BG Reads | News You Need to Know (December 18, 2018)



Gus Garcia, the first elected Hispanic mayor of Austin, dies at 84 (Austin Monitor)

Gustavo “Gus” Garcia, a former Austin school board trustee, City Council member and the first elected Hispanic mayor of Austin, died early Monday surrounded by his family. He was 84.

At a memorial service at Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, Mayor Steve Adler remembered Garcia’s years of service to Austin.

“He really was one of our civic giants,” Adler said. “He brought equity and access issues to the forefront. And then in my entire term, he has been a real close friend and a mentor.”

“We will forever say the last three lines of our creed with so much power,” the school’s principal, Sterlin McGruder, said. Ten students wearing the school’s uniform recited in unison: “I look good. I feel good. I am a Gus Garcia man.”

Superintendent Paul Cruz asked that all AISD schools lower their flags to half-staff. He said Garcia had a lot of pride: “Pride in the work that he was doing. Pride in his family.”

Born in Zapata in 1934, Garcia later moved with his family to Laredo. He attended Laredo Junior College before flunking out and eventually joining the U.S. Army in 1954. He went back to Laredo Junior College after a two-year stint in the military and enrolled at the University of Texas in 1957. He started his own accounting firm in Austin in 1965…

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With Unanimous Vote, Cap Metro Takes Next Step In Plan For Future Of Austin Transit (KUT)

In a 6-0 vote, Austin's transit agency advanced its vision for getting a rapidly growing population around town as fast and easy as possible. But there are several more hoops for the Project Connect plan to jump through before you'll actually see it go into effect.

Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen, a Capital Metro board member, said the unanimous vote means the agency is taking the next step in getting people from A to B in dedicated lanes without getting stuck in traffic.

The vote authorized an engineering and environmental study and called for more input from the community before the project goes to City Council in the spring. Then, the plan returns to Cap Metro in the fall, Kitchen said, leading up to a 2020 public vote on how to pay for the project…

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Richard Overton, nation's oldest living WWII vet, back in the hospital with pneumonia (Austin American-Statesman)

Richard Overton, an Austin resident and oldest living World War II veteran, has been hospitalized with pneumonia for the second time this year, according to family.

His family is asking for prayers as Overton recovers at St. David’s Medical Center, where he has been since Wednesday, said his cousin Volma Overton Jr. “This is probably his third time fighting pneumonia this year, and he’s been to the hospital twice for it,” Volma Overton Jr. said. “It hit him hard, but they’re taking wonderful care of him.”…

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Trammell Crow, Hines ranked as country's largest property developers (Dallas Morning News)

A Dallas property firm has been named the country's top commercial real estate developer. Trammell Crow Co. topped Commercial Property Executive magazine's new ranking of the firms with the most commercial building activity.

Trammell Crow had almost 38 million square feet under construction and 34 million square feet completed during the last three years. The Dallas developer — a unit of CBRE — has held the magazine's top spot since 2014. Trammell Crow just finished its largest Dallas project, the two-tower, $350 million Park District development overlooking downtown's Klyde Warren Park. Trammell Crow had more than 6 million square feet of commercial real estate projects in the development pipeline in North Texas this year. Houston-based Hines was second in the ranking. And Dallas' Lincoln Property Co. ranked seventh among the country's biggest developers…

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Gov. Greg Abbott selects deputy chief of staff as new secretary of state (Texas Tribune)

A high-ranking aide to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is poised to become Texas’ newest top election official.

Abbott on Monday appointed David Whitley, who served most recently as the governor's deputy chief of staff, as the next secretary of state. Whitley replaces outgoing Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, who stepped down Dec. 15 after nearly two years in the position.

“David has been an invaluable member of my administration for over a decade, both in my time as attorney general and during the entirety of my first term as governor,” Abbott said in a statement. “I am confident that in his new role as secretary of state, David will continue to safeguard the integrity of our elections and maintain Texas’ standing on the international stage.”…

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A Texas school contractor says she lost her job because she won't promise not to boycott Israel. Now she's suing. (Texas Tribune)

ahia Amawi had been working as an independently contracted speech pathologist in Pflugerville elementary schools for nine years when she was notified in August ofa new job requirement. She could still work at identifying students' speech delays and disorders. But now, she also had to promise that she wouldn't boycott Israel.

That requirement may have seemed like it didn't have much to do with speech pathology. But the new clause in her contract was a result of a long-debated anti-boycott, divestments, and sanctions bill that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed in May, effectively making it illegal for Texas government entities to contract with companies that boycott Israel.

“My first reaction was shock,” Amawi said. “Why is the government restricting me from boycotting a certain entity?”…

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El Niño forecast to bring more rain, flooding this winter to Houston (Houston Chronicle)

The National Weather Service forecasts an 80 percent chance for a weak to moderate El Niño this winter, starting around Christmas and lasting through February. In Houston, El Niño means a warmer and wetter winter that could have more severe storms and a higher risk of localized flooding.

Last week’s storm, which brought high winds and street flooding to the region, is indicative of an El Niño storm, said Ken Prochazka, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Houston. “After our wet fall, the ground out there is saturated,” Prochazka said. “When we don’t get a chance to dry out, we’re more likely to have runoff and street flooding.” El Niño occurs when the temperature of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America is warmer than usual. The warm Pacific water affects the atmosphere and causes changes in weather patterns around the world. In the U.S., El Niño accelerates the North American jet stream, pushing storms from the Pacific across the the country at a faster speed. Storms can move across Texas every three to four days during El Niño, dropping more rain than usual. Houston typically sees 3.6 inches of rain in January…

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New Reports Detail Expansive Russia Disinformation Scheme Targeting U.S. (KUT)

Two new reports produced for Senate investigators say that Russian influence efforts infected every major social media platform, extensively targeted African-Americans and amounted to what researchers called a "propaganda war against American citizens."

The reports, which were drawn up by private cybersecurity firms on behalf of the Senate intelligence committee, offer the most comprehensive look yet at Russia's online influence operations.

They are based on information provided by the panel and the social media companies themselves…

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BG Podcast - Episode 26: Law Enforcement Responses to Mental Health

Episode 26 t features a conversation with Dr. Elizabeth Truong, MD. She is the co-Founder & Chief Clinical Officer at Cloud 9, a telehealth platform for mental healthcare.

Dr. Troung and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the City of Austin’s September 2018 police department audit, which found the city had one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings of people suffering from mental health issues nationally.

The two also discuss how municipalities can better approach police interactions involving mental health and Cloud9’s technology solution to assist them…

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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