BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 27, 2019)



Groups eyeing $12M for creative spaces learn ‘process is complicated’ (Austin Monitor)

Organizations with designs on how best to use the $12 million the city has pledged to preserve creative spaces will likely have to clear a complicated set of legal requirements before any of the money is released this fall.

That was the takeaway from Monday’s meeting of the Arts Commission, where members of a working group discussed how the process of allocating the money will unfold in the coming months. The discussion included the likelihood that all properties receiving bond money would need to be city-owned, which would likely eliminate arts groups occupying privately owned buildings.

The legal parameters for how the money can be used will be included in a survey expected to be released by the city next month.

That survey and public input from a joint meeting of the music and arts commissions in late March will go a long way toward determining how the working group shapes its final recommendation, which will need to be vetted and approved by the city’s legal department. The recommendation will need to be approved by each commission and then forwarded to City Council for a formal resolution to release the funds, likely by September or October.

“Process is complicated, so bear with us,” Arts Commissioner Krissi Reeves said. “We feel the sense of urgency that the community feels. We’re taking that into consideration. Our goal is to get our final recommendations drafted by April and then vote on final recommendations in May, so the funds can be released in 2019.”…

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Reagan High School Renamed As Austin ISD Abandons Confederate Namesakes (KUT)

A Northeast Austin school named after the postmaster general of the Confederacy has been renamed Northeast Early College High School.

The Austin Independent School District's board of trustees voted Monday night to change the name of John H. Reagan High School. This is the third school name the board has voted to change, as part of its effort to rename schools named after Confederate figures. 

Last fall, a committee at Reagan proposed just dropping "John H." and calling the school Reagan High School. Reagan alumni and students said they didn't want to lose the history of their school. But others pushed back, saying the point of renaming is to not honor members of the Confederacy…

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Lime scooter bug causes 'excessive braking,' company working to fix (KXAN)

Lime is working to fix what it calls a "bug" that caused "sudden excessive braking" in its scooters.

Lime wrote in a post on its website Feb. 23 that the bug in its firmware would "in very rare cases" cause the scooter to brake harder than it was intended and stop unexpectedly. Lime says it would usually happen when a rider was headed downhill at top speed and hit a pothole or other obstacle. It added that the issue affected "less than 0.0045%" of all Lime rides but that some riders had been hurt.

The company said it developed a series of firmware updates and is confident they will fix the issue. 

"We have already rolled out some of the firmware fixes, which immediately resulted in a material reduction of occurrences," Lime wrote. "A final update is now being dispatched to every Lime scooter in the market and will be complete shortly."…

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Federal officials say delayed $4B in Harvey aid will be tied up until May (Houston Chronicle)

It will be at least another three months of waiting before Texas sees more than $4 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid money that has been tangled in red tape for more than a year.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson told reporters on Monday that his agency is still working on the rules that will dictate how the disaster mitigation money can be used in Texas to help homes and neighborhood brace for future storms. He said those rules are scheduled to be done by May. Then Texas would start working on a plan for how to comply with those rules, which would require yet more HUD approvals…

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Juarez, El Paso grapple with rising tensions as Trump policies lead to migrant backup at border (Dallas Morning News)

The number of asylum seekers arriving in this troubled city has reached a critical point as renewed drug violence explodes, creating what local leaders say is a pressure cooker for the region with a perilous outcome for both sides of the border.

A group of priests, including a representative of the Vatican, and migrant advocates plan a Tuesday afternoon mass near an 18-foot high fence to push back against President Donald Trump’s Feb. 15th proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution to block the declaration…

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, John Cornyn spar over his tweet quoting Benito Mussolini (Texas Tribune)

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are sniping at each other on Twitter — over 20th-century Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

On Sunday, Cornyn tweeted a Mussolini quote without providing context. Hours later, Cornyn explained that he was comparing Mussolini’s fascism to socialism and warning against federal government overreach. But the quote triggered a backlash from several journalists and liberal activists, given that Mussolini put numerous socialist opposition leaders to death.

The comparison also drew the Twitter ire of New York Democrat Ocasio-Cortez.

“A Republican senator full-on quoted National Fascist Party leader and Hitler ally Benito Mussolini like it’s a Hallmark card,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Cornyn responded that Ocasio-Cortez has “maybe one of the most uninformed opinions I have seen in... hours."…

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Cohen to testify that Trump engaged in criminal conduct while in office (Wall Street Journal)

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, will for the first time publicly accuse the president of criminal conduct while in office related to a hush-money payment to a porn star, a person familiar with his planned testimony before Congress said.

Appearing on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, Mr. Cohen also will make public some of Mr. Trump’s private financial statements and allege that Mr. Trump at times inflated or deflated his net worth for business and personal purposes, including avoiding paying property taxes, the person said. The financial statements were developed by Mr. Trump’s accountant, the person said. The Wall Street Journal hasn’t seen those statements…

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House rebukes Trump's border wall emergency, passes Joaquin Castro's disapproval resolution (Dallas Morning News)

Democrats on Tuesday took a forceful step toward blocking President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration over border security, with the House voting 245-182 in support of San Antonio Rep. Joaquin Castro’s measure to prevent the executive end-around. Even in an era in which politics are often without precedence, the action stood out.

Never before had Congress moved to overturn a president’s national emergency declaration since the relevant statute went into effect in the 1970s. And more than just a battle over border wall funding, Democrats like Castro said the country’s constitutional pillars were at stake. But the vote also signaled that the rebuke could end up being only a historical footnote, rather than achieving its goal of stopping Trump from bypassing Congress to divert funds for his wall…

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US Cyber Command operation disrupted Internet access of Russian troll factory on day of 2018 midterms (Washington Post)

The U.S. military blocked Internet access to an infamous Russian entity seeking to sow discord among Americans during the 2018 midterms, several U.S. officials said, a warning that the Kremlin’s operations against the United States are not cost-free.

The strike on the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, a company underwritten by an oligarch close to President Vladi­mir Putin, was part of the first offensive cyber campaign against Russia designed to thwart attempts to interfere with a U.S. election, the officials said…

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Episode 36: The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan

(Run time - 22:53)

“A good land use plan is also a good transportation plan, and so they have to work hand in hand.” - Annick Beaudet

On today’s episode we speak with Annick Beaudet, A.I.C.P. - Assistant Director at the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) over Transportation Engineering, Transportation Systems Development Division, Special Events and the Active Transportation Division.

Annick and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (ASMP), Austin’s new city-wide transportation plan.

ASMP is the city’s transportation appendix to the 2012 Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, which outlines a vision of sustainable growth through 2039 (Austin’s 200th anniversary). It is a compilation of policies and actions to reach the city’s transportation targets with accompanying transportation network maps and tables. If adopted, ASMP will take the place of the outdated 2025 Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan.

The city of Austin is asking for public comment on the ASMP final draft (see link below) through March, as well as providing staff presentations before the various city boards and commissions. 

Annick also updates on ATD’s progress towards a new street impact fee policy, an implementation tool integral to the ASMP.

Link to Episode 36

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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