BG Reads | News You Need to Know (December 5, 2018)



Find Voting Locations Here (Travis County)


BG Podcast - Episode 25: Austin Police Department's New Labor Agreement feat. Chas Moore, Austin Justice Coalition

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with with return guest, Chas Moore, President and Founder, Austin Justice Coalition (AJC).

He and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the Austin Council’s November approval of a labor contract for the Austin Police Department.

Negotiations over the contract took nearly a year, involving not only the city and Austin Police Association, but community stakeholders like AJC.

Why Austinities should care?

The new contract provides greater level of transparency and public accountability.
Link to BG Podcast Episode 25


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Candidates dissatisfied with polling places (Austin Monitor)

After all the excitement about Austinites’ heavy participation in the Nov. 6 election, there has been a huge drop in the number of voters participating in runoff elections.

News outlets across the state reported heavy turnout throughout the November election’s early voting period, beginning with the first day. Locally, 58.29 percent of Austin’s registered voters cast ballots for a total of 404,280 votes cast, according to Travis County records. Of those, about 78 percent cast their ballots early, with only 22 percent voting on election day.

But all of that has changed now. There is no race for mayor, and decisions have been made on bond propositions and the controversial, citizen-sponsored initiatives. For voters who don’t live in Districts 1, 3 and 8, there are still elections for one school district position and one Austin Community College seat. But those races don’t have the draw of the races for mayor and City Council…

Link to story

Austin-Based Southwest Key Will Do 'Internal Review' After New York Times Investigation (KUT)

The Austin-based nonprofit that houses more migrant children than any other organization in the country plans to hire an independent attorney who will conduct a "comprehensive internal review" of issues outlined in an investigative story by The New York Times.

Among the issues the Times highlighted was Southwest Key's practice of creating a network of for-profit companies that are hired by the nonprofit to provide services ranging from construction to food services. This allowed Southwest Key to move money back to the charity, helping it get around government limits on executive pay, The Times reported.

Southwest Key CEO Juan Sánchez said in a statement that while he was disappointed the story "failed to highlight the good work we do," he said it raised "a number of issues that are of concern to me."…

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Does Austin really need more scooters? Lyft thinks so (Austin American-Statesman)

While electric scooters and bicycles already seem to be everywhere in downtown Austin, that’s not deterring more competitors from jumping into the crowded market.

On Tuesday, ride-hailing giant Lyft became the latest to enter the fray. The company has started to sprinkle its pink and black e-scooters throughout Austin, making Central Texas its fifth U.S. market.

Lyft joins a packed e-scooter and dockless bicycle scene that already features thousands of e-scooters from Uber, Lime, Bird and other companies.

Lyft will initially deploy 500 scooters downtown, the limit the city has set for that area, and the company could eventually add more scooters outside of Austin’s core. Each ride, which can be booked through Lyft’s ride-hailing app, will cost $1 to start and 15 cents per minute. The company is deploying scooters in Austin days after it closed on its purchase of New York-based shared bike startup Motivate…

Link to story

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

After being stymied by Abbott, Council moves ahead on east side housing initiative (Austin Monitor)

Hobbled by Gov. Greg Abbott in their attempts to create more homestead preservation districts that would set aside tax revenue for affordable housing in gentrifying areas, a number of City Council members are trying to maximize the impact of the city’s existing district.

Council voted in 2007 to create the city’s existing homestead preservation district, which is bordered roughly by Interstate 35 to the west, East Cesar Chavez Street to the south, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north, and Airport Boulevard to the east.

The district was inactive until 2015, when Council voted to create a homestead preservation reinvestment zone with the same boundaries. An HPRZ is one of three mechanisms that the state allows cities to use for HPDs to generate funds for affordable housing. Essentially it’s a type of tax increment finance district in which a certain portion of any new tax revenue that is generated from properties in the district is set aside to build housing for those at or below 70 percent of the median family income…

Link to story


Texas Lawmakers Always Fight About Guns. This Legislative Session Will Be No Different. (KUT)

During the weeks leading up to next session of the Texas Legislature, we're examining some of the state's most pressing issues – and the bills lawmakers have filed to address them.

First up, guns. 

Two of the worst mass shootings in the state's history have taken place since the last legislative session – one in a Sutherland Springs church that left 26 dead and 20 injured; another in Santa Fe High School that left 13 dead and 10 injured.

After the Santa Fe shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott held days of roundtable discussions with parents, students, law enforcement and lawmakers, which culminated in a list of 22 ideas to help combat gun violence in Texas. While some of those proposals have the backing of Abbott and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, others face a harder road this legislative session…

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Texas liquor giant Spec's sues Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for "abusive" enforcement attempts (Texas Tribune)

The state’s largest liquor chain — Spec’s Wine, Spirits and Finer Foods — is suing the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission for “abusive regulatory overreach” over an enforcement action that dragged on for almost two years before falling apart in administrative proceedings last year, court documents show.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Houston in late August but only recently unsealed, alleges that the TABC “wrongfully and maliciously” attempted to “extort” money from Spec’s by threatening to effectively shut the company down or by making the family-owned business fork over more than $700 million in civil penalties.

The TABC, citing the pending litigation, declined to comment.

In a stinging rebuke of the TABC last year, a pair of administrative law judges said the agency failed to prove dozens of allegations and chastised the agency for failing to disclose evidence to their own witness (and the court). The judges also called out the agency for “stacking” charges, a tactic commonly used to pressure defendants into a settlement. In the end, the judges recommended no fines be assessed against the liquor chain…

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Beto O’Rourke met with Barack Obama as he ponders a 2020 presidential campaign (Texas Tribune)

Beto O’Rourke, weighing whether to mount a 2020 presidential bid, met recently with Barack Obama at his post-presidency offices in Washington.

The meeting, which was held on Nov. 16 at the former president’s offices in Foggy Bottom, came as former Obama aides have encouraged the Democratic House member to run, seeing him as capable of the same kind of inspirational campaign that caught fire in the 2008 presidential election.

The meeting was the first sign of Obama getting personally involved in conversations with O’Rourke, who despite his November loss in a U.S. Senate race in Texas has triggered more recent discussion and speculation than any other candidate in the burgeoning 2020 field…

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GOP senators: The Trump administration is covering up Khashoggi’s killing (Washington Post)

Republican senators emerged from a briefing Tuesday about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and essentially accused the Trump administration of misleading the country about it — and even covering it up for Saudi Arabia.

In remarks after a briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-TN, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham. R-SC, suggested there is no plausible way that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman didn’t order the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, and said that the evidence is overwhelming. This is completely contrary to the narrative that has been put forward by President Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Trump has said it’s unknowable whether the crown prince was actually behind it — despite the CIA concluding this with “high confidence” — while Pompeo said last week that there was no “direct reporting” implicating him. Graham said Tuesday that you’d have to be “willfully blind” to not know Mohammed was responsible — a clear rebuke of Trump’s argument that this whole thing resides in some kind of gray area. Graham was also asked about Pompeo’s comments and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s comments that there was no “smoking gun.” The senator said there was indeed a “smoking saw” — a reference to the reported bonesaw that was brought to dismember Khashoggi — and that Pompeo was being a “good soldier” by toeing the administration’s line…

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Homeland Security chief Nielsen has saved her job — for now (Politico)

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was recently on the brink of losing her job, is now expected to survive the Cabinet shake-up President Donald Trump has spent weeks teasing — and she may have the caravan to thank.

On the verge of firing by a president who has said she isn’t a strong enough defender of the U.S.-Mexico border, Nielsen has adopted — and made sure to publicize — a tough stance in response to the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. that Trump turned into a major midterm campaign issue. She has visited the southern border three times since October and recently hailed Trump as a forceful “leader.” The firm posture seems to have impressed her most important audience: the president. Five sources inside and close to the administration describe a clear shift in the president’s feelings toward his DHS chief, about whom he has repeatedly complained over the past year. Her fate is of particular interest because, administration officials say, White House chief of staff John Kelly, a longtime Nielsen mentor and defender, could quickly follow her out the door in frustration. Even some of her critics concede that Nielsen seems to have bought herself time with some savvy presentation. “She’s playing the part of an immigration hawk as opposed to actually being one,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, who’s been critical of Nielsen in the past. There is no such thing as total job security in Trump’s administration, where every official is subject to the president’s whims…

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