BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 6, 2018)



It's Election Day. Here's What You Need To Know To Vote Today. (KUT)

Turnout was strong during early voting in Texas — more than 47 percent of registered voters in Travis County have already cast ballots.

Those of you who haven’t voted yet: Today’s the day.

There are races for statewide office (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, etc.); Congress; Senate (the race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke comes to mind); the Texas Legislature; City Council, mayor and school boards; along with bond propositions and a handful of citizen-initiated propositions on the ballot in Austin…

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Real estate group backs land trusts to preserve affordable housing (Austin Monitor)

With Austin voters about to decide whether the city commits $250 million to increase the local supply of affordable housing, a real estate research group has come out in strong support of cultural land trusts as a tool to prevent rapid escalation of land prices.

The Urban Land Institute Austin recently released an extensive white paper compiling research on land trusts and recommending wider use of them as a preferred solution for acquiring land for immediate or future development, with rental or sale prices pegged to around 60 percent of an area’s median family income.

While listing benefits such as neighborhood stabilization, increased opportunities for working families, and predictable, if modest, returns for participating organizations, the paper promotes land trusts as a way to preserve affordability with minimal government aid, saying: “CLTs help alleviate the affordable housing conundrum without ongoing subsidies. The community invests in a one-time, self-sustaining property asset that creates permanently affordable housing that is attainable today and affordable for future generations.”…

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Judge Sides With Austin In A Challenge To City's Camping Ban (KUT)

A municipal court on Friday ruled in favor of Austin's ban against camping in public places.

In his decision, Municipal Judge Mitchell Solomon sided with the city in the case of Gary Bowens, an Austinite who has multiple citations for camping in public, a Class C misdemeanor that his attorneys and homelessness advocates say targets homeless people unfairly.

Last month, Bowens' attorneys argued the city ordinance is unconstitutional and that it violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorney Angelica Cogliano argued that because Austin doesn't have the capacity to house its homeless population in emergency shelters, Bowens had no choice but to violate the law.

In his ruling, Solomon said his court didn't have standing to rule on that…

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Property owners who forfeit landmark status will have to pay more (Austin Monitor)

Owning a property that has been designated a historic landmark has its benefits and its drawbacks.

The city of Austin, Travis County and the Austin Independent School District all offer hefty property tax exemptions for landmark properties – with the expectation that the property owner will take certain measures to maintain the structure’s historic character. If you need a new door, you have to make sure the replacement door is of the same style as the original, which could be costly. The tax exemption is supposed to compensate owners for the additional expense of maintaining the home for the long-term.

It’s not uncommon for property owners to contest an attempt by the city to designate their property a landmark. The owner could be a developer hoping to demolish or redevelop the structure or simply a homeowner who doesn’t want to lose the right to make changes to his or her house…

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With more competitive races than usual, Texas saw deluge of outside spending (Texas Tribune)

As Texans prepare to cast the final votes in the 2018 general election, they will be doing so in the wake of a deluge of outside spending that is unusual for the state, driven by a hotly contested U.S. Senate race and expanded congressional battlefield.

Those contests quickly emerged over the past few months as the main attractions for super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they do not coordinate with campaigns. The final numbers are still coming in, but when all is said and done, it is likely such groups will have combined to pour well over $40 million into the state during the general election.

In recent history, the race for the 23rd Congressional District was Texas' only competitive U.S. House contest in the fall, and it drew the lion's share of the outside spending. But that changed dramatically this cycle, with national Democrats targeting a total of eight GOP-held or open House seats, most intensely going after three districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016: the 23rd, the 7th and the 32nd. Those last two — situated in the pricey Houston and Dallas media markets, respectively — ended up drawing over $13 million each in outside spending, while the 23rd came in at a little over half that…

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Anxiety and optimism at rallies for Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke as battle for Texas winds down (Dallas Morning News)

With two days left before Texans seal their fates, Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O'Rourke scrambled Sunday to keep supporters upbeat enough to keep working and worried enough to avoid complacency. Polls show the contest teetering, and on both sides, between optimism and anxiety.

"It might be close. It might be close,” averred Debra Reed, 60, a GOP precinct chair in Denton wearing a "Team Jesus" T-shirt to a Cruz rally in Bartonville, outside Denton. "I'm hoping for the big red wave to come through." She's dubious about polls showing a tight race. "I'm fixing to be 61 and no one's ever asked me who I'm voting for. It could just be a bunch of mumbo jumbo to get people discouraged," she said. Angela Nelson, 44, an event planner, moved to nearby Argyle with her husband from California several years ago. She backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 GOP presidential race, but is happy to back Cruz for re-election, given the alternative. But some Republican friends are backing O'Rourke. "We see so many Beto signs everywhere, even in North Dallas suburbs," she said. "I'm very concerned." O'Rourke, after a Saturday of knocking on doors in Dallas and Tarrant counties and an evening rally in Lower Greenville that brought 500 campaign volunteers and other supporters spilling onto a side street, moved on to Austin and San Antonio on Sunday…

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At federal appeals court, Texas asks to enforce its ban on a common abortion procedure (Texas Tribune)

The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday morning about whether Texas should be able to ban doctors from performing the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation.

In a nearly hourlong hearing, attorneys for Texas and lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood argued in front of a panel of three judges.

At issue was Senate Bill 8, a law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2017 but blocked by a federal judge that would ban abortions in which a doctor uses surgical instruments to grasp and remove pieces of fetal tissue. The law would only allow the procedure to be done if the fetus is deceased…

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Amazon Reportedly Changes Plans: Now Settling On Finalists For HQ2 – And HQ3. (KUT)

It appears the end is near for Amazon’s search for a location for a second headquarters.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the company has changed its initial plans and will select two cities for what would reportedly be – in effect –  two HQ2s. The new plan would mean an even split of the planned 50,000 employees to two locations. The Journal reported the finalists are New York, Dallas and Crystal City, Va. (which is part of the Washington, D.C., suburb of Arlington).

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Amazon is in final negotiations with Arlington. Amazon executives did not deny that report, but chided city officials for “leaking.”

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Episode 22: Talking Proposition A - The Affordable Housing Bond

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation John Lawler, a volunteer with Keep Austin Affordable, a coalition of local nonprofits and community leaders who believe addressing the housing crisis is a high priority for the City and requires investment in programs that help people stay in their homes or find affordable housing options all over the City.

The City of Austin has called a bond election for Tuesday, November 6, 2018. At $250 million Proposition A, if passed, would be the largest bond focused on affordable housing in the city's history

This discussion was recorded on October 31, 2018.

Link to Episode 22


2018 City of Austin Bond Propositions

Keep Austin Affordable

John Lawler


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