BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 5, 2019)



Episode 51 - Austin's Land Development Code Revision with Team Lead Annick Beaudet (LINK TO SHOW)


Council looks at police, fire department budgets (Austin Monitor)

At Council’s final budget work session on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo told Council members he had learned that the city would have about $2.4 million more than anticipated when staff prepared the original budget of $4.2 billion. (That number is based on the tax rate of 44.31 cents per $100 valuation, the maximum tax rate the city can adopt without going to voters for permission to charge more.)

Van Eenoo, pointing out the obvious, noted that $2.4 million would not cover all the additional items Council members had said they were interested in funding. After Wednesday’s work session, he said staff would be working on amendments for Council to consider Sept. 10, when they are scheduled to approve next year’s budget.

One item likely to win unanimous approval is additional civilian staffing at the Austin Police Department. Council responded positively to Police Chief Brian Manley’s proposals to help officers and the public deal with the dangerous mental health issues that officers are frequently asked to resolve… (LINK TO STORY)

Beloved Austin-area Muslim leader dies (Austin American-Statesman)

Sheikh Mohamed-Umer Esmail, one of the most recognizable Muslim leaders in the Austin area, has died, according to the Islamic Center of Greater Austin. Friends said Esmail had been ill recently. He was in his mid-40s, was married and had three young daughters.

Esmail, who grew up in Canada, served for decades as an imam in Austin, leading the North Austin Muslim Community Center, the Nueces Mosque and, most recently, the Islamic Center of Lake Travis. He also taught at the Austin Peace Academy, a Muslim school in Austin, and had attained the title of mufti, an expert on Islamic law. He was a fixture at interfaith events and a frequent guest speaker on Islam. Known as Sheikh Umer, Esmail was particularly popular among the University of Texas students he led at the Nueces Mosque… (LINK TO STORY)

Shouting Matches Disrupt Homelessness Forum At St. Ed’s, Putting Council Members On Defensive (KUT)

Austin's third forum on homelessness this summer began with a benediction, of sorts, from moderator Jack Musselman: that all people are created in God's image, and that the forum, hosted by St. Edward's University, would be civil and comport to the university's Catholic mission.

The guy from InfoWars apparently wasn't there for that benediction.

And so, roughly a third of the way through, Owen Shroyer interrupted, calling the Austin City Council "full of s- - -" and suggesting Democrats are the cause of homelessness crises in cities across the U.S. As he was removed, his comments were met with applause, kicking off a handful of disruptions over the 90-minute forum on the city's revised homelessness ordinances and its plans to build a shelter in South Austin.

They ranged from direct questioning of Austin City Council members about how the city's ordinances could affect child safety to outright shouting matches between attendees.

Whereas the last city forum focused on "the next 90 days" and solutions to homelessness in Austin, this one largely put city leaders on the defensive.

The brunt of the event focused on plans for a shelter in South Austin and on the future of divisive ordinances that alleviated restrictions on where people can camp, sit or lie down in public. 

Councilmembers faced criticism because of the planned shelter and because of concerns that police are no longer enforcing health and safety laws relating to homelessness…(LINK TO STORY)

Parks department’s 10-year plan lays out need for more spaces, programming (Austin Monitor)

Parks and Recreation staff are nearing the end of the public input process on the next 10-year plan for the city’s expansive system of parks facilities and programming needs.

In recent weeks PARD’s acting assistant director, Kim McKnight, has taken the draft of the department’s long-range plan to board and commission meetings around the city, gathering final pieces of feedback on the document that is expected to go before City Council for approval in mid-November. Once adopted it will help PARD staff and related groups set their priorities through 2028 for land acquisition, building projects, and what kinds of programming to offer throughout the system.

The 4,500 survey and public forum responses showed a desire for more nature programs and community gardens, more inclusive programming, safer off-leash areas for dogs, more natural spaces and preserves, improved access to parks facilities, and more programs for seniors and adults… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas House Democrats urge Gov. Abbott to call special session to curb gun violence, hate crimes (Dallas Morning News)

Texas House Democrats on Wednesday asked Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session that would allow lawmakers to pass legislation designed to curb gun violence and "racial hatred." Democrats unveiled the letter to Abbott Wednesday morning 30 minutes before joint news conferences across the state, including one at Dallas County's administration building.

The letter signed by 63 House Democrats urged Abbott to act in the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa. The El Paso mass shooting claimed 22 lives at a Walmart, while last Saturday's shooting in Odessa resulted in 7 deaths. Dozens more were injured in the shootings. Abbott signaled he wanted to address the issue in committees appointed in the House and Senate and his own safety and domestic terrorism panels appointed after the El Paso massacre… (LINK TO STORY)

Dallas' Parkland leading group of Texas hospitals in suing drug companies over opioid epidemic (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas County's Parkland Health & Hospital System is among 29 Texas-based hospitals suing a host of drug companies, accusing them of creating an epidemic that has burdened health care systems with the steep costs of treating patients with opioid-related conditions.

The civil lawsuit is the first of its kind in Texas, and Parkland has led the charge, said attorney Darren Nicholson, who along with Warren Burns is leading representation for the hospitals. The lawsuit, which will be filed in Dallas County, accuses over 40 opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers — including Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, McKesson Corp. and Abbott Laboratories — of negligence, fraud and civil conspiracy… (LINK TO STORY)

New disclosures show Texas Sen. Royce West making big bucks from government contracts (Texas Tribune)

For years, state Sen. Royce West has raked in millions in legal fees representing governmental entities such as the Dallas and Houston independent school districts, metropolitan transportation agencies and major Texas cities, sparking criticism that he is using his influence as a state lawmaker to score business deals average citizens can’t get.

Until now, it was nearly impossible for voters to quantify the number of governmental contracting deals or estimate how much he’s personally making from his private business interests.

But because he’s running for the U.S. Senate, a federal office that requires far more robust disclosure than the state of Texas, the Dallas Democrat is finally pulling back the curtain on his considerable wealth. A recently implemented tweak to state ethics rules also requires him to provide more detail than ever about his government contracts… (LINK TO STORY)

New laws aim to boost Title IX reporting at Texas universities (Austin American-Statesman)

As college students across the state return to classes, Texas universities are getting ready to deal with significant changes to how they are required to track, report and punish violations of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed two bills into law this year that describe in detail who on college campuses is responsible for reporting incidents of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking, and lay out uniform policies and procedures for universities to follow. Most of the laws’ provisions went into effect Sunday; the reporting requirements and sanctions go into effect on Jan. 1. Many universities will spend the upcoming fall semester training employees on the changes… (LINK TO STORY)


California city experiments with universal basic income — $500 a month (Time)

(STOCKTON, Calif.) — Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants to give cash to every American each month.

Susie Garza has never heard of Yang. But since February, she’s been getting $500 a month from a nonprofit in Stockton, California, as part of an experiment that offers something unusual in presidential politics: a trial run of a campaign promise, highlighting the benefits and challenges in real time.

Garza can spend the money however she wants. She uses $150 of it to pay for her cellphone and another $100 or so to pay off her dog’s veterinarian bills. She spends the rest on her two grandsons now that she can afford to buy them birthday presents online and let them get the big bag of chips at the 7-Eleven… (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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