BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 20, 2019)



‘Shot clock’ reviews hit Council’s agenda (Austin Monitor)

Under a looming deadline from the state, Council is set on Thursday to pass changes to the way the city reviews and approves subdivision development applications, despite the possibility of “unfortunate and unintended consequences,” in the words of Council Member Alison Alter.

House Bill 3167, known as the “shot clock” bill, requires cities and counties to act within 30 calendar days on subdivision development applications and 15 days for subsequent updates to those applications, according to a memo from Andy Linseisen, assistant director of the Development Services Department. That law takes effect Sept. 1.

Linseisen said both City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court must approve the changes before the new rules go into effect. He said he expects commissioners at their Aug. 27 meeting to approve exactly the same language that Council adopts.

If the city or county fails to complete the approval process within the state’s timeline, the plat or plan will be considered approved. Austin already has a standard that requires department reviewers to get things done more quickly than that, but they do not always meet the goal, a frequent cause for complaint from the development community… (LINK TO STORY)

Anti-stadium group that fought to get Prop A on ballots won’t campaign for it (Austin American-Statesman)

Fair Play Austin, the political action committee financially backed by the head of the Circuit of the Americas, announced Monday it will not campaign for the Major League Soccer stadium voter proposition it helped put on the ballot.

The announcement is a major blow to supporters of Proposition A, which calls for elections on any lease of city-owned property for a sports or entertainment venue. Fair Play Austin’s spokesman Chris Lippincott said in a news release that recently approved ballot language for Prop A had drifted too far from the ordinance’s original intentions.

“In its current condition, passing Proposition A would do more harm than the good intended when we initially supported it,” the release said.

When reached by phone, Lippincott would not offer any further explanation as to why Fair Play Austin was pulling support of Prop A. While ballot language can sometimes muddy the intent of a proposition, the ordinance related to Prop A remains unchanged since Prop A’s chief financial backer Bobby Epstein, COTA’s CEO, began supporting the effort… (LINK TO STORY)

Travis County asks voters to approve future hotel tax for expo center (Austin Monitor)

Travis County isn’t giving up on getting a taste of the hotel tax.

On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court voted to put a measure on the November ballot that, if approved, would authorize the county to levy a 2 percent tax on hotel stays to fund the redevelopment of the Travis County Exposition Center.

Even if voters approve the measure, it will likely be at least a couple of years before the county can impose the tax. Earlier this month, the Austin City Council voted to increase a separate hotel tax (which does not require voter approval) in order to fund the demolition and reconstruction of the convention center. The city’s action brought the total Hotel Occupancy Tax rate (9 percent from the city and 6 percent from the state) to 17 percent, the state maximum, thereby blocking the county from increasing the rate further.

The county must now wait for the city to finish paying off the debt associated with the previous convention center expansion, which voters in 1998 agreed to with a 2 percent hotel tax. Once that debt is paid off, that tax will expire, dropping the cumulative hotel tax rate to 15 percent and allowing the county to impose its own tax.

The current schedule has the city paying off the debt in 2029, but there has long been talk by city officials of paying it off as soon as 2021. In an interview with the Austin Monitor, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she is pushing for the city to pursue the earlier timeline and will meet with City Manager Spencer Cronk later this week to push that plan.

“Presuming that the city does pay down its debt in 2021, we must have this election in advance of that,” she said.

Eckhardt and three of the other four members of the Commissioners Court unsuccessfully urged Council not to move forward with the hotel tax increase earlier this month, taking the unusual step of appearing at a Council meeting to speak against Council’s action… (LINK TO STORY)

Pflugerville City Council Member Rudy Metayer named outstanding alumnus by LBJ School of Public Affairs (Community Impact)

Pflugerville City Council Member Rudy Metayer has been distinguished as an outstanding alumnus of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, receiving the 2019 Rising Leader Award. The award is given to individuals who have helped to improve “the quality of public service in the United States and abroad at all levels of government and civic engagement,” according to an Aug. 19 news release.

Metayer earned his bachelor’s degree at The University of Texas College of Liberal Arts, an Executive Master in Public Leadership at the LBJ School and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law. Metayer was elected to Pflugerville City Council in November 2017… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

BG Podcast Episode 7: Rudy Metayer, Pflugerville City Council Member, on City Relationships with Business

Longtime Travis County Judge Denton resigns, possibly to run for County Attorney (Austin American-Statesman)

Longtime Travis County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Denton resigned from the bench last week, Court Administrator Debra Hale confirmed to the American-Statesman on Monday.

Denton’s resignation fuels speculation that he will run for County Attorney next year in the Democratic primary. He told the American-Statesman in April he was “very seriously considering it.”… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas raises the legal smoking age, exempting members of the military (Texas Tribune)

Texans will soon have to wait until their 21st birthday to buy tobacco and nicotine products products — with the exception of young military members.

Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston, said she crafted Senate Bill 21, which takes effect Sept. 1, hoping that it would keep cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and tobacco products out of public schools by creating more “social distance” between younger students and students old enough to purchase them. In Texas, nearly 12% of high school students smoke cigarettes, and 19% use e-cigarettes, according to data from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"If we can have [kids] leave high school tobacco and nicotine free, that's a huge win," said Jennifer Cofer, director of the End Tobacco Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center… (LINK TO STORY)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says speaker scandal, if not resolved, could 'play part in' losing GOP seats in Texas House (Dallas Morning News)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, weighing in on the scandal that's roiled the Texas House in recent weeks, warned Republicans must resolve the issue or risk losing control of that chamber in 2020.

Late last month, conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan alleged that Speaker Dennis Bonnen had a private meeting with him in June at which Bonnen and House GOP Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows asked Sullivan to target fellow Republicans in next year's primary election. Sullivan claims Bonnen also offered his organization Texas House media credentials, which they had previously been denied… (LINK TO STORY)

Gov. Greg Abbott names new secretary of state months after botched voter roll review (Texas Tribune)

After losing his last chief election officer over a botched review of the state’s voter rolls, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday appointed a new secretary of state: Ruth Ruggero Hughs.

Ruggero Hughs is moving from the Texas Workforce Commission, which she has chaired since August 2018. She joins the secretary of state’s office nearly three months after Democratic senators blocked the confirmation of her predecessor, David Whitley, who questioned the voter registration of thousands of naturalized citizens… (LINK TO STORY)


Amid Homelessness Crisis, Los Angeles Restricts Living In Vehicles (KUT)

Along a big, commercial street in Los Angeles' North Hollywood area, near a row of empty storefronts, about half a dozen motor homes sat parked on a recent morning. Inside one of them, 67-year-old Edith Grays and her husband watched TV with the door open. Grays said they'd been there a few days, despite a two-hour parking limit.

"Thank God they're not bothering us right now," she said.

It's not unusual to see clusters of campers around the city. Grays is one of the nearly 10,000 people who live in vehicles inside LA's city limits. Some take shelter in cars, others in vans or trucks, but RVs are the most visible. They're also the most difficult to park — especially now… (LINK TO STORY)

White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy (The Hill)

The White House is denying that it's considering a temporary payroll tax cut to help boost the economy after The Washington Post reported that several senior administration officials have been discussing the idea.

A White House official said in a statement that "cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has not discussed a possible payroll tax cut with the administration, according to a spokesman for the senator.

"At this point, recession seems more of a political wish by Democrats than an economic reality," Grassley spokesman Michael Zona said… (LINK TO STORY)


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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