BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 31, 2018)
Council approves plan to revamp incentives, with small businesses in mind (Austin Monitor)
City Council voted Thursday to approve the framework for a restructuring of the city’s economic incentives programs, with the goal of increasing small business growth and improving job opportunities for lower-wage and middle-skill workers.
The 9-1 vote saw Council Member Ellen Troxclair object, with Council Member Alison Alter absent, to the package of three resolutions. The city’s Economic Development Department began working last year on revising the city’s incentives, or Chapter 380 agreements as they are spelled out in the state law allowing cities to create measures to encourage business growth.
For more than a decade the city’s incentives were geared specifically toward attracting large employers planning to build corporate campuses and bring hundreds of high-paying jobs. That strategy was needed following the early 2000s tech crash and helped lure companies such as Apple and Samsung to Austin to fuel an economic recovery...
District 3 council candidates kick off city-sponsored election forums (Austin American-Statesman)
Six candidates for the Austin City Council’s District 3 seat met on a stage Wednesday night, when incumbent Sabino “Pio” Renteria touted his work on the council, his sister Susana Almanza challenged his record, and four first-time candidates began to hash out their different platforms ahead of Election Day on Nov. 6.
While various community organizations are expected to organize forums for the five council races and the mayor’s race on the ballot, the District 3 forum was the first of a series of official city-sponsored forums. It was moderated by the League of Women Voters.
District 3 candidates form a mix of new and known faces. Renteria, who has held the seat since 2015, is running for a second term. Almanza, a civic activist who faced her brother in a 2014 runoff, is launching her second run. James Valadez, a real estate agent and Board of Adjustment appointee, has posted strong fundraising results...
Affordable Parking Program expands (Austin Monitor)
Downtown parking may have just gotten a bit easier, thanks to a public-private partnership aimed at downtown service industry workers.
The city of Austin and the Downtown Austin Alliance announced yesterday that, after a partnership with Premier Parking, the Affordable Parking Program is now 2,000 spaces bigger. It’s the second expansion this year, and the first into private parking garages. In July, the program stood at 500 spaces. Now it has expanded into eight private garages owned by companies that include Endeavor Real Estate Group, Stream Realty and TIG.
The Affordable Parking Program launched in May 2016 as part of an effort to support service industry workers downtown. The Downtown Austin Alliance group hopes that it will also help reduce congestion downtown. Their recent parking study found that a third of the traffic downtown is created by people circling, looking for parking.
In addition to the number of spaces, the expansion also represents an expansion in hours, which now begin as early as 3 p.m. The earlier opening times are more accommodating of some evening shifts than the previous opening times of the city garages...
Increasingly, short-term rental boom pits neighbor against neighbor (Austin American-Statesman)
The two houses on West 10th Street are charming and tidy, one yellow, one teal. But ask the neighbors and they’ll tell you some tales, of bachelor parties and noisy barbecues, of inflatable penises in the street and slamming car doors at 3 a.m. They’ll tell you the houses are basically a hotel they can’t get rid of.
As Austin code officer Khalid Marshall parked outside the houses one afternoon in mid-July, he was about to catch a break.
A blonde woman stood in front of the first house, unpacking shopping bags. She was renting the place for only a week, she quickly told the code inspector. That was all he needed to hear.
At the second house, employees of a maid service answered the door cautiously. They knew nothing about rentals, the man said, they were just hired to clean the place. No worries, Marshall said. Minutes later, the cleaner was grumbling that check-out time was at 11 a.m. and the guests had only just left.
The neighbors recognized Marshall’s truck and started buzzing. Kat Britt and Karen Troutman know him well by now. They often file complaints about the properties being operated as unlicensed short-term rentals, and Marshall writes $1,000 tickets for the owner regularly...
Former Enron CEO Skilling out of prison; sent to halfway house in undisclosed location (Houston Chronicle)
Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former CEO of Enron Corp., was released from a minimum security prison camp in Alabama to a halfway house at an undisclosed location. Skilling, 64, was convicted on 12 counts of securities fraud, five counts of making false statements to auditors, one count of insider trading and one count of conspiracy. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison and fined $45 million in 2006. On this date in history in 2004, former Enron founder Ken Lay was indicted by a grand jury in Houston. He was tried for his involvement in the 2001 bankruptcy of what was once the nation’s seventh largest company. Five years ago, Skilling's sentence was reduced from 24 years to 14 years. He is scheduled to be released Feb. 21, according to the Bureau of Prisons. A. Kelley, assistant residential re-entry manager for the Bureau of Prisons in San Antonio, said the bureau would not say where Skilling is currently living...
San Francisco denies scooter permits for Bird, Lime, Uber and Lyft (Wall Street Journal)
San Francisco dealt a blow to the largest shared-scooter companies on Thursday, awarding two smaller startups exclusive rights to rent the electric-powered vehicles for a year in a decision that could change the course of the nascent market. The nation’s tech capital denied permits to 10 companies, including Bird Rides Inc. and Lime, which have raised nearly $1 billion in capital to quickly populate cities with scooters—often against the will of regulators. The ruling is a clear rebuke to their pugnacious strategy, with officials citing, in part, the companies’ aggressive move this past spring to drop more than 1,000 scooters combined on the streets of San Francisco before rules could be established. The city also rejected permits for ride-hailing companies Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., which only recently jumped into the scooter craze. Officials said past violations in their ride-share businesses hurt their applications. Instead, San Francisco awarded the permits to two other startups, Scoot Networks and Skip Scooters, which together have raised less than $50 million...
Asian-American students suing Harvard over Affirmative Action win Justice Dept. support (New York Times)
The Justice Department lent its support on Thursday to students who are suing Harvard University over affirmative action policies that they claim discriminate against Asian-American applicants, in a case that could have far-reaching consequences for the use of affirmative action in college admissions. In a so-called statement of interest, the department supported the claims of the plaintiffs, a group of Asian-Americans rejected by Harvard. They contend that Harvard has systematically discriminated against them by artificially capping the number of qualified Asian-Americans from attending the school to advance less qualified students of other races. “Harvard has failed to carry its demanding burden to show that its use of race does not inflict unlawful racial discrimination on Asian-Americans,” the Justice Department said in its filing...
Dozens at Facebook unite to challenge its ‘intolerant’ liberal culture (New York Times)
The post went up quietly on Facebook’s internal message board last week. Titled “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity,” it quickly took off inside the social network. “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views,” Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, wrote in the post, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.” Since the post went up, more than 100 Facebook employees have joined Mr. Amerige to form an online group called FB’ers for Political Diversity, according to two people who viewed the group’s page and who were not authorized to speak publicly. The aim of the initiative, according to Mr. Amerige’s memo, is to create a space for ideological diversity within the company...