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

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[BG PODCAST]

BG Podcast - Episode 27: Community Conversation with Pastor Joseph C. Parker, Jr.

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Joseph C. Parker, Jr., Esq., D. Min., the Senior Pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in East Austin.

A respected community leader, he has been described as “called by God, shaped by experience, a man of action, and a Renaissance man.”

A respected voice and bridge builder on many key Austin issues, including civil rights and gentrification, Pastor Parker has been described as “called by God, shaped by experience, a man of action, and a Renaissance man.”….

Link to BG Podcast


[AUSTIN METRO]

Major League Soccer And Precourt Sports Sign Lease For Stadium Site In North Austin (KUT)

Precourt Sports Ventures signed a lease with the City of Austin today for 24 acres in North Austin to build a Major League Soccer stadium.

“Bringing major league sports to Austin will help bring all parts of our diverse city together, so today’s lease signing is very exciting for our community,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. “The partnership between the team, the League and the City is a great deal for Austin. I can’t wait for us to celebrate our first MLS championship.”

Plans for the McKalla Place site near the Domain include an open-air grass stadium that will seat around 20,000 spectators for soccer and other events. It will cost an estimated $220 million and take about two years to build. Financing and building costs will be entirely covered by Precourt Sports Ventures and Anthony Precourt…

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At Austin’s Futures Command, Army loosens up as it looks for innovation (Austin American-Statesman)

It’s been four months since the Army debuted its Futures Command, a facility aimed at developing new military technologies alongside private tech companies in Austin and elsewhere. In that time, staff members who have long worked in the rigorous, highly-regulated Army system have had to adjust to the new arrangement, as well as a completely different city culture.

When the Army this past summer chose Austin as the site for the Futures Command, officials said the hub would operate unlike any other military branch. To reach its goal of building cutting-edge tech in an accelerated timeline, Army officials said the facility would have to blend in with the high-tech culture here. So the Army set up its Futures Command to operate like a company. At the typical Army post, service members work and live in an ecosystem entirely composed of Army personnel. It’s a world where daily necessities -- grocery stores, medical centers, gyms -- are found within the confines of the base. Schedules are regulated: Early wakeup calls followed by daily fitness routines, scheduled lunches and regimented work itineraries. Members typically keep only three uniforms: Their work-out gear, a camouflage uniform and a dress uniform. They follow orders that direct them exactly how to accomplish a task and take the chain of command even more serious than the typical job place. “Because we are building the unit, we have to set all of the expectations from the ground up,” said Luz Person, a 42-year-old human resources employee who has served in the Army since 2008 and was previously stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. “This is the first unit built like this.” …

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Hundreds of apartments plus more space for tech companies, restaurants coming to Austin's Riverside Drive (Austin Business Journal)

Development momentum in the East Riverside Drive corridor just keeps building.

River City Capital Partners LLC plans a mixed-use development at 6400 E. Riverside Dr. called Urban East. It will feature 100,000 square feet of office space, 20,000 square feet of retail and 375 apartment units averaging about 850 square feet. It will also include two parking garage structures with about 788 spots, plus 85 surface parking spaces.

Construction is set to begin during the second quarter of 2019. Financing is expected to be finalized during the first quarter. St. Croix Capital Realty Advisors LLC will handle leasing…

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2019: AFD’s new chief prioritizes communication (Austin Monitor)

After just over five months with an interim chief, the Austin Fire Department finally has a permanent leader. As the year winds down, Joel Baker assumes his role as fire chief at the department amid an environment of transition and growth. With five new fire stations coming online to expand coverage to a growing city, an oft-strained relationship between AFD brass and the Austin Firefighters Association, ongoing negotiations for emergency coverage and a continued need for firefighters, Chief Baker steps in with a practical mindset that only years of experience can bring.

To bring the Austin Monitor up to speed on his plans for 2019, Chief Baker sat down with us after only four days in office.

“I’m looking at more opportunity in 2019 than challenges,” he told the Monitor. His laundry list of tasks for the new year is already ironed out, but he explained that in order for things to pan out, consistent communication is going to be key. “I don’t need to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he said. “If I say I’m going to do something, I need to do it. If I don’t do it, I need to give a reason.”…

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Austin-area housing market remains on track for record year (Austin American-Statesman)

It’s shaping up to be another record year for the Austin-area housing market.

That’s according to the Austin Board of Realtors, which in its latest monthly report projects that once the year-end totals are in, 2018 will set records for sales, the median home-sale price and dollar volume in the Central Texas region. It would mark the eighth straight year in which sales and the median price topped the previous year’s figures.

The Austin-Round Rock region also set a record for the month of November, with the most sales volume and dollar volume for any November on record. Additionally, the median home price is the highest it has been for the month of November…

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[TEXAS]

Dennis Bonnen has spent half his life in the Texas House. Is he ready to run it? (Texas Tribune)

Ten votes.

That’s the razor-thin margin by which a young Dennis Bonnen — two years out of college — made it into the 1996 Republican primary runoff for House District 25.

Those votes separated him and third-place finisher Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, the man behind the Buc-ee’s convenience store chain. The 24-year-old Bonnen went on to win the runoff and general election, becoming the youngest member of the House at the time.

Twenty-two years later, he is weeks away from taking it over.

Bonnen’s ascent to presumptive House speaker caught many by surprise. But those who know him have learned not to count out the kid who almost missed that 1996 runoff…

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As most states raise their minimum wages, Texas refuses to budge (Texas Tribune)

As the state Legislature prepares to return to session in January, Democrats will once again push to increase the state minimum wage, even as the number of minimum wage workers in Texas continues to decline: In 2017 only about 3 percent, or about 196,000 of the state’s workers, earned at or below the federal minimum wage, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso, has already filed legislation for the 2019 legislative session that would let counties and cities set a local minimum wage that’s higher than the state minimum wage — which isn’t currently permitted under state law. Ortega, who has served on the House’s Economic and Small Business Development Committee, proposed similar legislation last session, but the bill never made it out of committee.

And even though Republicans will still dominate the legislature next year, she’s hopeful “things are going to be a little different” after Democrats increased their numbers in both the House and Senate in last month’s elections…

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[NATION]

Stopgap bill to avert shutdown punts border wall to next year (New York Times)

Moving to end a looming government shutdown, Congress is expected to pass a stopgap spending bill this week that would keep the government funded through Feb. 8 — and would punt the impasse over a southern border wall to the new year and a divided Congress.

The measure, first announced by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, could pass the Senate as soon as Wednesday before being taken up by the House on Thursday and sent to President Trump ahead of the midnight Friday deadline, when funding lapses for nine federal departments. Both Democratic leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, said Democrats would support such a measure. “I’m glad the leader thinks the government should not shut down over the president’s demand for a wall,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Shutting down the government before Christmas is a terrible idea, one of the worst to come down the pike in a very long time.” But it remained unclear if Mr. Trump, who has been a volatile factor throughout the spending debate, would sign such a measure without the $5 billion he has demanded for a wall at the Mexican border. Vice President Mike Pence, leaving a luncheon with Senate Republicans, did not answer questions from reporters about whether the president would endorse a stopgap spending bill. Mr. Trump has publicly embraced shutting down the government to force Democrats to capitulate on wall funding, but in the last two days, White House officials have signaled a softening of that position…

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'Ripe for an outbreak': vaccine exemptions are on the rise (Governing)

By many measures, the anti-vaccination movement is thriving. All but three states allow parents to exempt their children from vaccine requirements for either religious or personal reasons, or both. Of the 18 states that allow both religious and personal exemptions, 12 have seen a rise in those exemptions since 2009.

“We’re reversing a lot of our gains. In Texas, we’re at around 60,000 kids not getting their vaccines. We are ripe for an outbreak,” says Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. This month alone, there have been reported measles outbreaks in Ocean County, N.J., and Rockland County, N.Y. Last year, 79 people -- mostly Somali-American children -- were infected with measles in Minnesota, the worst outbreak the state has had in 30 years. The state health department said the outbreak could be traced to anti-vaccination propaganda directed at the immigrant community…

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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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