BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 31, 2019)

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[AUSTIN METRO]

Travis County releases preliminary $1.2 billion budget for FY 2019-20 (Community Impact)

Travis County staff presented a preliminary $1.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-20 at a July 30 meeting of the Commissioners Court.

As proposed, the preliminary budget represents a nearly 10% increase from last year’s adopted budget, including a general fund of $858.85 million.

The proposed tax rate to balance the preliminary budget is $0.367 per $100 of taxable value. This rate represents a 6% increase over the effective maintenance and operations tax rate.

Over the past five years, the county has raised its effective maintenance and operations tax rate by an average of 2.7%.

This year’s budget process has been impacted by the recently passed property tax revenue cap, which will take effect in October 2020 and reduce the rollback rate from 8% to 3.5%… (LINK TO STORY)


Environmental groups file lawsuits to halt Oak Hill ‘Y’ highway expansions (Austin American-Statesman)

Austin environmental groups filed dueling federal lawsuits against the Texas Department of Transportation this week, aiming to halt or rework an Oak Hill highway expansion they fear will be environmentally damaging.

The Save Our Springs Alliance on Monday sued both TxDOT and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying the proposed expansion of the U.S. 290 and Texas 71 interchange could threaten local salamanders. The suit accuses the entities of abandoning due diligence in their environmental mitigation planning. The alliance fears runoff will increase and harm the endangered Austin Blind Salamander or Barton Springs Salamander, according to the suit.

The alliance is asking a judge to halt the Oak Hill project until TxDOT’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act can be proven in more detail… (LINK TO STORY)


Travis County hits pause on accepting new corporate incentives applications (Austin Business Journal)

Travis County commissioners debated July 30 whether to adopt a moratorium on new incentives applications, focusing heavily on the semantics and what message the term 'moratorium' would send to prospective businesses considering job and capital investments in the county.

Ultimately, commissioners voted 4-1 to suspend accepting new applications for incentives agreements — essentially a moratorium in all but name. They also directed county staff to study the county's current incentive policy, which can grant tax rebates to companies that meet county requirements.

"We need to take a break while we re-evaluate what policy would make sense," Commissioner Brigid Shea said. "Whatever you call it, I think it's a very reasonable proposal."

County staff will come back to the Commissioners Court sometime in the new fiscal year, which starts in October, about their policy review and whether the county should continue the suspension of new incentives applications… (LINK TO STORY)


Travis County staff introduces new census program manager ahead of 2020 count (Community Impact)

Following Travis County’s commitment last year to take on a leadership role in the region’s upcoming census effort, staff introduced Census Program Manager John Lawler at a July 30 meeting of the Commissioners Court.

Lawler—who has experience in campaign organizing at the local level in Austin, including with the Keep Austin Affordable Coalition and as a staff member for Austin City Council Member Greg Casar—will be the first person to serve in the role. His tenure will run through September 2020.

The temporary census program manager position is the product of an agreement between the county and the city of Austin to energize and coordinate census outreach and education efforts locally. While funded by both, the position will be located within the county government… (LINK TO STORY)


[TEXAS] 

Analysis: In Texas House dispute, big accusations, little evidence (Texas Tribune)

The ending will be the only way to judge what’s going on in the Texas House right now, after a political operative with a well-supported political action committee made an unsubstantiated claim that the Republican speaker offered House floor access in return for attacking 10 named Republicans in the 2020 primaries.

At the end of this escapade, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will either have the confidence of the members of the House or not, and the judgment of people outside the Capitol will probably flow from that… (LINK TO STORY)


Conservative group sues to block Dallas’ paid sick-leave ordinance (Texas Tribune)

An Austin-based conservative think tank has sued on behalf of two businesses to block a Dallas ordinance requiring businesses to offer their employees paid sick leave.

The federal lawsuit by the Texas Public Policy Foundation comes two days before the ordinance was set to go into effect. In a statement, the group’s general counsel, Robert Henneke, said Dallas’ ordinance “extends regulatory power outside of its city limits.” He added that the lawsuit “should not have been necessary” considering a similar ordinance in Austin is on hold after an appeals court deemed it unconstitutional in 2018… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas donations to Democratic presidential candidates nearly triple (Houston Chronicle)

The amount of Texas money flowing to Democratic presidential candidates has nearly tripled compared to four years ago and the sheer number of donors has grown almost 600 percent, yet another sign of heightened interest in the 2020 battle for the White House in the Lone Star State.

Already, there have been more than 8,500 Texas donors who have combined to make almost 33,000 donations to Democratic presidential campaigns, according to a Hearst Newspapers analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission data, which tracks donations of $200 or more. Four years ago, just over 1,400 donors combined to make 2,700 donations to candidates… (LINK TO STORY)


[NATION]

How ‘developer’ became such a dirty word (New York Times)

The developers are coming. They’ve got the politicians in their pockets and the gaudy architectural plans in their hands. They will gorge on the entire city. And they won’t stop until peak profit has been wrung from every patch of land.

In Seattle, Austin, New York, Denver, Minneapolis, Washington and the Bay Area, developers are the antiheroes of an urban drama over the high cost of housing and what must change to bring it down.

But their arch-villain status today — merely invoking “developers” can shut down civic debate — deserves scrutiny, for two reasons.

The notion that development is inherently bad, or that developers are inherently bad actors, seems to ignore that the communities residents want to protect from developers were once developed, too, and often by people who made money at it. (That is, unless you believe in “immaculate construction.”)… (LINK TO STORY)


[BG PODCAST]

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

BG Podcast Episode 13: Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President/CEO at Huston-Tillotson University, on Community Engagement in East Austin

Today's podcast was originally recorded on August 27, 2018 and features a discussion Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Huston-Tillotson University (HT), a private historically black university located in Austin’s East Side.

The East Side is one of the most active areas for commercial and residential development in Austin. Our conversation covers Dr. Burnette’s vision for how HT (which owns several blocks) will navigate the wave, as well as connections to the Austin community overall.(LINK TO SHOW)


[BG BLOG]

UPDATE: City announces Development Services Department Director finalists (City of Austin)

The public is invited to meet the finalists for the Development Services Department Director position. There will be two opportunities to meet the finalists at Austin City Hall Council Chambers, located at 301 W. 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701, on Monday, July 29, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and again from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Three finalists will be introduced: Sylvia Carrillo-Trevino, Michael Clack, and Denise Lucas… (LINK TO BLOG)


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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