BG Reads| News You Need to Know (November 15, 2018)



Tech leaders consider autonomous vehicles, scooters and more to solve transit (Austin Monitor)

For all the debate and hope over new transit plans and the potential for light rail to move Austin residents around quickly and efficiently, the city’s growing traffic and transportation problems come down to simple math. That was the point that Karla Taylor, chief of staff for Austin’s Transportation Department, made at a recent panel discussion about how the city’s technology sector can contribute to local transit improvements.

“We’ll have 3.5 million people here by 2040, and that means major delays,” Taylor told the audience gathered for the Austin Forum on Technology and Society’s November panel at Austin Central Library. “Everybody trying to go to the same place at a different time … and 75 percent of us are driving in our cars alone. That’s not sustainable, and the roadways aren’t getting any bigger.”

The table set with Taylor’s frequent reminder that it’s not possible to easily change the geometry of Austin’s roads, panelists spent the night sharing their thoughts on the possibilities and challenges inherent in the city’s growth and currently limited transportation capacity…

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See also:

BG Podcast - Episode 18: Talking Scooter Share with Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation

BG Podcast - Episode 14: Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director, Smart Mobility, Austin Transportation Department

Multifamily affordable housing breaks West Austin development pattern (Austin Monitor)

As the overwhelming support for Proposition A at last week’s election indicates, Austin-area residents want affordable housing as much as they need it. This fact is especially apparent following Travis County Commissioners Court’s support on Tuesday morning of a dense and affordable multifamily development to be built in the expensive, exclusively single-family Lakeway neighborhood near Lake Travis at Storm Drive and FM 620.

Rise Residential Construction previously submitted an application to the Community Development Block Grant Office for a fair housing review with the ultimate goal of applying to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for a 4 percent low-income housing tax credit allocation for Lakeway Apartment Homes. After review, the grant office and the county Department of Transportation and Natural Resources recommended a resolution of no objection to the Commissioners Court, which the court unanimously approved Tuesday morning…

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New Project Connect plan has ambitions for 2020 (Austin Monitor)

Once again, Austin has been reminded of the importance of public transportation, in photos that surfaced this week of the Crystal City metro system that sits right beneath the Amazon headquarters in Crystal City, Va.

“As we plan and plan again, our peer systems are investing,” Scott Morris of the Central Austin Community Development Corporation told the Urban Transportation Commission at its Nov. 13 meeting.

After unveiling the new vision for its Project Connect plan at the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Regional Mobility Summit in October, Capital Metro has been careful to emphasize that all its plans are far from set in stone, or as Morris pointed out, everything is still in the planning stages.

“Right now it is all conceptual. It’s lines on a map,” said Dave Couch, the Project Connect program officer for Capital Metro, at the meeting. While the project is still in preliminary stages, Couch said that he hopes to have the plan on the 2020 ballot for voters’ approval…

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Army Futures Command looks to partner with Texas A&M (Austin American-Statesman)

When the U.S. Army in July selected Austin for the headquarters of its Futures Command tech center, it did so not only because of the city’s tech talent and culture, but also because of resources it saw available throughout the state.

One of the most notable was Texas A&M University, which is now poised to join the Futures Command’s efforts in creating new technologies for the military, with the university offering access to its array of researchers, testing spaces and other tools. Gen. John Murray, commanding general for the Futures Command, and a handful of Army officials are visiting College Station on Thursday and Friday to meet with A&M officials and iron out a partnership, which is likely to include Army aerial and land vehicle testing at the university and other technology initiatives. The Futures Command’s leaders “understood we have to partner with the best of academia and research” to succeed, Futures Command spokesman Patrick Seiber said. “When you have great academic institutions ... that is a draw. There are already things that Texas A&M is doing for research.” The main opportunity for the Futures Command exists at the university’s RELLIS campus, which is home to a flight test station where aerial and ground vehicles can perform drills. (RELLIS is an acronym for the seven Aggie Core values of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service.)…

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Facebook has gone on the attack as one scandal after another, which has led to a congressional and consumer backlash (New York Times)

In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world.

Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500. But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives. When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem. And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and it faced a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack…

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Maxine Waters says easing banking regulations 'will come to an end' when she takes committee chair (CNBC)

Rep. Maxine Waters pledged Wednesday that Trump administration efforts to roll back banking reforms won't stand when the new Congress convenes. The California Democrat is expected to take over as chair of the House Financial Services Committee.

"Make no mistake, come January, in this committee the days of this committee weakening regulations and putting our economy once again at risk of another financial crisis will come to an end," Waters said during a hearing with Randal Quarles, the Fed's vice chair of banking supervision. Bank shares moved lower following a CNBC report on the remarks, with the SPDR S&P Bank ETF down 0.6 percent in morning trade. Waters is likely to take over as chair of the committee following the midterm elections that gave back House control to the Democrats. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, currently presides over the committee. In addition to Wednesday's remarks, she has indicated she might use subpoena power to investigate President Donald Trump's connection to Deutsche Bank and whether it loaned Trump money that was guaranteed by the Russian government…

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Flake Pledges To Block Committee Votes On Judges — Until Mueller Bill On Senate Floor (KUT)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is blocking a bipartisan effort to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Russia attack on the 2016 presidential election — prompting retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to pledge he will block progress on confirming judicial nominees.

"Why are we so sanguine about this?" Flake said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. "Why? Why do we do this, to protect a man who seemingly is so incurious about what Russia did during the 2016 elections. Why do we do that?"

Flake holds the deciding vote on a narrowly divided Senate Judiciary Committee, which means he could block forward movement on Republican-nominated judicial picks at the committee level for the rest of the year. There are currently 21 judicial nominees awaiting a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee…

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BG Podcast - Episode 23: Policy Update - Austin's Chapter 380 Economic Incentive Agreements

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with returning guest David A. Colligan, Acting Assistant Director Economic Development Department, City of Austin.

A follow-up to Episode 12, David and Bingham Group CEO discuss the Austin City Council’s passage of a framework for a restructuring the city’s economic incentives programs (on August 30, 2018) with the goal of increasing small business growth and improving job opportunities for lower-wage and middle-skill workers.

See also: BG Podcast - Episode 12: Policy Discussion RE Austin's Chapter 380 Economic Incentive Agreements

Links: Council approves plan to revamp incentives, with small businesses in mind (Austin Monitor)

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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