BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 16, 2018)



Development at issue as challengers try to unseat Renteria in District 3 (Austin American-Statesman)

Supporters of City Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria are pushing hard to help Renteria hold his District 3 seat against a slew of challengers as early voting begins next week.

Renteria’s sister and his frequent critic, Susana Almanza, is challenging him again, after the two faced off in a high-profile runoff for the East Austin seat in 2014. Another candidate, James Valadez, received strong early support after announcing his candidacy. The inclusion of three other candidates, Amit Motwani, Justin Jacobson and Jessica Cohen, means the race has a good chance again of going to a runoff.

Most of the challengers hold less density-friendly views on development than Renteria, who has been adamant that the city needs more housing to keep people from being driven out of the city.

As campaigning in the race kicked into gear, Eugene Sepulveda, CEO of Capital Factory and Mayor Steve Adler’s campaign treasurer, began sending emails to Adler supporters asking them for help…

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As Flood Risk Increases, Austin Will Revisit Its Floodplain Building Rules (KUT)

After a new study showed thousands of additional homes were at risk of flooding in Austin, the city is preparing to revamp rules on building within a floodplain.

The study, known as Atlas 14, revised the city's understanding of historical rainfall data, adding 3,000 properties to the city's 100-year floodplain – which impacts everything from what people pay for insurance to how they can build homes.

Now, the Watershed Protection Department is proposing changes to construction rules within the floodplain.

One of the proposals would increase the minimum elevation for new construction in the floodplain from 1 foot above flood level to 2 feet, which would, ideally, better protect properties against severe flooding…

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Legal questions remain as soccer team once bound for Austin may stay put (Austin Monitor)

The possibility of Austin not becoming the relocation destination for an Ohio Major League Soccer franchise has brought a variety of new questions into the issue of the city providing land for a new 20,000-seat sports stadium in North Austin.

News broke on Friday that the Columbus Crew SC team could be purchased by a group of Ohio investors who have gone on record with their plans to keep the team there. That means whatever team arrives in Austin would have to be an expansion franchise, although the current owners of the Columbus team are moving ahead with their plans to relocate that club to Austin within the next year.

Precourt Sports Ventures, the group that this summer agreed to terms with City Council on a deal to use the property known as McKalla Place near the Domain to build a new stadium, had planned to have the team in Austin in time to play its 2019 season here. Team representatives said the logistics and scheduling have reached a point that 2020 is the earliest the team could likely come to Austin to play in a temporary venue, and the group is still working with the city to finalize the lease agreement for the McKalla Place property…

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Despite legal uncertainty, sales of cannabis extract booming in Texas (Austin American-Statesman)

Stores selling CBD – a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana and hemp – have been popping up statewide, almost as if Texas recently enacted a sweeping medical cannabis program. It hasn’t.

The boom in retail sales of products containing CBD, or cannabidiol, has instead been taking place in a legal gray zone, with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and some pro-cannabis activists disagreeing among themselves as to whether it is lawful in Texas. The uncertainty stems largely from vaguely worded state marijuana prohibitions, as well as from evolving cannabis policies at the federal level. But even those who contend it is illegal say enforcement is a low priority for prosecutors and police. Texas lawmakers approved a restrictive medical cannabis law in 2015, called the Compassionate Use Act, that allows dispensaries licensed by the Department of Public Safety to make and sell CBD products that have greater percentages of active ingredients than the bulk of those now found at retail outlets. But the DPS has only allowed three dispensaries to obtain licenses -- with each required to pay an initial $488,520 administrative fee -- and the law only permits them to sell to patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy and referred by a doctor. “We legalized CBD through the Compassionate Use Act -- that’s it,” said state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, a leading sponsor of the bill that created the state law. “Even if it is a hemp-derived product (instead of marijuana-derived), Texas has not legalized hemp.”…

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Ed Emmett aims re-election campaign at Democrats (Houston Chronicle)

If there is a nightmare keeping Harris County Judge Ed Emmett awake at night, it may go like this: It starts months before November, when Democrats tell pollsters they, of course, will vote for Emmett, even though he’s a Republican. They like how he led the county during Hurricane Harvey, and the storms before that, stretching back to Ike a decade ago.

Election Day arrives. A surge of Democrats turn out, motivated by anger with Republicans at the top of the ticket and President Donald Trump, who is absent from the ballot. They have no quarrel with Emmett. But the lines are long, the ballot is long, and the county judge’s race is below dozens of state and federal contests. At the top of the ballot, however, voters can select the straight ticket of their party with one button. Democrats pick theirs, and leave. And Emmett loses to a 27-year-old who never has held political office. That is the scenario, in the last Texas election with straight-ticket voting, election researchers say could sweep Emmett out of office. Though Emmett is likely to win a third full term, they said in an election in which Republican voters likely will be a minority, the judge should be reminding Democrats to buck their party and stick with him. “It’s all about Democrats voting for Ed,” said Robert Stein, a political science professor at Rice University…

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UT System Board of Regents Chair Sara Martinez Tucker to step down in January (Texas Tribune)

The head of the University of Texas System's governing board, Sara Martinez Tucker, has told high-ranking UT officials she plans to step down as a regent on Jan. 15, 2019.

No reason was immediately given for her sudden departure. The announcement was confirmed to The Texas Tribune by two sources.

Tucker, who served as President George W. Bush's under secretary of education, was named a regent in 2015 and elected the board's chair in 2017. Her term as regent is set to expire in 2021.

Tucker's tenure as chair followed years of infighting among the board, and was marked by a reduction in both public feuds and system-level spending. A task force of regents has, for months, been evaluating what the scope of the system's offices should be, and they are slated to release recommendations this fall, likely articulating a more scaled-down vision...

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As E-Scooters Roll Into American Cities, So Do Safety Concerns (KUT)

Over the past year, companies have been rolling out electric scooters by the thousands in cities across the country — from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., to Lubbock, Texas. People download the app, find a nearby scooter and then just unlock and ride. But as these shared scooters have spread, so have concerns about safety.

Portland, Oregon, is in the middle of a four-month e-scooter pilot program. You see these scooters everywhere — parked on sidewalks (they don't require docking stations, which most shared bikes do), taking fast corners and zipping through traffic. But something you don't see much of: helmets…

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SEE ALSO: BG Podcast - Episode 18: Policy Update on Austin Scooter Share with Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation Department (10/9/18)

Scooter companies may have found a loophole in cities' limitations (CNN)

City governments' tight control of scooter and e-bike rentals may be short lived.

Although cities continue to limit scooters despite strong customer demand, startups are trying to hack the rules with workarounds -- such as direct rentals to your doorstep.

The latest such move comes from Bird, the Santa Monica, California-based startup that pioneered scooter sharing. Its new Bird Delivery service drops off scooters by 8:00 a.m. at customer's homes and gives total control of them for a day. Bird picks the rentals up in the evening, recharges them and loans the scooters to someone else the next day.

Most companies rent scooters by the minute and allow riders to leave them on popular street corners and near transit stops -- a controversial move that has upset some cities' officials and residents…

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The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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