BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 17, 2019)



Williamson tax incentives for Apple could double if project lives up to $1 billion billing (Austin American-Statesman)

Apple Inc.’s planned new corporate campus in North Austin has been touted as a $1 billion project by everyone from Apple executives and local business leaders to Gov. Greg Abbott. If the campus actually lives up to that billing, however, Apple could receive more than double the original estimate of $16 million in taxpayer-funded incentive payments that Williamson County has agreed to provide the company.

That’s because the $16 million figure is based on an assumption that Apple won’t come close to reaching a $1 billion investment during the 15-year term of the incentive deal, according to Williamson County documents obtained by the American-Statesman, even though Apple cited its plan for an “investment of $1 billion to build a new campus in North Austin” in the first sentence of its official announcement of the project last month…

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Workforce housing group eyes four apartment complex purchases in 2019 (Austin Monitor)

An investment group focused on preserving workforce housing units around Austin has announced plans to add 2,000 more apartment units to its portfolio in 2019.

The Austin Housing Conservancy Fund expects to purchase four apartment complexes around the city this year in addition to the three complexes it bought in 2018 that gave it nearly 800 units with roughly 1,200 residents.

Unlike traditional real estate investment groups, the conservancy was organized with a nonprofit organization and created specifically to keep rents in its portfolio affordable to residents and families earning between 60 and 120 percent of the area’s median income. Units targeted at that income level are harder to build and preserve than lower-income units classified as affordable because there are fewer subsidies and other government programs available to decrease their costs…

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IndyAustin PAC will not be involved in stadium battle (Austin Monitor)

Linda Curtis, the Bastrop-based activist best known for gathering signatures for various citizen initiatives in Austin, has disbanded a political action committee linked to her advocacy group, IndyAustin.

The group will continue to engage in advocacy, Curtis said in an interview with the Austin Monitor.

“We are not ceasing operations,” she said. “We’re just putting the PAC to bed. There’s no election that we’re engaged in. The PAC is necessary for reporting expenditures for a campaign … we have no interest in engaging in elections.”

IndyAustin was involved in a petition drive aimed at overturning City Council’s decision to give city-owned land at McKalla Place to Precourt Sports Ventures for the construction of a professional soccer stadium. The petition effort was largely bankrolled by Bobby Epstein, chairman of the Circuit of the Americas racetrack and a majority investor in Austin Bold, another professional soccer team that is scheduled to begin playing at COTA later this year…

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Red River merchants’ ask for alleyway fencing reflects growing public safety challenge for district (Community Impact)

Between Beerland and the former Sidewinder music venue in the Red River Cultural District sits an abandoned alleyway that regularly attracts prostitution and drug trade, say local merchants who are now trying to install a 10-foot fence to deter the bad actors.

Addressing the adversity in the alleyway has become a priority of the Red River Merchants Association and the city’s Economic Development Department. Such attempts reflect a greater challenge faced by business owners in the area who say crime, especially organized crime, has gotten out of hand.

Cody Cowan, executive director of the Red River Cultural District Merchants Association, and Nicole Klepadlo from the city’s Economic Development Department laid out the public safety challenges Jan. 15 as they updated the Downtown Commission on plans for the fence…

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Trump administration opposes a return to federal oversight for Texas redistricting, reversing Obama-era stance (Texas Tribune)

In the latest about-face on voting rights under President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Justice no longer supports efforts to force Texas back under federal oversight of its electoral map drawing.

In legal filings this week, the Justice Department indicated it would side against the voters of color, civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers who want a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio to require Texas to seek pre-approval of its legislative and congressional maps, given previous maps that the federal judges ruled discriminatory.

“The United States no longer believes that [federal supervision] is warranted in this case,” federal attorneys said in their filing to the court…

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Meet 'Black Girl Magic,' The 19 African-American Women Elected As Judges In Texas (KUT)

Though Houston and Harris County make up one of the most ethnically and racially diverse metro areas in the country, that hasn't always been reflected in its judges. But the region recently took a big step towards representation when it elected a record 19 African-American women to the bench.

Erica Hughes is the presiding judge for Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law Number 3. Hughes is a former Army lawyer who still serves in the Texas Army National Guard. She's one of the Houston 19, the group that has also come to call themselves, "Harris County Black Girl Magic."

"A few of us are on the same floor, so of course we would see each other every day," Hughes says. "So, it's great to have them available and accessible and so close." Shannon Baldwin, the presiding judge of Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law Number 4, shares Hughes' courtroom…

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SpaceX is moving its Mars spaceship and booster work to Texas from Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times)

In a reversal of a deal local officials touted as a win for Los Angeles tech, SpaceX will no longer be developing and building its Mars spaceship and rocket booster system at the Port of Los Angeles. Instead, the work will be done in South Texas.

“This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design, and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California,” a company spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. “Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles.”…

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Shutdown Will Be Worse For Economy Than First Thought, White House Says (KUT)

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the U.S. economy than the Trump administration previously estimated, the White House acknowledged.

President Trump's economists have now doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week.

They originally estimated the partial shutdown would subtract 0.1 percentage point from economic growth every two weeks. Now, they see that loss happening every week the shutdown lasts, according to a CNBC report citing an unnamed official.

The economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to an estimate by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The partial shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — is in its fourth week…

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Episode 30: A 2019 Conversation with Austin Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (D6)

(RUN TIME - 27:30)

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (D6).

Sworn in on January 6, 2017 to a four year term, Council Member Flannigan represents Austin's Council District 6, encompassing Northwest Austin, including both Travis and Williamson Counties.

The Council Member and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the impact new faces on the Council dais will mean, as well as 2019 policy predictions.

This episode was originally recorded on January 2, 2019.

Link to Episode 30

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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