BG Reads | News You Need to Know (December 28, 2018)



Austinite Richard Overton, America's Oldest Veteran, Dies At 112 (KUT)

Richard Overton, the oldest known American World War II veteran, has died. Overton, who turned 112 in May, was the oldest man in the United States. He was hospitalized recently for pneumonia but was released from the hospital earlier this week.

Overton was born in Bastrop County in 1906. He enlisted in the Army in 1940 and was part of an all-black engineer aviation battalion.

"Uncle Sam called me in, and I went there and I had to do it," he told KUT's Audrey McGlinchy in 2015. He served in Pearl Harbor and in the Pacific theater at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

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Paige Ellis represents sharp political shift for Southwest Austin’s District 8 (Austin Monitor)

“Paige Ellis, the incoming City Council member for District 8, has very different political views from her predecessor, Ellen Troxclair, who spent the last two years as the only Republican on Council.

Ellis, who made her affiliation with the Democratic Party central to her campaign, triumphed over Republican Frank Ward in the Dec. 11 runoff election. As a result, for the first time in the four-year history of the 10-1 Council, there will be no members of the nonpartisan body who identify as Republicans or conservatives.

Ellis said that District 8, which covers a large swath of Southwest Austin, from Zilker Park to Circle C, “is more progressive than we’ve been given credit for.”

Her duty, however, is to “hear all of those diverse voices” in the district, representing a range of political ideologies.

Asked to respond to concerns that Troxclair’s departure will remove a key check from Council’s liberal impulses, particularly on budgetary matters, Ellis said she is confident that there will still be room for “dissenting voices” on city issues…”

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Tovo to keep focus on housing, homelessness issues in 2019 (Austin Monitor)

Questions of where and how people live in Austin – specifically in District 9 – remained a front-of-mind issue for Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo in 2018.

Whether she was on the City Council dais or involved in campaign events ahead of her successful re-election in November, Tovo said a combination of displacement, homelessness, affordability, rising property taxes and the tabled rewrite of the city’s land use code were the biggest issues on her agenda.

It doesn’t appear that 2019 will be much different; the restart of the CodeNEXT process is sure to be one of Council’s main priorities beginning in January, and the situation with homelessness downtown is as concerning as ever.

But Tovo said some long-gestating policies conceived and enacted in recent years should come to fruition in 2019, especially related to homelessness. Among them: increased funding for a variety of services for the homeless, and awarding a new contract to manage the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, which will come with a reinvention of how the facility operates…

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Alison Alter relishes academic approach to government (Austin Monitor)

Two years into her tenure on City Council, District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said she remains focused on the reasons she ran for the seat against former Council Member Sheri Gallo.

“I didn’t run as a political insider, nor because I craved the spotlight,” she said in an interview with the Austin Monitor at her City Hall office. “I ran because I wanted to create solutions to the problems I saw around the city.”

“I’m an academic at heart,” Alter added. “I don’t come to the issues with my mind made up. I really look at the data. I’m not an ideologue. I think in today’s politics it’s important to know that. I do my analysis based on facts and the details. I tend to ask a lot of hard questions.”…

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The vision behind 12,000-home community: 3 questions with developer of planned Austin Green development (Austin Business Journal)

The gears are turning on a 2,100-acre residential and commercial development near the airport — what could be the largest planned unit development request before Austin City Hall in 2019.

Austin Green would transform a massive swath of Southeast Austin into a dense urban landscape with homes, offices, shops and parkland. The developers said they recently submitted the rezoning request to make it happen.

GroundWork wants to build 12,000 residential units and 2.25 million square feet of commercial space, as well as a three-acre fire station. Austin Green, which is now a sand and gravel quarry, would be massive at more than 2,000 acres straddling both sides of State Highway 130 from the Colorado River to FM 969…

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In the Lone Star State, cities feel the heat from state leaders (U.S. News and World Report)

The Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 8 for its 140-day biannual session, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are already up in arms about "overreach." But in the Lone Star State, it's not just Republicans vs. Democrats –– it's about blue-leaning cities vs. the red state in which they're located.

Observers are bracing for an extra push against the big four metro areas – Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio -- far beyond the "Austin bashing" that's prevailed for decades. The current political climate has pitted the state against its urban areas as some national groups stir up the divide. Momentum is building for this approaching session to be the ultimate showdown between Texas cities and the state. "Local control has been under assault a long time now in the Texas Legislature," says Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas-area Democrat first elected in 2004.

"For people who believe in local control, I'm very concerned about an overreach by the state government." Last session, lawmakers approved several measures that curtailed local power, including a statewide ban on texting while driving, which superseded stricter hands-free cellphone bans in at least 45 Texas cities, including Austin and San Antonio. Also in that session, the battle over sanctuary cities pitted the state versus local control, with the law making local elected and appointed officials subject to punishment for violating the immigrant enforcement measure. And, legislators approved a statewide law to regulate ride-hailing companies that overrode local measures requiring fingerprinting of drivers in Houston, Austin and other cities. At the same time, Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth says he's now seeing "a more aggressive overreach on the part of some of our biggest cities." "What you're seeing in some these cities and local governments are attempts at overreach – getting into areas they should not be getting into," he says. Krause, a Republican, has filed a measure for the 2019 session to bar cities from adopting ordinances independently of the state, such as measures already approved in Austin and San Antonio that require employers to offer paid sick time to employees.

"From my perspective, they're not only terrible policies, but it's not the role of the government to dictate these," adds Krause, whose Texas House profile page says he's been "recognized for his stances on limited government."…

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In fiery filing, Ken Paxton prosecutors ask Texas court to undo "patently absurd result" in pay case (Texas Tribune)

n a fiery filing that amounts to a legal Hail Mary, the attorneys appointed to prosecute Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton implored the state’s highest criminal court to take the unusual step of considering their case again because last month’s opinion yielded “a patently absurd result.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in November that a six-figure payment originally approved for the special prosecutors was outside legal limits — a move that boosted Paxton and threatened to derail the case against him, as the prosecutors had indicated they might withdraw if they could not be paid. A month later, the prosecutors have asked the court to reconsider their decision in a crucial case “where the ‘x’ axis of justice and the ‘y’ axis of politics intersect.”…

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Question abound about San Antonio’s new paid sick leave law (San Antonio Express-News)

Most evenings, some two dozen boys and girls wearing doboks — traditional martial-arts uniforms — and rank-defining belts will stream into Elva Adams’ Northwest Side taekwondo studio, eager to show off their newly mastered sparring skills. But what if the instructor gets sick?

It’s not like there’s a temp agency stocked with taekwondo teachers who have undergone the necessary background checks to work with children. Either someone on staff covers for the sick teacher or the class is rescheduled. Now Adams has a little more uncertainty when it comes to sick teachers. In August, San Antonio city council passed an ordinance requiring private employers to provide paid sick leave. The new law kicks in Jan. 1. Among Adam’s questions: If a class is rescheduled, will she have to pay the worker for both the missed class and the rescheduled class? “I just don’t believe this should be a one-size fits all policy,” she said.

“If our instructor is sick, of course we’re going to take care of them. We don’t want them to come here and make everybody else sick. But then, we don’t need the government, the city, to tell us you have to do this.” As a member of the Alamo Asian American Chamber of Commerce, she said she hears the same concerns from her peers. Many aren’t up on the goings-on at City Hall and felt blindsided by the new law…

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See also:

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

BG Podcast - Episode 20: Talking Local Control and Paid Sick Leave with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)


Gallup: The Obamas are America's most admired man and woman (AXIOS)

Michelle Obama unseated Hillary Clinton as the most admired woman in the U.S., claiming the title alongside her husband, former President Barack Obama, who has remained the most admired man for 11 straight years, according to Gallup's annual poll.

Clinton held the title of most admired woman for 17 consecutive years, but this year was surpassed by both Obama and Oprah Winfrey. President Trump came in second place for the fourth year in a row, marking only the 13th time — and Trump's second — that a sitting president didn't top the list since its inception in 1946…

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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

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