BG Reads | News You Need to Know (September 6, 2019)



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


Austin ISD Wants To Close 12 Schools, Expand Academic Programs Throughout The District (KUT)

The Austin Independent School District released a plan Thursday to close 12 schools and move those students to other campuses. The district is also proposing boundary changes and wants to add academic programs at more than 30 schools.

"Change is hard," Superintendent Paul Cruz said in a letter to the AISD community, "but it can also make us stronger."

"We all care about the future of our students, and we’re willing to step up to help reimagine and reinvent our school district," he wrote. "The changes we make will be worth the effort."… (LINK TO STORY)

New rules put pressure on land use commissions (Austin Monitor)

Operating under new rules as a result of the so-called “shot clock bill,” members of the Zoning and Platting Commission and the Planning Commission will be under pressure to rapidly make decisions about whether to approve or reject subdivision development applications.

Commissioners will also be under greater pressure to attend meetings and, in many cases, make decisions more quickly than they would like to. In most cases, they will not be allowed to postpone consideration of subdivision applications because such applications will be automatically approved if not rejected within 30 days of filing. If a meeting that includes subdivision applications is canceled, the applications will automatically be approved.

On Thursday, Andrew Linseisen, assistant director of the Development Services Department, explained to members of those commissions some of the finer points of the rules brought about by House Bill 3167, which gives cities and counties just 30 days to act on subdivision applications once the city has accepted the applications as complete. In addition, jurisdictions will have only 15 days to act on changes to the applications… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

HB 3167 "Shot Clock" Bill Changes Impact Austin's Land Development Code

Austin to use GPS tech to automatically slow scooters down on park trails (Austin American-Statesman)

Scooter riders will be automatically slowed down with the use of GPS technology, called geofencing, when they enter trails that are off-limits to the devices starting Friday, Austin Parks and Recreation officials said.

With geofencing, scooters are automatically slowed down upon entering a certain space using GPS technology. Officials with the Parks and Recreation Department, Public Works and the Austin Transportation Department mapped out where geofencing was needed and sent that information to the scooter companies, said Amanda Ross, Austin Parks and Recreation Department division manager for natural resources… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin taxpayers could save millions with one change to city’s special event budgeting (KXAN)

With property tax caps looming, the city of Austin is looking to save money. 

At the Tuesday Public Safety Commission meeting, city leaders discussed no longer waiving fees for special events. This would require for-profit corporate events like South by Southwest to pay millions more in order to continue celebrating in the city. 

Each spring, there’s a cost to maintaining order for the large-scale tech and film event. 

Each year, police, fire and ATCEMS are paid overtime to make sure everything runs smoothly. And each year, the City of Austin waives those public safety fees for SXSW. Instead, the taxpayer covers the cost of the tab. 

“Enough is enough, pay your own bill,” said Rebecca Webber, Vice Chair for the Public Safety Commission. “[SXSW is] making money, hand over fist. They can shoulder their own bill for public safety costs.”… (LINK TO STORY)


Gov. Greg Abbott issues eight executive orders aimed at stopping potential mass shooters (Texas Tribune)

Gov. Greg Abbott issued eight executive orders Thursday in response to last month’s mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa.

“Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings,” Abbott said in a statement. “I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.”

The orders focus largely on strengthening law enforcement’s ability to respond to and prevent future shootings, mainly through improving reporting channels and closing "information gaps" when members of the public or law enforcement agencies worry that a person might be a threat to commit violence. But, Abbott's office added in a news release, "legislative solutions are still needed."… (LINK TO STORY)

Houston to consider 2-cent cut in property tax rate (Houston Chronicle)

City Council could cut Houston’s property tax rate for the fourth time in five years under a proposal advanced by the Turner administration Wednesday. The rate recommended by the city Finance Department is 56.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, 2 cents lower than the current rate of 58.8 cents.

Council could vote on the rate as soon as Sept. 11. Wednesday’s vote was simply to put the proposed rate on next week’s council agenda. Under the proposed rate, the owner of a $250,000 home with a standard 20 percent homestead exemption could expect to pay the city about $40 less than the previous year. Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday said the proposed tax rate cut was a result of the revenue cap under which the city has operated since 2004, when voters first approved limits on how much property tax revenue the city can collect… (LINK TO STORY)

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores will not run for reelection, marking the fifth recent GOP retirement in Texas (Texas Tribune)

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores announced Wednesday morning that he would not run for reelection in 2020 — making him the fifth Texas Republican to announce his retirement from Congress.

"Serving my country as the Representative of the hardworking Texas families in the 17th Congressional District has been an honor and one of the greatest privileges of my life," Flores said in a statement. "Following the end of my current term in January 2021, I look forward to spending much more time with my family and our grandchildren," he said in a statement. "I also intend to resume business activities in the private sector and to stay politically active on a federal, state and local level."… (LINK TO STORY)


Scientists Unveil Weed Breathalyzer, Launching Debate Over Next Steps (NPR)

The alcohol Breathalyzer came to life slowly, over the course of decades.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, scientists, lawmakers, police and the public quarreled over the veracity of the numbers spit out by the device, the appropriate legal limit for drivers and whether they could trust a machine over a cop's testimony.

Today, the same debate is playing out over cannabis.

As 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot in some form, Breathalyzer-type devices that could theoretically aid police enforcement have begun appearing in various stages of development. But legal experts and scientists say there's a long way to go before those devices can actually detect a driver's impairment… (LINK TO STORY)

Trump administration unveils plan to revamp the housing market (Washington Post)

President Trump’s administration on Thursday released a sweeping plan that could remake the U.S. housing market starting with ending more than a decade of government control of two massive companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which back half of the nation’s mortgages.

The long-awaited plan from the Treasury Department includes nearly 50 proposals, including many technical changes to financial regulations, and is aimed at shrinking the government’s role in the housing market. The cornerstone of the plan would resolve the fates of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which 11 years ago this week were put into government conservatorship during the global financial crisis… (LINK TO STORY)

US companies cite 'trade difficulties' for cutting over 10,000 jobs in August (Dallas Morning News)

More than 10,000 Americans lost their jobs in August because of trade pressures, according to a new figure that provides a window into how U.S. tariff policy is affecting the labor market. According to a monthly report from staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., companies announced plans to eliminate 10,488 positions because of "trade difficulties." It's the first time this reason for layoffs has been included in the report.

Challenger's survey has tallied the number of firing announcements tied specifically to "tariffs" since 2018, when it logged 798 such instances. Through August this year, those have totaled 2,076. The numbers are significant because of the difficulty quantifying the fallout from trade disruptions, and they provide evidence that President Donald Trump's trade war with China is harming some companies. The job market, in particular, has been a source of strength with very low unemployment… (LINK TO STORY)

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