BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 21, 2018)



Parking, recklessness among scooter concerns for city’s disability committee (Austin Monitor)

Amid concerns over the safety of people in wheelchairs and the visually impaired, the Mayor’s Committee for People With Disabilities pressed the Austin Transportation Department to take steps soon to improve the behavior of users of rentable motorized scooters, and the companies that have put roughly 4,300 of those units around downtown Austin.

The committee’s concerns came largely from an ongoing issue of the scooters and other dockless mobility units winding up parked in pedestrian rights of way after users finish riding them, creating an assortment of safety and access issues for pedestrians with disabilities. The term “flagrant interferences with access” was used several times throughout the meeting as committee members joined others in the community who have expressed frustration since a handful of dockless mobility companies set up shop in Austin in late spring.

The committee opted to delay until next month a resolution to request that City Council step in and consider firm measures to enforce the city’s recently passed ordinance that covers those vehicles. That decision came in part because the city is still finalizing the rules for enforcement of the ordinance, with an initial set of rules expected to be released before the end of the month…

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A massive change in Austin’s flood map says thousands more homes are at high risk (Austin Monitor)

Around 3,000 more Austin properties will find themselves in high-risk flood plains thanks to a new National Weather Service study called Atlas 14. Those new flood designations could impact everything from what you pay for insurance to how you build your home.


Atlas 14 is an update of historical rainfall totals. The National Weather Service added about a quarter-century worth of data to its current models and determined that heavier rains around Austin were more common than previously thought. That info was then plugged into Austin’s flood plain map showing increased risk.

“It’s very significant,” says Kevin Shunk, Austin’s flood plain administrator. “This is the most significant change of rainfall rates that I’ve seen in my 25-year career.”


Shunk stresses that new maps showing greater flood risk are temporary. Over the next two years the city plans to look more closely at areas affected by the change to see if they should be permanently redesignated for higher flood risk…

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Ethics commission considers examining possible ‘dark money’ violation (Austin Monitor)

Members of Austin’s Ethics Review Commission are eager to examine a potential violation of the city’s “dark money” campaign finance law that has generated press attention and speculation in city political circles in recent weeks.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Commissioner Debra Danburg read from a recent Austin American-Statesman investigation into the funding of a political action committee behind a November ballot proposition calling for an efficiency audit of City Hall. The story found the PAC and the sole nonprofit that funded it were organized by the same person – Michael Searle, a former aide in the office of Council Member Ellen Troxclair – but the source of the funding from the Austin Civic Fund nonprofit is unclear.

In media coverage of the proposition issue Searle has said that donors to the nonprofit offered their money with the understanding that their identities would not be disclosed. He also said the donors weren’t aware their donations would be put to use bankrolling the efficiency audit measure…

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Dan Patrick and the reddest Texas Senate ever (Texas Tribune)

Dan Patrick has the Texas Senate Bob Bullock always wanted.

And after this week’s special election in South and West Texas put Republican Pete Flores in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Patrick is in a great position to extend his run — assuming that he wins his own reelection bid in November.

This involves some arcane procedural rules, but briefly, there are two kinds of political majorities — partisan and operational — in the Texas Senate. The first is the simple kind of majority: There are more Republicans than Democrats. The second kind — an operational majority — involves the Senate’s practice of blocking consideration of most issues unless at least three-fifths of senators agree to consider it. If everybody is in the room, there are 31 senators and it takes 19 of them to allow debate on a piece of legislation. Republicans have 20 members right now. That’s enough, on partisan issues, to run over the Democrats with a vote to spare. But two Texas senators are on the endangered species list in November’s elections, enough to put the operational majority in jeopardy.

That was the state of play until the Republicans pulled off an ambush on Tuesday with former game warden Pete Flores winning the special election to replace convicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti. The kicker? Uresti was a Democrat. Replacing him with Flores gives the GOP’s operational majority an insurance vote…

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Dallas sheriff’s association endorses Gov. Greg Abbott over their former boss, Lupe Valdez (Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Association, spurning their former boss, has endorsed Gov. Greg Abbott for re-election this November over his opponent, Lupe Valdez, who resigned as sheriff in December after more than 12 years on the job. “We are extremely thankful for the support he’s shown over the years for law enforcement both as attorney general and as governor,” Sgt. Chris Dyer, president of the DCSA, said at an afternoon news conference in Dallas. Abbott, who grew up in Duncanville, said he has been a strong supporter of law enforcement since receiving a college scholarship from the Duncanville Police Department. “Little did they know they were investing in a person who would go on to become a judge, attorney general and now governor,” Abbott said. “My connection to law enforcement has been strong ever since then.” Dyer, a 31-year veteran of the department, said the association believed Abbott had “the track record of outstanding leadership and was the person most qualified for the job.”

Valdez, who turns 71 in October, won four terms as sheriff, beginning in 2004. She resigned at the end of 2017 to run for governor. "I could not be more proud of my law enforcement background and service to the public," Valdez said in an emailed statement to The News. "We helped build a smarter, fairer and more accessible justice system, and Texans should have no doubt that I plan to achieve the same as governor of Texas."…

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Kavanaugh accuser won’t testify Monday but open to doing so later next week (Washington Post)

An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Thursday that her appearing at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is “not possible” but she could testify later in the week. Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to “discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week.” “As you are aware, she's been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI and she and her family have been forced out of their home,” Katz wrote to the committee. “She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee's insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.” Katz reiterated that Ford would like the FBI to investigate before her testimony…

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