BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 7, 2019)
Austin council members start new terms Monday (Austin American-Statesman)
Six members of Austin City Council will take their oaths of office Monday: two of them for the first time, and four, including Mayor Steve Adler, are renewing terms. Here’s what you need to know about the event:
So, who’s being sworn in?
Adler won a second term with a resounding 60 percent victory over former Council Member Laura Morrison and four other challengers. Council Member Kathie Tovo also won a decisive victory in District 9 to stay on the council for a third term, remaining its most senior member. Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria fended off a challenge from his sister Susana Almanza and others to keep his seat in District 3. Council Member Ann Kitchen won a second term with no challenger.
Newcomers Natasha Harper-Madison and Paige Ellis emerged victorious from runoffs to replace Ora Houston in District 1 and Ellen Troxclair in District 8, respectively, both of whom opted not to run for second terms…
AISD task force recommends cutting magnets, closing 15 schools (Austin American-Statesman)
An Austin school district advisory committee tasked with finding ways to cut millions of dollars in spending is recommending the district close up to 15 schools, redraw school boundaries, and eliminate magnet programs.
The options are among 43 recommendations the Budget Stabilization Task Force will present to school board members Monday night, as the district faces a deficit for the third year in a row, is on track to deplete its reserves within three years and faces further enrollment declines, which translate into less state funding.
“Our recommendations are difficult and challenging and get to the heart of addressing the sacred cows,” Robert Thomas, a chairman of the task force, told the American-Statesman. “I have faith that the right thing will be done and we’ll see better academic outcomes for all our kids and not just for our kids who have parents who can drive them to magnet schools or have the economic means to put them in private schools.”
If all options are put into place, the district could save at least $60 million, with many of the savings continuing annually, based on a Statesman review of the potential cuts. The committee didn’t include dollar figures for some items, but Thomas said the $60 million figure sounded accurate.
Among the recommendations in the 39-page report:
• Close up to 15 schools, among the district’s 130 campuses;
• Redraw school attendance zone boundaries;
• Eliminate the district’s three magnet programs in favor of magnet-like classes on all secondary campuses;…
New event deadline means clarity, crunch time for SXSW planners (Austin Monitor)
The Austin Center for Events has set a hard deadline of Feb. 8 for applications for special events scheduled to take place during spring festival season, or the 10 days in March that span the South by Southwest festival.
Setting that date – which was announced Dec. 27 – roughly a month ahead of the festival is a change in policy from recent years when the city would periodically announce that ACE and associated city departments were getting close to capacity for handling applications and plans for special events. With festival season typically seeing more than 200 special events taking place mostly downtown and in East Austin, the previous rolling deadline would prevent some events that were in the planning stages from taking place during a time when more than 200,000 visitors typically come to Austin…
Two years ago, the Texas Legislature started with a bang. This year, it's quieter. (Texas Tribune)
This time two years ago, the stage was already set for a political rumble.
Months before the 85th legislative session even began in January 2017, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had started laying out a hefty list of priorities, perhaps most notably the “bathroom bill,” a measure that would have restricted the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans.
“We know it’s going to be a tough fight,” Patrick said at a news conference days before the Legislature gaveled in for the first time.
He was right about the fight. The battle lines were drawn: Republican House Speaker Joe Straus had already dismissed the bill, saying it wasn’t a priority, and LGBT advocates and Democrats were already gearing up to take the issue to the mat. The fight would drag on through the summer, helping prompt a special session and headlining a stalemate between the upper and lower chambers…
Following inconclusive harassment inquiry, state Sen. Charles Schwertner asks to give up his committee chairmanship (Texas Tribune)
After facing an allegation of sexual harassment, state Sen. Charles Schwertner has told the Senate's leader he no longer wants his post as chair of the powerful health and human services committee.
In a letter sent to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday and obtained by The Texas Tribune, the Georgetown Republican indicated he planned to remain in the Senate but no longer wished to serve as a chairman during the upcoming legislative session.
“Per our discussions, I have asked not to serve in that capacity this session so that I can work and lead on other policy issues for my district as well as spend more time with my family,” Schwertner said in the letter…
Justin Rodriguez leaving Texas House after being appointed Bexar County commissioner (Texas Tribune)
State Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, is leaving the Legislature to become a Bexar County commissioner.
The county's judge, Nelson Wolff, appointed Rodriguez on Friday to replace Paul Elizondo, the longtime commissioner who died last week. The appointment creates a vacancy in Rodriguez's House District 125, paving the way for a special election to finish his term.
Rodriguez was immediately sworn after Wolff announced the appointment at a news conference.
"I wanted someone that had the confidence of the citizens and voters of County Commissioner Precinct 2," Wolff said, alluding to Rodriguez's long record of public service in the area. "Justin Rodriguez has certainly exemplified that in a very important way."…
Trump Repeats Calls For A Border Wall As Shutdown Negotiations Continue (KUT)
President Trump continued calling for more than $5.7 billion for the construction of a border wall on Sunday, as the partial government shutdown stretched into its third week. He said negotiations would begin again on Monday, adding that he needed to deal directly with Democratic leaders.
Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump said, "We'll obviously be discussing the wall, which is desperately needed ... We have to build a wall, we have to build a barrier. The barrier, or the wall, can be made of steel instead of concrete in case that helps people."
Talks have remained at an impasse over the president's funding request for the wall. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for the construction of a fence and border security. The president has said he will not budge on the money he is requesting…
Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Rodney Gonzales, then Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD). The department was created in 2015 to handle residential and commercial permitting issues separately from zoning issues.
Rodney discusses his background and path to DSD, and current department initiatives with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham.
Recorded on December 18, 2018, it was announced on December 21 that Rodney was promoted to Assistant City Manager for Economic Opportunity and Affordability.
This role will expand his coverage beyond development services to include a range of issues such as: resources for small and minority-owned businesses; neighborhood housing and community development; telecommunications; regulatory affairs; and the Austin Convention Center.
We wish him good luck in the new role!