BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 15, 2019)
Incentives or no, Amazon growing in Austin after nixing New York (Austin Monitor)
The announcement Thursday that Amazon is canceling its planned HQ2 facility in Queens, New York, confirmed what many business and policy watchers in Austin have predicted: In the coming years Austin will see a slice of the 25,000 planned jobs that were supposedly headed to the HQ2 site.
The company said Thursday that it has no plans to reopen the national site search it conducted throughout 2018. Last week when news first broke that the e-commerce giant was considering axing the New York site, a spokesperson for the Austin Chamber of Commerce, which spearheaded the city’s recruiting effort for the HQ2 project, said the group hadn’t had any new discussions with Amazon.
Similarly, last week David Colligan, the city’s director of global business expansion, said there have been no further discussions at City Hall about trying to land the headquarters that had been planned for New York. Colligan also said the city is moving forward with implementing its revised economic incentives programs that are aimed at small businesses and middle-class jobs, in a shift away from offering tax relief for large corporate campuses…
Austin to install ‘parking boxes’ for dockless scooters and bikes (Austin American-Statesman)
The city of Austin is preparing to install “parking boxes” for dockless scooters and bicycles in and around the downtown area.
“City staff hopes parking boxes will encourage people who use dockless bicycles and scooters to park in areas that do not impede accessibility by other road users,” officials said in a news release on Thursday…
Affordability may mean dealing honestly with trash (Austin Monitor)
Austin’s growth is putting a strain on the city’s waste collection service provider, Austin Resource Recovery, as it struggles to keep costs down for customers.
Results of the Residential Solid Waste Affordability Study, presented to the Zero Waste Advisory Committee at its November 2018 meeting, indicate that Austin residents are receiving more disposal and recycling services than residents of other large and medium-sized Texas cities and they are also paying higher monthly fees. Additionally, all Austin residents pay a monthly $8.95 Clean Community Fee that goes toward additional disposal services, environmental cleanup and community outreach.
According to ZWAC Chair Gerry Acuna, the study suggests that affordability of solid waste services needs to be addressed. Acuna brought a resolution to the board’s Wednesday evening meeting that simultaneously addresses the needs for both greater efficiency and affordability as the city grows.
The resolution proposed the combined strategy of bringing a recycling drop-off center to North Austin to continue the city’s effort diverting waste away from landfills with the addition of a waste transfer center to save ARR time and money…
Texas secretary of state apologizes for how he rolled out voter citizenship review. But he still supports the effort. (Texas Tribune)
Facing an uncertain path to confirmation after ordering a deeply flawed voter citizenship review that seemingly focused on naturalized citizens, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley is apologizing to state lawmakers for the way his office bungled its rollout of the review — but he is still holding firm behind the overall effort.
In a letter sent to state lawmakers late Wednesday, Whitley largely defended the review efforts as a legally sound exercise, and he did not admit that his office had erred when it mistakenly threw into question the eligibility of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens or when it sent counties lists of voters it knew very likely included naturalized citizens.
Instead, Whitley vaguely admitted there were some shortcomings to the data his office used to flag almost 100,000 registered voters for citizenship reviews and noted his office should have devoted more time to “additional communication” with local and state officials to “further eliminate anyone from our original list who is, in fact, eligible to vote.”…
Texas breweries and distributors find common ground in battle over beer to-go (Dallas Morning News)
The contention over Texas breweries being allowed to sell beer to-go has reached a middle ground.
On Wednesday, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, a trade association representing the interests of small brewers, and the Beer Alliance of Texas, which represents the state's distributors, announced a set of bills that would allow breweries to sell beer to patrons for offsite consumption up to a certain limit (576 ounces or 2 cases per day, per person)…
Texas districts push to extend the school year (Houston Chronicle)
Texas lawmakers are thinking about giving school districts money to lengthen the school year, and superintendents are for it. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance in December recommended that the Legislature help to pay for up to 30 additional instructional days to the 180-day school calendar.
The panel recommended the state pitch in half the cost of each school day, to a maximum of $50 million per day in the first year, according to the commission’s report. Several superintendents testified before the House Public Education Committee that the investment would be worth it because the additional time gives struggling students, including those from low-income backgrounds, more time to study and would help them to learn to read at grade level. In Texas, just four in 10 students read at grade level by third grade…
Trump To Declare National Emergency As Well As Sign Spending Bill, White House Says (KUT)
President Trump will support a border security funding compromise, averting a partial government shutdown early Saturday — but he also will declare a national emergency in order to build the wall he has pushed for along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country."
By Thursday evening, Congress had easily passed the bipartisan spending deal, which had been crafted by lawmakers from both the chambers. The vote was 83-16 in the Senate and 300-128 in the House, constituting veto-proof majorities…
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.