BG Reads + Podcast | News You Need to Know (September 12, 2018)



BG Podcast - Episode 14: Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation Department

“I believe in pivoting with disruption…”

Today's BG Podcast features a discussion with Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation Department (ATD).

Mr. JonMichael is a transportation technology expert with specialized experience in connected, automated, and electric vehicle research, deployment and program development…

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Austin City Council OKs $4.1 Billion Budget And Lowers Tax Rate, But You'll Likely Pay More Taxes (KUT)

The Austin City Council approved a $4.1 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with more money going toward homelessness outreach and an increase in the minimum wage for city employees.

Council members on Tuesday voted to lower the rate at which Austin taxes homeowners, dropping it from 44.48 cents to 44.03 cents per $100. But because property taxes are calculated on the value of a home and that number continues to rise for most people, the owner of a median-priced home will see a property tax increase of roughly $67.

The vote was 10-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair voting against it…

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Tree removal permitting to change in October (Austin Monitor)

At the Sept. 5 meeting of the Environmental Commission, Max Elliot, who is a resident of the Govalle neighborhood, alerted the commission that recently a builder removed five heritage trees “on a Saturday morning when the neighborhood couldn’t really ask any questions.”

The applicant removed four pecans and one American elm from three lots in the area: 3500 Gonzales St., 3504 Gonzales St. and 739 Gunter St. The three lots in question are slated to be redeveloped with two residences on each lot.

“I still don’t understand the justification for how those trees were removed,” Elliot said.

“Yeah, I’m kind of confused,” agreed Commissioner Wendy Gordon.

According to City Arborist Keith Mars, the five trees were properly permitted for removal due to their condition, which his staff determined to be an “imminent hazard.” He told the Austin Monitor that their uprooting was done conscientiously and with all the trees on the lot in mind. Part of the permit for the tree removal included the applicants leaving all of the other protected and heritage trees on the lot…

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Don’t expect harmony from groups attached to $128M push for creative, culture centers (Austin Monitor)

While the city’s cultural centers and the disparate arts and music communities will win or lose collectively in November when voters decide whether to approve $128 million in bond funding, it appears those groups will be working separately to campaign and educate voters over the next two months.

That’s the indication from a recent board meeting for the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and Monday’s meeting of the city’s Music Commission, where both groups discussed what’s at stake and how they’ll work to reach the public.

The stakes are high for all groups attached to the ballot question, which is one of seven bond issues that collectively represent $925 million in new facilities and infrastructure spending throughout the city. The MACC stands to receive $27 million from the issue if it is approved, while another $12 million for music-related creative spaces was added to the language late in the process by City Council. Those numbers represent far less than what each had initially requested, though all involved called the funding critical…

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Why is Dallas officer charged with manslaughter, not murder, for killing Botham Jean? (Dallas Morning News)

A grand jury will ultimately decided whether a Dallas police officer should be charged with murder or manslaughter — or nothing at all — for killing Botham Jean in his own apartment.

But defense attorneys who've handled hundreds of murder cases say murder is the charge that best fits the case against Amber Guyger, who says she mistook Jean for an intruder.

"She intended to kill the burglar," defense attorney Brad Lollar said. "Her thought process was 'I'm going to shoot the bad guy.'" The same legal experts say critics demanding justice should be careful what they wish for because a murder case may be easier to defend. For her part, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson says her office's investigation will collect all the relevant evidence.

"The Texas Rangers made the decision to issue an arrest warrant for manslaughter," she said Monday. "Now this case is in the hands of the Dallas County district attorney."…

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The swoon for Beto O’Rourke doesn’t mean Ted Cruz will lose (Texas Tribune)

How in the world did U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — Republican of Texas, former presidential candidate, Texas solicitor general, U.S. Supreme Court clerk, double Ivy League graduate — get positioned as the underdog in his first race for reelection?

Not that he’s really the underdog in this campaign against U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso. It’s still a Republican state. O’Rourke has been through more elections as a candidate than Cruz, but none on a statewide level. The financial advantage belongs to the challenger, but only if you don’t count the outside political committees and groups that financed Cruz in 2012 and that are jumping to his defense now. And the polls, close as some of them are, consistently have found that the incumbent has the advantage.

For all that, the challenger plays as the juggernaut in the race — to the point where the glowing profiles of the Democrat have spawned parodies. Even people in his own party are fretting. Mick Mulvaney, a former member of Congress who’s now the federal budget director, was recorded telling a private Republican group that Cruz might be in trouble. “There’s a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate, O.K.?” Mulvaney said, according to The New York Times. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a possibility. How likable is a candidate? That still counts.”…

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In the U.S. House, Democrat Henry Cuellar raises eyebrows by fundraising for Republican John Carter (Texas Tribune)

A new report has left many Democratic House insiders perplexed and frustrated with one of the most powerful Texas Democrats in Congress: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

Politico reported Tuesday that Cuellar had"invited supporters to a breakfast fundraiser" Tuesday morning for U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. The invitation was "sent from a Cuellar political staffer," according to the report.

“Although I was not a host of the event, I was honored to attend as I typically do for colleagues who visit my district," Cuellar said in a statement. "Judge Carter is a dear friend and trusted colleague with whom I work on Appropriations. He is knowledgeable and supportive of issues important to South Texas. In today’s climate, more than ever, friendship is more powerful than partisanship.”…

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Voter backlash to Trump and bathroom law has put conservative N.C. legislature in play (Washington Post)

The owner of a small vodka distillery near this traditionally Republican enclave in suburban Raleigh said he is so fed up with GOP leadership in the state capital that he took leave from his job to try to defeat a state senator. A popular local weatherman in the state’s Appalachian Mountains with no experience in politics threw himself into a race to unseat a four-term GOP member of the state House. And the daughter of a legendary former governor is taking her first crack at a run for office by challenging a Charlotte-area state House Republican with a promise to renew the legacy of her father, Jim Hunt, as a champion for education funding. An unusual political battle is unfolding across North Carolina, where national and state Democrats have recruited an army of candidates and are spending millions of dollars on a campaign to loosen a years-long Republican grip on a state legislature that has turned an otherwise evenly split state into a bastion for some of the country’s most conservative measures…

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