BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 3, 2019)



Heartbeat of the City by Jan Buchholz - A BG Media Group Production

We’re taking a break from our usual post to announce the launch of BG Media Group!

Here we will highlight incredible talent and help build their platform with the community.

Dropping at 8AM today, our first feature is Heartbeat of the City, a three episode pilot podcast from Austin real estate insider Jan Buchholz, an award-winning reporter known for her journalism in the Austin Business Journal and her website, ATX Real Estate News.

All three episodes drop at 8AM and we’d love your review and comments. You can find them here.


Council hears convention center options, with work sessions on deck (Austin Monitor)

City Council members heard many of the gritty details Tuesday on the question of whether or not to expand the Austin Convention Center.

The special meeting came after last week’s arrival of a long-awaited study from the University of Texas School of Architecture that examined how a westward expansion of the facility could reopen and possibly revitalize portions of the city that have become a “dead zone” since the center’s 1992 construction and 2002 expansion.

Price tags for the multiphase expansions range from around $400 million on the low end to more than $1 billion for multiyear construction campaigns that could see portions of the original convention center knocked down and rebuilt to open Second and Third streets to the public. A panel of UT professors spent more than an hour drilling into the thinking behind the various scenarios, pointing out several times that the convention center sits in the center of multiple larger urban landscape redevelopment efforts, including the coming Waller Creek park system and the east-west corridor of Second Street from Shoal Creek to Waller Creek.… (LINK TO STORY)

Waterfront board calls out Council, staff for ‘stalled’ status on development plans(Austin Monitor)

The body charged with overseeing the development of the south end of the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge has called out city staff and City Council for not moving forward with recommendations it claims are needed to properly manage the future of Austin’s most important cluster of downtown real estate.

Last week the South Central Waterfront Advisory Board finalized the wording on a five-page letter detailing the resolutions it has passed going back nearly 18 months that have received little to no attention from related departments in City Hall. The sharply worded letter – which plainly says, “We have been stalled for months when we did not have to be” – was delivered to Council members late last week.

Board members contend that their votes should have prompted the launching of a variety of plans, studies and other steps needed to move forward with the South Central Waterfront Vision Framework Plan, which was adopted by City Council in 2016… (LINK TO STORY)

RECA to city manager: Ax CodeNext, go bigger (Austin Business Journal)

The Real Estate Council of Austin is providing input to City Manager Spencer Cronk on how the land development code should be rewritten.

In a letter emailed to its more than 1,900 members on April 2, RECA advocated for drafting an entirely new land development code. The real estate advocacy group said the new code should go further than the failed CodeNext and provide for even more new housing than the 287,000 units proposed in the previous code rewrite that failed last summer.

The land development code determines what can be built throughout Austin and creates a path for responsibly meeting the affordability goals set in Imagine Austin, the city’s comprehensive plan. A rewrite is also viewed as critical as Austin continues to struggle with traffic and gentrification.

RECA stated that Austin needs a code rewrite that “encourages strategically located additional housing supply, across product type and price point, as the key to solving our affordability crisis.

“We need a code that is clear to all parties, prepares our city to meet our needs in the future and deals with cost of living and traffic challenges while acknowledging the fact that Austin will continue to grow,” the letter stated.

RECA was vague, though, on what changes may be needed on compatibility standards and parking requirements… (LINK TO STORY)


Cornyn says border shutdown threatened by Trump 'would be bad for everybody' (Dallas Morning News)

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, whose state stands to suffer economic and other disruptions if President Donald Trump carries through on a threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border, on Monday became the highest-profile Republican to distance himself from the idea.

When Cornyn was asked by reporters at the Capitol on Monday about the president's threat, he said he understands Trump's frustration but said the unintended consequences "would be bad for everybody." Sen. Ted Cruz has not weighed in on the matter. During a talk at the Woodrow Wilson Center on a wide range foreign policy issues, Austin Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, viewed Trump's comments as simply venting his frustration… (LINK TO STORY)

The Texas Senate's free speech proposal could force a policy change at UT-Austin, other campuses (Texas Tribune)

When Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign was looking to drum up attendance for a weekend rally in downtown Austin, the college a few blocks away might have seemed like the perfect place to go.

But the University of Texas at Austin denied a request by Democratic former congressman’s campaign to spread the word there.

“We’re unable to grant you permission at this time to pass out flyers on campus,” a university staff member wrote to the campaign on March 23, according to an email obtained by an open records request… (LINK TO STORY)


Judge Throws Out Panhandling Law, Says Physical Interaction Is Free Speech (KUT)

When a panhandler approaches a car in the intersection — his hand out, his eyes wide — that physical interaction is protected by the First Amendment, a federal district judge ruled Monday when he threw out an Arkansas city's panhandling ban.

It's the latest such ban to be found unconstitutional since a 2015 Supreme Court decision made it harder for the government to pass laws regarding the content of speech. That case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, had to do with regulating church signs, but courts around the country have cited the case as they strike down panhandling laws.

To contend with an increase in panhandling at busy intersections, the city of Hot Springs in 2016 passed an ordinance imposing "an absolute ban" on solicitation on streets or in medians. After the American Civil Liberties Union sued, the city repealed the ordinance, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette… (LINK TO STORY)

Castro unveils immigration platform, laying an early marker in the 2020 presidential contest (Texas Tribune)

Democratic presidential Julián Castro sought Tuesday to lay down an early marker on immigration, releasing an extensive plan to address an issue that is sure to remain front and center through November 2020.

Castro's People First Immigration Policy, which comes 10 months before the first votes are cast in the 2020 primary, offers a few ideas that are commonplace among Democratic candidates, like reversing President Donald Trump's travel ban and providing a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally. But in many other areas, the proposal goes much farther than other contenders have gone, thrilling advocates who have been waiting to see which White House hopeful would be first out of the gate with such a detailed proposal.

"They've all done riffs at rallies, but this is the first serious, thoughtful and thorough proposal," said Frank Sharry, director of the liberal immigration group America's Voice. "He got his wonk on, and wonks appreciate it."… (LINK TO STORY)

White House whistleblower says 25 security clearance denials were reversed during Trump administration (NPR)

An 18-year White House employee told congressional investigators that she and other career staffers denied security clearances for 25 Trump administration officials, including three "very senior" officials, only to see most of those recommendations overturned.

The employee, Tricia Newbold, was interviewed by staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Democrats on the panel released a summary of her interview, conducted over the weekend, raising new questions about how and why the White House issued security clearances to, among others, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.

Republicans argued in response that Democrats on the committee released "cherry-picked excerpts" of the interview with Newbold to "manufacture a misleading narrative that the Trump White House is reckless with our national security."… (LINK TO STORY)

New York embraced congestion pricing. Will other clogged cities follow? (New York Times)

Los Angeles traffic is so bad that buses crawl along at less than 12 miles an hour. In San Francisco, car speeds have fallen to 10 miles per hour. And Seattle’s streets are so choked the city needs to find ways to have fewer cars altogether. Major cities across the United States are facing increasingly clogged roads and have had frustratingly little success in dealing with them.

But now that New York has adopted congestion pricing in Manhattan, the rest of the country is far more likely to seriously consider embracing such a policy — even though it was once considered politically toxic, according to municipal officials and transportation analysts. “New York’s use of congestion pricing could be a game-changer,” said Travis Brouwer, an assistant transportation director in Oregon, which has considered congestion pricing for traffic-jammed Portland… (LINK TO STORY)


Bingham Group Announces the Addition of Paul Saldaña as Senior Consultant

The Bingham Group, LLC (Bingham Group), an Austin based consulting firm providing government affairs, public affairs, and procurement services, today announced the addition of Paul Saldaña as a Senior Consultant.

A native Austinite, Paul brings over 25 years experience building awareness, trust and credibility for clients and their projects/services within Austin’s diverse communities. He most recently served as a President and Principal of Saldaña Public Relations, a full service firm tailored to the cultural values of Austin. Past clients include Central Health, the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, Precourt Sports Ventures (owner of Austin FC), the Move Austin Forward Bond Transportation campaign and the re-election campaign for Austin Mayor Steve Adler… (MORE HERE)

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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