BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 11, 2019)
City proposes new demolition rules (Austin Monitor)
In response to an audit last year that identified a number of problems in the city’s demolition permitting process, the Development Services Department has recommended a number of changes aimed at streamlining the process and ensuring safety.
The recommendations were included in a report published by the department in October. The report followed extensive engagement with stakeholder groups, including builders and neighborhood associations.
One of the recommendations has already been implemented: DSD has taken over permitting for all demolitions. In the past, DSD was only responsible for residential demolitions, while the Historic Preservation Office was – curiously – in charge of processing permits for commercial demolitions, even if the property in question wasn’t historic. “This reduces the amount of time HPO can spend administering the city’s historic preservation program,” the audit explained at the time. “Staff in both departments were unsure why HPO accepts and processes all commercial demolition permits.”…
City charter would push possible stadium election to November (Austin Monitor)
Petitions calling for an election that could challenge the city’s deal for a new soccer stadium aren’t expected to be certified until early February, but city staff has already decided November is the soonest a referendum election could take place.
Citing the city charter’s language covering referendum elections, city spokesman David Green said the current schedule for general elections doesn’t allow the six-month waiting period required to take place between any referendum measures. The neighborhood group Friends of McKalla Place is pushing for a May election because construction is expected to start by fall on a 20,000-seat stadium on a city-owned parcel in North Austin…
On-demand shuttle service Chariot going out of business (Austin American-Statesman)
Chariot, the San Fransisco-based on-demand shuttle service that entered the Austin market in 2016, will be ceasing all operations, the company announced Thursday.
Feb. 1 will be the last day Chariot offers service in the United States. Austin is one of 10 cities where Chariot has operated.
In a company blog post, Dan Grossman, CEO of Chariot, cited changing customer needs as a reason for the decision.
“Chariot was built on a commitment to help reduce congestion, ease the commute and improve quality of life in cities,” Grossman wrote. “We are truly grateful to you and your fellow commuters for your support over the past five years.”
Chariot was founded in 2014 as on-demand car services such as Uber and Lyft were skyrocketing in popularity.
Unlike those services, which use vehicles owned by drivers and primarily serve a small amount of customers at a time, Chariot offered 14-seater shuttle rides along fixed routes that could be booked through its mobile app. Its service included rides for private parties and events such as weddings.
In Sept. 2016, Ford Motor Company bought Chariot for a reported $65 million...
Donald Trump Says Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Offered Texas' Help Building The Border Wall (KUT)
Texas could help build President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, the president suggested Thursday — an idea that apparently came from the state’s outspoken lieutenant governor, a vocal advocate for border security.
At a McAllen roundtable Thursday with a number of Texas officials, Trump said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — a Republican who visited the White House earlier this week to talk border security — had offered to play a role in the wall’s construction.
“One of the things that Dan Patrick suggested, which I thought was very interesting, was: Give the state of Texas a relatively small amount of money — they’ll build a wall themselves, cause they wanna build it,” Trump said Thursday afternoon at a McAllen roundtable…
Shutdown anxiety sweeps both Texas and Washington (Texas Tribune)
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park's website boasts a quote from the president the Central Texas park is named for: “All the world is welcome here.” But thanks to a partial federal shutdown, the park is closed to the public.
It’s a fittingly disjointed message for a disjointed moment.
From Johnson City to Houston to practically everywhere else in the state, the impact of this partial federal shutdown is being felt — and raising questions of when federal parks will reopen, when affected federal employees will be paid and when Americans can rely on government services. President Donald Trump has refused to sign a congressional spending bill unless the legislative branch appropriates $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Congressional Democrats have pushed back, saying that a border wall is non-negotiable…
Texas governor weighs in on push to remove Muslim from Tarrant GOP post (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
As a proposal to oust a Tarrant County Republican Party leader because he’s Muslim looms Thursday night, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stressed that “the promise of freedom of religion is guaranteed” by the U.S. Constitution.
Abbott’s comments come as Tarrant Republican precinct chairmen are scheduled to vote on whether to keep Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, as one of the party’s vice chairmen. “The promise of freedom of religion is guaranteed by the first amendment in the Constitution; and Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution states that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust in this state,” the governor said in a statement. “Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state, and attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle.” Abbott is the latest state official to weigh in on the proposal that appears to be dividing the Tarrant County Republican Party. At issue is an effort that began months ago when a group of members began pushing to remove Shafi from the post of vice chairman. Precinct Chairwoman Dorrie O’Brien asked for Shafi’s appointment to be reconsidered because he’s Muslim — and the issue ramped up and expanded after the Nov. 6 election, which saw Tarrant County turn blue in the U.S. Senate race. She and others behind the move to oust Shafi, a surgeon and Southlake City Council member, say this is not about religion but whether Shafi is loyal to Islam and Islamic law or connected “to Islamic terror groups.”…
At 30-year low, U.S. birth rate shows striking differences between states (Wall Street Journal)
The birthrate in America has been declining, but some places are more fertile than others, according to a new look at federal data that reveals significant variation in fertility rates around the country. Only South Dakota’s and Utah’s fertility rates reached the level needed to sustain the current population.
The number of babies born in 2017, around 3.85 million, was the lowest since 1987. In order for the country’s population to essentially replace itself, researchers say that 2,100 babies should be born for every 1,000 women. In 2017, the total fertility rate—an estimate of the total number of children a woman will eventually have in her lifetime—was 1,765 births per 1,000 women, well below what is known as the replacement level. But when researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics broke down that 2017 data by state and ethnicity, they were surprised by the variation. “When you look at the differences you see among the states, it’s really quite striking,” said Brady Hamilton, a statistician at the center and co-author of the new report, released Thursday. States in the Midwest and the Southeast had higher rates of fertility compared with the Northeast or West Coast. A 57 percent difference exists between the highest state rate (South Dakota, 2,227 births) and the lowest (the District of Columbia, 1,421 births). Only South Dakota and Utah had fertility rates that met the 2,100 births threshold (2,227 and 2,120 births, respectively)…
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Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. We spoke to her in May on the very first episode of the BG Podcast, and were excited to have her back on.
Elected after a runoff on December 11, 2018 and sworn-in on January 7, 2019, she represents Austin’s Council District 1, encompassing Central and East Austin. The Council Member and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss her 2019 policy priorities, as well as her path to public office.
The Austin Council meets for their first regular meeting on Thursday, January 31.We wish the Council Member Harper-Madison much success in her new role!
This episode was recorded on December 21, 2018.