BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 4, 2018)



Late entries could change the dynamic of Austin’s mayoral race (Austin American-Statesman)

Mayor Steve Adler and his opponent for the city’s top seat, former City Council Member Laura Morrison, squared off during a downtown forum last week, discussing issues that included homelessness, pro soccer, downtown development and a larger convention center.
Other candidates in the seven-way race for mayor sat in the audience.
The five contenders beyond Adler and Morrison, including three who gave no indication of running before filing at the last possible moment, have little chance of winning, based on conventional wisdom. Together, though, they could reshape the race.
“Having more candidates makes it more likely today than 10 days ago that there is a runoff,” said Mark Littlefield, a local pollster and political consultant. “It doesn’t mean that there will be a runoff, just that the chances went up.”
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election, the top two vote-getters will head to a mid-December runoff. Voter turnout for such races is usually significantly lower, with older, less-diverse and more politically involved voters casting ballots. In 2014, voter turnout fell from about 40 percent to about 15 percent from the general election to the runoff, which included a mayoral race...
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Waller Creek Conservancy puts down roots in Symphony Square (Austin American-Statesman)

The Waller Creek Conservancy is renovating a large part of Symphony Square for offices as well as indoor and outdoor spaces for public events, meetings and other gatherings as part of a $246 million campaign to transform the eastern sector of downtown into a string of destination parks.
“It’s such a hidden gem in the chaos of downtown,” said Peter Mullan, CEO of the conservancy. “During the past months, Austinites have shared with us their fond memories of the square as this whole other world.”
The parkland was originally leased in the 1970s from the city of Austin by the Austin Symphony, after federally funded urban renewal projects moved several historic structures to a cluster of sites along the creek. In 2017, that lease was partitioned, and the conservancy has committed to leasing its part of the square through 2075.
Rather like the arrangements for the High Line in New York City and Discovery Green in Houston, the Austin nonprofit is tasked not only with designing and building projects along the creek, but also with programming, operating and maintaining the parks once they are completed.
Work is well under way at Symphony Square by builders from Formed LLC, using designs by architectural and interior design firm Page, as well as landscape architects at DWG...
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Bloomberg awards let arts groups focus on growth, and affordability (Austin Monitor)

More than two dozen small and mid-sized arts organizations in Austin have been awarded two-year grants totaling more than $1 million from the Bloomberg Philanthropies foundation, with the promise of comprehensive training and other tools to help in their future growth.
In all, 26 local groups were named in the latest round of grants that so far have targeted five major cities with $43 million in total awards. The complete list of winners is available here.
The training will offer information – including training from Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser –  to improve fundraising, strategic planning, marketing and board development for the groups that receive funding from the city’s Cultural Arts Division.
“In Austin, we aim to ensure that our arts community is as healthy and vibrant as ever because (it’s) core to the identity of our city,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a released statement. “This investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies will create the capacity for our emerging arts organizations to realize their potential and be better equipped to grow into mature organizations that will serve our community long into the future.”...
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Here's a look at who's interested in replacing Straus as House speaker (Texas Tribune)

In October, House Speaker Joe Straus announced he wouldn't be running for re-election in 2018 — a move likely to shake up Texas politics for years.
"I believe that in a representative democracy, those who serve in public office should do so for a time, not for a lifetime. And so I want you to know that my family and I have decided that I will not run for re-election next year," Straus said in a campaign email at the time.
Straus' announcement immediately set off a scramble among members who are considering replacing him at the chamber's dais. Within hours, several members announced an interest in the seat. Since then, the number of potential contenders has continued to rise. And in late August, Republicans Travis Clardy of Nachodoches and Drew Darby of San Angelo became the fifth and sixth candidates to file with the Texas Ethics Commission to officially enter the race...
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Donald Trump says he'll campaign for Ted Cruz at "biggest stadium in Texas we can find" (Houston Chronicle)

In a tweet Friday, President Donald Trump announced that he’d be coming to Texas in October to participate in “a major rally” for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican incumbent facing a tougher-than-usual challenge this year against Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.
“I will be doing a major rally for Senator Ted Cruz in October. I’m picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find,” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon. “As you know, Ted has my complete and total Endorsement. His opponent is a disaster for Texas — weak on Second Amendment, Crime, Borders, Military, and Vets!”
Cruz previously said he hoped the president would make a trip to Texas prior to the 2018 midterms. Donald Trump Jr., the son of the president, is also planning to visit the Lone Star State in September to campaign with Cruz, The Washington Post reported...
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Texas says it won't fund education for children in shelters (Texas Tribune)

Texas’ top education officials told school district administrators Friday that they cannot use state funding to provide schooling for children housed in migrant shelters.
The announcement — issued in a letter sent to all school superintendents statewide — has raised concerns for both shelters and school districts, whose leaders say it highlights a broader pattern of push-and-pull between the state and federal government over regulating shelters.
Leo Lopez, the Texas Education Agency’s associate administrator for school funding, said in the letter that according to state law, Texas public schools can only fund education in shelters — where children are held by federal agencies — through external sources like tuition.
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Trump’s Justice Department redefines whose civil rights to protect (New York Times)

The Justice Department’s decision last week to support Asian-Americans seeking to curb race-based college admissions is the latest in a series of moves that are redefining decades of civil rights enforcement — and reshaping the very notion of whose interests the federal government should protect. Since its founding six decades ago, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has used the Constitution and federal law to expand protections of African-Americans, gays, lesbians and transgender people, immigrants and other minorities — efforts that have extended the government’s reach from polling stations to police stations. But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the focus has shifted to people of faith, police officers and local government officials who maintain they have been trampled by the federal government. The department has supported state voting laws that could wind up removing thousands of people from voter rolls. And it has pulled back on robust oversight of police departments found to have violated the rights of citizens in their jurisdictions...
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Democrats’ view of Kavanaugh shaped by bitter 2004 hearing (Washington Post)

As Sen. Charles E. Schumer pondered the judicial nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh, the New York Democrat could barely contain his anger. He viewed the choice as “among the most political in history” and could not think of another nominee “more designed to divide us.” Schumer was not talking about President Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court justice. It was 2004, and Schumer helped lead the Democrats’ questioning of Kavanaugh to move from the George W. Bush White House to a federal circuit judgeship. Schumer and his Democratic colleagues cast him as an extreme conservative and were so effective that they blocked Kavanaugh’s nomination for three years. Now, however, as Kavanaugh prepares for his Tuesday confirmation hearing, Democrats are still searching for a strategy that could stop his ascension to the highest court. Schumer said in an interview that his concerns from 2004 “are still the case” and have only grown as a result of Kavanaugh’s judicial rulings for 12 years. “He has a very nice smile, but an inch below the surface, he is a hard-right warrior,” Schumer said in an interview...
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