BG Reads | News You Need to Know (January 24, 2019)
City quietly moving forward on redevelopment portfolio properties (Austin Monitor)
Behind-the-scenes work on the redevelopment of four city-owned parcels is continuing, with requests for proposal resolutions for three of the properties expected to come before City Council by the end of March.
The four properties are: an Austin Energy parcel at Justin Lane and Ryan Drive; the former Home Depot property on East St. Johns Avenue; a parcel at Bolm Road near Airport Boulevard; and the former HealthSouth property downtown.
The HealthSouth property, which has become one of the leading possible sites for the city to create affordable housing downtown, was added to the priority list in October and replaced an Austin Energy property on Grove Road south of East Riverside Drive.
The properties most likely to see Council action first are the Justin Lane and Home Depot parcels, which are intended to be handled by the same vendor to lead community input and solicit proposals from the private real estate community…
Planning Commission OKs change to 30-year-old development agreement (Austin Monitor)
Commissioner Fayez Kazi said he was surprised by staff’s “hard stance,” considering that the proposed development wouldn’t violate the environmental standards set forth in the original agreement.
Chris Herrington, the environmental officer for the Watershed Protection Department, said that the language in the agreement was “crystal clear” and that his obligation is to protect open space.
“The permanent preservation of open space is the number-one priority of the Watershed Protection Department,” he said.
Commissioner Jeffrey Thompson agreed, saying that the language is unambiguous.
Commissioner Conor Kenny said he believed staff members were doing their jobs by enforcing the language of the agreement, but that it was up to the commission to recognize the need for a change.
“I think this is one of those cases that’s exactly why we’re here,” he said. “I think our position is to look at this and say, is it reasonable; what do the stakeholders think?”
Kazi disagreed. Staff also has a responsibility to be flexible and recognize the value of changing the rules when they are no longer serving their purpose, he argued.
“I think part of staff’s role also is to paint the whole picture,” he said…
Veteran Austin landscape architecture firm names managing partner (Austin Business Journal)
Austin landscape architecture and land planning firm Land Strategies Inc. has named a new managing partner.
Michael Linehan, 29, may be new to the role of managing partner but he has a familiar name. He’s the son of LSI president and founder Paul Linehan.
The younger Linehan, a licensed architect, will eventually take over the company from his father. Still, Paul Linehan, 65, said he has no plans to step down anytime soon.
Michael Linehan joined the 36-year-old firm in April.
Land Strategies is ranked No. 15 on the Austin Business Journal’s list of the largest landscape architecture firms. Firms are ranked on the number of registered architects in the Austin office. LSI had two landscape architects, three landscape designers and 10 total staff members as of September 2018…
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen names committee chairs (Texas Tribune)
Of the five Texas House committees considered to be the most powerful, three will have new chairs this session.
State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond will again head the budget-planning Appropriations Committee, the House announced Wednesday. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, will retain his post as chairman of the House Administration Committee.
Two other committees — Ways and Means and State Affairs — were already guaranteed new chairmen due to departures. New House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who chaired the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in 2017, has tapped state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, to fill his shoes. Burrows also chairs the Texas House Republican Caucus. And state Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, will oversee the State Affairs Committee, replacing former state Rep. Byron Cook, a Corsicana Republican who did not seek re-election. Phelan, who told The Texas Tribune after assignments were announced that his appointment to chair is “a huge honor,” will oversee a committee that will have even more jurisdiction over some of the House’s most high-profile legislation this session, thanks to a new set of rules the lower chamber passed earlier this month…
Bills seek more protection for Texas landowners in eminent domain cases (Austin American-Statesman)
A byproduct of the booming Texas economy and energy sector -- the increasing number of pipelines and transmission lines crisscrossing the state -- has left many property owners at the mercy of private companies that have authority to condemn land, two state lawmakers said Wednesday.
They’re proposing changes to state law that would give landowners greater protections, and possibly more money, when companies assert eminent domain to force them to sell. The proposals wouldn’t apply to public entities, such as cities and counties, that also have power to use eminent domain.
“We’re just trying to give a level playing field to our landowners,” said state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. “This is not to slow the (economic) progress of our state.”
Kolkhorst and state Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, filed companion bills Wednesday that would penalize companies for intentionally low-balling landowners during negotiations prompted by eminent domain, which is the power to force the sale of land for projects deemed in the public interest…
Texas dreamers in limbo as Trump bargains their protections for border wall funding (Texas Tribune)
Vanessa Rodriguez has become accustomed to living in a state of limbo in Texas as an undocumented immigrant. But that doesn't mean it gets any easier for her and hundreds of thousands of others who are waiting to see what, if anything, Democrats and Republicans in Congress will change about the program that has protected them from deportation for the past seven years and is now in the center of the government shutdown battle.
Rodriguez, 20, is originally from the Mexican state of Puebla and is a beneficiary of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors protections including renewable two-year work permits and a reprieve from deportations.
She learned Saturday that a deal President Donald Trump offered congressional Democrats to reopen the government — and end a shutdown that has reached 32 days — would extend protections for her and hundreds of thousands of other undocumented youth, known as “dreamers,” for three years. In exchange, Trump wants Congress to approve $5.7 billion to build portions of a border wall — a demand that Democrats have flatly rejected…
Sheila Jackson Lee steps down from two powerful posts — but not from Congress (Texas Tribune)
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, is stepping down from her two most powerful roles within congressional and House Democratic circles.
The 13-term congresswoman will no longer serve as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's board chairwoman and will temporarily step aside from her position as chair on the Judiciary Committee's crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations subcommittee, according to the New York Times.
At issue is her spring 2018 termination of a staffer known in court filings as "Jane Doe," who alleged that a supervising CBCF staffer raped her in 2015 when she was an intern for the foundation. Doe later went to work for Jackson Lee and claims that she informed the congresswoman's chief of staff that she planned to pursue legal action against the CBCF staffer and was fired several weeks later, according to BuzzFeed News — which first reported last week that the woman was suing Jackson Lee's office and the CBCF over the matter…
Trump Defers To Pelosi And Delays State Of The Union Address (KUT)
President Trump said Wednesday night he won't be looking for an alternative place to give the State of the Union address. Earlier in the day, asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisting he could not speak on the House floor until a partial government shutdown is over, the president said, "We'll do something in the alternative."
But late in the evening, Trump noted that Pelosi "changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over."
"[There] is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber," the president tweeted. "I look forward to giving a 'great' State of the Union Address in the near future!"…
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Today's podcast was originally recorded on January 8, 2019, the first day of the 86th Texas Legislative Session.
The show features a discussion with returning guest James Hines, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & In-House Counsel, Texas Association of Business (TAB). James and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham talked TAB’s legislative priorities around economic development and public education, to name a few.
The TAB is Texas's largest business association, representing over 2, 800 businesses, from major corporations to small start-ups. Combined those businesses employ over 2.5 million Texans and drive the economic engine of the state. The association influences policy development and drives legislative decisions in Texas and Washington, D.C. advocating for members’ bottom line.
Note: We recorded in TAB’s new headquarters where minor construction was going on (pardon the light background noise).