BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 22, 2019)


Congratulations to past BG Podcast guest Patrick Bouvier Howard, Executive Director and CEO at the Housing Authority of Travis County, on his appointment as the District 1 Planning Commissioner! Check his episode (15) here:


Petition drive to stall stadium will likely head to voters, after construction start (Austin Monitor)

The petition drive started last year in an attempt to stall or prevent the construction of a soccer stadium on city property could go before voters in November, roughly two months after construction of the 20,000-seat facility is expected to begin. City Council will ultimately set the date for the election, with late August as the cutoff for deciding to put the question before voters in November.

City Council failed to take action Thursday on a pair of resolutions to enact an ordinance that would have called for voter approval of any use of city property by a for-profit entity for entertainment or recreation purposes. The pair of resolutions were the result of a petition drive that gathered 29,000 signatures that were approved by the city earlier this month.

The decision to not take action on the resolution means voters will now decide in November if the ordinance becomes part of city law, meaning that in the future all recreational use of city property by outside entities would need to be decided at the ballot box.

During discussion on the issue, Mayor Steve Adler said the stadium question is decided since the city entered into a lease agreement with Precourt Sports Ventures in December, a move that will bring a Major League Soccer team to Austin by 2021.

As such, he said, referring to the ballot question as a “soccer stadium election” creates a false expectation…

Link to story

Austin City Council Loosens Rules So Low-Income Housing Developers Have An Easier Time Building (KUT)

Some buildings in Austin reflect the city's zoning restrictions more than others.

Take the 35-unit affordable housing complex just south of East 12th Street. The building, which houses low-income single mothers and provides on-site child care, looks a bit like a tiered cake.

That's because there are rules in Austin about how high you can build relative to what already exists nearby; the farther away from a single-story home, for example, the higher you can build.

"When you get to 50 feet, you can do three stories," said Mark Rogers, executive director of the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp., which built the complex. "You need to get 100 feet away before you can go to the fourth story."…

Link to story

Permanent zebra mussel solution still 18 months out (Austin Monitor)

Following the odorous indication that a zebra mussel infestation had arrived in Austin waterways earlier this month, Austin Water has been working to come up with a solution to prevent a similar instance from recurring.

Austin Water is already working to slow the population of zebra mussels by using chemical retardants in its piping systems and raw water tunnels. However, due to the speed with which these bivalves reproduce, it is not enough, according to Mehrdad Morabbi, an operations manager for Austin Water, who addressed the Environmental Commission at their Feb. 20 meeting.

After first appearing in 2017 in Austin’s jurisdiction of the Highland Lakes system, the mussels have spawned at such a rate that Austin Water reported a ½- to 2-inch-thick layer of mussels at every water treatment facility intake this past January. This already critical situation is compounded by the fact that “we could essentially look at a year-round spawning season,” said Morabbi…

Link to story


Federal judge wants to hear from employee who quit after working on Texas' noncitizen voters list (Dallas Morning News)

A federal judge weighing whether to block Texas' effort to investigate the citizenship of tens of thousands of people on its voter rolls said he wants to hear from a secretary of state employee who abruptly resigned from the office.

Betsy Schonhoff ran a nearly yearlong effort to match the state's voter lists with databases at the Department of Public Safety for people who had obtained driver's licenses when they weren't citizens. But she has not been served a subpoena, and there is evidence that she has been "evading service for five days," said Chad Dunn, a lawyer for Julie Hilberg, a naturalized citizen whom the investigation flagged for review. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery made it clear he wanted to hear Schonhoff's testimony in his San Antonio court, saying he knows U.S. marshals "who are very good at finding people."…

Link to story

In emails, Texas A&M president Michael Young says restarting football rivalry with Texas is 'unlikely to happen' (Dallas Morning News)

A month ago, Texas A&M president Michael Young said he was in favor of restoring the Aggies' annual football game with Texas. However, several A&M fans were unhappy with the rekindling the rivalry. Based on Young's recent emails on the topic, it doesn't appear they will have to worry about seeing the Aggies and Longhorns share the field in the immediate future.

In multiple emails obtained by The News through an open records request, Young said the A&M-Texas football game "is unlikely to happen." "We have no plans to renew the rivalry game at this time for very practical reasons," Young wrote on Jan. 22…

Link to story

Midland crushes nation in creating new jobs (Houston Chronicle)

Midland led the nation in job growth, with employment in the West Texas county surging by nearly 12 percent — more than seven times the national average, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

The surge was driven by the oil production boom in the Permian Basin, where output is breaking records and billions of dollars are being invested in pipelines and storage to move crude to Gulf Coast refining and export markets. The flood of money and workers coming into the county is not only creating jobs in the oil field, but also in the sectors, from construction to hospitality to transportation that provide goods and services to the energy industry…

Link to story


Oregon on track to be 1st state with mandated rent controls (Associated Press)

Faced with a housing shortage and skyrocketing rents, Oregon is poised to become the first state to impose mandatory rent controls, with a measure establishing tenant protections moving swiftly through the Legislature.

Many residents have testified in favor of the legislation, describing anxiety and hardship as they face higher rents. Some have gone up by as much as almost 100 percent — forcing people to move, stay with friends or even live in their vehicles.

The Oregon housing shortage is getting worse because of a big influx of people moving to the state — lured by the state’s job opportunities and its forests, mountains, coastline and relaxed lifestyle. Many move from California, where the cost of living is often more expensive…

Link to story

Justice Department preparing for Mueller report in coming days (Washington Post)

Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations…

Link to story

White House panel will study whether climate change is a national security threat. It includes a climate denialist. (New York Times)

President Trump is preparing to establish a panel to examine whether climate change affects national security, despite existing reports from his own government showing that global warming is a growing threat.

According to a White House memo dated Feb. 14, Mr. Trump’s staff members have drafted an executive order to create a 12-member committee, which will include a White House adviser, William Happer, whose views are sharply at odds with the established scientific consensus that carbon dioxide pollution is dangerous for the planet. The memo casts doubt on multiple scientific and defense reports concluding that climate change poses a significant threat to national security, saying they “have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”…

Link to story


Episode 35: Austin Developer Terry Mitchell, President, Momark Development LLC

(Run time - 17:10)

“Various forms of denser housing, in appropriate locations, has to be the main source of housing for our future.” - Terry Mitchell

On today’s episode we speak with Terry Mitchell, President of Momark Development LLC. Terry is a well established leader in Austin’s homebuilding community, having a hand in the development of iconic properties such as downtown’s Austonian, to the recent The Tyndall luxury condominiums on the east side. He is equally as known for his passion and expertise around affordable housing issues.

Terry and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the developer’s approach to building, as well as the state of Austin’s affordable housing crisis and what can be done about it.

This episode was recorded on January 29, 2019.

Link to Episode 35

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


Twitter #binghamgp 

Instagram #binghamgp