BG Reads | News You Need to Know (June 5, 2019)



Episode 49 - Downtown Talk with Kevin Burns, Founder and CEO, Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors

On today’s episode we speak with Kevin Burns, founder and CEO of Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors. Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discusses Urbanspace’s evolution as well as thoughts on brand development, entrepreneurship, and hustle with Kevin.

Founded as real estate office in 2000, Urbanspace has evolved into a full-service firm specializing in residential real estate, project sales + marketing, and interior design + furniture.

The firm is linked to some of Austin’s most visible downtown projects, including the Seaholm Residences (where they closed all 274 units) and The Independent, the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi, expected to close out in 2019.

Follow Urbanspace on Twitter at: @urbanspace


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Council postpones vote on camping, panhandling ordinance (Austin Monitor)

As the city puts more resources into shelters and programs to assist those without a place to live, City Council is also considering modifying three often-counterproductive city policies that target homeless people. The policies prohibit camping in public areas, sitting or lying down in portions of downtown and approaching passersby to ask for money.

Council Member Greg Casar brought an ordinance for consideration on Thursday that would amend three sections of city code related to the enforcement of policies that predominantly affect people experiencing homelessness. Due to pushback from the community and concerns raised by other Council members, Casar agreed Tuesday afternoon at the Council work session to postpone a vote and public hearing on the issue until the Council meeting on June 20… (LINK TO STORY)

Travis County commissioners approve restrictions on any future use of Palm School site (Community Impact)

Travis County commissioners and Austin City Council members agree the property that used to house the Palm School should be preserved, but they have yet to agree on how exactly they will achieve that goal.

The county owns the Palm School building and had been using the former elementary school that served a predominantly Latino population as an office space for the Travis County Health and Human Services Department. That office will move to Airport Boulevard in 2021. The city, meanwhile, owns the adjacent Palm Park.

Over the last year, county staff have been going through a process to draft a recommendation for the future of the Palm School building and to hear community members’ thoughts about their preferences for the future of the building. According to a community survey presented to county commissioners June 4, nearly 90% of respondents find it “extremely important” that any potential new construction at the site preserves the Palm School’s historic core… (LINK TO STORY)

Local lawyer Garza to challenge Moore in Travis County DA’s race (Austin American-Statesman)

Local attorney Jose Garza will challenge Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore in next year’s Democratic primary, his campaign announced Monday.

Garza, co-executive director of the Austin-based nonprofit Workers Defense Project, is the first candidate to announce a bid against Moore, who is approaching the end of her initial four-year term and last month announced a reelection campaign. Democrats have occupied the Travis County’s district attorney’s office for decades, making the primary fight more important than the general election… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin and San Antonio: A tale of two cities vying for tourists (Austin Business Journal)

San Antonio hotel operators sold nearly 3 percent more room nights during the first quarter than during the same period a year ago, while overall revenue increased nearly 2 percent to more than $355.7 million.

The Alamo City area now has about 50,000 hotel rooms, according to new hotel brand report data by Source Strategies Inc., a San Antonio-based industry consultant. Those hotel operators sold 3.02 million room nights from January through March — 84,000 more than during the same three months a year ago.

Austin, which has roughly 43,700 hotel rooms, sold nearly 2.9 million room nights during the first quarter. That’s a 5 percent increase over the first three months of 2018 for a market that generated nearly $98 million more in hotel revenue during the recent quarter than San Antonio did… (LINK STORY)


Gov. Greg Abbott Says He Can Keep Plumbing Board Alive Without Special Session (Texas Tribune)

Gov. Greg Abbott claimed Tuesday he can keep Texas' plumbing board alive without calling a special legislative session, as he reassured plumbers who were worried their profession will no longer be subject to state regulations.

"TEXAS PLUMBERS: We’ve got this," Abbott tweeted. "The Legislature has given the Governor many tools in my toolbox to extend the State Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without needing to call a special session. We will let you know very soon. Don’t worry."…


Texas AG Ken Paxton stokes ‘Save Chick’Fil-A’ controversy with lawsuit over records (San Antonio Express-News)

It’s a red-meat issue, but it feeds on chicken. San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from its airport continues to resound in political circles. Legislators passed a religious freedom bill that gained steam after it was rebranded as the ‘Save Chick-fil-A bill.’ Gov. Greg Abbott beamed over its success on Twitter.

And Attorney General Ken Paxton, declining to wait for his own department to rule on a public records request, on Monday filed suit against the city to force it to hand over records he wants for his office’s investigation. “The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” Paxton wrote in a letter to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg early in his clash with the city. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Dallas' crime uptick — and the semantics surrounding it — become hot issue in mayoral race (Dallas Morning News)

The sharp uptick in violent crime in Dallas this year — and the semantics around it — have increasingly become a central issue in the city’s mayoral race days before Election Day. Outgoing City Council member Scott Griggs, one of the two candidates in the runoff, has repeatedly said Dallas faces a “public safety crisis.”

But his rival, state Rep. Eric Johnson, has said Griggs is fearmongering — something that someone sitting in the mayor’s office shouldn’t do, he said. “It’s not a message the mayor needs to be sending about the city,” Johnson said. “This is the one role where semantics ... are extremely significant. The mayor is the chief promotional officer, the chief confidence officer, the chief marketing officer — however you want to describe it.”… (LINK TO STORY)

In San Antonio’s mayoral runoff, the candidates have always presented a clear choice (San Antonio Express-News)

As Mayor Ron Nirenberg was shepherding his first city budget through its last meetings in 2017, first-term Councilman Greg Brockhouse made an eyebrow-raising proposal. Brockhouse wanted to slash some $13.9 million from the spending plan by eliminating several city offices, including the Center City Development and Operations Department, which manages downtown.

The budget, approved one day later, was the first to use an “equity lens,” which directed extra funds to the city’s most needy areas rather than an even division among each council district. It boosted street money by $35 million, though none of that extra money went to Brockhouse’s district. It was instead directed to the five district with the poorest quality of streets. The budget also added new police officers and firefighters. Brockhouse’s motion quickly drew the rebuke of all but one of his colleagues, who protested that it was an 11th-hour pitch that didn’t leave adequate time for analysis or collaboration… (LINK TO STORY)


Class-action case could upend residential real estate brokerage business (Houston Chronicle)

For the average Houston home, priced at $310,700, real estate agent commissions cost $18,600. If the same deal had closed in London, the homeseller would have only paid agents about $3,700. The reasons for the difference are at the center of a class-action suit that could dramatically change the way homes are bought and sold in the United States.

The case, brought by a Minnesota homeowner, seeks to strike down the standard practice of agents splitting commissions. If successful, the suit would potentially save individual home sellers thousands of dollars in commissions, but it would also cut the earnings of real estate agents across the country — including some 37,000 in the Houston area — and put more pressure on traditional brokerages, already contending with a host of discount and online competitors… (LINK TO STORY)

Mexico Tariffs Likely To Take Effect Next Week, Trump Vows In London (KUT)

New tariffs against Mexico will begin to bite next week, President Trump vowed Tuesday, unless the White House is satisfied that Mexico's government is acting with new alacrity to stop migrants from crossing into the United States.

"This will take effect next week, 5%," Trump said during his visit to London.

Trump said he is open to continuing negotiations with Mexican leaders, including at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday between its foreign minister and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo… (LINK TO STORY)


FIRM UPDATE: Bingham Group Adds Tina Bui as Senior Consultant for Land Use and Transportation

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

An Austinite since childhood, Tina is a local government insider with 20 years of experience in public policy and administration. Having built the bulk of her career at the City of Austin and Capital Metro, she has rare experience on all sides of City Hall- having served as a policy adviser to an Austin council member, staffer in multiple City departments, and political appointee to the City of Austin’s Planning Commission.

Her work has covered countless issue areas, including land use planning; transportation, public transit and smart mobility; water and waste management utilities; and general government administration… (READ MORE)

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 

Instagram #binghamgp