BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 20, 2018)



Dockless Scooters Present Pitfalls (And Potholes) For Police, Pedestrians – And Insurers (KUT)

Dockless electric scooters have been for rent on Austin streets legally since May. Love them or hate them, they present some interesting legal questions for city officials, police and insurance companies.

Those questions persist as the number of so-called e-scooters grows.

The e-scooter company Lime says Austin riders have taken more than 1 million rides on its scooters since June. It has 500 scooters on the road, with plans for as many as 4,500. Bird has more than 500 scooters in Austin, and Jump – a subsidiary of Uber and the newest entrant here – has 1,000 scooters.

All those scooters are competing for space on busy roads and walkways…

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See aslo:

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

BG Podcast - Episode 8: Business and Policy Discussion feat. Austin Business Journal Editor Colin Pope

BG Podcast - Episode 10: Policy Discussion Rob Henneke on Paid Sick Leave and Local Control

Berkman zoning sparks quiet argument (Austin Monitor)

Council Member Ora Houston joined her colleagues Thursday in a unanimous vote to rezone properties on Berkman Drive, but she was clearly conflicted about it.

The decision will allow a developer to build 40 rental units and assorted retail in the middle of a residential block. Houston said she was concerned that development of the property, which spans 6203, 6205 and 6207 Berkman Drive and 6210 Hickman Avenue, would hasten decisions by neighboring property owners who operate two relatively affordable apartment complexes to sell out and displace renters. District 4 Council Member Greg Casar disagreed, but did not spend much time arguing with her during Thursday’s meeting…

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Austin Reported More Hate Crimes Than Any Other City In Texas Last Year (KUT)

Austin led Texas in the number of hate crimes reported last year, according to FBI data. The FBI’s 2017 hate crime statistics data show the state capital had 18 total incidents, marking the third year in a row the city saw hate crimes in the double digits.

Dallas was second in the state with 14 hate crimes reported last year, and Fort Worth followed closely with 13 incidents.

Of those reported hate crimes in Austin, 10 were motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry, four were motivated by sexual orientation, three were by religion and one was motivated by gender identity.

In 2016, the city saw 19 hate crimes, up from 13 in 2015. Race, ethnicity or ancestry were also the predominant motivators both those years…

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Despite prior differences, hardline conservatives cautiously optimistic about Dennis Bonnen as speaker (Texas Tribune)

It was a Sunday night in the middle of August, and the Texas House Freedom Caucus had grown frustrated with state Rep. Dennis Bonnen.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican who had been tasked with shepherding the House’s property tax measure through the lower chamber, wanted to postpone a final vote on the bill until the next morning. State Rep. Matt Schaefer, a Tyler Republican and chairman of the Freedom Caucus, wanted to nudge the issue closer to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature. Bonnen said he needed time to handle negotiations between the two chambers.

“Can’t we walk and chew gum at the same time?” Schaefer asked Bonnen from the back microphone on the House floor. The chamber was tense, and members were tired. The Texas Legislature was burning through the final hours of the special legislative session trying to hammer out a compromise on Abbott’s No. 1 issue…

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Democrats in the Texas House ponder life with Dennis Bonnen as speaker (Texas Tribune)

Democrats in the Texas House were feeling good in the days after this year’s election.

They had just picked up 12 seats in the lower chamber, chipping away at the GOP’s massive majority. And the caucus chair, state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, was working to organize members in hopes of swaying the race to become the next House speaker.

But less than a week after Election Day, the speaker’s race ended before Democrats could find a candidate to coalesce behind. One by one, those in the race to replace the retiring Republican Joe Straus had dropped out. And state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, announced that 109 out of 150 members had pledged to support his bid for the gavel. Seventy-eight of those were Republicans, meaning Bonnen had a majority of members' votes without even accounting for Democrats…

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Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones Concedes In Close Congressional Race Against Will Hurd (KUT)

As you meander through the political zoo considering the creatures collected in our latest elections, be sure to take a look at the barelies — the candidates who just barely wriggled into their Election Day victories.

The question for most (but not all) of them is not whether they won. They did. It’s whether their near-failures will temper their behavior in office.

The big changes, of course, are in places where voters flipped from one party to another. They did that in two spots in the state’s congressional delegation, two state Senate seats, a dozen state House seats, and in judicial and county and local races all over the state. That latter group includes many of the state’s most important mid-level appellate courts, county judge and county commissioner spots — particularly in areas where Republican voting strength waned this year…

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Beto O’Rourke. Julián Castro. John Cornyn. 2020 already looms large in Texas. (Texas Tribune)

Like it or not, the 2020 election cycle has already arrived in Texas.

Votes were still being tallied in the Nov. 6 midterm elections as the state's Democrats began considering how they could build on their gains in two years, further loosening the GOP's longtime grip on state government. Heartened by Beto O'Rourke's surprisingly close race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the down-ballot victories that accompanied it, Texas Democrats are now looking toward 2020 to put an exclamation point on the state's shift to a more competitive political environment.

"Turning Texas blue is not an event, it's a process," state Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in an interview, "and I think 2020 will put us, if not blue, purple — deep purple."…

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With Facebook 'at war', Zuckerberg adopts more aggressive style (Wall Street Journal)

Mark Zuckerberg gathered about 50 of his top lieutenants earlier this year and told them that Facebook was at war and he planned to lead the company accordingly. During times of peace, executives can move more slowly and ensure that everybody is on board with key decisions, he said during the June meeting, according to people familiar with the remarks.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s new approach is causing unprecedented turmoil atop Facebook, driving several key executives from the company, according to people familiar with the matter. At times, it has created tensions with his longtime chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. The June meeting and strains with Ms. Sandberg haven’t been previously reported. The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to “make progress faster” on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg also at times has expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year. On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks. One employee at the session asked if Facebook could deter leaks by publishing an internal report about how frequently offenders are found and fired. Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook does fire leakers, but the root cause was “bad morale” perpetuated by attacks in the media…

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16 Dems sign letter opposing Pelosi as Speaker (The Hill)

Sixteen Democrats have signed onto a letter opposing Rep. Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) for Speaker.

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), had been anticipated for some time and ended up one signature less than the 17 names that had been expected.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who had initially signed and is weighing a challenge to Pelosi, is not a signatory.

The letter argues that midterm voters handed Democrats the House majority with expectations of the party shaking up business-as-usual in Washington — starting with the party leader who’s been at the helm for 15 years. Maintaining control of the chamber, the insurgents say, will require keeping that vow…

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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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