BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 5, 2019)



Can Austin get dedicated transit lanes without losing car lanes? (Austin Monitor)

Mayor Steve Adler and Capital Metro Transportation Authority leaders say it is critical that Austin put in place a high-capacity public transit system that runs in a dedicated right-of-way, but that the new system does not have to come at the expense of existing car lanes.

“We’re talking about creating dedicated pathways so that this rapid transit is out of the flow of transit,” Adler said during a joint meeting of City Council and members of the Capital Metro Board of Directors on Monday.

“Certainly in most places this can be accommodated at-grade in the existing right-of-way and certainly with a goal being not to eliminate any existing through travel lanes,” he added. “Some places where we have limited access we’re going to have to look at available options, including acquiring additional right-of-way or going above ground or below ground.”

Dave Couch, who heads Project Connect for Capital Metro, similarly said it’s the goal to preserve existing travel lanes for cars.

Preserving all existing lanes on the targeted corridors is a challenge due to serious physical constraints, particularly for the Orange Line, the route that is proposed to run along North Lamar Boulevard, Guadalupe Street and South Congress Avenue. That corridor has long been the natural choice for high-capacity transit since it currently generates by far the greatest bus ridership…

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Firefly may carry Italian satellites to space on future rocket flights (Austin Business Journal)

Firefly Aerospace Inc. has agreed to provide an Italian company 15 rides to space over a five-year period, the Cedar Park startup announced March 4.

The agreement enables D-Orbit SpA to purchase room on future flights of Firefly’s Alpha rocket. The deal allows the Italian satellite company to "purchase, market and resell launch vehicle capacity, and to provide logistics support and integration activities at its operational premises in Italy,” according to the announcement.

While this is just one partnership, it's evidence of private-sector demand for space flight, which will be crucial if Firefly and other companies want to make real the dream of commercializing the future exploration of space…

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In Austin, violent crime is down but hot spots persist (Austin Monitor)

As Austin continues to experience explosive growth as it transforms into one of the nation’s larger metro areas, concerns about big-city-sized crime abound.

However, despite meteoric growth, overall violent crime is down. Ron MacKay, the crime analysis division manager with APD, came to the March 4 meeting of the Public Safety Commission to present the public safety statistics from the last calendar year. He began with a cheerful preamble, explaining that in 2018, overall crime was down 6 percent when compared with 2017 data.

At the same time, “this was our third-highest year for homicide,” he told commissioners, citing trend data going back to 2009. Similarly, bank robberies, auto theft and aggravated assaults increased from 2017 to 2018.

Other categories of crime experienced reductions, including sexual assault, non-family violence aggravated assault, burglaries, and robberies of individuals.

“Burglary is tending to be a downward-trending crime in Austin and that’s a good thing,” said MacKay. Residential burglaries were down 10 percent and non-residential burglaries were up 5 percent when compared to 2017, but still down 16 percent from the 10-year high in 2009.

For all these crimes, there are persistent hot spots of activity. For years, downtown, Rundberg Lane and Lamar Boulevard, and Riverside Drive and Wickersham Lane have been areas that experience crime at a higher rate than other parts of town…

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Hinojosa files bill to overturn Texas’ ban on inclusionary zoning (Austin American-Statesman)

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, filed a bill Monday to overturn Texas’ ban on “inclusionary zoning.” The bill would allow cities to mandate affordable housing through land-use codes.

Hinojosa said in a news release that HB 3050 would allow Texas cities to require developers to build affordable housing as part of new developments. The mandate would come through zoning laws. The practice is used widely in other states but has been prohibited in Texas for more than a decade, according to a news release from the office of Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool.

Pool, according to the release, approached Hinojosa about introducing legislation.

“Austin is growing, but that same growth is leaving many of our residents behind,” Hinojosa said in the release. “When Council Member Pool approached me about this, I could see a lot of potential in working with our city partners to try to help deal with the affordability crisis here and in other Texas cities.”

Pool and her fellow council members Alison Alter, Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen and Kathie Tovo plan to sponsor a local resolution in support of Hinojosa’s bill, the release said…

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Landowners urge Texas Senate panel to OK eminent domain bill (Austin American-Statesman)

Landowners told their eminent domain horror stories Monday as they urged a panel of lawmakers to approve a bill that would give them stronger protections, and possibly more money, when companies assert eminent domain to force landowners to sell.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican and author of the bill, said the measure is a byproduct of the booming Texas economy and energy sector, which has left many property owners at the mercy of private companies that have the authority to condemn land. Kolkhorst told Senate State Affairs committee members Monday that the bill would bring more transparency to the process…

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Hemp Farms In Texas? Ag Commissioner Sid Miller Among Backers For Legalization (KUT)

Kris Taylor was accepted into medical school. But instead of becoming a doctor, the Texan moved to California to pursue something he was really passionate about. Hemp.

“I don’t remember what I told them I was going to do, but I definitely remember I didn’t tell them I was going to grow cannabis,” he said.

Taylor, who grew up in Plano, is a cofounder of Lumen, a company that makes farm-to-bottle hemp elixirs using cold-pressed hemp mixed with herbs like ginger and turmeric.

Along with Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Taylor is among those rooting for state Senate Bill 116, which would allow Texans to grow hemp — an offshoot of marijuana without the high…

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Texas Senate unanimously passes $5,000 teacher pay raises, adding librarians (Texas Tribune)

The Texas Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill that would provide $5,000 annual pay raises for full-time classroom teachers and librarians, at a cost of $4 billion over the next two years.

Authored by the Senate's lead budget writer Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, Senate Bill 3 has been a priority of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick since he announced it at January's inauguration. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott declared teacher pay an emergency item at his State of the State speech last month, allowing lawmakers to move more quickly to get related bills through the legislative process.

SB 3 is the first bill addressing an emergency item to be passed out of either chamber. Every single member of the Senate signed onto the bill as co-author…

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Rep. Morgan Meyer partners with dating app Bumble to punish people who send lewd images online (Dallas Morning News)

Rep. Morgan Meyer, who represents Park Cities and Uptown as well as parts of downtown and Old East Dallas, has filed a bill in the Texas House that would criminalize the sending of lewd photos to unwilling recipients through text message, social media and online dating applications. It would be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Meyer's bill comes after several high-profile public figures were caught in scandals over the sending of sexual images. In September, Georgetown Sen. Charles Schwertner was accused of sending sexually explicit text messages, including a picture of his genitalia, to a college student. Schwertner has said the texts were sent from his accounts by someone he knows but refused to identify…

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House Judiciary Launches Probe Of Allegations Of Obstruction By President Trump (KUT)

The House Judiciary Committee launched a broad investigation into President Trump's inner circle Monday, targeting figures who have worked in his administration and for the Trump Organization businesses.

The committee told reporters Monday that the investigation will focus on three primary issues: whether the president obstructed justice by interfering with criminal investigations; potential corruption such as violation of campaign and financial reporting laws, as well as possible misuse of office for personal gain; and abuses of power to include misuse of the pardon power and attacks on the press, judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

The subjects of Monday's document requests include both longtime Trump allies and those in the broader universe of individuals and entities linked to Trump, his administration and his business dealings…

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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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