BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 12, 2018)



As Adler talks of mandate, what comes next for Austin? (Austin American-Statesman)

Forty minutes after the polls closed in Austin on Tuesday night, Mayor Steve Adler was at his victory party, declaring that his re-election margin — which eventually settled at 60 percent, despite six challengers — represents a sweeping mandate for him to tackle his favored projects.

“I do see the margin in the mayor’s race as an affirmation of what we’ve been doing in this city,” he said. “The community has endorsed the position that we’ve taken leading other cities around the state and around the country. The conversations that we have had in respect to the convention center and using that as a tool to generate the revenue stream to actually do something about homelessness.”

The mayor referenced the Austin Convention Center again an hour later as he took the stage before supporters. His comments might point to the next heated battle in city government circles: Adler’s “downtown puzzle” proposal that’s been relatively dormant for nearly a year and a half…

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WeWork may build its own tower in downtown Austin (Austin Business Journal)

WeWork Cos. is reportedly on the verge of a major property acquisition in downtown Austin.

A Nov. 5 story from The Real Deal, a New York-based real estate news site, details WeWork's effort to purchase the roughly 4.7-acre Waller Park Place development site from McCourt Global, a real estate entity owned by billionaire and former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

There WeWork will build its "first ground-up development," according to The Real Deal.

The Real Deal based its story on anonymous sources "familiar with the matter." Representatives from McCourt Global declined to comment when reached by Austin Business Journal and WeWork did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Waller Park Place is at the southwest corner of where Red River and East Cesar Chavez streets intersect, across the street from the Austin Convention Center…

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Wage growth accelerates in Austin, as tight labor market spurs uptick (Austin American-Statesman)

Anecdotes illustrating Austin’s tight labor market are numerous and varied – like qualified candidates for high-tech jobs routinely getting four or more offers apiece, and restaurant owners needing months of advertising just to fill entry-level positions.

But lackluster average employee wage increases for most of 2018 have belied that fierce competition for workers. The trend might finally be changing, federal statistics show. Private-sector pay gains in Austin recently sped up to well above the state and national levels. The local average hourly wage climbed 5.4 percent in September — to $29.82 — compared with the same month a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The federal agency doesn’t adjust metro-level wage data for seasonal factors, but wage growth in the Austin area outpaced similar nonseasonally adjusted September increases of 1.8 percent statewide and 3.6 percent for the U.S. overall. Austin’s rise “is a pretty strong acceleration from earlier this year,” said Michael Sury, a University of Texas finance lecturer and an economist. However, it remains to be seen if the wage increases are the start of a trend that could counter the region’s near two-decade low unemployment rate by luring more people into the labor force, or if they’ll be significant enough for those in low-wage professions to gain ground on the metro area’s rising cost of living…

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State Rep. Dennis Bonnen gains momentum as two Texas House speaker candidates drop out (Texas Tribune)

Two Republicans dropped their bids for speaker of the Texas House Sunday and endorsed state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, for the job.

On Sunday, state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo announced he was exiting the race, saying he and Bonnen have “had a number of candid and productive conversations about our vision for the future of Texas and how we can work together to make that future as bright as possible.” Hours later, state Rep. Phil King of Weatherford confirmed to The Texas Tribune that he was also ending his candidacy. “I think it’s very important that the Republican caucus be united,” King told the Tribune when reached by phone. “I think Bonnen is our best opportunity to elect a Republican speaker.” King’s decision to end his bid was first reported by Quorum Report…

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Election workers across 29 counties work to finalize vote in race between Hurd and Ortiz Jones (San Antonio Express-News)

Election officials in 29 Texas counties are furiously counting outstanding votes in the Congressional District 23 election, in which Republican Rep. Will Hurd holds a narrow lead with at least 859 ballots outstanding. But the contest tightened in the early morning hours Wednesday, and it appeared — for a half-hour — that Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones had pulled off an upset.

Then the lead changed hands again, and the state’s unofficial results showed Hurd winning by 689 votes. Later Wednesday, a tabulation error in Jones’ favor was discovered in Culberson County. Once the error was corrected, Hurd’s margin had increased to 1,150 votes — out of more than 200,000 cast. Since then, the Jones campaign has vowed that it “won’t stop working until every provisional ballot, absentee ballot and military or overseas ballot has been counted.” The Hurd camp doesn’t think it will change the result. “All ballots should be and will be counted in TX 23,” said Justin Hollis, Hurd’s campaign manager. “What Gina Jones fails to recognize is that there is no way she will win this race, given Will Hurd’s insurmountable lead.” …

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State Sen. Sylvia Garcia resigns, Gov. Abbott sets Dec. 11 special election (Texas Tribune)

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, the Houston Democrat who is headed to Congress, resigned Friday from the Texas Senate, leading Gov. Greg Abbott to set a Dec. 11 special election to replace her.

Abbott scheduled the special election hours after Garcia announced she was submitting a letter of resignation him, effective 12:01 p.m. It was her second effort to resign after she declared in July her “intent to resign” Jan. 2, 2019, leading to a standoff between her and Abbott’s office that held up the special election.

Garcia held a news conference Friday morning in Houston to announce her latest move to relinquish the seat, which she has held since 2013.

"I will submit to Gov. Abbott a letter of resignation effective one minute after noon today," she said. "As I've always stated, my goal has been to ensure the people of Senate District 6 have seamless and high-quality representation…

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Beto 2020 calls multiply among Democrats (The Hill)

Democrats are seeing a silver lining to Rep. Beto O'Rourke’s loss in Texas to Sen. Ted Cruz. It means O’Rourke, who emerged in the midterms as a progressive star, is free to run for president. Talk of O’Rourke running for the White House would have happened if he had defeated Cruz, to be sure. But Democrats say it shouldn’t be quieted by his loss.

O’Rourke finished within 3 percentage points of Cruz, an exceptional performance compared to past Democratic standards in recent Texas Senate races. Democrats across the country say that if O’Rourke wants to run for president, he has the potential to take the primary by storm. “If he wants to run, he should do it,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “He now has name recognition, a widely successful fundraising operation, a young fresh face with a sprinkling of woke, a cool persona, a new perspective, he speaks Spanish and would be an exciting and upbeat candidate,” she said. Another strategist was even more enthusiastic. “I hate to say this because it would piss off a lot of Democrats, but the fact is we have so many people and we really have nobody that's thrilling, nobody that would send a thrill up Chris Matthews’s leg except for Beto,” the strategist said, referencing the MSNBC “Hardball” host, who expressed such excitement about hearing former President Obama speak.”…

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Democrats Say Their First Bill Will Focus On Strengthening Democracy At Home (KUT)

Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January with big items topping their legislative to-do list: Remove obstacles to voting, close loopholes in government ethics law and reduce the influence of political money.

Party leaders say the first legislative vote in the House will come on H.R. 1, a magnum opus of provisions that Democrats believe will strengthen U.S. democratic institutions and traditions.

"It's three very basic things that I think the public wants to see," said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who spearheads campaign finance and government ethics efforts for the House Democratic Caucus. He said H.R. 1 will "demonstrate that we hear that message loud and clear."…

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Ford jumps into scooter wars with purchase of Spin (Austin Business Journal)

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday said it has purchased Spin, one of the companies that wants Austinites to zip around town on electric scooters.

Spin, which is based in San Francisco, launched in March 2017 and has operations across 13 cities and college campuses nationwide. The purchase price was between $80 million and $90 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a statement from Ford, the company called the deal its "latest strategic move ... in the mobility space, as the company builds a mobility portfolio to help customers get places more easily, more quickly and less expensively."

With the backing of Ford (NYSE: F), which has a market capitalization of more than $37 billion, Spin in the next few years will hire aggressively and "scale quickly across hundreds of U.S. markets, including large metropolises, mid-sized cities and college campuses," the startup's founders said in a statement…

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See also:

BG Podcast - Episode 18: Talking Scooter Share with Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation

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