American-Statesman) 

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, set to lose a powerful committee chairmanship because his term is ending, is jockeying for another leadership post — but his best laid plans would be scuttled if his party can’t retain control of the U.S. House. McCaul, who’s raised his profile as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has been campaigning since the beginning of the year to become chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also is helping the campaigns of his Republican colleagues facing tough re-election battles in the fall. Democrats need to flip 23 seats to seize control of the House — something political observers say is within reach in a tough election year for Republicans — and install their own members to leadership posts. “I’ve talked to members on the Steering Committee and in leadership, I’ve done fundraising to help keep the majority, and I’ve been helping other members out with re-election,” McCaul told the American-Statesman...
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Tech firms, embattled over privacy concerns, warm to federal regulation (Wall Street Journal)

U.S. tech companies, battered over their handling of consumers’ personal data, are hoping to get ahead of the public and legal fallout by working with policy makers to help shape potential new federal privacy legislation. The effort by tech coalitions such as the Information Technology Industry Council—representing internet giants such as Facebook Inc., Inc., Alphabet Inc. unit Google and —comes after the industry has fended off many types of federal action on privacy for years. “There’s been such a shift” in industry views “that I really think the time is now,” Karen Zacharia, chief privacy officer at Verizon Communications Inc., said at a Brookings Institution conference on privacy legislation late last month. “We need to go forward and do it.”...
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