BG Reads | News You Need to Know (April 24, 2019)



Council debates preservation of special zoning districts (Austin Monitor)

City Council members have come to a loose consensus on the five questions in City Manager Spencer Cronk’s land development code memo. Council is fundamentally in agreement that a new code is necessary and that a zoning map should be drafted along with the zoning text for the eventual approval of both components at the same time.

Preparing for a possible vote on a joint response to the questions Thursday, Council sat down Tuesday morning to consider providing context to the answers and additional direction to city staffers as they prepare to act on those responses. Cronk’s first question, however – regarding the scope of the code revision – proved to be a Pandora’s box opening up specific ongoing land use controversies, like what to do with special zoning districts that have been explicitly created to address a real or perceived unique land use context.

In general, conditional overlays are simple enough to be incorporated into the base zoning document of a new land use code, but the complexity of more particular zoning overlays like Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts could make them difficult to match with new, simplified regulations… (LINK TO STORY)

MJ Hegar, former congressional candidate, says she's running to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas Tribune)

Former Democratic congressional candidate MJ Hegar is running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, mounted a high-profile bid to unseat U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in November, fueled by attention-grabbing ads and massive fundraising. She ended up losing by less than 3 percentage points in the traditionally Republican district.

“Texans deserve a senator who represents our values, strength, courage, independence — putting Texas first," Hegar said in an announcement video made in the style of her 2018 ads. "I didn’t get a pilot slot my first time trying. We Texans don’t give up easy, and everything we’ve accomplished is just the beginning."… (LINK TO STORY)

Hays County takes the fight to Kinder Morgan with lawsuit over proposed pipeline (Kinder Morgan)

After months of community protests, a group of more than 20 landowners and city leaders gathered Monday to announce that Hays County and the city of Kyle had officially joined a lawsuit to oppose a natural gas pipeline proposed to run through Central Texas.

Local leaders also challenged the way the state oversees eminent domain laws, which allow pipeline companies to take private property for public use.

“They’re converting a big piece of Hays County into a different use than what’s planned,” said David Braun, legal counsel with the Texas Real Estate Advocacy Defense Coalition, a nonprofit covering the cost of the lawsuit. “They’re also making impacts on the environment and on the community’s emergency resources if there’s a leak or explosion.”

Kinder Morgan is planning to build a 430-mile pipeline from West Texas through the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. City leaders say more than 1,000 landowners will be affected by the Permian Highway Pipeline… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas House Votes To Legalize The Farming Of Industrial Hemp (KUT)

The Texas House on Tuesday gave broad preliminary approval to a bill that would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp — a move lauded as a win for the state’s farmers.

Hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant, though it contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC. While hemp-based products that contain no THC — like clothing and twine, protein powder, moisturizers and essential oils — are legal in the state, the plant cannot be legally grown here and Texas businesses often have to source it from other states… (LINK TO STORY)

Urban, suburban, rural Texas mayors condemn state Legislature’s overreach, support ‘patchwork quilt’ policy strategy (Community Impact)

Overall, the Texas Municipal League, a nonpartisan group that advocates for Texas cities at the state Legislature, is fighting over 150 bills they said deteriorate municipalities’ ability to govern themselves, but on April 22, Executive Director Bennett Sandlin laid out what he said are the 10 worst offenders.

The bills ranged from the widely reported property tax revenue cap proposals, to the lesser-known loosening of building material restrictions and firefighter disciplinary proceedings. Sandlin highlighted a bill that would pre-empt cities’ local ordinances applying to short-term rentals, businesses and tree protection. Other bills included a reduction in fees charged to telecom companies to use public right of way and blocking lobbyists who advocate on behalf of cities.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who joined Sandlin and Mayors Mary Dennis and Stephen Haynes of the suburban Live Oak and rural Brownwood, respectively, at a press conference the afternoon of April 22, continued his crusade against the state’s attacks on local control, especially focusing on the 2.5% or 3.5% property tax revenue cap proposal… (LINK TO STORY)

The race for Dallas mayor: 9 hopefuls, but no frontrunner, headed for May 4 election (Texas Tribune)

Early voting started Monday for the May 4 municipal elections across Texas, and the highest-profile election on local ballots may be the race for Dallas mayor. Term limits mean Mike Rawlings will leave after two four-year terms leading the city. Meet the nine candidates running to replace him.

Dallas native Albert Black Jr. was the first candidate to launch his campaign; he announced his bid last summer. An African American businessman, he grew up in public housing.

"No one would think that I would be here," Black said, addressing an audience of voters in the Scottish Rite Temple in downtown Dallas last month. "My dad was a doorman at the Baker Hotel. No one would think that a person that went through the kind of school chaos I did, with public busing of school, right at the end of my formative years, would be up on this stage."

Black's campaign message: He'll apply the same smarts and hard work that led to his business success to help the city of Dallas succeed. Several mayoral candidates echoed the same "nothing to something" storyline… (LINK TO STORY)


Constraints on presidency being redefined in Trump era, report fallout shows (Washington Post)

President Trump repeatedly tried to undermine the Russia investigation, but the special counsel overseeing the probe declined to say whether he broke the law — and the attorney general declared that he had committed no crime.

Trump’s campaign showed a willingness to work with a foreign power — something his personal lawyer now insists is perfectly okay. And Trump has furiously rejected congressional scrutiny of his presidency — taking the unprecedented step Monday of suing a Democratic committee chairman to block a subpoena for his financial records… (LINK TO STORY)

As Herman Cain bows out as Fed nominee, focus shifts to Stephen Moore (New York Times)

President Trump announced Monday that Herman Cain, one of his two embattled picks for the Federal Reserve Board, had withdrawn his name from consideration, even as his second candidate came under new scrutiny over his attitudes toward women.

Mr. Cain, a former pizza chain executive, made his decision as he battled old accusations of sexual harassment that had halted his 2012 presidential campaign. His withdrawal bows to political reality in a moment when Mr. Trump has faced mounting criticism for tapping loyalists to join the historically independent Fed… (LINK TO STORY)


BG Podcast Episode 43: A Palm School Discussion with Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña

On today’s episode Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña, and CEO A.J. Bingham update on discussions around Austin’s Palm School.

Located at Cesar Chavez and I-35, Palm School was Austin’s second elementary school, and served generations of students from the city’s Mexican-American community during its 84 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.

Check out Episode 43 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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