BG Reads | News You Need to Know (November 26, 2018)



Democrats rally around Ellis, police and realtors back Ward as runoff looms (Austin American-Statesman)

In advance of a Dec. 11 runoff election, a group of Austin-area Democrats that includes Mayor Steve Adler is rallying around Paige Ellis as the political newcomer from Southwest Austin tries to flip the City Council’s only conservative-leaning seat.

“I am supporting Paige,” Adler said Monday. “I’m doing that because I think she’s smart, a hard worker and best represents the values of Austin.”

In the runoff, Ellis is facing Frank Ward, a corporate communications consultant who has the backing of outgoing Council Member Ellen Troxclair. With the least political experience among the field of four District 8 candidates, Ellis flew somewhat under the radar in the recent general election, but she received 31 percent of the vote to Ward’s 25 percent.

The two narrowly made the runoff ahead of Bobby Levinski and Rich DePalma, who both have long been involved in Austin government circles. Levinski and DePalma also are backing Ellis for the seat, along with several local Democratic groups that previously endorsed them.

“During the course of the campaign, I got to know both Rich DePalma and Bobby Levinski quite well, and I am honored to have their support,” Ellis said last week in a news release. “We agree that District 8 needs a voice that stands up for Southwest Austin and not another road block to progress.”

On Tuesday, Ward announced that he had the endorsements of three powerful local political groups: the Austin Police Association, Austin Fire Association and Austin Board of Realtors. He also has the backing of the local GOP.

“Frank is a leader who has demonstrated an understanding and respect for the sacrifice made by the men and women who serve the Austin community and will fight to keep our community safe,” Ken Casaday, president of the police association, said in a news release.

Adler, along with his City Council colleagues Jimmy Flannigan and Greg Casar, also is throwing support to Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, who is vying against his sister, Susana Almanza, to keep his District 3 seat.

No sitting council members, however, have publicly picked a side in East Austin’s District 1 runoff, which has Natasha Harper-Madison facing Mariana Salazar. Council Member Ora Houston, who is vacating the District 1 seat, initially endorsed former Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding, but the two women edged Harding to reach the runoff.

Though he’s only weighing in on one race, Flannigan urged people not to forget about the runoffs. Early voting begins next week on Thursday and continues through Dec. 7…

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Solving regional affordability problems will require addressing transportation costs (Austin Monitor )

Decreasing affordability in Austin and the surrounding area is primarily tied to a shortage of housing options coupled with rising property taxes. But the region’s lack of transportation options is the source of another significant, though less recognized, financial burden on residents.

That was the message from Dave Couch, the Project Connect program manager, as he briefed the Regional Affordability Committee on the evolving vision for Project Connect on Monday, Nov. 19.

Couch told the committee that, according to recent studies, average annual costs of car ownership amounts to $12,191 compared to the $1,155 annual expense of a Capital Metro Commuter Pass and the $495 annual cost of the monthly Local Pass. The point of Project Connect, Couch explained, is to provide transportation options to as many people as possible at the regional scale and alleviate transportation expenses for people well beyond the city core…

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As new Mexican president takes office, experts foresee rocky road in relations with U.S., and Texas is stuck in the middle (Houston Chronicle)

As leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes the mantle of the Mexican presidency Dec. 1, political experts, former diplomats and business leaders are bracing for a potential collision with self-styled nationalist President Donald Trump.

The anticipated confrontation between Trump and Lopez Obrador — commonly called by his initials, AMLO — could affect Texas more than any other state given the billions of dollars in Lone Star products that are sold south of the border. The possible flash points include a changing energy policy, trade protections, increased heroin and methamphetamine trafficking and an abrupt reversal of the Mexican government’s costly campaign to confront the powerful drug cartels. But perhaps the biggest is the bitterness engendered by Trump’s harsh immigration policies and his plan to erect an impenetrable wall along 1,200 miles of U.S.-Mexico border.

“There is a rocky road ahead for the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and the two presidents,” said Duncan Wood, the director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, during in a recent visit to Houston. Lopez Obrador is a skilled politician who was mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005 and national party leader, running twice for the presidency prior to winning. He and Trump are forceful, charismatic leaders with a populist, anti-establishment bent to their politics and are adept at inflaming the passions of their base supporters. And perhaps more to the point when it comes to a personality contest, “Neither of them likes to be contradicted,” said Wood…

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Would-be San Antonio candidates prepping campaigns for mayor, council (San Antonio Express-News)

Though it’s far from the minds of most, a handful of would-be politicians are already thinking about the next municipal election — set for the first Saturday in May — and gearing up for their campaigns.

At least six people have filed campaign-treasurer appointment forms, including Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe, a transgender woman and political consultant. Joined by a number of supporters, she kicked off her campaign for the District 8 council seat this month at an Italian restaurant. Filing a treasurer appointment doesn’t officially make someone a candidate, but it does mean that she can start raising and spending campaign money. The filing period for a place on the ballot runs from Jan. 16 through Feb. 15. Election day is May 4. For more than two decades, Gonzales-Wolfe has worked behind the scenes in politics, and now it’s time to step and front and run, she said. “I feel like this time around, I’m going to feel like I can have my own voice,” she said. “I’m looking at just wanting to do something good within our community. I have a different vision that’s eventually going to come out for City Council District 8, and I’m hoping to be able to implement that.”

The basis of her platform, she said, was “more inclusion.” Gonzales-Wolfe, who would apparently be the first transgender person elected to a Texas city council, said she would increase transparency and public involvement with local governance. Though she’ll face Councilman Manny Pelaez, the incumbent’s track record isn’t what spurred her to run. Pelaez said for the time being, he’s not focusing on a reelection campaign because he’s working on constituent issues. “I imagine voters feel fatigued with political campaigns right now. They’ve earned a much-needed break from yard signs, mailers and block walkers,” he said. “I respect Frankie and respect any other person who steps forward to serve our community. But, in deference to the voters, I don’t plan on having a reelection conversation with them until after the holidays.” And in citywide mayoral race, Matthew S. Piña, who also appointed himself to be his own treasurer, appears poised to challenge Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Though he’s yet to announce what he’ll do, Councilman Greg Brockhouse also appears poised to launch a mayoral campaign to unseat Nirenberg…

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At DFW Airport, your face could someday replace your boarding pass (Dallas Morning News)

On a recent weekday morning, hundreds of passengers lined up at DFW International Airport to board Japan Airlines Flight 11 to Tokyo. After a standard check of boarding passes and passports, passengers were asked to do one more thing before walking down the jet bridge — pose for a picture.

The facial recognition captures — using tablet-sized monitors with cameras — take a few seconds each and are used to keep record of people exiting the country. The scene is one from a rapidly approaching biometric future at U.S. airports that could bring facial and fingerprint scanning technologies to points throughout the travel journey, from self-checking a bag and navigating security checkpoints to boarding a plane and renting a car at your final destination. It’s a world that promises increased security and new convenience for passengers that airlines and airports are quickly rushing toward, even as the technology raises a new round of questions about privacy. DFW is one of many large airports around the world embracing the technology, with a pilot program currently being run at two gates operated by Japan Airlines and British Airways in Terminal D. DFW plans to bring the facial recognition technology to more than 75 gates in the coming months, where it will be used to track people leaving the country by comparing their facial captures to an existing government database culled from passport or visa photos. This month, the company signed a two-year, $630,000 contract to license biometric software. For now, the facial screening is predominantly aimed at foreign nationals — U.S. passport holders can opt out — to comply with federal requirements put in place after Sept. 11, 2001, to better track people entering and exiting the country. But airports, airlines and technology makers see widespread possibilities for biometrics.

DFW is looking into bringing biometric technology into its international arrivals hall to speed up customs lines. Next year, it will pilot a program for a DFW-to-London flight that will give passengers the option to use biometric technologies at as many points along the journey as possible, from booking to their hotel. The airport’s strategy is to leave as much of the decision-making up to passengers about how and when they make use of the technology, said Julio Badin, DFW’s senior vice president of customer experience. “The experience itself will be much more seamless; the customer is now even more in charge of how they want to use it,” Badin said. “A simple example would be I don’t have to take out my passport, I don’t have to take my ticket. ... It really simplifies the things that don’t have to be difficult.”…

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From Get-Out-To-Vote To Text-Out-To-Vote: The Rise Of Peer-To-Peer Texting (KUT)

Peer-to-peer texting emerged as a prominent digital tool used by both political parties during the midterm elections, and the success of this medium explains why you may have received so many campaign messages directly to your cellphone in 2018.

Unlike robotexts or calls, peer-to-peer texts are personal messages that come from volunteers who initiate a conversation with potential voters or supporters. Messages can range from asking people to vote on Election Day to providing polling location information.

Peer-to-peer texting, also called P2P, is becoming a key component of most campaign toolboxes, and is slowly eclipsing other social media methods as a means to use technology to promote campaigns…

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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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