BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 4, 2019)



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

Check out the first feature from BG Media Group: 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 are up and we’d love your review and comments. You can find them here.


Future of historic Palm School in downtown Austin remains unclear (KVUE)

The future of one of Austin's first elementary schools was up for discussion at a community meeting Wednesday night.

Palm School -- located on Cesar Chavez Street in downtown Austin -- has had several owners throughout the years

Travis County is considering whether to put the building up for sale or a long-term lease, and there are some who don't want its cultural history gone. Palm School served as an elementary school for 84 years. Many of its students were Mexican-Americans.

The site is now home to Travis County Health and Human Services. 

The department's staff will move into a new building on Airport Boulevard by 2021, and the county has no use for the property, according to staff members.

Since April 2018, the county has been working to determine what to do with the building and how it can best preserve its history.

The county conducted a community survey last summer and presented its findings at the meeting Wednesday night.

Nearly 70 percent of its respondents suggested turning the space into an art gallery. Other options include turning it into an event or museum space.

"There may be a lot of ideas about, you know, 'Should we sell it? Should we do this? Should we do that?' We haven't taken a vote on that. Those votes have not been taken. A lot of discussions have been held, but that's it," Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez said… (LINK TO STORY)

The Idea To Bury I-35 Has Risen From The Dead. (KUT)

"Cut and cap" – the idea of burying I-35 in the downtown corridor and paving over that chasm to create greenspaces or mixed-use development – is no longer in the rearview mirror.

Congress for the New Urbanism, a nonprofit transportation advocacy group, highlights the idea in a new study (grimly) titled "Freeways without Futures."

It’s an idea from Sinclair Black, a UT professor and architect, that first arose in 2013. It idealizes an I-35 that's receded below its current level and capped with 30 acres of concrete – similar to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas… (LINK TO STORY)

Flats on Shady Lane gets final approval (Austin Monitor)

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan has a message for Austinites who think that their neighborhoods are getting more than their share of rental housing: You’re not alone.

Last Thursday, as he made the motion to approve zoning that will allow developers to build the Flats on Shady Lane that will add about 290 apartments to the Govalle-Johnson neighborhood, Flannigan said, “A lot of people in a lot of neighborhoods think they have all the density and are getting all the density. But it’s not limited to one part of town.”

He said zoning cases are lined up to come before Council that will add nearly 2,000 units to one neighborhood in his district during the first six months of this year. “So that happens all over town and nobody likes change. Change isn’t fun, but we’re all experiencing change.”

Council approved the new zoning unanimously on second and third reading, with Mayor Steve Adler absent.

The only person speaking against the zoning change was neighborhood advocate Daniel Llanes, who also opposed the project last August. At that time he said, “We don’t want our neighborhood to become a renters’ neighborhood.” He also claimed that the project was “density for density’s sake.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Dougherty redevelopment plans to go before Council in May with parks board approval (Austin Monitor)

After voters decided last November to approve $25 million in bond funding to replace the Dougherty Arts Center, the Parks and Recreation Department immediately got to work designing a new facility specifically intended to accommodate the arts.

With hundreds of voices from public input and an assessment of the feasibility of all the previously proposed sites, the parks department elected to locate the new arts center behind the ZACH Theatre and adjacent to the Parks and Recreation headquarters off of Toomey Road. Centrality, according to Kevin Johnson, a project manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, was “high on everyone’s list.”

However, the central waterfront location stirred up some concerns from Parks and Recreation Board members at their March 26 meeting. Board Member Romteen Farasat expressed his hesitation at approving a plan that put almost 80,000 square feet of impervious cover – nearly half of which is a parking garage – next to the Colorado River without any plans for mitigation or runoff beyond a retention pond. “I think that’s something we need to be a little more concerned about,” he said.

Board Member Kate Mason-Murphy also had concerns about the potential runoff from a two-story parking garage. “What is that going to be doing to our downstream neighbors with that much runoff?” she asked.

The potential pollution that could be generated by 200 additional parking spaces raised the issue of the traffic in the Lamar Boulevard-Barton Springs Road area. Popular restaurants and a burgeoning arts district are already overflowing the real estate south of the river with traffic. Board Member Dawn Lewis said, “This is a great location – but also traffic in that area is awful.”… (LINK TO STORY)


Castro v. Cornyn: U.S. Senate race would feature two undefeated Texas lawmakers (San Antonio Express-News)

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro’s Senate candidacy could set up a clash between two veteran Texas politicians with San Antonio roots who have known only success in their careers.

Latino leaders in Texas are pressing Castro to run, eyeing the potential of unseating John Cornyn and the likelihood that a competitive Senate race could boost Democrats as well as Hispanic candidates up and down the 2020 ballot. Several candidates already are considering running to step into Castro’s San Antonio seat, among them former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, multiple sources said… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas House approves major school finance reform package, adds teacher raises to the bill (Texas Tribune)

After more than three hours of discussion, the Texas House nearly unanimously passed a comprehensive bill to reform the way schools are funded and slow the growth of property tax bills.

House Bill 3 would increase base funding for each student by $890, fund full-day pre-K for low-income 4-year-olds in most school districts, compress tax rates for all districts and reduce the amount of money wealthier districts pay the state in recapture payments to shore up poorer districts. Because Democrats spearheaded a change in the bill, it would also provide across-the-board raises for all full-time school employees who are not administrators.

“We are finally reforming public education in Texas, and not by court order, so that’s a pretty important thing,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Dan Huberty, a Republican who chairs the House Public Education Committee. The vast majority of House lawmakers signed on to the bill as co-authors. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, was the lone no vote… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas high-speed rail developer doesn't want state money. But the Senate's state budget could still delay the project. (Texas Tribune)

Dallas-Houston bullet train developer Texas Central Partners LLC said its project could be delayed by a provision added to the Texas Senate's proposed 2020-21 budget Wednesday, even though the company is not planning on using state funds to build the high-speed rail line. The company said language added to the upper chamber's spending plan would encourage lawsuits and “is not beneficial for good coordination and planning.” Meanwhile, project opponents cheered the provision.

The measure, authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, continues to bar state funds from subsidizing high-speed passenger rail projects but would go further than current law. It would prevent the Texas Department of Transportation from helping coordinate access to rights-of-way on state highways for the high-speed rail project until there is a final, unappealable court ruling on the project's eminent domain authority. Debate over whether Texas Central has the right to condemn land and buy it from unwilling owners has fueled opposition to the project and led to court battles across the state. The new language was added in what's called a rider to the proposed budget.… (LINK TO STORY)

Bill seeks to lay groundwork for scooter rules in Texas (Austin American-Statesman)

Texas lawmakers on Wednesday took a first jab at a transportation issue that has flummoxed local governments across the state for months: how to regulate scooters.

Municipalities throughout Texas have scrambled to regulate electric scooters since they began appearing last year, sometimes without warning. State lawmakers are now trying to land on uniform regulations for the devices and further equip cities to implement rules of their own to manage how scooters can operate.

The Texas Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday heard two people give public testimony on Senate Bill 549, which would cap the speed limit for scooters to 15 mph, require riders to have a valid driver’s license and ban people from riding the devices two-at-a-time.

Authored by state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the bill would also require parked scooters not to obstruct roadways, paths or sidewalks, and only allow the devices to travel on bike lanes and roads with speed limits of 30 mph or less. 

In Austin, six companies have deployed more than 14,000 scooters since the devices first appeared in April last year.  One person has died in a crash involving a scooter and hundreds of complaints have been submitted through the city’s 311 service line.… (LINK TO STORY)


Concerns mount over 2020 census (The Hill)

Just a year before it begins the decennial count of every man, woman and child living in the United States, the Census Bureau is scrambling to finalize plans, open offices and hire what will become the nation’s largest temporary workforce.

But observers and partners working with the bureau say there are significant questions about the preparations that have been made and whether the Census Bureau is adequately prepared to tackle one of the most complicated — and important — functions of government. The concerns relate to new technologies the Census Bureau plans to use in its count, chronic underfunding that has forced the bureau to cancel planned tests — and even to the actual questions the bureau will ask Americans… (LINK TO STORY)

Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is almost complete (New York Times)

On Election Day in 2016, the Republican Party was divided against itself, split over its nominee for president, Donald J. Trump. Now, in every state important to the 2020 race, Mr. Trump and his lieutenants are in firm control of the Republican electoral machinery, and they are taking steps to extend and tighten their grip. It is, in every institutional sense, Mr. Trump’s party.

As Mr. Trump has prepared to embark on a difficult fight for re-election, a small but ferocious operation within his campaign has helped install loyal allies atop the most significant state parties and urged them to speak up loudly to discourage conservative criticism of Mr. Trump. The campaign has dispatched aides to state party conclaves, Republican executive committee meetings and fund-raising dinners, all with the aim of ensuring the delegates at next year’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., are utterly committed to Mr. Trump… (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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