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



Texas Attorney General warns Austin ISD: Don’t stop churches from renting school facilities (Texas Tribune)

The Texas Attorney General’s Office on Friday warned the Austin Independent School District not to make a policy change that could prevent a local church from renting a school facility for Sunday sermons.

Under a short-term rental agreement, the district has been renting out its Performing Arts Center in East Austin to the Georgetown-based Celebration Church since Aug. 26. Last month, protesters gathered outside the venue waving pride flags and calling on Austin ISD not to rent to a church that opposes gay marriage.

District officials told the Austin American-Statesman they are finalizing two changes that would limit the use of its facilities — but the policy is not meant to target against any particular entity, one told the Statesman.

“We want to ensure we are keeping [the facility] open for students and schools and not eliminating their opportunity to utilize it,” district Chief of Staff Jacob Reach told the Statesman…”

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Zoning OK’d for affordable housing (Austin Monitor)

With the recently released University of Texas gentrification study on their minds, City Council members on Thursday gave final approval for a zoning change that will allow construction of 258 apartments – including a few three-bedroom units – in North Central Austin. The developer will partner with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, allowing 85 percent of the units to be rented to people making 60 percent of the median family income or less.

The vote was 8-1, with Council Member Ora Houston dissenting and Council members Delia Garza and Alison Alter away on city business.

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Popularity of electric cars fuels Austin plan to add charging stations (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin Energy is doubling down on investment in electric infrastructure to help the city clean up its carbon footprint, and the latest reports show it might pay off in Travis County, which has seen an exponential jump in the number of electric vehicles on its roads in the past seven years.

According to data provided by the electric company, Travis and Williamson counties in 2011 had 195 registered electric vehicles, compared with 5,313 this year.

Travis County now ranks No. 1 in the number of electric vehicles in the state, surpassing Dallas and Harris counties, data show.

Karl Popham, manager of emerging technology at Austin Energy, said the Austin area represents 22 percent of the statewide market for electric vehicles.

“It’s a growth market,” Popham said. “Everything is trending the way we hope, and frankly, now at the way we expect. We want to stay ahead of that. And we don’t want to put up any barriers to restrict growth.”…

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Review of peer cities finds Austin’s legal structure has different look (Austin American-Statesman)

Most of Austin’s peer cities have city attorneys who report directly to the City Council as opposed to the city manager, which is how Austin has framed its legal structure.

The finding, through a staff review completed last week, has added context to lingering debate about whether Austin should adopt the same setup.

Earlier this year, a Charter Review Commission recommended adding an item to the November ballot to make the city attorney a council-appointed post, but council members passed on putting the idea to a vote this year. Such a move would have been a redo of a 2012 charter amendment that 51 percent of voters rejected.

“I’m disappointed that it didn’t make it on the ballot this year, but I think the council supports it; I think they didn’t put it on the ballot for other reasons,” said Fred Lewis, an activist who served on the charter commission…

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Federal officials unveil plans for four-mile, 18-foot-tall wall on Texas-Mexico border (Texas Tribune)

For years, Raul Martinez has enjoyed the view of his native Ciudad Juárez from his modest apartment complex on the south side of this border city.

In a few months he could be forced to peer through an 18-foot-tall fence to get the same vantage point.

That’s the reality for residents of the Chihuahita neighborhood, one of the oldest in the country, since U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced they'd be constructing a four-mile barrier just north of the Rio Grande River — mandated by President Donald Trump’s 2017 executive order on border security.

“You’re not going to be able to see the panorama of Juárez anymore,” Martinez, 76, said after a Friday press conference where federal officials detailed their plans for the $22 million project. “It's sad."…

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Kavanaugh accuser will testify Thursday in front of Senate Judiciary Committee (Washington Post)

The Senate Judiciary Committee has committed to a public hearing Thursday to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford about her accusation that he sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers.

“We committed to moving forward with an open hearing on Thursday Sept. 27 at 10 a.m.,” Ford’s attorneys said in a statement, noting that their client had agreed to appear despite the committee’s refusal to let her speak after Kavanaugh’s testimony or to interview other people she said were present at the party where she alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her during the early 1980s. Ford’s attorneys said they had not been informed whether Republican staffers or senators would be asking questions of her, though it is customary during public hearings for the members to put questions to the witnesses…

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3D-printed gun designer Cody Wilson arrested in Taiwan (Texas Tribune)

Cody Wilson, the Austin man who gained national attention for attempting to make blueprints for 3D-printed guns available online, was arrested in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday, according to Taiwanese media reports. His arrest ends a manhunt that began in Texas after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.

CBS Austin reported Friday morning that Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau confirmed the arrest.

Police have said that Wilson flew to Taipei before they were able to interview him about the allegations. He never took his scheduled flight back to the United States.

An arrest affidavit filed this week in Travis County said Wilson, 30, had sex with a girl under the age of 17 on Aug. 15 at the Archer Hotel in Austin and paid her $500. The girl told authorities she created an account on and began talking to Wilson, who used the screen name “Sanjuro,” the affidavit said. The two exchanged cell phone numbers and began texting and exchanging explicit photos, the affidavit said…

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