BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 3, 2019)
We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:
BG Podcast Episode 23: Discussing Ch. 380 Agreements with David Colligan- Acting Assistant Director, Austin Economic Development Department
Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with returning guest David A. Colligan, Acting Assistant Director Economic Development Department, City of Austin.
A follow-up to Episode 12, David and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the Austin City Council’s passage of a framework for restructuring the city’s economic incentives programs (on August 30, 2018) with the goal of increasing small business growth and improving job opportunities for lower-wage and middle-skill workers.
Chapter 380 Agreements, part of the Local Government Code, authorize municipalities to offer incentives designed to promote economic development such as commercial and retail projects.
Merck withdraws from economic incentive plans (Austin Monitor)
Pharmaceutical giant Merck has notified City Manager Spencer Cronk that it is terminating its incentive agreement with the city effective June 23. As a result, Merck will not have to comply with the terms of the agreement, which included an investment of nearly $29 million and the creation of at least 600 jobs with an annual salary of more than $84,000 by the end of 2025. The company loses out on about $1 million from the city and $6 million from the state of Texas.
Despite its withdrawal from the agreement, Merck is proceeding with its information technology hub at the University of Texas Medical School’s Health Discovery Building.
Company spokesperson Pamela Eisele told the Austin Monitor via email on Tuesday, “Merck is excited to have an IT office in Austin, and we are grateful to everyone that helped us along the way.”… (LINK TO STORY)
Travis County commissioners seek cost savings ahead of revenue cap taking effect (Community Impact)
Travis County commissioners unanimously approved two cost-saving measures July 2 in an attempt to offset the state’s 3.5% property revenue cap when it takes effect in fiscal year 2020-21.
First, the Commissioners Court unanimously approved sending out a letter to all county offices and departments explaining the impact of the cap and some strategies that are being considered in response.
Second, commissioners approved a plan to recover fees for services and revenue-generating contracts that are under the purview of the court.
County staff have emphasized that, going forward, budget decisions will be made with greater focus on those services the state mandates the county provide, alternative revenue streams to property taxes, data-driven decisions, and increasing efficiency and efficacy of county programs… (LINK TO STORY)
State Bar files formal complaint against former assistant city attorney (Austin Monitor)
The State Bar of Texas has determined it will be pursuing a formal investigation of former Assistant City Attorney Brent Lloyd.
Lloyd was the subject of a complaint filed last month by Board of Adjustment Chair William Burkhardt and former Board Member Bryan King, with the support of Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell. The three alleged that Lloyd violated the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct by simultaneously representing both the Board of Adjustment and the city of Austin on land use decisions.
Additionally, the grievance alleged that Lloyd sought to undermine his client the Board of Adjustment’s legal objectives by misrepresenting the interests of the board to third parties.
As the Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial tribunal for citizens to appeal staff decisions on land use, it is appointed a staff attorney to advise in both ex parte communication and in a public forum. Previously that attorney was Lloyd, who concurrently counseled the city’s Development Services Department during appeals of staff decisions. (Lloyd now serves as a development officer for Development Services.)… (LINK TO STORY)
Dallas could mandate recycling for businesses to cut down on waste (Dallas Morning News)
Dallas officials could require tens of thousands of businesses to start recycling in an effort to divert waste from the landfill. Commercial waste is next up on the city's environmental to-do list as officials pursue a "zero-waste" goal, which would extend the life of the McCommas Bluff Landfill, and try to mitigate the effects of climate change.
City officials are discussing ways to enforce such an ordinance. They could present a plan to council members early next year. The council last year approved a recycling mandate for apartment complexes and recently passed limits on bulk and brush set-outs. But the staff and a new council will have to figure out how to tackle the plethora of materials that businesses discard — and determine how heavily the city should regulate recycling… (LINK TO STORY)
Cryptocurrency scams likely on rise, Texas regulator warns (Austin American-Statesman)
Investor fervor for cryptocurrencies is once again on the rise, prompting state securities regulators to caution that an increase in crypto-related scams won’t be far behind. “It’s unfortunate and inevitable,” said Joe Rotunda, director of enforcement at the Texas State Securities Board. “Bad actors tend to follow the news and the things that get widespread public attention.”
The securities board recently began what it expects to be a four-week regulatory sweep of crypto-related investment offerings in the state, an effort to proactively clamp down on fraud in the wake of a steep climb in the price of bitcoin –– the most popular cryptocurrency –– over the past few months. The move by the securities board is modeled after a similar initiative it took in December 2017, when bitcoin soared to an all-time high above $20,000 per token… (LINK TO STORY)
Willie D becomes second Geto Boys member planning to run for Houston city council (Houston Chronicle)
William James Dennis, a rapper who goes by the stage name Willie D, has filed a campaign treasurer’s report to run for city council, becoming the second member of the Houston-based hip-hop group Geto Boys to seek a council seat. Dennis filed a report Thursday with the city secretary’s office indicating he will run for District B, joining a field of 11 candidates.
Councilman Jerry Davis represents the district, but he has served the maximum number of terms and cannot run for reelection. Hilton Koch, a Houston furniture dealer who is serving as campaign treasurer, confirmed Monday that Dennis is seeking the District B seat. It is unclear, however, whether Dennis legally can be a candidate for council because he is a convicted felon… (LINK TO STORY)
2020 campaigns spend heavily on Facebook ads, despite scandals of 2016 (San Antonio Express-News)
Julián Castro pushed out hundreds of Facebook ads over the weekend, hoping to parlay his success in the first 2020 presidential debate into the thousands of new donors he’ll need to reach the Democrats’ debate stage in the fall.
On Monday, Facebook reported that Castro’s $78,000 in spending the past day was exceeded only by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ among Democratic presidential hopefuls, and even topped expenditures by President Donald Trump’s social media-heavy re-election effort. Facebook is under investigation around the world for privacy lapses… (LINK TO STORY)
Bank of America cut off private prisons weeks after lending to one (Wall Street Journal)
Bank of America Corp. said last week it would stop dealing with private prisons. What the bank didn’t say: it had recently agreed to lend $90 million to one of the largest companies in the business through 2024.
At Bank of America’s annual meeting in April, activists peppered executives with questions about its loans to private prisons. Andrew Plepler, the bank’s hea of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, said it was reviewing the business. As the review was taking place, GEO Group Inc., which runs prisons and immigration-detention centers, was looking to tweak a $900 million loan… (LINK TO STORY)