BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 26, 2019)



Austin ISD Board Approves Process To Close Some Schools By August 2020 (Austin Monitor)

The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a plan for closing and consolidating schools.

The decision to close schools comes as the district continues to face declining enrollment. Demographic reports show enrollment will continue to drop, so the district says it is financially irresponsible to keep all its schools open.

The board’s vote allows the administration to start creating a list of possible consolidations and closures. The district will use multiple criteria to determine this, including a school's enrollment, its age and what programs it offers.

Before the vote, Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district is being forced to close schools because of the enrollment situation…

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Health officials say they're preparing for the possibility of measles coming to Austin (KUT)

Vaccination rates have fallen in recent years, amid a belief that vaccines are potentially harmful. Health authorities consider the vaccine to be safe and the most effective method of preventing illness.

Travis County has among the highest rates of conscientious exemptions from student vaccination requirements. Last year, a public health study pointed to Austin as one of 15 “hotspots” nationwide for nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

Officials gave Travis County Commissioners an update Tuesday on how they are preparing, including checking on the city’s vaccine stockpile, monitoring reports from local emergency rooms and assessing the immunization status of employees in case they need to respond to an outbreak…

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Construction starts in April on new $30M MetroRail station in downtown Austin (Community Impact)

A major MetroRail project will get underway this spring that will help Capital Metro make the most of its nine-year-old commuter rail line.

The downtown MetroRail station construction will start in April following a late March groundbreaking. Work includes expanding the station on Fourth Street adjacent to the Austin Convention Center to three train tracks.

“It’s a big project for Capital Metro,” agency President and CEO Randy Clarke said. “This is our opportunity to really fulfill the potential of the Red Line. It’s a good line, but to make it great, we really need to fund these investments.”

The transit agency’s board approved a construction contract Feb. 25 with Jay-Reese Contractors for an amount not to exceed $38.86 million. That amount includes the $30.72 million cost of construction with a 20 percent contingency of $6.14 million.

Other work in the construction contract includes constructing a new bridge over Waller Creek, adding a public plaza and adding five canopies over the new platform…

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Venues face tough realities in city’s active shooter training (Austin Monitor)

“Remember that the intent of this person is to end your life.”

Those sobering words, delivered last Wednesday by Austin Police Department Officer Josh Visi, came as something of a wake-up call for the 40 or so concert venue owners and promoters who had gathered to learn how to handle active shooters inside a live concert setting.

The training was organized jointly by APD and the city’s Music and Entertainment Division to give live event professionals information they can use in preparation for South by Southwest, the busiest stretch of business every year for downtown concert venues, with visitors from all over the globe passing through their doors.

Visi, who has given similar trainings to businesses and organizations all over Austin in recent years, spent the three-hour session at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center instructing how to prepare a venue for safe evacuation or find safe cover to protect people before a shooter can be neutralized.

The scenarios presented were new for many of those on hand, who had rarely if ever considered how to use the nearest blunt object as a weapon, or how to position a filing cabinet in a back office so it can be quickly moved to barricade a door.

“Any target hardening you can do is good, but there’s no one thing you can do to make you immune from crime,” Vasi said. “Even if you follow every suggestion I give to you, that in no way is going to make you immune from crime.”…

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Federal judge directs more counties to halt voter citizenship review efforts as lawsuits proceed (Texas Tribune)

As part of an ongoing flurry of litigation in federal court here over the state’s bungled citizenship review of its voter rolls, a federal judge on Monday told a handful of Texas counties they may not — for now — purge registered voters or send them letters demanding proof of citizenship.

Eight counties named in one of three pending lawsuits over the review effort agreed last week that they will not cancel any voter registrations as lawyers from a host of civil rights groups tangle with the state in court. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said from the bench Monday that the other counties named in a separate lawsuit should consider themselves restrained in the same way as litigation proceeds.

That doesn’t apply to the other 200-plus counties in the state, but “we expect all the counties are watching these proceedings,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups suing Texas and several counties…

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Texas Senate panel advances $5,000 teacher pay raise proposal (Texas Tribune)

After a contentious three-hour public hearing Monday, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed a bill that would provide annual $5,000 pay raises for all full-time classroom teachers in the state.

One of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top priorities this legislative session, Senate Bill 3 is now eligible to be taken up by the full Senate, with a bipartisan group of more than 20 co-authors signed on.

"It will provide an immediate financial boost for teachers, assist in retaining good teachers, and recruit the best and the brightest to this critical profession. I will be moving this bill to the floor and out of the Senate at the earliest possible date," said Patrick in a statement Monday afternoon…

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Judge Rules Male-Only Draft Violates Constitution (KUT)

Requiring only men to register for the draft is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.

The Military Selective Service Act states that men in the U.S. ages 18 through 25 must register in case the country needs a military draft. Women face no such requirement. On Friday, a federal judge in Texas ruled that a males-only draft violates the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

While historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, they don't anymore, wrote Senior Judge Gray Miller of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. "If there ever was a time to discuss 'the place of women in the Armed Services,' that time has passed," he wrote, citing an earlier Supreme Court decision…

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58 former senior national security officials to issue declaration opposing national emergency (Washington Post)

A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials will issue a statement Monday saying that “there is no factual basis” for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The joint statement, whose signatories include former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, will come a day before the House is expected to vote on a resolution to block Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration. The former officials’ statement, which will be entered into the Congressional Record, is intended to support lawsuits and other actions challenging the national emergency proclamation and to force the administration to set forth the legal and factual basis for it…

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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.


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