BG Reads | News You Need to Know (October 9, 2018)



Election might signal end to left-right diversity on Austin council (Austin American-Statesman)

Is there still room for a voice from the right among the leaders of eft-leaning city? Nov. 6 may bring a new answer.

Ellen Troxclair, the Austin City Council’s last remaining conservative member, has in the past two years embraced a role that one of her supporters described as “Joan of Arc against these idiots (at City Hall).” Then she announced that she wouldn’t run again for her Southwest Austin seat.

Instead, Troxclair is endorsing Frank Ward, a 36-year-old corporate communications strategist and a onetime staffer for the Republican National Committee. Ward is facing three more-progressive opponents in a District 8 race everyone agrees is too close to call and likely to go to a runoff between the top two vote-getters.

City Council races are nonpartisan, and candidates don’t run under the flag of a party. Still, when Austin ushered in its district-based, 10-1 council system four years ago, the move meant greater geographic, racial and ideological diversity — including three conservatives on a traditionally liberal-leaning body…

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Prop J initiative exposes rift among Austin environmentalists

Environmentalists in Austin worry about methane emissions from Texas oilfields, plastic pollution clogging up creeks and rivers or nuclear waste being shipped through the state. But one thing they rarely worry about is each other – at least until recently, when an initiative called Proposition J landed on the ballot.

Prop J would require that any comprehensive change to Austin’s land use rules go to voters for approval. As such, it would slow down and possibly scuttle big-picture rezoning in one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.

Opponents of Prop J say that would hinder smart growth and hogtie efforts to fight gentrification. Proponents say the opposite: They argue it will let Austin voters confront those challenges head-on…

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2,100-acre community could bring Mueller-like neighborhood to Southeast Austin (Austin Business Journal)

A huge neighborhood with plenty of places to work, live and play could rise three miles from the airport, transforming a massive swath of Southeast Austin into a dense, urban landscape.

A sister company of Austin-based Momark Development is laying the groundwork for a 2,122-acre master-planned community about eight miles east of downtown. The developers envision a district like Mueller —  brimming with shops, office, homes and parks — except it would have about three times as much acreage. Mueller, built on the site of Austin's old airport, is 700 acres and The Domain in North Austin is 300 acres.

The Southeast Austin project, called Austin Green for now, would offer 2.25 million square feet of commercial space and 12,000 homes, including apartments and single-family houses, according to plans. To put the amount of commercial space in perspective, Barton Creek Square mall is about 1 million square feet…

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MLS to Austin: Stadium negotiations on track for December completion (Austin American-Statesman)

A date that could have marked the end for Major League Soccer coming to Austin will pass without much commotion.

Lawyers from Precourt Sports Ventures and the city are still drafting the final lease and development contract for an MLS stadium at McKalla Place. The terms sheet approved by the City Council in August specified Oct. 9 as a day when either side could terminate the deal if a final agreement had not been reached. Although signatures are probably months away, representatives from both sides told the American-Statesman they have no intention of backing out.

“It was there as a fail-safe, just in case there were any substantial roadblocks and things just weren’t coming together,” city spokesman David Green told the Statesman. “It would allow either party to back out, but wasn’t meant as a hard deadline. We’re coming up on Oct. 9, and right now we’ve made very good progress. There isn’t any reason for either party to consider invoking that clause of the terms sheet at this time.”

MLS lobbyist Richard Suttle, who works for PSV, declined to comment other than to say he agrees with the city about Tuesday’s date…

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After Kavanaugh confirmation, Pence looks to rally Texas GOP for Cruz, Sessions (Texas Tribune)

Two days after the U.S. Senate voted to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, Vice President Mike Pence came here looking to energize Texas Republicans around the hard-fought confirmation — and to get them to turn out in particular for two lawmakers locked in competitive races.

With under a month until Election Day, Pence headlined fundraisers Monday in Dallas for local U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who are fighting for re-election against Democrats Colin Allred and El Paso U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, respectively. The races are among the most closely watched in the state — and country — and Pence's trip made him the biggest GOP name yet to visit Texas for them during the final stretch…

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University of Texas acknowledges investigation of Sen. Charles Schwertner (Austin American-Statesman)

The University of Texas on Monday acknowledged it has received a complaint about state Sen. Charles Schwertner from a student, and that it has collected evidence as part of an investigation into him, marking the first official acknowledgement of the school’s inquiry into whether Schwertner sent a sexually explicit photo and message to a graduate student he met this summer.

The American-Statesman reported two weeks ago that the school was investigating the allegation against the Georgetown Republican, and that it was considering banning him from campus if the allegation was proven true. The newspaper cited three senior UT officials with knowledge of the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to discuss the situation…

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The Kavanaugh cash surge (Axios)

The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight has led to a huge increase in donations to Democrats and groups that support them — and Republicans say the battle has been good for their fundraising, too. It's tangible evidence that the bitter Supreme Court showdown is turning into massive energy for the midterm elections…

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After a bitter fight, Justice Kavanaugh takes the bench (New York Times)

Three days after the fierce battle over his nomination ended in his elevation to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh will join his new colleagues on the bench for the first time on Tuesday morning, taking a seat on the far right side of the bench, in the spot reserved for the most junior justice.

The court will hear two hours of arguments in three cases, all concerning a complicated and ambiguous federal law that has long vexed the justices. The cases do not raise questions of high constitutional moment or involve pressing social issues, which may be just as well for a court that has sustained collateral damage from a confirmation fight marked by bitterness, distrust and raw partisanship…

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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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