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



NEW -> Episode 53 - Budget and Policy Talk with Austin Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (LINK TO SHOW)


Amazon to bring 600 more workers to North Austin (Austin Business Journal) Inc. is growing even bigger in North Austin than previously announced, with 600 more jobs now in the pipeline, the company told Austin Business Journal.

ABJ first reported in May the e-commerce giant had leased more than 100,000 additional square feet in the 15-story Domain 10 office tower under construction. That was in addition to 145,000 square feet it had already leased in Domain 10.

On Sept. 19, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) confirmed to ABJ the bigger lease and said it will bring 600 more jobs to Austin over the next several years, on top of 800 jobs already pledged.

That would give Seattle-based Amazon 1,400 workers in just a single building at Domain Northside. The company already occupies about 250,000 square feet in the Domain 7 and 8 towers, where it employed about 1,000 people as of March… (LINK TO STORY)

Central Health budget passes after last-minute questions dominate vote (Austin Monitor)

After a nearly five-hour meeting, Central Health’s volunteer board of managers voted to approve Central Health’s Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget on Wednesday night. During the hours leading up to the vote, multiple board members introduced significant new questions about the budget expenditures, despite having discussed the budget at four previous board meetings since the budget was introduced July 31.

Board members Maram Museitif and Julie Oliver expressed concern over the sizable increase in the health care delivery salary and benefits line item, which grew from $3.69 million in FY 2018-19 to $15.37 million in FY 2019-20. The salary and benefits line item includes 30 percent benefits as well as annual merit increases up to 3 percent, and does not include Central Health administration salaries and benefits, which are captured in a separate section of the budget.

“I think we have an obligation to let the public know what the actual (salary per employee) numbers are,” Oliver said. “These are big numbers.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Urban Renewal Board extended for just nine months (Austin Monitor)

City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison expressed serious reservations about the need to continue Austin’s Urban Renewal Agency and its board during Wednesday’s Council work session and again at Thursday’s Council meeting.

In the end, she convinced her colleagues to extend the life of the Urban Renewal Board for just nine months, instead of the 12 months, with possible extensions, that city staffers had recommended.

On Thursday, a few members of the community expressed their support for the agency and its work along the East 11th and 12th street corridors, despite the fact that they have not gotten a developer or developed their own plans for the last two empty parcels on 12th Street. It is clear that Harper-Madison is looking for action on those two vacant properties. In city terms, that’s most likely to be a request for proposal… (LINK TO STORY)


Tropical Storm Imelda's flooding turns deadly as southeast Texas is swamped by rain (Texas Tribune)

Flooding from Tropical Storm Imelda on Thursday left hundreds of people trapped in their homes and cars; led to water rescues, a hospital evacuation and power outages; and closed entire school districts, according to officials and local media. At least two people died in the storm's floodwaters, including a 19-year-old man trying to move his horse, according to media reports.

On Thursday evening, the Harris County sheriff's office tweeted that another man died after being submerged in his vehicle… (LINK TO STORY)

New law may change aesthetics of communities across Texas (KSAT)

The aesthetics of communities across Texas could be changing after a new law went into effect this month. HR 2439, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, limits certain regulations adopted by cities that required the specific use of materials used during construction or renovations. Cities no longer have a say, and any approved material by the national code can be allowed… (LINK TO STORY)

Ex-Capitol staffer accused of murder found mentally unable to stand trial (Austin American-Statesman)

A doctor has evaluated a former Texas Capitol staffer accused of killing his neighbor, and tied to a shooting rampage last summer in South Austin, and found him to be incompetent to stand trial. The finding by Dr. Leonard Weiss, made public Wednesday in a court document in Travis County state District court, puts the murder case against Charles Curry on hold for up to 120 days while he heads to a state psychiatric hospital in Vernon to be evaluated.

“He’s to go to a locked facility to be evaluated and possibly treated so he can regain competency and he can come back and start the litigation process,” prosecutor Joe Frederick said Wednesday. The incompetency finding, as defined by the Texas code of criminal procedure, means Curry lacks sufficient ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding or lacks an understanding of the proceedings against him… (LINK TO STORY)


Bolton unloads on Trump’s foreign policy behind closed doors (Politico)

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s fired national security adviser, harshly criticized Trump’s foreign policy on Wednesday at a private lunch, saying that inviting the Taliban to Camp David sent a “terrible signal” and that it was “disrespectful” to the victims of 9/11 because the Taliban had harbored al Qaeda.

Bolton also said that any negotiations with North Korea and Iran were “doomed to failure,” according to two attendees. All the North Koreans and Iranians want to do is negotiate for relief from sanctions to support their economies, said Bolton, who was speaking before guests invited by the Gatestone Institute, a conservative think tank… (LINK TO STORY)


Economic Development: Opportunity Zones

The term “Opportunity Zone” has been buzzing around for a little while but it seems like things could be ramping up. While the tax benefits associated with the program accrue at the federal level, the City of Austin is also exploring how they might be able to leverage City resources to realize greater benefits… (LINK TO STORY)

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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