BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 8, 2018)



City tries to get developers to embrace ‘great urban design’ (Austin Monitor)

While the most often discussed aim of density bonuses has been to create affordable housing, the city also hopes to use them as a way to encourage other community benefits, including superior design.

“We’re trying to shift the narrative and shift the story and say great urban design is important,” Jorge Rousselin, who heads the urban design division of the city’s Development Services Department, said during a meeting last month of the Design Commission.

Staff members currently have dozens of design guidelines they use in their “qualitative review” of a project that is seeking greater height or size than the base zoning regulations allow.

Rousselin said that the city has decided a holistic, qualitative approach is better than setting strict rules.

“You may only meet five of the guidelines out of 46, but you knock them out of the park. Or you met 20 of them, but it’s kind of wishy-washy,” he said, explaining the value of staff discretion in seeking designs that will further the city’s goals of encouraging active streetscapes and public plazas, among other things…

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Tovo campaign complains about PAC spending (Austin Monitor)

District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo’s re-election campaign filed an ethics complaint Monday against the Center for Austin’s Future Political Action Committee, a group supporting Danielle Skidmore, Tovo’s most significant opponent.

The complaint alleges that the committee, which calls itself CAFPAC, violated a section of city code requiring such committees to file their treasurer designation 60 days before spending money on an election, or limiting such expenses to $2,500. However, as the Austin Monitor reported last week, that section of city code, 2-2-23 (c), appears to be unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.

Michael Gaudini, Tovo’s campaign manager, wrote in his complaint that “During the days immediately before and after 10/30/18, CAFPAC mailed a total of 4 print political pieces to District 9 households. Although CAFPAC has not reported this expenditure, it will exceed the $2500 limit.”

That statement raised questions about why the PAC had not reported the expenditures. Even though it filed two special reports called ATX-7 PAC filings on Oct. 31, there is no mention of advertising expenditures. In fact, the only expenditures mentioned are bank fees.

In trying to determine exactly what the PAC was doing, the Monitor discovered that it had failed to file a report 30 days before the election or eight days before the election. City code requires that such reports be filed.

Jeff Hahn, the PAC’s treasurer, could not be reached for comment…

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Democrat wins will shift the race for Texas House Speaker (Houston Chronicle)

Republicans lost a dozen seats in Tuesday's election, putting Democrats in a stronger position to sway the next most important election in Texas — choosing the next state House speaker who can wield influence to control what laws legislators will pass next year.

Members of the House elect a speaker every two years at the beginning of the legislative session. Republicans looking to replace outgoing GOP Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio have put up five candidates for the chamber’s top job to set the pace, tone and agenda for the 2019 session that begins in January. However, the election Tuesday dropped the GOP majority to 83 - 67 in the House, giving the minority party leverage to bargain for a centrist speaker of their liking or cut deals on legislation, political analysts say. Republicans held 95 out of 150 seats prior to Tuesday election, which would have made way for a more conservative speaker candidate. “The Democrats are shopping. They’re buyers in this market and they’re going to be empowered to find somebody who’s going to give them a good deal,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor and analyst from the University of Houston…

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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus: Texas and the Republican Party are “moving in opposite directions” (Texas Tribune)

Republicans in the Texas House were dealt a big blow Tuesday night, losing 12 seats to Democrats and two in the Texas Senate.

Joe Straus, the Republican who has presided over the House for nearly a decade, said that's because win-at-all-cost politics may be effective at the state level, but "it creates carnage down-ballot in a changing state where a Republican Party and the state of Texas are moving in opposite directions."

The "small issues" that were popular among Republican primary voters didn't resonate in November, he said…

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As Democrats seize U.S. House control, Texas congressional delegation set to lose clout in Washington (Texas Tribune)

The Texas congressional delegation is poised to lose significant clout on Capitol Hill after the Democrats on Tuesday took control of the U.S. House and Texas voters elected nine new representatives — one-quarter of the state's 36 members.

All told, Texas Republicans will lose seven committee chairmanships. Three of those — Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Mike Conaway of Midland, chairman of the Agriculture Committee; and Kevin Brady of The Woodland, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — won re-election Tuesday and are likely to become ranking members on those committees…

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Julian Castro 'hoping' to run for president; encouraged by midterm results (San Antonio Express-News)

Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro came away from the midterm election heartened by Democratic successes and seemingly intent on running for his party's nomination for president in 2020. "I'm hoping to run and will make a final decision in the next few weeks," Castro said.

Castro, 44, who was housing secretary in the Obama administration, has given every indication he will join what likely will be a Democratic field bulging with candidates. With the midterms over, an array of party hopefuls is expected to declare candidacies later this year and early in 2020. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, Castro traveled to each of the first four Democratic primary and caucus states as of now -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. His family biography, "An Unlikely Journey," published last month, and Castro told Rolling Stone magazine that a presidential candidacy is likely. Castro is heading a PAC, Opportunity First, that serves as a hub for his political operations…

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Motel 6 agrees to $8.9M settlement for funneling Latino guests' names to ICE (Dallas Morning News)

Motel 6 has agreed to pay nearly $9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by a Latino civil rights organization after some locations within the motel chain shared guest information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Under the proposal, which still must be approved by the court, the company will compensate Motel 6 guests whose names were submitted to ICE, including some who were questioned by ICE or placed in deportation proceedings. At least one plaintiff was deported, according to an attorney in the case. Late last year, Carrollton-based G6 Hospitality LLC, the parent company of Motel 6, acknowledged that two of its Phoenix-area locations voluntarily handed over guest information to ICE but said the practice was "implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. "When we became aware of it..., it was discontinued," the company said…

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