BG Reads | News - What We're Reading (August 8, 2018)
‘Opportunity’ knocks? Austin doesn’t quite know what to do with areas picked for federal tax breaks (Austin Monitor)
Cue Opportunity Zones. The bipartisan measure added to the Trump administration’s tax reform bill, approved in December 2017, creates tax breaks for private investors in low-income census tracts.
“This legislation says there’s a way to attract real capital into the distressed communities by having a tax incentive so those who have take a second look, and a different look, at those who do not,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), who co-wrote the measure.
But while Travis County has 21 Opportunity Zones, Austin officials aren’t quite sure what to make of them.
Under the program, investors can put capital gains money – any profit from another investment – into an Opportunity Fund, which would then be spent in one of these designated zones. The longer the money is kept there, the less it’s subject to taxes. Keep it there for a decade, and the capital gains tax on funds accrued is forgiven...
Council offers questions, praise and frustration amid McKalla presentations (Austin Monitor)
Threaded between questions and comments Tuesday about alternative proposals to develop the city’s McKalla Place tract was frustration. Many members of City Council bemoaned the hurried decision-making process that has put the city, area developers and the owners of a professional soccer team into something of a three-way struggle.
The special session on Tuesday was an opportunity for Council to hear presentations on the half-dozen mixed-use and parks proposals for 10414 McKalla Place. The city-owned land is the suggested location for a 20,000-seat stadium that would become the home for a relocated Major League Soccer team.
Those alternative plans have drawn support from neighbors in the North Austin area near the Domain, who have said the city is allowing soccer ownership group Precourt Sports Ventures to dictate the deadline for a stadium deal since proposing the move last fall. Council is expected to vote on whether to move forward with a final agreement at Thursday’s meeting...
Travis County to purchase $8 million paper trail voting system (Austin American-Statesman)
It may not be the first-of-its-kind, open-source software voting system that Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has been after for more than a decade, but the county will have a voting system with a paper trail by the November 2019 election.
County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of an about $8.2 million electronic voting system with paper backup from Election Systems & Software. About $1.5 million in costs for other election day equipment will need to be approved in coming weeks, bringing the total cost to about $9.7 million...
Dallas senator, twin brother go to Moscow to demand 'Russia stop meddling in our elections' (Dallas Morning News)
How far would a Texan go to tell Russia to back off? If you're Texas Sen. Don Huffines, oh, just about 5,753 miles. On Monday, the Dallas Republican was spotted in Moscow at a round table discussion hosted by U.S. Sen Rand Paul of Kentucky and Cato Institute CEO Peter Goettler.
Texas politics watchers were confused at first — was that the senator or his twin brother, Phillip, who ran unsuccessfully this year to join his brother in the state Legislature? Capitol staffers quickly confirmed to The Dallas Morning News that the senator was indeed in Moscow. Here's why.
"Don Huffines regularly hears from Texans who are concerned about the security of our elections, and who are alarmed by Russia's efforts to undermine our democratic institutions," Huffines' chief of staff Brent Connett told The News. "In meetings with Russian officials, Senator Huffines is having frank discussions, relaying Texans' concerns, and demanding that Russia stop meddling in our elections. But, wait! The News then confirmed Phillip Huffines was also in tow. "Both Don and Phillip are in Russia right now," Matt Langston, who is a consultant for both Huffines brothers, told The News.
"Phillip has not put out any sort of statement as to why he's over there, but it's going to be the same as Don's."...
Lupe Valdez's latest endorsement: Elizabeth Warren (Houston Chronicle)
Longshot Democratic gubernatorial challenger Lupe Valdez, pushing hard to close her double-digit gap in polls behind incumbent Republican Greg Abbott, has a new national endorsement: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren, a liberal icon, is a Democrat that conservatives like Abbott love to hate. In a fundraising letter for Valdez, Warren called the former Dallas County sheriff "a new leader emerging who can put Texas back on track."
"The daughter of migrant farmworkers, Lupe is ready to fight for all Texans, not just the wealthy few," Warren stated in her message, underscoring the Average Texan theme that Valdez has emphasized in recent weeks. "But winning this race won't be easy, especially because Lupe's going up against the incumbent Republican governor's massive war chest, filled with cash from the special interests who spend big to get their way in Austin." Noting that Valdez won four terms as sheriff in Dallas, where Republicans held most local offices for years, Warren insisted that "with our support, Lupe can make history again and be the first Latina and LGBTQ governor of Texas."...
In rush to start border wall, feds haven't yet justified high cost or site selection, watchdog says (Dallas Morning News)
Homeland Security officials can't say if a border wall would be the most cost-effective way to ward off illegal immigration and drug smuggling, the government's top watchdog reported on Monday. And pressure to move fast on President Donald Trump's signature project was so intense that officials steered the first outlays to sites in South Texas and California that were relatively easy to build on — rather than to other areas with more pressing security needs.
Those were among the key findings in a new Government Accountability Office report issued as the president continues to raise the specter of a federal shutdown if Congress refuses to fund the controversial project. Democrats seized on the findings as confirmation the wall project is wasteful and ill-conceived. "The Trump administration put almost zero thought into the construction of this wall other than how it will play in the news cycle," asserted Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville, the senior Democrat on a Homeland Security subcommittee on border security. "The White House has not done their homework."...
U.S. restores sanctions on Iran, deepening divide with Europe (New York Times)
The United States said Monday it was reimposing economic sanctions against Iran that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear accord, ratcheting up pressure on Tehran but also worsening relations with European allies. The sanctions are a consequence of President Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from an international deal that sought to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing pressure on the country’s shaky economy. The Trump administration is betting that backing out of it will force Iran to shut down its nuclear enrichment efforts, curb its weapons program and end its support of brutal governments or uprisings in the Middle East. In a statement, Mr. Trump said the Iranian government “faces a choice: Either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation,” and then he returned to the issue on Twitter on Tuesday morning...