BG Reads | News You Need to Know (May 20, 2019)



Tourism Commission backs 2017 findings pushing convention center expansion (Austin Monitor)

Signaling more possible momentum for a push to expand the Austin Convention Center, the city’s Tourism Commission has recommended City Council adopt a 2017 report outlining the benefits and possible frameworks for the project.

At last week’s meeting, the commission voted unanimously – with new member Brian Rodgers abstaining – to ask Council to implement the findings of the Visitor Impact Task Force, which spent four months researching the then-initial proposal to expand the convention center using funding from a 2 percentage point increase in the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax levy on guest room nights… (LINK TO STORY)

Development shifts north on Congress Avenue (Austin Business Journal)

As downtown Austin continues to grow, more redevelopment will happen on the north end of Congress Avenue, according to real estate experts who said rising office rental costs and the demand for newer space will push developers closer to the Texas Capitol.

The northern portion of Congress Avenue is already a mix of private residences, offices, retail and restaurants, but with several boarded-up or out-of-date buildings the thoroughfare is ripe for redevelopment.

For many years, the 700 block of Congress was the boundary for activity on the iconic street, said Doug Rauls, executive vice president at Colliers International. But that's changing… (LINK TO STORY)

Despite zebra mussels, Austin’s waterways seeing a recovery trend (Austin Monitor)

The news is full of horror stories about zebra mussels invading intake pipes and sediment causing city water to be of questionable quality. Yet statistics show that, overall, the waterways of Austin are regaining their health.

According to Mateo Scoggins of the Watershed Protection Department, “We’re seeing an increase in overall health in these systems, which is remarkable.”

Scoggins, who presented the findings to the Environmental Commission at its May 15 meeting, said Watershed Protection measures the quality of the water through myriad variables in two monitoring programs: the Environmental Integrity Index, which monitors 125 creeks and streams, and the Austin Lakes Index, which monitors Walter E. Long Lake, Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake… (LINK TO STORY)


San Antonio-based Whataburger hires Morgan Stanley to ‘explore our options’ (Houston Chronicle)

Whataburger — with its yellow-wrapped burgers, fries and Spicy Ketchup — is as familiar to Texans as H-E-B and as beloved as the Dallas Cowboys when they’re having a good season. Now the San Antonio fast-food chain is looking to put its iconic orange-and-white stores on many more street corners, and it’s turned to Wall Street for help.

Whataburger confirmed Thursday it has hired investment banking firm Morgan Stanley to help the company determine how best to fuel its expansion. That will mean considering several potential strategies: selling the company or part of it, re-franchising, finding large private investors or selling Whataburger shares through an initial public offering. For now, company officials are vague about their next steps… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas lawmakers pass transparency bill to disclose government contract records (Houston Chronicle)

A bill that would bring records disclosing how government agencies spend taxpayer money back into public view is likely headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Senate Bill 943, which passed in the Senate and received initial approval from the House on Friday, would re-establish in the law that information about contracts that governments make with businesses must be public, with some exceptions.

State agencies and local governments had been able to withhold much of that information after a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling in Boeing v. Paxton gave them and affected businesses the ability to deny requests if they claimed it could give their competitors an unfair advantage. The ruling was the basis for the city of McAllen’s refusal in 2015 to disclose how much it paid Latin pop singer Enrique Iglesias for performing at a concert that was part of the festivities at a holiday event that lost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Abbott signed a bill Friday that would require such event information to be public… (LINK TO STORY)

Texas House advances bill banning cities from partnering with Planned Parenthood on any services (Texas Tribune)

Texas and its local governments would no longer be able to partner with abortion providers or their affiliates — even for services like sexual health education and pregnancy prevention initiatives — under a bill the Texas House passed in a preliminary vote late Friday after hours of emotional debate.

Senate Bill 22, which critics call the biggest threat to Planned Parenthood this legislative session, would forbid a government entity from transferring money to an abortion provider, even for services not related to the procedure. It would also bar a transfer of goods or services and any transactions that offers the provider “something of value derived from state or local tax revenue.” Abortion rights advocates fear that the bill could even prohibit privately funded programs held on government property, like pop-up sexual health education booths at community colleges… (LINK TO STORY)

After $367.5 million, Texas gets no new child support computer software – just painful lesson (Dallas Morning News)

Budget writers are urging the Legislature to cut off further funding of a massive, 12-year technology overhaul at the state's child support enforcement unit that they say has been a disappointing waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Key legislators dropped the bombshell this week over the so-called "T2" project at the attorney general's office. "Stop the bleeding," said Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who is co-chairwoman of the House-Senate budget conference committee. Added Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a GOP budget writer from Southlake who was instrumental in persuading House colleagues to pull the plug: "This was a $60 million idea — $340 million ago."… (LINK TO STORY)


Toyota rebukes Trump for sending message that carmaker ‘not welcomed' in U.S. (Bloomberg)

Toyota Motor Corp. rebuked President Donald Trump’s declaration that imported cars threaten U.S. national security, signaling contentious talks are ahead for the White House and America’s key trading partners.

In an unusually strong-worded statement, Japan’s largest automaker said Trump’s proclamation Friday that the U.S. needs to defend itself against foreign cars and components “sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued.” The company said it has spent more than $60 billion building operations in the country, including 10 manufacturing plants… (LINK TO STORY)


Episode 46: Austin FC Updates from Club President Andy Loughnane

On today's episode Austin FC President Andy Loughnane sits down for club updates with the Bingham Group Senior Consultant Paul Saldaña and CEO A.J. Bingham.

Andy was named president of the Major League Soccer (MLS) club on January 3, 2019. Most recently he was president of business operations for MLS’ Columbus Crew SC. 

Check out Episode 46 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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