BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 9, 2019)



Demolition of Brackenridge starts this month, paving the way for 17-story office building (KUT)

After more than 130 years in Austin, a portion of the University Medical Center Brackenridge downtown will come down this month and be replaced by a 17-story office building. The demolition is part of UT Austin’s plan to expand its health care district centered around the Dell Medical School.

The new office will provide more space for medical research and house some of the school’s medical and academic departments. UT also plans to sublease some of the space to other health care partners outside the university system. Clinical care is not expected to take place at the facility.

UT spokesperson Gary Susswein says this redevelopment will create a hub where academics, medical professionals and officials from Central Health and Ascension Seton can come together to collaborate… (LINK TO STORY)

Controversial Riverside project moves closer to approval as Austin City Council seeks affordability guarantees (Community Impact)

Austin City Council tentatively approved a series of zoning changes for a 97-acre mixed-use project planned at the intersection of East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road.

Thursday’s 9-2 vote came after a first reading of the project. Council members said that when the project comes back for a second reading, they want to guarantee there will be affordable units as a result of the increased height allowances. The council also wanted to codify protections for parkland on the site before approving the changes in full.

The developer, a joint venture between Nimes Capital and Presidium, is seeking to rezone the property to include a mix of uses, taller buildings and an ability to participate in the city’s density bonus program.

The site currently houses apartment buildings that are largely rented by students and considered affordable, despite not being formally income-restricted.

A local advocacy group, Defend Our Hoodz, has been a vocal critic of the project. Members were escorted out of City Hall chambers by police before council members took up the zoning case… (LINK TO STORY)

Council approves HOT tax increase (Austin Monitor)

Despite requests from Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and commissioners Margaret Gómez, Brigid Shea and Jeff Travillion, Austin City Council voted early Friday to approve a 2 percent increase in the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, which will allow the city to move forward with its plan to demolish and rebuild the convention center.

That brings the city’s hotel tax to 17 percent, the maximum allowable under state law.

Council approved the change at 2:00 a.m. in a unanimous vote.

The ordinance Council adopted was effective immediately, with any funds collected to be set aside and placed in a fund specifically designated for expansion, construction or debt service payments for debt issued to rebuild the convention center… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas Democrats sue over Michael Quinn Sullivan and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen meeting (Texas Tribune)

Texas Democrats are suing over a June 12 meeting House Speaker Dennis Bonnen had with one of his top lieutenants and Michael Quinn Sullivan, a hardline conservative activist, saying the three were engaged in serious campaign finance violations and demanding that Sullivan produce a full recording of the gathering that he has shared with only a small group of Republicans.

Sullivan is named as a defendant, along with an “unknown political committee” that the lawsuit said includes Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock.

Filed Thursday in Travis County District Court, the suit claims that Sullivan, along with Bonnen and Burrows, effectively created a political committee during their meeting by discussing the targeting of certain Republicans in the 2020 primaries. That committee was not registered with the state, the lawsuit claims — one of a suite of campaign finance violations the lawsuit alleges… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

Analysis: Bonnen repairing hurt feelings, but the political damage is real (Texas Tribune)

'Incompetent or intentional': Dallas council member slams staffers over proposed housing sites (Dallas Morning News)

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough on Tuesday blasted city staffers for moving forward with community meetings about proposed permanent supportive housing sites without looping in council members.

Office of Homeless Solutions staffers organized the series of meetings about three possible sites, one in McGough's District 10 and the other two in District 14. The last meeting, scheduled for Wednesday night at the Audelia Road Branch Library, caught McGough by surprise on Tuesday. In an interview Wednesday, McGough said he was frustrated after seeing a flyer online before he heard anything from staff. He called the decision the result of a "lack of transparency" — after he had made it clear he opposed the proposed sites in a May council briefing… (LINK TO STORY)

Dallas police chief U. Renee Hall's absence was poorly handled, city manager says (Dallas Morning News)

A month after Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall went on medical leave, taking City Council members and cops and citizens by surprise, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said Thursday he has no timeline for her return.

Broadnax, Hall's boss, said the chief is "OK" and that she "will come back when she's 100 percent ready to come back." He said he couldn't and wouldn't get more specific than that. Hall's return to duty, said the city manager, is "between her and her doctors and her own personal well-being." But the city manager acknowledged that he could have — and should have — done a better job letting people know that the city's police chief planned to be absent for an indefinite period of time… (LINK TO STORY)


Locking out ‘Team Mitch’ could cost Twitter (Roll Call)

Twitter could have a tangible effect. The Republican National Committee, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign as well as the House and Senate GOP campaign committees took that step in response to the social media platform’s temporary lockout of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account.

“Twitter has a clear bias against conservatives and Republicans. The hashtag associated the disgusting threats against Mitch McConnell was allowed to trend for an entire day. But McConnell’s posting of video of the threats themselves got his own account suspended. It is ludicrous bias in the extreme,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement… (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 28: Rodney Gonzales, Director of Austin’s Development Services Department, on department initiatives

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Rodney Gonzales, then Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD). The department was created in 2015 to handle residential and commercial permitting issues separately from zoning issues.

Rodney discusses his background and path to DSD, and current department initiatives with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham… (LINK TO SHOW)

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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