BG Reads | News You Need to Know (March 11, 2019)
City to consider franchise model for dockless mobility (Austin Monitor)
Austin Transportation has been steadily slowing the stream of dockless units coming into the city and is now considering a 50 percent cut to the number of dockless mobility operators licensed to deploy their scooters and bikes.
In a presentation to the Pedestrian Advisory Council on March 4, Jason Redfern, Parking Enterprise Division manager, and Jake Culberson, acting Mobility Services Division manager, explained that the decision could lower the number of licensed operators in the city from 10 to five, limiting the market to those who best demonstrate competence while providing a greater market share for those select vendors.
Redfern and Culberson said the program would essentially imitate the city’s taxicab franchise model, strengthening each individual operator by limiting competition and allowing more resources to be put into the service being provided.
By cutting the number of operators in half, each would be permitted to deploy more units to compensate for the resulting gap. Redfern said the number of dockless units on the streets would be similar to the current figure…
Council OKs full $12M for creative space preservation, creation (Austin Monitor)
The city’s creative leaders will have a full $12 million in bond money as their conceptual modeling clay later this month when the community begins to consider how best to protect Austin’s shrinking stock of arts spaces and music venues.
City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a slate of four resolutions related to funds approved by voters in November’s election, including an initial $500,000 appropriation from the $12 million for creative spaces. The vote also approved the release of:
$42 million for affordable housing
$3.7 million for library facility improvements
$28.1 million for museum facility and parkland improvements
$61.6 million for flood mitigation, open space and water quality protection
$600,000 for a new neighborhood public health facility
$7.8 million for emergency medical services station improvements
$1.6 million for fire station improvements
$5.1 million for transportation infrastructure improvements
Going into the meeting, proponents of the creative community expressed concerns that Council would only approve $500,000 toward space preservation this budget year, which wouldn’t go very far as land prices all over the city continue to climb, causing studios and performance spaces to suffer economically.
“Simply stated, $500,000 in a commercial property in this particular city is not going to accomplish much of the goals that the bond was proposed for,” said Stuart Sullivan, a member of the city’s Music Commission and owner of a local recording studio. “My understanding was that it was going to be for up-front property acquisition and that amount of money up front would not help us very much. The entire $12 million being released at once would allow us to have more options on how we approach this as well as to work quicker because a lot of the applicants … we’re seeing them leave and pass away now.”…
Former UT Austin President William Powers Dies At 72 (KUT)
Former UT Austin President William Powers Jr. died Sunday from complications after a fall in September. According to a press release from the university, Powers had oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy, a rare adult-onset muscle disorder. He was 72.
In addition to serving as the university's 28th president from 2006 to 2015, he was a professor at the School of Law. He also served as dean of the school from 2000-2005. He was teaching at the school when he fell outside the main building and was hospitalized last fall.
“Bill was an eloquent and fierce champion for UT students, faculty and staff. Never was this more evident than in the early and mid-2010s, when Bill put every ounce of himself into defending the soul of our university,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves, who succeeded Powers, said in a statement. “For 40 years on these Forty Acres, Bill Powers embodied the UT motto, ‘What starts here changes the world.’ He lived those words. But even more importantly, he made sure legions of other Longhorns did too. We’ll miss him dearly.”…
As bill filing deadline passes, legislative rifts exposed (Austin American-Statesman)
Sixty days into the 140-day legislative session, with an important bill-filing deadline passing on Friday, the outlines of key legislative battles are taking shape at the Capitol.
If the 2017 regular legislative session revolved around the combustible issues of transgender bathroom rights and sanctuary cities, this one is about bread-and-butter, kitchen-table matters like property taxes and state money for schools. The central tension of 2019 is whether lawmakers can direct more money to schools while constraining the ability of schools — and cities and counties — to raise money through taxes…
Texas Senate unveils its first version of a school finance reform bill (Texas Tribune)
On the night of the deadline to file bills this legislative session, Texas Senate leaders turned in their first crack at legislation designed to reform school finance — rounding out a series of proposals in the upper chamber aiming to address rising property taxes and fix the way the state pays for its schools.
The bill was clearly incomplete and included some placeholder language. But its Republican author, Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, said it includes proposals that would fund full-day pre-K, incentivize school districts to improve their third-grade reading performance, offer money for teacher merit pay and increase funding for low-income students. The bill does not appear to require school districts to use standardized tests to determine funding.
Taylor didn't give an indication of how much the bill would cost, or how it would affect local school district property taxes…
Beto O'Rourke teases run for White House during premiere of film about Senate race (Dallas Morning News)
Beto O'Rourke on Saturday said he was still working on a potential presidential roll-out as he continued to tease his plans for 2020. "We'll be announcing something soon," the former El Paso congressman said after the premiere of a documentary of his campaign for U.S. Senate called Running With Beto. "I wish I could tell you more."
O'Rourke, who last year lost his bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, has opted against challenging Republican incumbent John Cornyn for Senate and will likely run for the Democratic nomination for president. "I want to make sure I do it the right way and tell everyone at the same time," O'Rourke said. "I got to be on the timeline that works for my family and the country."…
Dan Patrick prioritizes defunding abortion providers, raising smoking age and more (Dallas Morning News)
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has released his top 30 legislative priorities for the year, which include defunding abortion providers, raising the smoking age and expanding the ability of tenants to possess firearms.
Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, announced the priority bills in a news release Friday evening. In a statement, he described the proposals as not only his priorities but "also priorities of the majority of the Texas Senate and the conservative majority of Texas." The 30 bills included proposals to overhaul the school finance system and cap local tax revenue increases, the two initiatives at the top of the list for Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. But Patrick says he's also pushing giving Texas teachers a pay raise to the top of his list…
White House And Ivanka Trump Propose New Spending On Child Care (KUT)
In the midst of a presidential budget proposal destined to generate controversy for its expected drastic spending cuts, White House senior adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump wants to have a conversation about increasing the availability and affordability of child care.
NPR has learned that the 2020 White House budget set to be released Monday will call for increased spending on child care and propose an initiative to address shortages.
Presidential budgets are policy statements, frequently ignored by Congress, and this one is no different (It has already been declared a "nonstarter" by Democrats.) So in a way, this is Ivanka Trump and the White House signaling that they want in on a debate already underway in the business world and in politics about this "ever growing challenge."…
Episode 37: Patrick Howard, Austin Planning Commissioner (District 1)
(Run time - 9:53)
On today’s episode we speak with returning guest Patrick Howard, recently appointed to Austin’s Planning Commission by Council Membership Natasha Harper Madison (District 1). Outside of the commission Patrick serves Executive Director and CEO of the Housing Authority of Travis County…