BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 15, 2019)



PAC sues city of Austin over ballot language for convention center referendum (Community Impact)

Nelson Linder, president of the local NAACP chapter, sued the city of Austin on Aug. 12 over ballot language regarding Proposition B, which will allow voters to determine the fate of a $1.2 billion expansion of the convention center downtown and to adjust the formula that governs how the city’s hotel tax revenue is allocated.

Linder submitted an emergency filing to the Texas Supreme Court following an Austin City Council vote in the early hours of Aug. 9. The court has not yet decided whether to hear the case.

“The filing was on behalf of more than 30,000 Austin residents who successfully petitioned the Austin City Council to require a vote on the $1.2 billion expansion of the convention center and to repurpose public funds from the convention business to promote cultural and heritage tourism including live music, transportation and local business,” according to an Aug. 13 news release issued by Unconventional Austin, a political action committee that opposes the convention center expansion.

The language reads:

Shall an ordinance be adopted that limits, beyond existing limits in state statute and city ordinance, the use of Austin’s Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, including the amount of Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue that may be used to construct, operate, maintain, or promote the Austin Convention Center requires any private third-party entity managing such funds to comply with open meetings and public information laws applicable to the city; and requires voter approval for Convention Center improvements or expansions of more than $20,000,000 at an election for which the city must pay(LINK TO STORY)

FBI raids World Class offices in Austin (Austin Business Journal)

The FBI on Aug. 14 raided the offices of World Class Holdings, a high-flying real estate firm that has amassed a head-turning amount of property over the past decade.

Federal investigators visited the offices of Nate Paul's commercial real estate company near Ninth and Lavaca streets, according to multiple sources, including one with inside knowledge of World Class' business. These sources asked not to be named to discuss the sensitive topic. The FBI also visited Frost Bank Tower, where World Class had office space until May.

Austin Business Journal reporters also visited the office at Ninth and Lavaca, the historic Hirshfeld House and Cottage, and found FBI agents inside… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin Says The Toxic Algae Bloom In Lady Bird Lake Is Getting Worse (KUT)

The City of Austin says it's found potentially dangerous blue-green algae blooms at Auditorium Shores and Barton Creek downstream from Barton Springs Pool. The algae samples contain neurotoxins that are similar to those found earlier this month at Red Bud Isle, but the city says the concentration of neurotoxins is higher.

The city first discovered the algae roughly two weeks ago after multiple pet-owners reported their dogs dying shortly after swimming in Lady Bird Lake. Officials closed Red Bud Isle last week.

In a statement this evening, the city said dogs shouldn't swim in the lake and residents should avoid contact with the water.

The city said water at the Barton Creek spillway, known as Barking Springs, didn't test positive for the algae, but urged caution in the event that the algae spreads… (LINK TO STORY)

City tightens standards for housing development assistance loans (Austin Monitor)

The Austin Housing Finance Corporation plans to be more selective with loan applications and partnerships for its Rental Housing Development Assistance and Ownership Housing Development Assistance programs in the coming years.

The programs offer loans to developers promising housing units for a range of economically disadvantaged individuals, from those living in poverty to those who are homeless or on the brink of homelessness. In Fiscal Year 2018-19, the value of those loans totaled roughly $34 million, with about 85 percent of the funds allocated to rental housing development.

Mandy De Mayo, an administrator with the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department, told the Housing and Planning Committee Tuesday that with such an investment, the department has started challenging developers to reduce the amount of money they are requesting and to bring in additional sources of project funds… (LINK TO STORY)


Gov. Greg Abbott launches domestic terrorism task force in wake of El Paso massacre (Texas Tribune)

Less than two weeks after a gunman walked into an El Paso Walmart and killed 22 shoppers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched a Domestic Terrorism Task Force to protect against statewide acts of extremism, his office announced in a Wednesday release.

The task force — comprising federal, state and local officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and El Paso police Chief Greg Allen — will analyze current and emerging state threats and form prevention and response strategies, the release says. Federal authorities have treated the El Paso shooting as an act of domestic terrorism after the discovery of a hate-filled manifesto, which they believe was authored by the gunman, warning of a "Hispanic invasion of Texas" amid other racist and xenophobic language.

“Our top priority is to keep Texans safe in their communities,” Abbott said in the release. “Part of that mission is to combat domestic terrorism and root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state. This task force brings together leaders with the expertise Texas needs to develop effective strategies and combat domestic terrorism."… (LINK TO STORY)

Paid sick leave debate has real-life consequences for San Antonio workers and businesses (San Antonio Express-News)

As the debate around San Antonio’s paid sick leave ordinance continues at City Hall amid court challenges and possible changes to the law, the outcome of the political fight has consequences for hundreds of thousands of residents.

As it’s written, the law would require employers who have between six and 15 employees to provide a minimum of 48 hours sick leave. For larger organizations, it’s 64 hours. The law applies to all employees in the city who work more than 80 hours in one year, but sick leave doesn’t accrue until an employee works 30 hours… (LINK TO STORY)

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Does Texas need to build more power plants? State's electricity use puts focus on record demand (Bloomberg)

It may be time to start building power plants in Texas again. The state's generators made a killing this week as unrelenting heat sent electricity prices skyrocketing to unprecedented levels, briefly blowing past the $9,000-a-megawatt-hour ceiling.

That put producers more than three-quarters of the way toward profits that the state's power market monitor says could touch off a power plant build-out. And the region is only halfway into the cooling season. An expansion would make for a dramatic turnaround in the Lone Star State and stand in stark contrast to the glut of generation nationwide. The U.S. has become so awash in cheap natural gas and renewable power resources in recent years that electricity prices have, in some places, plunged below zero… (LINK TO STORY)


ALEC in Austin: Conservative conference sparks protest (Austin American-Statesman)

A banner at the 46th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin featured a photo of Vice President Mike Pence with the quote: “I was for ALEC before it was cool.”

If you are not a Republican legislator somewhere in America, chances are you don’t know what ALEC is. If you are, there is a 1 in 4 chance you are a member of ALEC, a powerful if low-visibility organization that brings together business interests and policymakers from across the country to hammer out model conservative legislation and then seeks to have it enacted in state capitals from coast to coast.

For about 100 labor, environmental, consumer, disability, immigrant and Democratic Party activists who gathered outside to rally in the 100-degree heat in what Progress Texas, the organizing group, called an “unwelcome reception,” ALEC is definitely not cool, and no amount of hotel air conditioning could make the Marriott anything other than a hothouse of bad ideas for a gathering that began Wednesday and ends Friday… (LINK TO STORY)

[BG Blog]

Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham appointed to Rosewood Community Development Corporation (LINK TO POST)

On Thursday Austin City Council approved the appointment six new members to the Austin Rosewood Community Development Corporation including CEO and Founder A.J. Bingham. A.J. was nominated by District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison for this position.

The Corporation is charged with overseeing the operation of Millennium Youth Entertainment Center (MYEC), a 55,000 sq. ft. entertainment facility located in East Austin. MYEC’s mission is to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable environment (free from drugs, gangs, crime, and violence) where families can enjoy a wide range of affordable, high quality recreational and entertainment activities and attractions… (LINK TO POST)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

BG Podcast Episode 13: Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President/CEO at Huston-Tillotson University, on Community Engagement in East Austin

Today's podcast was originally recorded on August 27, 2018 and features a discussion Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Huston-Tillotson University (HT), a private historically black university located in Austin’s East Side.

The East Side is one of the most active areas for commercial and residential development in Austin. Our conversation covers Dr. Burnette’s vision for how HT (which owns several blocks) will navigate the wave, as well as connections to the Austin community overall… (LINK TO SHOW)

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