BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 30, 2018)



Council plans additional post-mortem review of water crisis (Austin Monitor)

Although last week’s crisis has passed and Austinites once again have clean drinking water in their homes and offices, City Council still has much work to do.

In anticipation of the questions that would arrive in the aftermath of the boil water notice, last Thursday, Council Member Ellen Troxclair drafted a resolution requesting a review of the water crisis for the Nov. 1 City Council meeting. “I think it’s totally necessary and really the responsibility of the Council to make sure the public is getting answers to questions they have,” she told the Austin Monitor.

Although the resolution initially garnered support from Council members Alison Alter and Leslie Pool, other Council members suggested waiting until Nov. 15…

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Austin extends ban on using Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin to Friday (Austin American-Statesman)

A waterway ban for Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam has been extended through Friday as water continues to rush through Mansfield Dam.

Open floodgates at the dam have led to high, fast-moving waters that, when combined with debris, create dangerous conditions for recreational, commercial or navigational use, Austin Fire officials said Monday.

The ban also applies to all creeks and streams within the city limits of Austin, officials said.

Any watercraft operating on Austin waterways during the ban may can be impounded.

The ban is set to expire at noon on Friday, provided conditions do not change…

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Golf, recreation areas considered for future of Walter Long Park (Austin Monitor)

Golf course, or no golf course?

There are other questions being discussed with community members in and around East Austin about the future of Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, but one of the main questions is whether the 3,695-acre park should have a golf course added as the city looks for ways to improve the property in the coming years.

The Parks and Recreation Department has completed three public input sessions, with a final one expected to be held in early December, to gather feedback that will be used to create a master plan for the park that is several times larger than Zilker Park and has been mostly unimproved since the 1970s.

While some proposals for the park have suggested draining some of the 1,200-acre lake to create more recreation areas, feedback from the early community input sessions has favored keeping the lake at its current level and incorporating a mix of passive, active and natural recreation areas. Those sessions have also shown that more than 60 percent of respondents both from close to the park and those farther away support adding a golf course that would provide some of the revenue needed to improve and maintain the rest of the grounds…

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Austin school board gives Superintendent Paul Cruz 1-year contract extension (Austin American-Statesman)

The Austin school board on Monday night approved a one-year contract extension for Superintendent Paul Cruz as part of his annual evaluation.

His contract now goes through Dec. 31, 2021. Cruz, who receives a base salary of $310,958, declined an annual raise.

The board voted 6-1, with Trustee Ted Gordon voting against, reading a statement that said he “cannot accept the status quo.”

Gordon said he could not vote in favor of the extension until the district prioritizes lifting the low academic performance among low-income children of color.

“The district is in a crisis mode,” Gordon told the American-Statesman. “It can’t be business as usual. The achievement gaps haven’t been adequately addressed.”

Cruz, the district’s first Latino superintendent, has led the district since January 2015.

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Beto O’Rourke’s $5.4 million Facebook bet (The Atlantic)

Beto O’Rourke is placing a very big bet on Facebook—so big that he’s spent nearly as much money on that type of digital ad as the next five-biggest candidate spenders combined. O’Rourke’s opponent, Senator Ted Cruz, had spent only $427,000 on Facebook, about 1/13th as much as O’Rourke.

Through October 20, O’Rourke alone had spent $5.4 million advertising on the platform, according to Facebook’s Ad Archive Report. J. B. Pritzker, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, Claire McCaskill, and Heidi Heitkamp had spent $5.5 million total. Much of O’Rourke’s Facebook-ad buy seems to be going toward short videos of the candidate talking to crowds or directly to the camera. “My personal point of view is that this is really smart—especially in a state like Texas, where TV is very expensive and there are many markets that may be out of reach for [O’Rourke],” said Dan Wagner, the chief analytics officer for the Obama 2012 campaign. The two Texas Senate hopefuls are relatively close in spending on television ads. While O’Rourke had spent more than $15 million on television ads through mid-October, Cruz and associated pacs had spent $12 million and were on pace to nearly catch up there. O’Rourke has also spent $1.3 million on Google ads, also top among all candidates, though by a much narrower margin (Rick Scott has spent more than $1 million). Cruz has spent little on Google—$181,000—according to the company’s political transparency report. But O’Rourke’s own video team has proved able to get and recognize hot footage, according to Kasra Shokat, a digital-media strategist at the consultancy Winning Mark…

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For both parties, the race between U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions and Colin Allred is bigger than one seat (Texas Tribune)

There is no more valued advocate U.S. House Democrats send to support a congressional candidate than U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat, civil rights icon and close ally of Martin Luther King Jr.

And on Saturday in the middle of early voting, Lewis chose to rally behind attorney and former NFL player Colin Allred, who is in a dogfight against longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions for this North Dallas 32nd District.

That Lewis would come here underscored just how high the stakes are for the party to win this seat — and to take down one of the most powerful Texans in Congress.

“I heard of long before I met him, heard of his great work,” Lewis said of Allred. “And I wanted to come and there were people saying you should go to Texas, and I was ready to go.”…

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Lawyers for state Sen. Charles Schwertner say forensic review proves explicit texts didn't come from his phone (Texas Tribune)

Lawyers for state Sen. Charles Schwertner said Monday that the Georgetown Republican, under fire for allegedly sending lewd messages to a University of Texas at Austin student, submitted his phone to a forensic examiner who "determined that the photo and texts in question could not have come from the senator's phone."

"We are hopeful that the University of Texas will do the right thing and exonerate the senator immediately," the lawyers, Perry Minton and David Minton, wrote in a joint statement. "The voters of Sen. Schwertner's district deserve to have this information directly from the university."

Representatives for the Austin flagship have declined to acknowledge or comment on the investigation, citing a need to protect the integrity of the process. A spokesman again declined to comment Monday. Reid Wittliff, president of R3 Digital Forensics of Austin, confirmed Monday evening the firm has examined the senator's phone.

The lawyers' statement said Schwertner delivered his phone to a forensic examiner "to view the relevant contents," but it did not provide more detail about how the examiner's determination was reached or who retained the firm…

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Department of Defense says it's sending 5,200 troops to U.S.-Mexico border (Texas Tribune)

At least 5,200 troops will be deployed to the U.S. border with Mexico by the end of the week, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense officials confirmed Monday afternoon.

The troops are in addition to the 2,000 National Guard members who have been in place since April. They are being sent days before the midterm elections in response to the caravan of Central American migrants that are slowly making their way to the United States after crossing Mexico's southern border earlier this month.

“Make no mistakes, as we sit right here today, we have 800 soldiers that are on their way to Texas right now,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, during a news conference…

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How the social media platform Gab became a haven for the alt-right (Rolling Stone)

Soon after Robert Bowers was named as a suspect in Saturday’s deadly mass killing of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, his profile and recent posts on the controversial social media platform made clear that anti-Semitism was his motive.

“Jews are the children of satan,” Bowers wrote on his profile page, while his most recent post, or “gab,” blamed the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which provides services to refugee populations, for enabling “invaders” to “kill our people,” a sentiment that the Southern Poverty Law Center described as a “deeper conspiratorial worldview that cast Jews as the most urgent threat to the white race.” Shortly before Bowers burst through the synagogue doors and opened fire while shouting “all Jews must die,” he posted on Gab, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” As news of Bowers’ account spread, the two-year-old platform’s business relationships quickly began to crumble. Not long after the massacre, Gab posted a statement on its Medium page saying it “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence.”…

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Episode 20: Talking Local Control and Paid Sick Leave with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)

This week’s BG Podcast features a conversation with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) on the upcoming Texas legislative session, in particular brewing battles around local control, one being municipal paid sick leave ordinances.

This discussion was recorded on September 24, 2018.


BG Podcast - Episode 10: Policy Discussion Rob Henneke on Paid Sick Leave and Local Control

BG Podcast - Episode 11: Meet James Hines, SVP of Advocacy and In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business

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