BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 19, 2019)



Group pushes Garza to run for county attorney (Austin Monitor)

Council Member Greg Casar and community activists Martha Cotera and Brian McGiverin are leading an effort to encourage Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza to run for Travis County attorney – and to raise campaign funds for her before she officially announces her candidacy.

David Escamilla, the current county attorney, has announced he will not seek another term when his term expires at the end of 2020. Escamilla was appointed in 2003 and ran unopposed in 2004, ’08, ’12 and ’16.

The group supporting Garza has filed a document to appoint a campaign treasurer showing the name of the group as Progressive Justice Now PAC and McGiverin as treasurer. The purpose of the PAC is described as “support potential candidate Delia Garza.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Now owned by Robert Rodriguez, old Jovita's restaurant to become apartments (Austin Business Journal)

A multifamily development is headed for the site of the old Jovita’s restaurant in South Austin a few years after it was acquired by high-profile Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.

Chameleon Cos. is developing the four-story apartment building at 1613 and 1615 S. First St. to have 41 to 44 units. It's in a popular but still up-and-coming area. The project is next door to Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon — another business Rodriguez helped get off the ground — and near other eateries such as Polvo’s Mexican Restaurant as well as a handful of food trucks.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find sites for multifamily development,” Chameleon Cos. CEO Stuart Thomajan said. “I like this site because it backs up to [Bouldin Creek]. It’s surrounded by other restaurants and shops.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Fed: Austin gentrifying faster than much of US, but that's not entirely a bad thing (Austin Business Journal)

A study about gentrification recently looked at 100 cities across the United States and found that the effect on local neighborhoods isn’t as bad as you might think.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s report, “The Effects of Gentrification on the Well-Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Children,” came to the following conclusion:

“Gentrification modestly increases out-migration, though movers are not made observably worse off and neighborhood change is driven primarily by changes to in-migration. At the same time, many original resident adults stay and benefit from declining poverty exposure and rising house values. Children benefit from increased exposure to higher-opportunity neighborhoods, and some are more likely to attend and complete college.”

According to their research, Austin ranked No. 7 for the most gentrification among the 100 cities… (LINK TO STORY)

Environmental Commission gives Walter E. Long Park plan the green light, with conditions (Austin Monitor)

Following the lead of the Parks and Recreation Board, the Environmental Commission unanimously approved the new master plan for East Austin’s Walter E. Long Park. The vote, however, came with a host of conditions.

The commissioners expressed concern that the Parks and Recreation Department had not yet performed an environmental assessment of the land nor considered specific environmental aspects when programming the five different development areas.

With anxiety for the parkland’s future health, the commission tacked on a multitude of environmental considerations to their recommendation, including a reference to the memo sent out by Environmental Officer Chris Herrington on June 20. The memo enumerates the environmental regulations that the Watershed Protection Department determined should be considered in the Walter E. Long Park master plan.… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

Walter E. Long Park plan, all $800 million of it, gets parks board approval

Commission pushes for better mobility management around work zones (Austin Monitor)

Despite the city’s plans for multimodal transportation infrastructure, proper bike lanes and fully accessible sidewalks are still a scarce public amenity in many parts of Austin. They are also often the first areas within the right of way to be impacted by delivery vehicles, service trucks, and most significantly, construction zones.

Acknowledging that some of those obstructions cannot entirely be avoided, the Downtown Commission is asking City Council to give direction to the Austin Transportation Department to explore regulations that could better protect the city’s active transportation facilities from the impacts of work zones.

Ryan Ward, manager of Austin Transportation’s Right of Way division, explained to the commission Wednesday that managing the right of way in construction areas has been particularly challenging in the downtown area. The division has only five inspectors to oversee the roughly 3,000 currently active construction permits throughout the city, and up until recently, only one inspector has been assigned to manage downtown Austin.… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas leaders: Hemp law did not decriminalize marijuana (Texas Tribune)

Weeks after Texas prosecutors began dropping hundreds of marijuana cases and stopped actively pursuing criminal charges because of complications that arose from legalizing hemp, the state's leaders have stepped into the fray.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, all Republicans, sent a letter Thursday to Texas district and county attorneys, emphasizing that a new hemp law does not decriminalize marijuana. They wrote that the prosecutors who have stepped back from marijuana charges after stating they cannot legally distinguish between legal hemp and marijuana without further testing — almost all of those in the state's most 10 populous counties — misunderstand the new law.

"Failing to enforce marijuana laws cannot be blamed on legislation that did not decriminalize marijuana in Texas," stated the letter… (LINK TO STORY)

Will Hurd walks tightrope on Trump, distancing himself without alienating too many GOP voters (Dallas Morning News)

San Antonio Rep. Will Hurd has railed against Donald Trump’s border wall and blasted the president for being “manipulated” by the Russians. He was one of just four House Republicans to join Democrats on a resolution condemning Trump’s racist barrage of tweets against four congresswomen of color this week.

Will that be enough to help him keep his seat in 2020? Hurd, the only black Republican in the House, represents a district that has teetered for most of the last decade between the two parties. So his maverick streak is also a method of self-preservation, and throughout the Trump era, he has engaged in a delicate balancing act… (LINK TO STORY)

Cornyn draws another Democratic challenger, as Houston’s Amanda Edwards enters race (Washington Post)

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) drew another Democratic challenger on Thursday, as Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards announced that she would try to topple the three-term incumbent next year.

If elected, Edwards would become the first African American woman to represent Texas in the Senate. She joins a growing Democratic primary field that already includes military veteran and former congressional candidate MJ Hegar. A Democrat has not represented Texas in the Senate since 1993, but changing demographics in the state and a strong challenge last year to Sen. Ted Cruz (R) by former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D) have raised the profile of next year’s race… (LINK TO STORY)

After defeats in 2019, a group of Texas lawmakers is teaming up to push criminal justice reform (Texas Tribune)

Lawmakers entered 2019 with high hopes that they could change Texas' bail procedures, death penalty laws and drug policies. But the legislative session ended this summer without major reforms in any of those issues.

Trying to prevent a similar outcome in 2021, a bipartisan group of House representatives has banded together to form an uncommon, issue-based caucus in the Texas Capitol: one targeting criminal justice reform.

“I’m sad to say that for all our other successes, the 86th Legislature was a failure for criminal justice reform,” said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, in a statement given to The Texas Tribune on Thursday. “Misinformation and a lack of issue-specific guidance on the floor stopped a lot of commonsense, crucially needed bills.”… (LINK TO STORY)


Where Trump's Facebook spending goes (AXIOS)

When it comes to political ads on Facebook, President Trump is still outspending all of his Democratic rivals by a millions of dollars. But he's avoiding many of the issues that they're focused on to instead spend heavily on immigration messaging… (LINK TO STORY)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

Episode 28: Rodney Gonzales- Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD)

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)



As reported previously here, the City of Austin is exploring potential requirements that would mandate that 

  1. New developments submit water balance applications;

  2. Developments over 250,000 square feet use alternative and onsite waters to meet indoor and outdoor non-potable water demands. 

The timeline is particularly quick as City staff is working to develop proposed ordinance language by this fall… (LINK TO BLOG)

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