BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 24, 2018)

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[AUSTIN METRO]

Boil water rule could end this weekend (Austin Monitor)

Although a Travis County emergency management official told commissioners Tuesday morning that the current boil water advisory for Austin Water customers could continue for 10 to 14 days, city officials said Tuesday afternoon that such a scenario was unlikely.

Mayor Steve Adler told a news conference gathering at City Hall that the boil water notice should end sometime this weekend, adding that the Travis County official’s warning was a miscommunication.

Adler and City Manager Spencer Cronk both thanked the Austin community for responding positively to Monday’s request that water users cut back the amount of water they have been using.

“The good news is that you heard us, and it’s working. But we’re asking you to keep up your conservation efforts – don’t water your lawn, don’t wash your car, keep your showers short. While we’re planning for whatever Mother Nature might throw at us, we have no indication at this point that this will be a long-term issue,” Cronk said. “We are talking days, not weeks.”

Austin Water Utility Director Greg Meszaros said water customers had cut back usage by 15 to 20 percent, which is exactly what they needed to do to help the utility get back to normal…

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Mayoral candidates stress leadership on familiar Austin concerns (Austin Monitor)

While common topics such as Austin’s transportation issues and the fate of the city’s CodeNEXT rewrite have been talking points at all recent forums for the four contested City Council seats, at Monday’s forum for the two most prominent candidates for mayor the question of leadership and setting a vision for the city was threaded through discussion on those familiar issues.

The forum at Wesley United Methodist Church started with introductions and a brief question-and-answer session for five of the lesser-known and experienced candidates for mayor – Todd Phelps, Gus Peña, Alan Pease, Travis Duncan and Alexander Strenger.

Peña – a regular presence at City Council meetings – called out City Council for passing a $4.1 billion budget and not preventing gentrification in historic neighborhoods, while Duncan said Austin is suffering from a “dysfunctional democracy” with a tone that comes from the top. Phelps continued his push for a 20 percent homestead property tax exemption as a remedy for displacement and criticized Adler for not meeting his 2014 campaign promise on that issue.

Pease criticized the city’s priorities moving away from transit and affordability. Strenger took the podium with a championship belt reading “Mayor” draped over his shoulder and criticized the city’s cooperation with ride-share companies and incentives for developers and large corporations.

The session then moved to a nearly hourlong session between Mayor Steve Adler and former City Council Member Laura Morrison…

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[TEXAS]

Texas values collide in fight over Houston-Dallas high speed rail (Texas Tribune)

Private developer Texas Central Partners LLC plans to build a train that will shuttle people between Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes along a 240-mile route roughly parallel to a highway corridor that normally takes four hours to drive. This new link between two of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation — home to roughly half of the state’s 28 million residents — will help create “a super economy” says Holly Reed, Texas Central’s managing director of external affairs.

Texas Central sees the line as a mammoth example of a private entity addressing an infrastructure demand that government agencies are increasingly unable to tackle — and a chance to hook Americans on an alternative to highways that’s long connected major cities in Asia and Europe.

“There’s no doubt once people ride this train, they will want trains like this to go other places,” Reed adds.

The company’s ambitious vision has arrived just as American cities are starting to grasp the detrimental side effects and financial unsustainability of car-centric infrastructure that’s dominated urban planning since the end of World War II…

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Cruz declines to embrace Trump's 'nationalist' label, Cornyn accepts it after Houston rally (Dallas Morning News)

One of the more jarring comments President Donald Trump made Monday night in Houston came when he proclaimed himself a proud “nationalist.” It’s a term laden with bad connotations –– fascists and warmongers and white supremacists –– but for Trump, apparently, synonymous with an “America First” worldview. On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz declined to embrace the label his political benefactor celebrated at the Houston rally that Trump headlined for him, even as Trump critics raised alarms.

“I’m not going to worry about labels. I spend every day fighting for 28 million Texans, fighting for jobs, fighting for more opportunity,” he said at a campaign stop at a retirement community north of Austin. Sen. John Cornyn, stumping this week with Cruz, expressed no discomfort with Trump’s label. “I would call myself an American first and foremost. If that makes me a nationalist, then so be it,” said Cornyn, whose dad flew B-17s in World War II, fighting fascism –– a particularly virulent strain of nationalism. “They were Nazis. They wanted to take over the world. I wouldn’t try to make more of that than I think the president intended,” he said. Not everyone was so willing to shrug off Trump’s proclamation. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, put a spotlight on the president’s comment and made clear that to him, this is no innocuous label. Trump, he tweeted, “openly identifies himself as a nationalist, calls for the jailing of his political opponents, attacks the press & cozies up to dictators, while Republicans in Congress stand idly by.” Scholars who study nationalism in the United States and abroad, now and through history, likewise see uncomfortable implications. At Southern Methodist University, Erin Hochman, an associate professor of modern German and European history, called it “striking” to hear an American president describe himself as a nationalist. "It's definitely a dog whistle," she said –– particularly because Trump immediately drew a contrast between "nationalist" and "globalist," an idea historically applied by radical nationalists, like the Nazis, to people, such as Jews and socialists, who allegedly hold no loyalty to the state. Like "the historical idea of rootless cosmopolitans," she said, "That's a code word for neo-Nazis."…

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Slow Hurricane Harvey response dogs Land Commissioner George P. Bush in re-election campaign (Houston Chronicle)

The Alamo and Hurricane Harvey relief are top issues as Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s seeks re-election, two topics that highlight difficulties of his first term. Nonetheless, Bush has name recognition and campaign funding that his Democratic and Libertarian opponents cannot match.

After a tough primary in which three Republicans challenged him, Bush is now up against two political newcomers in the general election — Democrat Miguel Suazo and Libertarian Matt Piña. Suazo, an energy and natural resources attorney in Austin, said he was initially hesitant to challenge Bush, the scion of a Republican political dynasty in Texas that includes two former presidents and a former governor. But Suazo said he was persuaded by Democratic polls showing it is a winnable race. He is banking on a wave of Texans turning out to vote for U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke and picking him for land commissioner. “For the first time in a long time, people have viable options in these races,” Suazo said of his own race and other statewide races such as the campaigns for attorney general and agriculture commissioner. “I will put my résumé next to Commissioner Bush’s any day of the week in terms of doing the work.” Bush was easily elected in 2014 to the Texas General Land Office, a relatively obscure state agency that manages state lands, operates the Alamo, helps fund Texas public education through oil and gas leases, and helps the state recover from natural disasters. After Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas in late August, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner accused the General Land Office of “hogging” $5 billion in federal relief aid awarded in November. He criticized Bush for delays in making the funds available and said local government officials in Houston were largely excluded as Bush and his staff drafted a plan for how to use the money. An analysis by the Houston Chronicle later that month found that the short-term housing effort led by Bush trailed well behind post-disaster efforts in other states and was hampered by interagency finger-pointing, legal wrangling and staffing shortfalls. Shortly thereafter, Phil Wilson, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, was tapped to join Bush’s office to speed up the process and get eligible storm survivors housing assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency…

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Big Oil taps into on-demand economy with fuel delivery (San Antonio Express-News)

Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil. Shell, which introduced its app-based fueling service last year in the Netherlands, will soon introduce it in Houston, while Exxon Mobil, in addition to providing the fuel, has invested some $4 million in the gas-up-without-leaving-home company Yoshi.

Big Oil is moving into the on-demand economy at a time when energy companies are fighting to hold onto market share as gasoline demand plateaus with the spread of hybrid, electric and other fuel-efficient vehicles. With high real estate costs and razor-thin profit margins forcing 25 percent on the nation’s gas stations out of business over the past 25 years, oil majors are seeking new models for selling their product while looking to stay ahead of the type of technological changes that have refashioned retail, taxi, hotel and other industries. Analysts said that oil companies have little choice but to experiment with new products and business models as growing concerns about climate change and increasing pressure to shift away from fossil fuels create what are perhaps the most uncertain times in the industry’s history. It makes sense for Shell, Exxon Mobil and other oil majors to at least try various technologies and not ignore trends that have the potential to reshape how companies and their customers do business, said Claudio Galimberti, head of demand and refining for S&P Global Platts Analytics in Houston. “You need to hedge your bets,” Galimberti said, “and you need to start early to avoid missing the train entirely.”…

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[NATION]

Trump and G.O.P. candidates escalate race and fear as election ploys (New York Times)

President Trump on Monday sharply intensified a Republican campaign to frame the midterm elections as a battle over immigration and race, issuing a dark and factually baseless warning that “unknown Middle Easterners” were marching toward the American border with Mexico.

The unsubstantiated charge marked an escalation of Mr. Trump’s efforts to stoke fears about foreigners and crime ahead of the Nov. 6 vote, as he did to great effect in the presidential race. Mr. Trump and other Republicans are insistently seeking to tie Democrats to unfettered immigration and violent crime, and in some instances this summer and fall they have attacked minority candidates in nakedly racial terms. Mr. Trump is now railing daily in speeches and on Twitter against the migrant caravan moving north through Central America, and on Monday called it a national emergency. The caravan has dominated conservative talk radio and Fox News, where there has also been loose speculation about a link to terrorism. The apparently groundless inclusion of “unknown Middle Easterners” to the caravan echoes Mr. Trump’s longstanding practice of amplifying fears about Islamic militants on the campaign trail. In upstate New York, Republican political groups have aired ads branding a Democratic congressional candidate, Antonio Delgado, who is black, as a “big-city rapper” and accusing him of seeking to give government “handouts” to food-stamp recipients. In Dallas, a political committee aligned with Mr. Trump, America First Action, has disseminated an online ad branding Colin Allred, a black civil rights lawyer, as hostile to gun rights — accompanied by the image of a white woman with a dark-skinned hand smothering her mouth. Two House Republicans, Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California, who have been indicted on charges of corruption, have aired ads widely denounced as racist. Mr. Hunter has branded his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is Arab-American, a “security risk,” while Mr. Collins has run an ad showing his Democratic challenger, Nate McMurray, who is white, speaking Korean, insinuating that he favors Asian economic interests over those of the United States…

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House Democrats consider how they would balance investigating and cooperating with Trump (Washington Post)

While Democrats are preparing to wage war against President Trump if they win control of the House next year, both sides have also begun to look for areas where they could cooperate, eager to show voters they can deliver results even in a divided government.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, has in recent days begun laying out the case for how Democrats could vigorously investigate the Trump administration but also compromise with the president when their policy priorities align. “We worked with George Bush,” she said Monday at an event hosted by CNN. “I disagreed with him on the war in Iraq vehemently. But we worked with him on so many other subjects, passed the biggest energy bill in the history of the country, passed many pieces of legislation.” The White House is also sensing a political benefit in finding areas of agreement, and top administration officials have reached out to key Democrats to see where the two opposing sides could collaborate. Shahira Knight, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, recently had a private sit-down with Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-OR, who would be the Democrats’ point person on infrastructure legislation should that surface at the top of the legislative agenda in 2019. DeFazio explained his three-pronged infrastructure proposal, and while Knight did not give direct feedback on his plan, DeFazio said, she relayed an encouraging tone from Trump on potential infrastructure efforts next year. “She is convinced the president wants to do something real and realizes it’s going to require real money,” DeFazio said. “This guy, he was a developer. He understands .?.?. what happens when you build things. You put people to work, you provide jobs.”…

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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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