BG Reads + BG Podcast | News You Need to Know (February 13, 2019)

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[BG PODCAST]

Episode 34: Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman

(RUN TIME - 15:09)

On today’s episode we speak with Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman. Elected in November 2018, she is the party’s first Hispanic chair.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss her state and local policy priorities for 2019, and ahead to the 2020 elections. Dyana also discusses the multiple constituencies making up the party, and ways political novices can engage in the process.

You can learn more about Dyana here, and follow her on Twitter at @DyanaforChair.

This episode was recorded on January 10, 2019.

Link to Episode 34


[AUSTIN METRO]

The City Is Flushing Out Zebra Mussel-Infused Water From Fire Hydrants In South Austin (KUT)

Austin's water utility says it's continuing to flush out water lines tainted with foul-smelling water that has plagued residents since last Thursday. 

In a tweet Tuesday, Austin Water said it will continue to leach water from fire hydrants "in areas still experiencing unusual taste and odor." The water utility said last week that untreated water from the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant had been compromised by the presence of zebra mussels, which caused the smell. 

Austin Water released an interactive map of hydrants it expects to flush today and spots it has already flushed out…

Link to story


City has tough decisions on affordable housing bond (Austin Monitor)

The city’s affordable housing challenges were thrown into sharp relief during a presentation Tuesday morning by the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department to members of City Council.

The presentation was before Council’s Housing and Planning Committee, but the chair, Council Member Greg Casar, had invited all of his colleagues to attend due to the importance of the issue at hand.

“This year is going to be the most aggressive and comprehensive effort on affordable housing that this city has ever taken,” said Casar.

The $250 million affordable housing bond voters approved in November should help the city make progress toward the goals put forth in the Strategic Housing Blueprint Council adopted in 2017. The blueprint is supposed to guide the city toward creating more housing, both market-rate and income-restricted, over the next decade…

Link to story


Board of Adjustment changes rules for those seeking appeal (Austin Monitor)

After postponing the vote last month in an effort to ensure that a fair and open appeals process is available to the public, the Board of Adjustment made a decision Monday night that may prove contentious.

In a 6-5 vote at its Feb. 11 meeting, the board approved a revision of its rules that includes a controversial section intended to make appeals transparent and avoid re-creating a situation like the LifeAustin Church in 2008. That case became a hot potato when a citizen’s appeal was denied because it was made outside of the 20-day window, despite there having been no public access to the email that started the clock ticking.

In an effort to correct this, the newly approved section of the rules reads, “The BOA may accept an appeal after the deadline on the basis of waiver, estoppel, misrepresentation, misinformation, the interest of justice, or other appropriate legal and equitable grounds.”

City legal, however, advised that this language is not consistent with Austin ordinances…

Link to story


Austin ISD Board Members Push Back On Short Timeline To Close Schools (KUT)

The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees is balking at the administration's plan to announce school closures by summer.  

AISD has lost more than 6,000 students in the last six years, and enrollment is projected to continue to decline. As a result, the district will receive less money from the state. At the board’s work session Monday, the administration presented its roadmap to reduce the number of schools to match the dwindling student population.

Superintendent Paul Cruz said it would be fiscally irresponsible to keep schools open as enrollment declines. Instead, he said, money should go toward renovating buildings and increasing academic programs…

Link to story


The Average Austin Driver Spent 104 Hours Stuck In Traffic In 2018 (KUT)

Drivers spent more time in traffic in Austin than in any other Texas city, according to new research from transportation data firm INRIX.

Austin ranked 14th overall in INRIX's yearly traffic analysis of the most congested cities in the U.S. and 84th in its worldwide rankings.

The study looked at the average time spent in traffic and the U.S. Department of Transportation's calculation for how much that time cost drivers based on median household income data…

Link to story


[TEXAS]

Texas A&M asks lawmakers for $55 million in "equity" funds, citing UT's budget (Texas Tribune)

While lawmakers try to revive a rivalry football game between the state’s flagship institutions, a different contest between the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University began to play out Tuesday, when A&M’s president asked lawmakers for more than $50 million to bring the school’s per-student funding closer to UT’s.

In a Senate Finance Committee hearing in the bowels of the state Capitol, A&M President Michael Young requested “equity” funds of around $27.5 million a year, the same amount a preliminary state budget has earmarked for the Austin flagship.

“At the moment our challenge is, with our per-student funding going down, it will become very hard to sustain this,” Young said. The school might have to consider shrinking the student body of the university or making other accommodations based on the “resources that we have available,” he said…

Link to story


Texas Republicans wary of border deal to avert government shutdown (Houston Chronicle)

A tentative deal to avert a government shutdown without most of the money President Donald Trump sought to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border left many Texas Republicans in Congress stone-faced on Tuesday.

The agreement drew fierce opposition from conservative groups and right-wing pundits, as well as a decidedly negative reaction from Trump. "I'm not happy about it," he said flatly. "It's not doing the trick." But Trump appeared to back off talk of another government shutdown, which remains a possibility at midnight Friday unless the White House and Congress bridge their differences over immigration and wall funding in a 2019 funding deal…

Link to story


[NATION]

The government shutdown made the I.R.S. even more frustrating (New York Times)

The longest government shutdown in United States history resulted in a “shocking” number of taxpayers’ calls to the Internal Revenue Service going unreturned or being left to languish on hold for unusually long periods, according to a government audit released on Tuesday.

The audit, by the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, found that over five million pieces of mail went unanswered and 87,000 amended tax returns were not processed during the shutdown, when thousands of I.R.S. workers were furloughed or working without pay. The issues were especially acute since they followed significant changes to the tax code — ushered in by President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax overhaul — that left many people with questions about filing their returns…

Link to story


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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