BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 12, 2019)



Certified petition brings more questions on soccer stadium (Austin Monitor)

he city of Austin has certified the petition circulated by residents opposed to a planned soccer stadium that would be built on city-owned property.

The petition drive began last year and was pushed by a group known as Friends of McKalla Place, named for the 24-acre parcel that is the site where the city and those backing a professional soccer team reached a deal to build the 20,000-seat stadium. The group is seeking a public referendum vote on a possible city ordinance that would require the use of city property for a stadium or other venue to be approved by voters.

In a public statement, the group celebrated the certification of the petition’s 29,000 signatures, but made no mention of when the called-for election can be held.

“As neighbors, we have concerns about the proposed stadium’s impact on traffic, noise and the environment,” group member Francoise Luca said in the statement. “All Austinites should be concerned about the property tax breaks being offered to the stadium’s billionaire because it robs our schools, social services of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Austinites already pay some of the highest property taxes in the state, and we can’t afford to give a billionaire a free ride.”

The city charter’s language concerning referendum elections calls for a 180-day waiting period between one such election and the next. Friends of McKalla Place has pushed for the question to appear in the May 2019 election, which because of a calendar quirk is inside of the 180-day cooling-off period following the November 2018 general election. If that ruling by city staff holds, the earliest the question could go to voters would be November, by which time the stadium group hopes to have begun construction to make a planned spring 2021 opening…

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School consolidations, future budget discussed at Austin ISD board workshop (Community Impact)

Into the early morning of Feb. 12, Austin ISD trustees discussed what a timeline to create a plan to more effectively utilize district campuses would look like.

The plan could outline new programing options at specific campuses and boundary changes, as well as school closure and consolidation options. According to the timeline presented at the board workshop, the board could vote to advance plan development at its Feb. 25 meeting, and could take action related to schools impacted by closures or programing changes at a meeting June 17.

However, many trustees expressed concerns that a June deadline may not be realistic and more time was needed before they could vote to advance a plan later in February. Trustees Cindy Anderson, Jayme Mathias, Ann Teich, Amber Elenz and Kristin Ashy each felt the presented timeline would not allow for proper analysis of options and community engagements. Trustees also wanted a plan to assure that transparency and equity in the process, as well as community engagement, would be priorities…

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Adler succeeds Conley as CAMPO chair (Austin Monitor)

n accordance with its bylaws, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization unanimously approved Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s succession to chair of the Transportation Policy Board at the board’s meeting Monday evening.

The previous chair, Will Conley, announced his plan to resign at the board’s last meeting on Jan. 14.

The board also approved a motion by Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt nominating Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long to the position of vice chair, previously held by Adler.

Conley served as board chair and representative of Hays County from 2012-2017 when he stepped down from his position as commissioner in order to run for Hays County judge. Following his defeat at the polls, the CAMPO board made a controversial provision allowing Conley to serve two more years as chair and non-voting representative of the region…

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Austin's Airport Seized More Guns Per Traveler Than Any Other In The U.S. Last Year (KUT)

Travelers flying out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport tried to bring 93 guns onto flights in 2018, according to the Transportation Security Administration's annual tally.

The number of firearms discovered at security checkpoints and in carry-on bags put ABIA in the No. 8 spot on the agency's list of overall seizures for the year. But, proportionally, Austin led the country in its ratio of passengers to firearms seized.

For comparison, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport led the country in passengers and in firearm discoveries last year. TSA agents found 298 guns at checkpoints and in luggage at the Atlanta airport, which had 107 million passengers in 2018. In Austin, there were 93 discoveries compared to 15.8 million passengers…

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Days after heated meeting, Texas Senate property tax committee passes 2.5-percent rollback rate bill (Texas Tribune)

The Texas Senate’s new Property Tax Committee moved with breakneck speed Monday to advance a controversial proposal on one of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s top legislative priorities: slowing property tax growth.

In a 4-0 vote, the committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 2, a complex bill that would further limit the amount local governments like cities, counties, school districts and special districts can spend without voters stepping in. (All four Republicans on the panel voted for the bill; Democrat Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa was present but didn't vote.)

SB 2 would require an election when local governments want to collect an additional 2.5 percent or more in tax revenues from existing properties, regardless of the total taxable values assigned to properties. The cap limits the amount of total revenue a local government can rake in without voter approval, even if its tax rate is not increased…

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Donald Trump and Beto O’Rourke go head-to-head in El Paso (Texas Tribune)

President Donald Trump kicked off his first major rally of the year here the same way he campaigned during his successful 2016 bid: by unleashing a torrent of criticism on the media, pushing back against allegations of collusion with Russia, and promising once more to end illegal immigration and build a wall on the southern border.

Across the street, one of his potential 2020 rivals — former Texas Congressman and El Paso native Beto O'Rourke — held a competing rally that drew thousands of people.

Standing beneath an American flag flanked by red signs that read “finish the wall,” the president tossed plenty of fresh red meat to the capacity crowd, which periodically interrupted him with chants of “build the wall!”

The rally came as members of Congress reportedly agreed to the terms of a funding deal that would avert another partial government shutdown. Although last year’s breakdown was over funding for Trump's border wall, the impasse this week concerned bed space for detained undocumented immigrants…

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On AI, Trump orders all hands on deck (Axios)

After months of pushing China to retreat from its strategy to dominate the technologies of the future, President Trump today ordered U.S. agencies to prioritize keeping the U.S. ahead in the development and deployment of artificial intelligence.

He did not allocate specific sums of money — and it will be expensive to match Chinese spending — but told aides to tally up what it will cost to maintain the lead, and to budget it…

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Episode 33: Emily Chenevert, CEO at Austin Board of REALTORS®

(RUN TIME - 14:22)

On today’s episode we speak with Emily Chenevert, CEO at Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR). She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham

Named CEO of the 13,000 member association in April 2018, she previously served as ABoR's Chief Operating Officer, and has nearly 15 years of experience directly advocating for REALTORS® and their business at all levels of government.

She recently launched ABoR’s first podcast, ScratchThat, a series peeling the layers back on the national trends in real estate. 

This episode was recorded on December 20, 2018.

Link to Episode 33

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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