BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 28, 2019)



Seven protesters arrested, public expresses opposition at community meeting for Project Catalyst (Austin Monitor)

Anticipating a situation similar to last month’s Planning Commission meeting, Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Jerry Rusthoven opened the March 27 community meeting to discuss Project Catalyst with a word of caution.

“It’s important to us that this meeting be conducted in a civil manner,” he said.

Nevertheless, several dozen protesters from Defend Our Hoodz, or Defiende el Barrio, climbed onto the stage and filled the aisles of the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center auditorium, chanting and yelling profanities at city staff.

Particular vehemence was directed at Michael Whellan, the agent for the developer who initiated the zoning case for the major mixed-use development proposed near East Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road.

While the protesters were chanting “Defend our hoodz/we don’t back down/gentrifiers get shut down,” a dozen police officers arrived and issued a warning that they would make arrests for trespassing if the protesters did not leave the premises.

The warning was met with louder chants, blaring horns and taunts that the officers were being filmed in case of inappropriate conduct. Amid the cacophony, officers arrested seven individuals…

Link to story

Commercial Real Estate After delays and litigation, Backyard at Bee Cave is breathing new life (Austin Business Journal)

After years of regulatory wrangling and months of litigation, a big development in Bee Cave appears to be finally moving forward again.

Bee Cave City Council reportedly approved a new ordinance on March 26 governing the site plan and development standards for the Backyard at Bee Cave, a proposed project sitting on 35 acres near State Highway 71 and Ranch Road 620 in the Hill Country municipality west of Austin.

Plans for the mixed-use development had long called for an outdoor music venue, a 125 room hotel, offices, three data centers, a distributed energy center, parking garages and other amenities…

Link to story

Venture capital leader in UT admissions scandal ousted (Austin American-Statesman)

A major Silicon Valley venture capital firm broke ties with the company’s founder after he informed partners that the mastermind of the sweeping college admissions scandal helped get his son into the University of Texas at Austin.

Chris Schaepe has not been charged in the ongoing federal investigation, and his spokeswoman said he did nothing illegal.

“The Schaepes were deeply disturbed that the person they had trusted to guide them through the college application process was engaged in inappropriate acts,” Ellen Davis said. “Like countless other families, they believed that his services and his foundation were all above board, and were shocked by his deception.”

Lightspeed Venture Partners, which boasts having $6 billion currently invested in companies and a successful track record funding technology start-ups, pushed Schaepe out after he told partners of a “personal matter” that they worried could “interfere with firm operations,” a spokeswoman for the firm confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.

Schaepe’s departure speaks to the shockwaves running through the elite ranks of parents who used the services of William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach counselor who prosecutors allege used bribes and cheating to get the children of business titans, actresses and others into elite universities…

Link to story


Texas House approves 2020-21 budget plan, keeps extra $9 billion for school finance, property tax relief (Texas Tribune)

In Dennis Bonnen’s first major test as speaker of the Texas House, the chamber he oversees resoundingly passed a $251 billion budget Wednesday after a long but largely civil debate — a departure from the dramatics that have typically defined such an affair.

Though lawmakers proposed more than 300 amendments to the spending plan, Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, and his chief budget writer, state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, finished the night with their budget plan largely intact. After 11 hours of relatively cordial discussion, lawmakers agreed to withdraw the vast majority of their amendments or move them to a wish list portion of the budget, where they are highly unlikely to become law.

The budget passed unanimously on final passage. The legislation, House Bill 1, now heads to the Senate, whose Finance Committee was set to discuss its budget plan Thursday…

Link to story

After helping defeat the “bathroom bill” in 2017, business groups are back to oppose “discriminatory and divisive measures” (Texas Tribune)

In the spring of 2015, 80 companies and business groups banded together to create Texas Competes, a coalition with something of a novel mission: It would make the “economic case for equality,” fighting discriminatory proposals and convincing the state’s business-friendly leaders that doing what they considered the right thing for LGBTQ Texans was also the smart play economically.

This year, the group’s membership has swelled above 1,400 organizations and counts among its ranks dozens of Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook.

The group and its allies are now flexing that muscle to combat legislative proposals the business leaders consider threats to their economic success due to the disparate impacts they would have on Texas’ LGBTQ communities.

That opposition infrastructure was on full display Wednesday afternoon as a slate of business leaders, including representatives of Texas’ burgeoning tech industry and tourism officials from some of the state’s biggest cities, detailed their opposition to two priority Senate bills at a Capitol press conference that came alongside an open letter to state leaders…

Link to story


Trump surprises Republicans — and pleases Democrats — with push to revive health-care battle (Washington Post)

A surprise move by the Trump administration aimed at striking down the Affordable Care Act thrust the partisan battle over health care into the middle of the 2020 campaign on Tuesday, handing Democrats a potential political gift on an issue that damaged Republicans badly in last year’s midterm elections.

In a new court filing, the Justice Department argued that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, should be thrown out in its entirety, including provisions protecting millions of Americans with preexisting health conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care plans. President Trump praised the move during a lunch with Senate Republicans, and suggested the GOP should embrace a new congressional battle over health-care policy ahead of the 2020 elections…

Link to story

Mueller’s investigation erases a line drawn after Watergate (New York Times)

After Watergate, it was unthinkable that a president would fire an F.B.I. director who was investigating him or his associates. Or force out an attorney general for failing to protect him from an investigation. Or dangle pardons before potential witnesses against him.

But the end of the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, made clear that President Trump had successfully thrown out the unwritten rules that had bound other chief executives in the 45 years since President Richard M. Nixon resigned under fire, effectively expanding presidential power in a dramatic way…

Link to story

After Boeing crashes, sharp questions about industry regulating itself (New York Times)

Seven years ago, an internal government watchdog took a hard look at the part of the Federal Aviation Administration responsible for certifying new Boeing jetliners. The watchdog’s investigation came to some alarming conclusions.

F.A.A. employees viewed their management, the inquiry by the Transportation Department’s inspector general’s office found, as “having too close a relationship with Boeing officials.” F.A.A. managers, the report said, had not always backed efforts by agency employees “to hold Boeing accountable,” and employees feared retaliation for trying to do so…

Link to story


Episode 40: Discussing Austin's Affordability Unlocked Resolution with Megan Lasch

(Run time - 15:57)

On today’s episode we speak with Megan Lasch, with Saigebrook Development, an Austin-based affordable housing development firm.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the Affordabilty Unlocked resolution, passed unanimously by Austin’s City Council on February 21, 2019.

The overall objectives contained in the resolution are to:

  • Maximize affordable housing;

  • Make it easier and less costly to build affordable housing; and

  • Allow affordable housing in high-opportunity areas and areas facing and susceptible to gentrification 

City staff have until May 9 of this year to present a draft ordinance to Council.

She and A.J. also discuss the overall model of for profit affordable housing, and its fit in the Austin development community.

Megan is a graduate of Oklahoma State University (B.S. Engineering). You can learn more about her, here.

This episode was recorded on February 27, 2019.

You can listen to this episode and previous ones on iTunes, Google Play, and STITCHER at the links below. Please leave a review and rating. Share and subscribe today!


Link to executed resolution (City of Austin)

Link to Council resolution presentation (City of Austin)

Saigebrook Development (Company page)

Saigebrook Development Facebook

Link to Episode 40


Bingham Group CEO Receives Rice University MBA Part-time Faculty Appointment

Bingham Group Founder and CEO A.J. Bingham has accepted a part-time faculty appointment teaching an MBA level course on Business-GovernmentRelations (MGMT 561) at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

The course begins in May and will be conducted through video conference.

A.J. previously taught a similar MBA level course at Austin’s Concordia University in 2015.


Named in honor of the late Jesse H. Jones, a prominent Houston business and civic leader, Rice Business is consistently ranked among the nation's top business schools.

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


Twitter #binghamgp 

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