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



NEW -> Episode 56: Catching up with Chris Shorter, Austin Assistant City Manager (LINK TO SHOW)


Proposed Changes to the 2020 COA Calendar and FY21 Budget Timeline

Changes could be coming to the Austin City Council’s 2020 meeting calendar. Such was the discussion last week at Council’s October 1 work session. City staff’s goal is to have a version prepared for Council vote at their October 17 meeting... (LINK TO STORY)


Austin's Got A New (Proposed) Land Code. Here's When And Where You Can Ask Questions. (KUT)

The City of Austin on Friday released another iteration of its land development code; these rules dictate what can be built in the city, how much can be built and where. The process has taken nearly eight years and cost more than $10 million.

The city is hosting public meetings for residents to learn and ask questions about the new code. You can also request a one-on-one meeting with city staff, although you’ll need to register for this ahead of time.

Here are the meetings taking place over the next month…


See also

BG Blog: Bonuses Central to Land Development Code Rewrite At Special Called Council Meeting (10.8.19)

Report: SXSW 2019 had $355.9 million economic impact on Austin (Austin American-Statesman)

The 2019 South by Southwest festival had a $355.9 million impact on Austin’s economy, according to a report released Tuesday.

That’s an increase of about 1.5 percent over the 2018 event, when the total economic impact was estimated to be $350.6 million.

Those numbers are according to Greyhill Advisors, which conducted the study for SXSW. The report was paid for by SXSW.

The 2019 event had the largest economic impact in SXSW’s 33-year history, according to the report.

SXSW is the most profitable event for the city’s hospitality industry, according to the Greyhill Advisors report. By comparison, the Austin City Limits Music Festival contributed $264.6 million to the city’s economy in 2018, according to figures released earlier this year by the festival’s organizers… (LINK TO STORY)

Commissioners debate future of Palm School property (Community Impact)

Four months after voting to put in place restrictions on the Palm School property that would prevent the main building from being redeveloped, members of the Travis County Commissioners Court continue to display differences of opinion about the property’s future.

On Tuesday, county staff presented the court with the results of a month of community input on the property’s future. Of the 250 emails from residents, explained Allison Fink of the Economic Development and Strategic Investments Department, all but 10 were in favor of some form of preservation. Some supported the plan endorsed by the commissioners to preserve the historic building while others said they were against any redevelopment on any part of the property.

In June the commissioners voted unanimously in favor of drafting a restrictive covenant that would commit any future owner of the property to preserving what is considered the historic part of the building. The covenants would not prevent a future owner from redeveloping newer parts of the building – some additions are as recent as the 1980s – or the rest of the property.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt has described the restrictive covenants as a way to ensure the preservation of a historic structure while allowing the county to sell the property for tens of millions of dollars, a particularly attractive prospect as the county enters an era of state-imposed tax constraints. An appraiser estimated the property could fetch over $50 million on the market, despite the significant development restrictions.

On Tuesday Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he didn’t believe the county would be able to realize nearly what the appraisal suggested due to all of the strings attached to the purchase. The covenants not only require the buyer to keep the building in place, but to spend millions to restore it to its original historic character after decades of wear and tear… (LINK TO STORY)

City of Kyle announces 850-job economic incentive agreement with SmileDirectClub (Community Impact)

An economic incentive agreement between the city of Kyle and SmileDirectClub’s Access Dental Lab will bring 850 jobs to the city of Kyle via the Hays Logistics Center, an industrial development near I-35.

The agreement was formally approved at a special City Council meeting held at the facility Oct. 8.

“It’s very competitive,” said Diana Torres, direct of economic development for the city of Kyle. “For us to be able to win this project is a big feather in our hat and says a lot for our region. We’re in the innovation corridor, and they’re a high-tech biomedical manufacturing company.”

In exchange for job creation and a capital investment of about $37 million, the incentive agreement stipulates that the company will receive a 50% rebate on real and property taxes over the next eight years, Torres said. The estimated value of the incentive, according to Torres, is about $659,799, while the estimated net benefit to the city is about $5,234,235.

The performance-based agreement mandates the company create 439 jobs the first year, 643 total the second year and 850 total the third. Those jobs must meet a minimum pay requirement of about $40,000, according to Torres, and will make the company the largest private employer in the city… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin school district leaders press for more clarity, time on school closure plan (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin school district trustees used a work session Monday night to address concerns about the lack of clarity and the need for more time before rolling out a final version of a proposal to shutter 12 campuses.

Trustees gathered in groups of three or four to talk to district officials in 30-minute discussion sessions about three topics: school closure or consolidation scenarios, how to make the process fair, and how to spend future bond money.

District officials led discussions around equity, bond considerations and the scenarios.

Many of the trustees expressed concerns about the rollout of the school closures in the plan, a proposed bond package that could be put before voters next year for the plan, and the financial impact of the plan on students… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Google’s new competition cop, says everything is "on the table" (Texas Tribune)

Ken Paxton is no fan of Google. The Lone Star State’s Republican attorney general says he rarely even uses the company’s widely popular search engine, opting instead for rival services, because he has “always been concerned about tracking.”

But Paxton these days is more than a mere sideline skeptic: As one of the country’s most powerful law-enforcement officials, he’s forging ahead with a landmark investigation into Google’s decades-long dominance of the web, armed with the help of 50 other attorneys general, a stable of savvy experts that includes Google’s past foes, and a feeling that Washington for too long has turned a blind eye to some of Silicon Valley’s most troubling practices.

For now, the investigation, which Paxton and his peers announced in September, focuses on online advertising, responding to complaints that Google puts consumers and competitors at a disadvantage by controlling the exchanges where ads are bought and some of the most popular websites where they’re sold. It could result in tough punishments, Paxton signaled, if investigators determine Google broke the law… (LINK TO STORY)

Houston mayoral foes debate city finances, drainage fee, airport intern (Houston Chronicle)

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s opponents again challenged him on just about every topic at a debate Tuesday afternoon, hardening already evident differences between the incumbent and his rivals on flood control, transportation and city finances.

Early in the debate hosted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the Wortham Center, a moderator asked Turner about the recent revelation that he had signed off on a $95,000-a-year executive internship at the Houston Airport System for a man Turner at first denied knowing, despite evidence of their prior connections. In response, Turner said the hire was part of his plan to hire millennials at the city. The mayor also defended the 31-year-old intern’s salary, which he said fit within a range set by the city’s human resources department for executive positions… (LINK TO STORY)

Primary fights few and far between as Texas Republicans focus on November 2020 (Texas Tribune)

It's been quiet — almost too quiet.

That's the mood as Republicans in Texas, home to bloody primary battles in recent election cycles, enter the final couple months of the candidate filing period with fewer-than-usual intraparty fights on their hands. While plenty could change, the trend so far is encouraging to state GOP leaders who have sought to tamp down on internecine conflict as they face a high-stakes general election.

"Everybody from both factions sees now how we are all in the same boat, and I think there is some evidence that these factions see that we are facing a real challenge in Texas," said Brendan Steinhauser, a GOP strategist who has worked for both incumbents and challengers. "There's just not as much of an appetite for the primary battles as there has been in the past."… (LINK TO STORY)


White House declares war on impeachment inquiry, alleging effort to undo Trump’s election (New York Times)

The White House declared war on the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, announcing that it would not cooperate with what it called an illegitimate and partisan effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election” of Donald J. Trump.

In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House said the inquiry violated precedent and President Trump’s due process rights in such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would willingly provide testimony or documents, a daring move that sets the stage for a constitutional clash. The letter came hours after the White House blocked the interview of a key witness, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, just hours before he was to appear on Capitol Hill… (LINK TO STORY)

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