BG Reads | News You Need to Know (July 8, 2019)
$900M project will reshape area north of Capitol, bring more workers (Austin American-Statesman)
A major Austin employer is in the midst of a nearly $900 million project that will bring more than 3,000 additional workers into the heart of downtown.
But it’s not Google, Apple, Indeed or some other high-tech heavyweight behind the huge initiative; it’s state government.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed bonds have been authorized by state lawmakers to fund an ongoing effort to transform the four blocks of Congress Avenue immediately north of the Capitol.
The $895 million development — counting $313.7 million for phase two approved during the just-ended legislative session and $581.2 million for phase one approved in 2015 — will include 1.5 million square feet of space in four new state buildings, below-ground parking and a pedestrian-friendly promenade for public gatherings and festivals that will stretch from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to 15th Street.
The main goal is to consolidate some of the thousands of state employees who work in rented offices throughout Austin into state-owned buildings in the new Capitol complex. Officials say the plan will save an estimated $25 million annually on leases once the two phases are complete, while also helping insulate taxpayers from the sting of rising rents amid Austin’s booming market for office space… (LINK TO STORY)
As Austin rents rise, housing authority tries ‘radical’ solution (Austin American-Statesman)
A new $70 million investment to turn a 452-unit Southeast Austin apartment complex into affordable housing is the latest effort by Austin’s housing authority to expand its real estate footprint, those associated with the deal say.
The Community Development Trust, a national group that provides capital for affordable housing projects, announced that it is helping the Austin Housing Authority buy the Asher Apartments complex, southeast of Interstate 35 and Slaughter Lane. The housing authority’s nonprofit branch, the Austin Affordable Housing Corp., will operate the complex as The Bridge at Asher Apartments…
Walter E. Long Park plan, all $800 million of it, gets parks board approval (Austin Monitor)
With an eventual price tag expected to exceed $800 million and a timeline likely stretching more than two decades, members of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Board unanimously voted to approve a new master plan for East Austin’s Walter E. Long Park.
At last week’s meeting, the board drilled into several components of the five-phase plan for the park, which covers nearly 3,700 acres, including an 1,100-acre lake originally created to aid energy production at an Austin Energy facility nearby.
With the vote, the plan now goes to City Council in August for approval, which will then lead to ongoing work identifying funding sources, management structures, potential partners and other components for a vision that several board members admitted is intimidating in its size and scope… (LINK TO STORY)
Who's the next to join Dallas-Fort Worth's billion-dollar-a-year club? (Dallas Morning News)
The billion-dollar-a-year club in Dallas-Fort Worth now stands at 69. But there’s a fast-growing Plano software company looking to gain membership in the exclusive ranks of publicly traded companies with $1 billion or more in yearly revenue.
Tyler Technologies Inc., a 5,000-employee firm that works exclusively with schools, cities and other government offices, entered this year with a bold prediction. It expects its 2019 revenue to total $1.1 billion, propelling it over the lofty milestone. North Texas’ abundance of billion-dollar companies is one of the key findings of a Dallas Morning News analysis that ranks the region’s 150 largest public companies. The ranking, compiled for The News by Bloomberg, is based on annual revenue and drawn from the companies’ regulatory filings… (LINK TO STORY)
This year, Texas passed a law legalizing hemp. It also has prosecutors dropping hundreds of marijuana cases. (Texas Tribune)
Because of a new state law, prosecutors across Texas have dropped hundreds of low-level marijuana charges and have indicated they won’t pursue new ones without further testing.
But the law didn’t decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption. It legalized hemp and hemp-derived products, like CBD oil.
An unintended side effect of the law is that it has made it difficult for law enforcement to tell if a substance is marijuana or hemp, according to prosecutors. Among other provisions, House Bill 1325 changed the definition of marijuana from certain parts of the cannabis plant to those parts that contain a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high. It’s a difference numerous district attorneys, the state’s prosecutor’s association and state crime labs say they don’t have the resources to detect, weakening marijuana cases where defendants could claim the substance is instead hemp… (LINK TO STORY)
Allen West exploring campaign for Texas GOP chairman, opts against challenging Colin Allred for Congress (Dallas Morning News)
Former U.S. Rep. Allen West on Wednesday opted against challenging incumbent Rep. Colin Allred for Congress. The Republican activist will instead explore running for chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
West, a retired Army colonel who once represented a Florida district in Congress, made his announcement on YouTube. He said leading the Texas GOP was the best way for him to contribute to the political discourse. James Dickey of Spicewood is the current chairman of the Texas Republican Party… (LINK TO STORY)
A 'dump-and-run' e-scooter culture creates frightening hazards for the disabled (San Antonio Express-News)
Lorne Self wobbled methodically in his motorized wheelchair across a landscape of cracked and tilting sidewalks, making his way back to a downtown nursing home off San Pedro Avenue. An auto collision almost a decade ago ruptured his lower vertebrae, leaving rods in his neck and gnarled hands bent almost into fists. But with his wheels and some courage, Self, 57, had regained a semblance of freedom.
Or so he thought until last summer, when hundreds, then thousands, of rented electric scooters appeared unexpectedly in downtown San Antonio. Riders leave them strewn across sidewalks and curb ramps, merely annoying the able-bodied but creating profound obstacles for disabled people trying to get to work, go to the store or just live their lives… (LINK TO STORY)
It’s not just the White House in 2020. The power to draw maps Is also at stake. (New York Times)
Only hours after the United States Supreme Court said it could do nothing to stop partisan gerrymandering of the nation’s political maps, Eric H. Holder Jr. had a message for his fellow Democrats in downtown Dallas. “Texas is a place where we have to win,” Mr. Holder, who served as attorney general during Barack Obama’s presidency, said last week. “This is doable. This is possible.”
Mr. Holder was not talking about the 2020 presidential election. He was not talking about a congressional race. He was talking about the nine seats Democrats would need to flip to wrest control of the Texas House of Representatives and gain a voice in the redistricting process. “For the future of our state, the Republican Party is very, very aware of the threat the Democrats pose in taking over the Texas House,” said State Representative Matt Shaheen, a Republican from the Dallas suburbs… (LINK TO STORY)
At Houston forum, 10 presidential candidates make their pitches to thousands of educators (Texas Tribune)
Aaron Phillips is a fifth-grade teacher in the Amarillo Independent School District. Before the 2018 election, he organized for local Republicans like state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price, whom he considered "friendly" to public education.
But on Friday afternoon, he was at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston alongside thousands of union-affiliated teachers listening to 10 Democrats running for president explain their views on standardized tests, teacher pay and school safety. This summer brought an end to a state legislative session focused almost entirely on public education, and Texas educators are continuing the political pressure at the national level in an already heated 2020 cycle… (LINK TO STORY)
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.