BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 25, 2018)



Council candidates offer different ideas on housing policy (Austin Monitor)

The decision by Mayor Steve Adler and City Council last month to abandon CodeNEXT, a proposed rewrite of the Land Development Code, reflected the deep divisions in the community over the prospect of increased residential density in single-family neighborhoods.

However, in response to a questionnaire sent out by AURA, an urbanist advocacy group that supports dense development and public transit, even candidates for Council who were hostile or ambivalent about CodeNEXT spoke positively of increasing multifamily housing development.

Bobby Levinski, a candidate in Southwest Austin District 8, took an active role in the petition drive to subject CodeNEXT to a vote, in collaboration with Community Not Commodity, a group founded to oppose CodeNEXT. However, Levinksi’s responses to the AURA questionnaire largely aligned with New Urbanist thinking, emphasizing the importance of increasing housing supply.

In addition to bolstering city investment in public housing for low-income families, Levinski said he would focus on “making the development review process quicker and more predictable to minimize the time, costs and risks that developers take on – and hopefully increase production” of market-rate units.

In a text message, Levinski said that “not everything is either/or; the sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner we can move forward.”

Two of his opponents in the District 8 race, Rich DePalma and Paige Ellis, similarly advocated for more housing…

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Voters to ponder a big-ticket item in form of affordable housing bond (Austin American-Statesman)

This November, though, Austin voters will be asked to approve a proposition calling for a $250 million affordable housing bond, which is by far the largest housing bond ever put before the city’s electorate, more than doubling the total of all previous passed housing bonds combined.

“The need for this type of investment has never been any greater than it is today,” said John Lawler, the campaign manager for Keep Austin Affordable. “We don’t want to be a city just for the upper income, and this housing bond will help prevent that from occurring.”

Detractors say housing bonds are largely inefficient, and that the city should stay out of a business better left to private interests. Opponents say calling for the city to possibly increase taxes to support the financing of its debt is a mistake…

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Austin dating app Bumble pursuing IPO to fuel its expansion (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin-based Bumble, known for its female-friendly dating app, could be considering an IPO to fuel international growth, according to a news report.

In an interview with television network CNBC, Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd said the Austin-based company’s growth is outpacing expectations. 

“We are at our annual run rate of $200 million for 2018, and we’re only in year three,” Wolfe Herd said in the interview. “We’ve been a profitable business since year two.”

The company generates revenue using a subscription model that offers some free features and charges for additional services. 

Wolfe Herd said Bumble plans to add advertising to the platform next year and is looking at other ways to boost revenue beyond dating and friend-finding.

Since its launch in 2014, Bumble focused on English-speaking markets. But now the company is going global, with launches in Germany and Mexico, and plans to expand in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

An initial public offering could help fuel that growth, Wolfe Herd said…

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Dell now considering plans for an IPO (Austin American-Statesman)

Round Rock-based tech giant Dell Technologies plans to interview banks this week to potentially go public through an initial public offering -- an about-face from its earlier plan to do so through a proposed acquisition, according to media reports.

Dell Technologies -- the largest private employer in the Austin metro area -- said this summer it would pay $21.7 billion in cash and stock to buy back shares tied to its interest in software company VMware to return to the stock market without a public offering. The move to interview banks for an IPO shows there are increasing tensions between Dell and investors who have said the deal undervalues some of its stock, the Wall Street Journal reported. Dell has postponed a roadshow for the VMware deal that was scheduled for this week by a week, Reuters news service reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Dell's IPO deliberations come as several hedge funds, including Elliott Management Corp and Canyon Capital Advisors, as well as activist investor Carl Icahn, resist a $21.7 billion cash-and-stock offer from Dell to buy back "tracking stock" from them tied to Dell's 81 percent stake in software company VMware Inc., according to both the Journal and Reuters reports…

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Amber Guyger fired from Dallas Police Department after shooting of Botham Jean (Texas Tribune)

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger has been fired after the fatal shooting of Botham Jean, an unarmed black man in his apartment.

On Sept. 6, Guyger returned to her apartment complex after a shift, entered the wrong unit — exactly one floor above her own — and shot and killed 26-year-old Jean, according to her arrest affidavit. Guyger said she mistook the apartment for her own and thought Jean was an intruder; Jean’s family lawyer has said the officer’s statement is “demonstrably false.”…

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Migrants get a second chance at asylum. But it’s still "an uphill battle." (Texas Tribune)

Ruby Powers didn't rush to celebrate when her client, a Honduran mother who has been separated from her 15-year-old son and detained for four months, passed her second "credible fear" interview to restart the asylum process.

Although the president and the American Civil Liberties Union have come to an agreement giving migrant families separated at the border this summer a second chance to make their case for staying in the country, immigration lawyers say the Trump administration is still working overtime to upend the nation's asylum process. And while a few hundred people may get a second chance at asylum, there are likely tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who will be subject to a tightened asylum process.

"It’s infinitely harder on all levels," Powers said. "With the chipping away of the asylum law, it’s an uphill battle to try to get an approval.”…

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Kavanaugh vows to fight misconduct allegations as Trump and Republicans dig in (Washington Post)

President Trump and fellow Republicans dug in Monday in their support for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, as the Supreme Court nominee vowed to fight back against additional allegations of sexual misconduct, which he called a coordinated smear campaign.

In a defiant letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh said he would “not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process.” “The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out,” said Kavanaugh, who will testify Thursday before the committee. “The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last-minute character assassination will not succeed.” Kavanaugh reiterated that he won’t bow out in an interview with Fox News scheduled to air Monday night. Speaking with his wife Ashley at his side, the nominee said, “I’m not going anywhere” and dismissed what he called “false accusations.”…

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Rod Rosenstein to stay in job for now, will meet with Trump on Thursday, White House says (Washington Post)

White House officials said Monday that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein will stay in his job for now, but will meet with the president on Thursday to discuss the tensions that officials said nearly led to his departure earlier in the day.

Multiple officials said that during a series of conversations over the weekend between and among White House and Justice Department officials, it appeared Rosenstein planned to resign on Monday, in the wake of reports that he had once suggested secretly recording the president and mounting an effort within the Cabinet to remove him from office. During some of those conversations, Rosenstein indicated that his resignation might be warranted to end the controversy, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. When Rosenstein went to the White House Monday morning, senior Trump advisers expected him to resign, according to several advisers. A Justice Department official, however, said that he had no intention of resigning but went there with the expectation he would be fired. As often happens in government, the two sides heading for a high-stakes confrontation decided instead to hold another meeting…

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Instagram’s co-founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, are leaving amid frustrations with parent company Facebook (Recode)

Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are resigning from the company they built amid frustration and agitation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s increased meddling and control over Instagram, according to sources.

The duo, who founded Instagram 2010 and sold it to Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, told Facebook executives today that they were leaving the company, according to The New York Times. The co-founders have disagreed with Zuckerberg on a handful of recent product changes, including changes to comments and how posts are shared between the two networks.

Systrom confirmed his and Krieger’s departure in a statement on Instagram’s blog. In his statement, Systrom implied that the two co-founders would look to build something else.

“We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again,” Systrom’s statement said. “Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do.”

The departures are a major blow to Facebook. Instagram, which has grown rapidly and is popular with the younger generation of users who are less interested in Facebook, has been a consistent beacon of good news for a company that has had more than a year of bad news…

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