BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 18, 2018)



Many, but not all, development fees to climb (Austin Monitor)

Last year, Rodney Gonzales, director of Austin’s Development Services Department, asked Council to fund an additional 50 employees to increase his department’s efficiency in dealing with a multitude of permits, reviews and inspections. Council killed the plan by postponing it.

However, this year Gonzales proposed adding 50 new full-time positions as part of a $63.6 million operating budget. Last week when the budget was done, he had that and more, with 52 new positions to fill and an operating budget of $63.8 million.

Department spokesperson Sylvia Arzola explained that the department had proposed adding two employees to help with the residential permitting. Council decided to add two more people to help with permits for small businesses, she said.

After failing to get the money last year, development services staff did a cost of service study and arrived at the conclusion that numerous fees should be increased. But they also found that other fees should be lowered. All the new fees will go into effect on October 1.

For example, someone who wants to do an interior remodel and garage conversion of less than 1000 square feet will pay $841 on October 1 or after as opposed to the current fee of $1,055, a savings of $214. The price of a permit for a swimming pool will drop from $1,425 to just $717…

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UT researchers to present map charting Austin’s changing neighborhoods (Austin American-Statesman)

University of Texas researchers say they have mapped Austin’s gentrification and will present their findings to the Austin City Council on Tuesday.

The group, commissioned by the city in August 2017, used census tract data to create an interactive map that identifies neighborhoods where lower-income residents have been displaced by development and rising property values and where that process is spreading.

“The maps produced show striking levels of change, including an alarming loss of low-income persons of color from several areas of Austin’s eastern crescent,” said Jake Wegmann, one of the study authors and a School of Architecture professor, in a statement Monday.

The researchers confirmed gentrification is mostly occurring in East Austin, an area east of Interstate 35 the researchers call the “eastern crescent.” But they also found signs of similar change happening from the St. John’s area in Northeast Austin to Montopolis south of the Colorado River…

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Will a homestead exemption across town hurt an Austin council hopeful? (Austin American-Statesman)

A candidate running to represent East Austin’s District 1 rents a house on East 13th Street but has a homestead exemption — meant to reduce taxes on an owner’s “principal residence” — on a house across town.

Natasha Harper-Madison, 40, a local activist and small-business consultant running for City Council, told the American-Statesman last week that she lives in the 13th Street house with a roommate. She and her husband, Austin firefighter Thomas Madison, own a home in a Williamson County section of far Northwest Austin. Madison lives there with the couple’s two youngest children, who attend elementary school in the Round Rock school district.

Harper-Madison said she moved to the 13th Street house in October 2016 for personal reasons that she will not make part of the campaign. She said she did not move there to run for office.

Candidates for City Council are required to reside in the district they’re seeking to represent for at least six months before the filing deadline of an election, which was Aug. 20 for the Nov. 6 election…

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John Cornyn picks fight with Beto, gets battle with Houston police chief instead (Houston Chronicle)

Just 24 hours after Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O'Rourke agreed to a series of debates, Texas Sen. John Cornyn wanted to draw O'Rourke into a discussion about guns over social media. Cornyn, a Republican, on Saturday night started the exchange by Tweeting out an old clip of O'Rourke saying in February that he opposed selling AR-15s in America. "I just don't think we should be selling AR-15s in this country," O'Rourke says in the video clip Cornyn tweeted out to his 140,000 followers. Cornyn Tweeted out the question: "For self defense?" O'Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, did not respond. But Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo did. "In 32 years policing I've yet [to] encounter a case of a community member using an AR-15 for self-defense," Acevedo tweeted. "I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I'd bet the house they've been used many, many times to slaughter innocent Americans as opposed to self-defense."…

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Border Patrol agent had arsenal in home, attempted "suicide by cop," officials say (Texas Tribune)

A South Texas U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of killing four people appeared to be preparing for a shoot-out with law enforcement after a would-be victim broke free and alerted police, authorities said Monday.

Juan David Ortiz, 35, was arrested early Saturday after the woman escaped from his vehicle, encountered Department of Public Safety troopers and told them Ortiz had brandished a weapon.

During a press conference on Monday, Webb County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Federico Garza said as soon as Ortiz was spotted by the troopers, he went home and prepared for what he expected would be a shoot-out with law enforcement.

“At that time he had numerous, numerous weapons and he was loading up all this weapons thinking that DPS was going to confront him," Garza said. "He was looking at a confrontation. Thank God that didn’t happen.”…

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Hearing Set for Monday to Hear Kavanaugh and His Accuser (New York Times)

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under mounting pressure from senators of his own party, will call President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault before the committee on Monday for extraordinary public hearings just weeks before the midterm elections. Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, told reporters Monday afternoon that the chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, told senators there would be an “opportunity” for senators to hear from Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, in a public setting where senators would be able to ask questions. Both have said they are willing to testify. A Senate Republican aide confirmed that it would be on Monday, effectively delaying a planned committee vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, which had been scheduled for this Thursday.

“Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said. The hearings will set up a potentially explosive public showdown, one that carries unmistakable echoes of the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill, who accused the future Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in an episode that riveted the nation and ushered a slew of women into public office. They will play out against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, which has energized Democratic women across the nation. Mr. Trump on Monday vigorously defended his nominee, calling him an “outstanding” judge with an unblemished record, and dismissing as “ridiculous” the prospect that Judge Kavanaugh might withdraw his nomination. Nevertheless, he told reporters that he was willing to accept a delay in the judge’s path to confirmation in order to air the new information…

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