BG Reads | News You Need to Know (June 26, 2019)



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

BG Podcast Episode 3: Chas Moore, President and Co-Founder of the Austin Justice Coalition

Today's podcast was originally recorded on April 2, 2018. It was Bingham Group's first recording, and features a discussion between Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham, and Chas Moore, President and Co-Founder of the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC).

On June 19, 2019 Chas was named a recipient of the Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship, receiving up to $150,000 his ideas into meaningful action.



Commissioner calls modern addition to Masonic Lodge a ‘desecration of an actual landmark’ (Austin Monitor)

In a collaborative effort, the Austin-based Mason Chapter of the York Rite began working with the city’s Historic Preservation Office and several local architecture firms to design a structure that would allow the Masons to retain their ancestral lodge on the corner of Seventh and Lavaca streets, while providing the economic security needed to keep the property under the brotherhood’s watch.

According to preliminary designs that came before the Historic Landmark Commission on June 24, the interior of the three-story lodge would be excavated and the structure transformed into a 30-story-plus tower. Plans show a three-story glass atrium separating the Austin historic landmark on the bottom from the modern high-rise that looms above it… (LINK TO STORY)

City audit says Austin police could be better about keeping track of body camera footage (Austin Monitor)

The Austin Police Department is still working out the kinks in its body-camera program, according to a new city audit.

The report released today by the City Auditor looked at video footage from 151 body-cam videos from Aug. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2019 – a small sampling of all the videos recorded by officers. It found only a single video had been watched by a supervisor during that time and that officers didn't always categorize the videos for record-keeping purposes… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

City of Audit Report (June 2019)

Capital Metro ridership bounces back from years of stagnation (Austin Business Journal)

Austinites are using more public transportation than a year ago.

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority saw an 11.5% year-over-year ridership increase in May, with 2,653,508 total boardings. Sunday ridership took the biggest leap, jumping 32.1% year-over-year. Weekday and Saturday ridership increases came in at 9.8% and 9.9%, respectively.

The transit agency attributed the growth in ridership to the implementation of Cap Remap, its massive overhaul of routes and frequencies that launched on June 3, 2018. The transit agency has seen ridership increase in 11 of the 12 months since Cap Remap was implemented, according to a Capital Metro announcement… (LINK TO STORY)


Tough choices loom for Texas cities under new tax caps (Houston Chronicle)

Mayor Steve Adler says one last 8-percent increase in property tax revenue may be the best move for city leaders this summer, as they prepare for future penny-pinching required by a new state law restricting such tax collections.

“Obviously no decision has been made on that yet, but if we’re being responsible and prudent, it’s certainly something we have to consider,” Adler said. “If only to create extra reserves so that the cuts — so the next three years aren’t felt all in the same year. So that we can transition.”

San Antonio Mayor Mayor Ron Nirenberg has directed his staff to run the same numbers.

Under current law, Texas cities and counties can collect up to 8 percent more in property tax revenue a year before the public can petition for a rollback election. The new law caps the increases at 3.5 percent without voter approval, excluding revenue from new construction.

The law won't take effect until Jan. 1, after most cities' 2020 fiscal years begin, but many are already preparing for leaner years… (LINK TO STORY)

Elaine Chao comes to town bearing $57.1 million for state airports (Dallas Morning News)

Texas airports will receive $57.1 million from the federal government to pay for infrastructure improvements, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said Monday at DFW International Airport.

Three North Texas airports will share in the money, with the biggest award of $23.2 million going to DFW Airport. Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, where Amazon is putting an air cargo hub, will receive $5.5 million. Dallas Love Field will get $2.6 million. Monday’s announcement is the second of five this summer. On June 5, the FAA said it would give $840 million to airports outside of Texas. A total of $495.1 million was awarded to 327 airports Monday… (LINK TO STORY)

Did, as Gov. Gavin Newsom suggests, Texas make San Francisco's homelessness crisis worse? (Los Angles Times)

Facing what feels like the first real crisis of his new administration — and in the midst of stalled efforts in Sacramento to do something about it — Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken aim at something new when asked about California’s homelessness problem: Texas. Specifically, Newsom accused the Republican-led state of sending people to San Francisco.

In some ways, the comment was little more than another jab in the longstanding slugfest between the Golden State and the Lone Star State. Chronicled last week by the Economist in a series of special reports, the feud is equal doses practical and political. Both states have sought to crown themselves as champions in economic might. And both California and Texas won national attention by challenging the agendas of the last two presidents… (LINK TO STORY)


Illinois Governor Signs Law Legalizing Recreational Use Of Marijuana (NPR)

Illinois has become the 11th state in the country to legalize the recreational use and purchase of marijuana.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who was elected last year, signed the bill into law on Tuesday, fulfilling a key campaign promise. The state joins 10 others and the District of Columbia in allowing recreational use. The legislation takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The new law allows Illinois residents age 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC in products such as edibles… (LINK TO STORY)

San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City to Pass an E-Cigarette Ban (Bloomberg)

Although San Francisco is home to America’s most popular e-cigarette brand, city officials are signaling that they want nothing to do with Juul.

The city voted Tuesday to ban sales of e-cigarettes, making it illegal to sell nicotine vaporizer products in stores or for online retailers to ship the goods to San Francisco addresses. The ban will be the first of its kind to go into effect in the U.S.

The ordinance will now go to the mayor to sign into law. Cigarettes and other tobacco products will remain legal in the city, along with recreational marijuana…

See also:

Vaping giant makes Austin part of rapid global expansion (Austin Business Journal, 4.1.19)

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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