BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 28, 2018)



Petitioners seek public vote on city’s soccer stadium deal (Austin Monitor)

The activist group that worked to derail the city’s CodeNEXT land use code update has set its sights on preventing the construction of a 20,000-seat soccer stadium in North Austin.

IndyAustin has started gathering signatures on petitions that would call for a referendum and voter approval of any use of city property – in this case the tract known as McKalla Place – for the construction of the stadium that is intended to be the eventual home site of a Major League Soccer club beginning in 2021. In August City Council voted 7-4 to direct the city manager to finalize a lease agreement with soccer ownership group Precourt Sports Ventures that will see the group pay roughly $8 million in rent over 20 years to use the property for the privately financed stadium.

The petition asks signees to “support a proposed ordinance by initiative requiring that any sale, lease, conveyance, mortgage, or alienation of City-owned land for a sports facility, sports arena, and/or concert stadium shall require City Council and voter approval before it can become effective.”

The group is working to gather 20,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot in May 2019.

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Austin City Council election: District 5’s unopposed incumbent says there is “more work to be done” (Community Impact)

Ann Kitchen, District 5’s Austin City Council representative, listed her first term accomplishments Thursday night, but she said the work that lies ahead motivated her to seek re-election.

The unopposed incumbent fielded questions during a candidate panel Thursday hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Facing a sparse crowd of roughly 15 people at the South Austin Senior Activity Center, Kitchen touched on topics, such as transportation, public safety and flood mitigation.

The former state representative and attorney told the audience her sense of civic duty inspired her desire for local office, saying although much has been accomplished in her four years, there remains “ a lot” more work to be done.

Throughout her initial term, Kitchen has led on transportation issues. The candidate said District 5 had a bus access and frequency issue. She admitted solutions have evaded the City Council.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re working toward it,” Kitchen said.

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Peter Thiel's venture capital fund to move to Austin from Bay Area (Austin Business Journal)

Mithril Capital Management LLC, the venture capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, is leaving San Francisco for Austin.

That's according to TechCrunch, which interviewed Mithril's other co-founder, Ajay Royan. The online news site said Mithril isn't making the jump until sometime next year, when it's current office lease in California expires.

Royan told TechCrunch he picked Austin because of its lower costs and its diversity of thought compared to the East or West coasts.

There was no word on whether Royan or his colleagues have connected with real estate brokers or other financiers in the Texas capital. Austin Business Journal has attempted to reach out to the VC firm and will update this story if we hear back…

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Rep. Will Hurd leads Gina Ortiz Jones in race for key Texas 'swing district,' poll shows (Dallas Morning News)

Incumbent Republican Will Hurd is leading his Democratic challenger, Gina Ortiz Jones, in one of the country's most competitive races in this year's midterm elections, according to a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

The poll, which surveyed 495 people in the district by phone this week, shows Hurd with 51 percent support compared with Ortiz Jones' 43 percent. Seven percent of those surveyed were undecided, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. The southwest Texas district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, long considered a "swing district," is a prime target for Democrats who are looking to pick up House seats this November. Hurd, a former CIA officer, narrowly beat Democratic opponents in 2014 and 2016. Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, is hoping Democratic enthusiasm and opposition to President Donald Trump will propel her to victory in the district, which has garnered national attention and is on several "most competitive" lists. Hurd, who is seen as a moderate Republican, has distanced himself from Trump on major issues like immigration and has criticized the president for his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The poll shows Trump with a 48 percent approval rating in the district, while 47 percent of residents disapprove. Forty-nine percent would prefer that Republicans retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 45 percent want Democrats in control…

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Redistricting group led by Eric Holder to invest $250K in Texas House races (Texas Tribune)

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, is making a quarter-million-dollar investment in Texas to help Democrats here flip a number of state House seats in November.

The money represents one of the largest single contributions that the House Democratic Campaign Committee has ever received, according to its chair, El Paso state Rep. César Blanco, who said the investment "puts us in a stronger position to pick up more seats in the House."

House Democrats, who currently control 55 out of the 150 seats in the lower chamber, are heading toward November targeting the 11 GOP-held districts — most of them traditionally Republican — that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, with an emphasis on the Dallas area. They are also looking at several Republican-controlled districts across the state where Clinton came close to winning…

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn calls Kavanaugh hearing "embarrassing," draws McCarthy comparisons (Texas Tribune)

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn had strong words about Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

"I can't think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings," he told Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday afternoon.

Cornyn and fellow Texas Republican Ted Cruz had earlier in the day declined to directly question Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, as allegations of sexual misconduct by the nominee continue to mount.

But Cornyn did talk to Kavanaugh, telling the nominee, "You're not guilty if someone makes an allegation against you in this country. We're not a police state. We don't give the government that kind of power."…

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Tesla Chief Elon Musk is sued by SEC in move that could oust him (New York Times)

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, was accused by federal regulators on Thursday of misleading investors with false public statements, a move that could force him out of the company’s leadership.

At issue is Mr. Musk’s declaration on Twitter last month that he had “funding secured” to buy out the stock of the electric-car maker. The prospect created a firestorm on social media and in the markets that sent Tesla’s shares soaring. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Musk of committing fraud by making false public statements with the potential to hurt investors. The suit seeks to bar Mr. Musk, who is also Tesla’s chairman, from serving as an executive or director of publicly traded companies like Tesla. Such a punishment is one of the most serious remedies the S.E.C. can impose against a corporate executive. The case is likely to send shock waves across corporate America and could lead to a re-evaluation of how companies use Twitter to communicate with the investing public. The S.E.C. said Mr. Musk “knew or was reckless in not knowing” that his statements were false or misleading. “In truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, key deal terms, including price, with any potential funding source,” the S.E.C. said in its lawsuit... 

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Tech firms face bias accusations at Congressional hearings (Wall Street Journal)

A day before Google’s chief was set to meet with high-ranking Republicans, critics in a congressional hearing accused the internet giant and other tech firms of being “insular” and dismissive of the free-speech rights of conservatives.

The contentious hearing, the latest such congressional event in recent months, could drive calls for stricter regulation of Google, and other big tech companies and stoke concerns of their political bias—including accusations that such bias influences content on their platforms—in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. Meanwhile, an audio recording of a Google internal meeting, surfaced this week, could add to the company’s headaches. The recording, from earlier this year, shows numerous employees raising objections to the company’s sponsorship this year of the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, a high-profile annual gathering for politicians and pundits. Some Google employees questioned whether the firm was aligning itself with “Holocaust deniers” and engaging in “collaboration.”…

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