BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 14, 2019)



CAMPO tries to update 2040 plan, is held back by process (Austin Monitor)

Without concrete policies in place, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization could quickly fall short of its goal to incorporate transportation demand management into its 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt presented an amendment of the 2040 plan to the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board on Monday evening that she said would help the organization quantify its goals and outcomes regarding TDM. Citing the region’s likelihood of failing federal air quality standards in the coming years, increased peak time traffic congestion and severely limited alternatives to car travel, Eckhardt said the board needed measurable TDM strategies well beyond the tracking of carpool trips.

Eckhardt had the Capital Area Council of Governments voluntary TDM committee draft the amendment in light of two discussions facing CAMPO in May, one involving $500,000 previously dedicated to TDM but never allocated and another regarding changes to the 2045 Transportation Plan. Eckhardt was hoping to fast-track adoption of the amendment since the board is considering canceling its March meeting.

Unsurprisingly, CAMPO Executive Director Ashby Johnson said the amendment needs to go through the standard five-step process for policy proposals, involving the Technical Advisory Committee and an opportunity for public comment. That process and the CAMPO meeting schedule would push the item back to July 8 for adoption. At Eckhardt’s request, Johnson agreed to do his best to get the item to the TAC Feb. 25 meeting and have it back to the TPB for adoption as early as May, but more likely at the June 6 meeting…

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Fifth & Brazos tower to add two hotels, 274 apartments to downtown Austin (Austin American-Statesman)

A 32-story tower is under construction in downtown Austin that will add two new hotels to downtown’s booming hospitality market, along with 274 apartments.

The $170 million project carries a distinction for Austin: its developer says the building is the first in the city to use an artificial intelligence technology called in the construction process.

The tower, called Fifth & Brazos after its address, is being developed by Chicago-based Magellan Development Group and Ryan Companies, and was designed by bKL Architecture.

The Austin high-rise will have 400 hotel rooms and 13,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, Magellan said. It broke ground in November and is expected to be completed in late 2020.

In addition to studio, one and two bedroom apartments, the tower will have about 8,000 square feet of first-floor retail space.

The hotel brands will be a Thompson Hotel and a tommie Hotel, both concepts by Two Roads Hospitality, an international hotel management company. Hyatt Hotels Corp. acquired Two Roads Hospitality and its portfolio of brands in November…

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Scraped lots are not entitled to variances because of tree placement (Austin Monitor)

Generally, when trees are the cause of a variance request, the Board of Adjustment is quite accommodating. After all, considering all the good trees do for the environment and the city’s stringent protections for them, it can be difficult for homeowners simply to remove them.

Still, despite this historical pattern, the Board of Adjustment does not make decisions based on precedent.

At the Feb. 11 meeting of the board, members voted to deny a variance that would shrink a backyard setback from 10 feet to 5 feet due to constraints that three large trees imposed on the property. The design includes an accessory dwelling unit over a detached garage. Based on testimony, the motion was substituted for a motion to postpone until the March 11 meeting, which was passed unanimously…

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Realty Austin buys another brokerage for first time (Austin Business Journal)

Realty Austin, Austin’s largest independent real estate brokerage firm, bought Reilly Realtors LLC Feb. 4.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed but it creates a powerful player in the residential real estate sector.

Reilly — Austin’s third-largest independent broker based on market share — is bringing about 150 agents and one of the most heavily trafficked home-listings website in the Austin area,, to the deal. The firm had more than $500 million in sales in 2018.

The two companies are expected to have more than 600 agents combined and more than 10 percent of market share, which will rival Keller Williams Realty Inc. in Austin, Realty Austin co-founder Jonathan Boatwright said. He and his wife, Yvette, founded Realty Austin in 2004.

“This is our first acquisition and one we made very thoughtfully," he said. "Our core values couldn’t be more closely aligned as both companies have a team-oriented culture made up of very productive and collaborative agents. It will give us the scale we need to take our agents and services to the next level while increasing our online presence by about 50 percent.”…

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Abbott backs bill to prevent local governments from regulating sick leave, other benefits (Austin American-Statesman)

It should be up to Texas employers — and not local politicians — to decide what benefits they offer their workers, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday in a speech to an association of small business owners.

Having a city or county government create local regulations for employee benefits creates “a patchwork quilt of regulations” that drive up the cost of doing business, Abbott told members of the National Federation of Independent Business. The governor said he will back the Consistent Employment Regulations Act — a measure filed Tuesday by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth — that would ban local governments from regulating employee benefits.

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Ted Cruz revives call to build border wall with El Chapo's drug money (Dallas Morning News)

With Tuesday's conviction of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in New York City, Sen. Ted Cruz is once again seeking support for a bill that would make the drug kingpin pay for a border wall.

"America's justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts," the Texas Republican wrote in a Twitter post. "It's time to pass my EL CHAPO Act. I urge my Senate colleagues to take swift action on this crucial legislation." Guzman was found guilty on charges including narcotics trafficking and taking part in a money laundering conspiracy, The Hill reported…

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Manafort Intentionally Lied To Special Counsel, Judge Says (KUT)

A federal judge has ruled that President Trump's former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort intentionally lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's office after agreeing to cooperate with its investigation into interference by Russia into the last presidential election.

The ruling from Judge Amy Berman Jackson means prosecutors are no longer bound by their plea deal with Manafort, who now faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Manafort agreed to plead guilty only days before a trial last year in Washington, D.C., and prosecutors agreed to consider recommending leniency for Manafort based on his cooperation. He had already been convicted of eight felonies in a separate case last year in Alexandria, Va., including tax and bank fraud…

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Episode 34: Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman

(RUN TIME - 15:09)

On today’s episode we speak with Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chairwoman. Elected in November 2018, she is the party’s first Hispanic chair.

She and Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham discuss her state and local policy priorities for 2019, and ahead to the 2020 elections. Dyana also discusses the multiple constituencies making up the party, and ways political novices can engage in the process.

You can learn more about Dyana here, and follow her on Twitter at @DyanaforChair.

This episode was recorded on January 10, 2019.

Link to Episode 34

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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