BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 15, 2019)



Legal questions swirl around soccer stadium petition (Austin Monitor)

The organizers of an initiative aimed at stopping the construction of a Major League Soccer stadium in North Central Austin say that the city must hold an election on the matter in May, despite contrary claims from city attorneys.

Last week, a group of activists submitted roughly 30,000 signatures in support of an ordinance that would bar for-profit sports facilities from using city-owned property. If the clerk certifies the petition as valid, City Council must either vote to approve the ordinance or put it on the ballot for voters to decide in the next election.

The next available election date is in May. However, the city legal department has said that the initiative cannot be placed on the May ballot because of a city charter provision that prohibits more than two special elections from taking place within six months of each other.

The city contends that because there were two initiatives on the ballot in November – one aimed at stopping CodeNEXT and one to require an audit of city government – another initiative cannot be placed on the ballot until next November…

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Austin developer buys prime downtown site from Episcopal Church (Austin Business Journal)

Cielo Property Group has added to its momentum in downtown Austin with the recent purchase of an undeveloped lot previously owned by the Episcopal Church.

The site is on Block 87, bound by Neches Street to the east, Trinity Street to the west, Seventh Street to the south and Eighth Street to the north. The block is comprised of 13 parcels over roughly 1.6 acres on a rare undeveloped block downtown.

Travis Central Appraisal District records show the full block appraised at nearly $12.7 million, though the actual market value is likely far higher. The purchase price for the property was not disclosed by either the Episcopal Church or Cielo Property Group…

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As Shutdown Drags On, Low-Income Housing Providers In Austin Worry Funding For Rent Could Run Out (KUT)

Prak Property Management Inc. has been digging into savings to keep some of its low-income properties in Austin running.

“It’s like a savings account that every month we are required to put a certain amount of dollars into for things like roofs, appliances, that sort of thing,” said Brad Prak, a management agent with the Texas-based company.

Two of the housing complexes Prak manages had their government contracts expire at the end of 2018. Without a new agreement in place – or Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) employees to sign off on a contract – these properties are not receiving the subsidies they rely on to offer affordable rents to low-income families…

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Austin food bank prepares for influx of federal employees as shutdown drags on (Austin American-Statesman)

As the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history continues this week with no end in sight, the Central Texas Food Bank is preparing for a possible influx of furloughed federal workers seeking food at its partnered agencies.

The nonprofit, which coordinates food distribution from nearly 300 partnered agencies in 21 counties including Travis, Williamson, Hays and Bastrop, will hold a special distribution and resource fair Wednesday.

Generally, the food bank distributes food to pantries, which in turn distribute it to the community. However, given an observed uptick in clientele since the shutdown began, the organization decided Monday to prepare disaster relief boxes and hygiene boxes with shampoo, baby wipes and deodorant.

“We wanted to do something sooner rather than later now that we’re starting to see a groundswell of people coming to us or to our partner agencies,” said Central Texas Food Bank Marketing and Communications Director Paul Gaither…

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Texas House proposes massive increase for public school funding (Texas Tribune)

As Texas’ Republican leadership calls for property tax cuts and a school finance overhaul, the Texas House on Monday pitched a bold proposal: Pump roughly $7 billion more state funds into public schools — but only if lawmakers can satisfactorily overhaul the school finance system to slow the growth of property taxes.

Budget documents published Monday evening show the House has offered up a whopping 17 percent increase in K-12 public education funding so long as lawmakers achieve a few lofty goals in reforming how the state pays for public schools: Reduce the state’s reliance on property taxes, decrease the need for the unpopular Robin Hood system that requires property-wealthy school districts to subsidize poorer ones, and maintain an equitable system of school finance, as required by the state Constitution…

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Confederate plaque at Texas Capitol removed over the weekend (Dallas Morning News)

The Children of the Confederacy plaque is officially gone.

The controversial marker was removed from its spot in the state Capitol on Saturday evening, State Preservation Board spokesman Chris Currens confirmed Monday. Agency staff performed the removal themselves, Currens said, and the plaque will be kept at its offices in downtown Austin until the State Preservation Board decides what to do with it later this month. The plaque, which was erected in 1959 during the Civil Rights era, claimed slavery was not the underlying cause of the Civil War. The board's governing members, which include Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen, voted on Friday to take the plaque down…

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More Than 30 Percent Of Texas School Districts Allow Educators To Carry Guns (KUT)

The number of Texas school districts with policies allowing teachers and other staff to carry guns has increased almost 50 percent since a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in May.

According to a December survey by the Texas Association of School Boards, 315 school districts — more than 30 percent of all districts in the state — have adopted a policy giving educators the option of being armed. That’s up from 217 in May and 172 in February, when 17 people were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida…

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Senate GOP leader rips Rep. King over white supremacy remark (Washington Post)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday denounced Rep. Steve King over his latest remarks on white supremacy, saying, “There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind.”

McConnell is the highest-ranking Republican to criticize King, R-Iowa, who lamented last week that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP House leaders have also condemned King’s remarks as racist. Meanwhile, House Democrats said they’ll seek formal punishment for King. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said a censure resolution against King would announce to the world that Congress has no home for “repugnant and racist behavior.”…

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BG Podcast Episode 29: A 2019 Conversation with Austin Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison (D1)

(RUN TIME - 26:22)

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.

Link to Episode 29

See also: BG Podcast - Episode 1: A discussion with East 12th Street Merchants Association President Natasha Harper-Madison

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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