BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 1, 2018)



ANC releases Council scorecard (Austin Monitor)

Last week, the Austin Neighborhoods Council voted to endorse the group’s former president, Laura Morrison, for mayor. They also endorsed another former ANC activist, Kathie Tovo, the incumbent in District 9 who serves as mayor pro tem.

In addition, ANC endorsed Bobby Levinski for the open District 8 seat. He is a former aide to both Morrison and Tovo as well as former Council Member Jennifer Kim.

In District 1, the group also endorsed Vincent Harding to take the seat currently held by City Council Member Ora Houston. In addition, the group endorsed Susana Almanza to replace her brother, Council Member Pio Renteria, in the District 3 seat.

Longtime ANC official Mary Ingle told the Austin Monitor that the group has taken no position on the city bond package or on two controversial propositions, J and K.

ANC members also released a Council scorecard that shows the percentage of times each Council member voted in alignment with ANC’s platform and resolutions.

The issues ANC rated included affordability for low- and middle-income families, neighborhood self-determination, safety and gentrification, responsible and equitable growth, water conservation, environmental protection and flood mitigation, transparent and equitable government process, and enhancing equitable economic opportunity…

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Onyeri faces life in prison after attempt to kill Judge Kocurek (Austin American-Statesman)

Defendants convicted of federal crimes are assigned a numerical score based on their criminal profile that can guide a judge’s decision during sentencing.

The highest score, reserved for the most dangerous offenders, is 43. Chimene Onyeri, the Houston fraudster who will be sentenced Monday for crimes that led to the 2015 attempted assassination of state District Court Judge Julie Kocurek, received a 47.

Government prosecutors noted in a recent court filing that Onyeri is “quite literally off the chart.”

They intend to walk into a federal courtroom in Austin on Monday and ask U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel to follow the sentencing guidelines in the case and give Onyeri life in prison. Because parole is not available to defendants convicted of a federal crime, a life sentence would all but ensure Onyeri, who turns 31 on Monday, dies behind bars.

Onyeri’s legal team requested a sentence of 30 years, suggesting he would benefit from therapy in prison and emerge rehabilitated upon release…

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Austin Energy proposes local solar farm (Austin Metro)

In spite of the tremendous appetite for renewable energy in Austin, the city doesn’t offer many opportunities to build the kind of large-scale wind and solar farms necessary to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

“It’s an issue of land,” explained Khalil Shalabi, vice president of strategy, technology and markets for Austin Energy. “Land is expensive. You could build a building and charge rent.”

Hence, most of the renewable solar and wind power that Austin Energy purchases comes from West Texas, where the competition for land is not nearly as fierce. “Out in West Texas nobody is building buildings,” said Shalabi…

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With cuts reduced, arts groups push city to reshape future funding (Austin Metro)

The city’s Arts Commission has asked City Council to allocate more than $1 million in extra money to arts organizations recently informed they were facing sharp cuts in their funding from the city’s Cultural Arts Division.

At last Monday’s special meeting of the commission the group voted 6-1, with Commissioner Felipe Garza voting against, to support changes to the city’s funding matrix devised by a working group formed in response to criticism that the city and commission failed to notify affected groups of the coming funding cuts.

The changes bring the total allocation for cultural contracts to $12.4 million, just shy of the most recent budget year.

Organizations will still face cuts up to 11 percent of their previous funding amount from the city because more than 100 new groups applied for funding this year and 421 of the 427 total applicants being judged as eligible for funding…

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Migrant children moved under cover of darkness to a Texas tent city (New York Times)

In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas.

Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases. But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited. These midnight voyages are playing out across the country, as the federal government struggles to find room for more than 13,000 detained migrant children — the largest population ever — whose numbers have increased more than fivefold since last year. The average length of time that migrant children spend in custody has nearly doubled over the same period, from 34 days to 59, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees their care…

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In Austin, Willie Nelson provides a high note for Beto O’Rourke (Austin American-Statesman)

For a Democratic candidate in Texas, it doesn’t get much better than this.

“Good to see all of you, even those of you I cannot see,” U.S. Rep. O’Rourke, D-El Paso, said as he took the stage at Austin’s Auditorium Shores on Saturday night, surveying a vast throng, estimated at 50,000 or more, the largest of his campaign. “We are not running against anything or anyone or any political party. We are running for each other and for this country that we love so much.”

O’Rourke was followed to the stage by Willie Nelson, probably the most iconic living Texan, who finished his set with “a new song we want to spring on y’all tonight. Take it home with you spread it around.” It was a bit of country realpolitik called “Vote ’Em Out”: “The biggest gun we’ve got is called the ballot box/ If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out.”…

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Texas top-ranked high schools don’t prepare most kids for college, data shows (Houston Chronicle)

A majority of students at the top-rated high schools in Texas are likely to need remedial course work when they get to college because they don’t score well enough on entrance exams, a Hearst Newspapers analysis of newly released school accountability data shows.

More than 900 high schools in the state received the equivalent of an A or B rating from the state last month. But the analysis shows that at two-thirds of those schools, the majority of students are failing to score high enough on the SAT or ACT to be considered “college ready,” increasing the chances that they’ll need remedial course work in college and jeopardizing their chances of getting a college diploma. The low number of Texas students who are adequately prepared for college has emerged again as an issue as state lawmakers study education funding this fall, in preparation for the Legislative Session, which starts in January. At a meeting Tuesday, education committee chairman Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, recommended giving more money to schools for each student who scores college-ready on the entrance exams. Another group of lawmakers studying the performance of Texas schools, including Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, recommended that Texas do away with the STAAR test, the state standardized exam, and instead use the SAT or ACT to hold high schools accountable…

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Supreme Court opens new term without ninth justice in place (Wall Street Journal)

An eight-member Supreme Court, divided by ideology and clouded by uncertainty, returns for a new term Monday, facing a docket of workmanlike disputes while senators battle over nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the face of sexual-assault allegations.

The court’s calendar features cases on endangered species and excessive fines, as well as litigation over sex-offender registration that could have broad constitutional ramifications. There is also an improbable appearance for an Alaska moose hunter who is making his second trip to the court. Senate Republicans had intended to confirm Judge Kavanaugh in time to provide a fifth conservative vote by the start of the term; without an ideological majority, the court likely will take only modest steps. “It’s a little bit of a fraught period for the court” and the “very divided country” it serves, Justice Elena Kagan said during a Sept. 12 appearance in Brooklyn, N.Y. “We should be aware of the environment and not unnecessarily exacerbate the divisions that unfortunately exist.” That may be made easier by the relatively low profile of cases now pending…

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