BG Reads + BG Podcast | News You Need to Know (September 26, 2018)

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[BG PODCAST]

BG Podcast - Episode 16: JD Weinstein Head of Startup Ecosystem (Austin) Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator

Today's BG Podcast features a discussion with JD Weinstein, Head of Startup Ecosystem (Austin) at Oracle. The conversation covers the opening and development of Oracle’s Startup Cloud Accelerator in Austin (the first in North America), his vision for the program within Austin and Texas’s tech ecosystem, and more.

Link to BG Podcast Episode 16


[AUSTIN METRO]

Declining enrollment, segregation dominate AISD board meeting (Austin Monitor)

The Austin Independent School Board’s unanimous decision to spend $25 million modernizing Sanchez Elementary School was welcomed by a substantial contingent of those who packed the board’s chambers Monday night, but it hardly assuaged long-term concerns from east side activists who say that the school district is allowing East Austin schools to flounder.

The first two hours of the evening, which was dedicated to citizen communication, featured numerous speakers denouncing the school board’s alleged neglect of the east side and complicity in a district where schools are starkly divided on economic and racial lines.

“We have been separated and set apart,” said Lila Valencia. “You can see how we are set apart by the choices that are offered to our parents.”

Valencia said the idea, floated by AISD Trustee Ted Gordon, of East Austin breaking off to form its own school district was a “scary thought,” but that a district that condemns students in some areas of town to a lower quality of education was “even scarier.”

Former AISD Trustee Paul Saldaña addressed reports that members of the school board were caught off guard and disappointed by the manifesto promoted by Gordon and a group of activists that called for a number of changes, including redrawing school zone lines to increase racial and economic integration.

“It should not have come as a surprise to anybody on this board,” said Saldaña, adding that advocates have been decrying “hypersegregation” and neglect of East Austin schools for years…

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Austin spent millions taking them out of the flood plain. A new map puts them back in. (KUT)

A massive update to Austin’s flood plain map shows about 3,000 properties are at higher risk of flooding than previously thought. But a review of the map shows the new threat is most concentrated in some neighborhoods where the city has already spent millions to mitigate flood risk.

One of those places is the Las Cimas neighborhood, off Loyola Lane in East Austin.

“As soon as it used to rain … no traffic could come in this area,” longtime resident Franklin Jackson said. “There was no way in. All the residents had to stay in until the water drained out.”…

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State overhaul of Texas Capitol Complex, John H. Winters Building gets underway (CommunityImpact)

Two state development projects are underway in Central Austin, as one looks to reshape the area around the Texas Capitol and the other will erect a prominent office space along one of Austin’s most traversed corridors.

The 1-million-square-foot, $581 million first phase of the Texas Capitol Complex will transform the northern gateway to the capitol with two new office buildings, five levels of underground parking and a pedestrian-oriented public mall replacing a section of Congress Avenue.

The new Texas Health and Human Services Commission office—a new nine-story building paired with a seven-story parking garage—will stand at the corner of West Guadalupe and 46th streets, just across from The Triangle mixed-use development.

Both projects are only the start of larger redevelopments planned by the state. However, state documents say funding for future phases has not been secured…

Link to story


[TEXAS]

Report: UT investigating sexual misconduct allegation levied against state Sen. Charles Schwertner (Texas Tribune)

The University of Texas at Austin is looking into an accusation that state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, sent sexually explicit material to a graduate student, according to the Austin American-Statesman in a Tuesday report that cited unnamed UT officials. A source with knowledge of the matter confirmed to The Texas Tribune that an investigation has been opened.

A spokesperson for Schwertner said the lawmaker "categorically denies knowledge of" the allegation. A UT-Austin spokesperson said "the university does not discuss ongoing investigations." The Statesman has not seen the materials, which reportedly include a graphic photo and text message that were sent to the student after she met Schwertner at an on-campus event.

Tom Holloway, the Schwertner spokesperson, said in a statement that the senator "only became aware of this allegation when contacted by the media late this afternoon. The Senator is eager to cooperate with the University of Texas and hopes to make clear he played no part in the behavior described.”

Link to story


Dallas Fed: Texas manufacturing activity expands, but tariffs increase uncertainty (San Antonio Express-News)

Tariffs are hitting some Texas businesses’ bottom line and heightening uncertainty for executives — even though manufacturing activity continues to grow, according to surveys by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The Dallas Fed in September asked 364 business executives in the manufacturing and service industries about how tariffs were affecting their companies. Just over one-third said tariffs are currently negatively affecting their company, 45 percent said there’s no current impact. Five percent reported positive effects. More than half reported increased uncertainty. Manufacturers appear divided on the topic. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said tariffs are negatively affecting their firm, but that figure fell to 39 percent when they were asked how the tariffs could affect them for the long term. Nine percent said tariffs are currently having a positive impact on their business, with 15 percent expecting positive long-term effects. “Many more Texas firms said that the tariff impact is negative than positive,” said Emily Kerr, Dallas Fed senior business economist, in a news release Monday. “The impact on manufacturers is a bit more polarized.” Sixty-five percent of manufacturers said tariffs had increased their uncertainty. One manufacturer said tariffs could open up a new market in China and another speculated that tariffs could positively affect their finances. Others were unsure about the future impact, while some said tariffs had pushed prices up and affected inventory. “We’re getting killed on aluminum pricing and potential availability,” one transportation equipment manufacturer said…

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Dallas housing agency gave deals worth at least $50,000 to its board members (Dallas Morning News)

An obscure city housing agency has been awarding thousands of dollars of contracts — and in one case a bonus — to members of its board, a Dallas Morning News investigation has found.

The Dallas City Council may take steps to rein in such inside deals at its meeting Wednesday. The agency — the Dallas Housing Finance Corporation — is one of the city’s tools to address the lack of affordable housing for people with limited incomes. Over the years, the agency has issued over $180 million in bonds that have financed more than a dozen apartment complexes around the city, and it has an ownership stake in several of those properties. In 2014, the board voted to give a $14,000 contract to a nonprofit controlled by one of its members, Sherman Roberts, a developer in southern Dallas. When the contract to do maintenance and other work at senior-citizen apartments near Fair Park ended late that year, Roberts’ nonprofit received a $25,000 “exiting bonus.” Roberts, through a spokeswoman, said the directors of his nonprofit told him not to respond to questions from The News. Two years later, the agency entered another contract — this time to make sure apartment complexes were providing required services like after-school tutoring and swimming classes for their residents. Again, the job — worth up to $30,000 — went to a board member, this time Jim Harp, a real estate agent. Harp said that in accepting the contract, he simply did as he was asked. Giving board members contracts was legal under the city code, said council member Scott Griggs. But he and some newer members of the board have raised questions about the practices…

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[NATION]

To skeptical UN crowd, Trump boasts and scorns globalism (Dallas Morning News)

President Trump thrust his commitment to an “America First” foreign policy back onto the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. But in his second address on this diplomatic stage, he sounded as eager to claim credit for his achievements after 20 months in office, as he was to disrupt the world order.

If Mr. Trump had changed, so had his audience — no longer as daunted by the insurgent figure who left them slack-jawed last year when he vowed to “crush loser terrorists,” mocked North Korea’s leader as “Rocket Man” and declared that parts of the world “are going to hell.” This time, emissaries from around the world listened quietly as Mr. Trump fulminated at foes like Iran and failing states like Venezuela. They nodded as he singled out an enemy-turned-partner, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, expressing optimism for a diplomatic opening that would have seemed far-fetched even a year ago. But when Mr. Trump declared, “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the crowd broke into murmurs and laughter. Briefly disconcerted, the president smiled and said, “I did not expect that reaction, but that’s O.K.”

It was a jarring moment for a leader who usually speaks to adoring crowds at “Make America Great Again” rallies, where his use of superlatives to describe his success draws reliable cheers. Mr. Trump still commands the world stage and he is still capable of upending American foreign policy with a single tweet. But after a year of such bombast, many in the audience at the United Nations treated him almost as a source of levity, not fear. There is also evidence that foreign leaders are more willing to push back…

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Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell is GOP choice to question Kavanaugh and accuser at hearing (Washington Post)

Republican senators have selected Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused the Supreme Court nominee of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, a top senator announced Tuesday.

Mitchell is the chief of the special victims division of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which deals with sexual assault cases, among others. A registered Republican, Mitchell has worked for in the county attorney’s office for 26 years. In enlisting Mitchell to join their staff, Republican senators are taking an unusual step. They are turning to her to ask what are expected to be personal and potentially painful questions about the woman’s youth on live television, sparing the all-male panel of 11 Republican senators on the committee some uncomfortable exchanges that could sway the public’s opinion about the session. “The majority members have followed the bipartisan recommendation to hire as staff counsel for the committee an experienced career sex-crimes prosecutor to question the witnesses at Thursday’s hearing,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. “The goal is to de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns.” He added, “I’m very appreciative that Rachel Mitchell has stepped forward to serve in this important and serious role.” Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school, will testify under oath Thursday. Kavanaugh will testify separately the same day. Mitchell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Kavanaugh and Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment…

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