BG Reads | News You Need to Know (February 1, 2019)
Council kicks off new year with measures aimed at affordability (Austin Monitor)
In its first official meeting since the election, City Council unanimously approved several measures aimed at Austin’s growing affordability crisis.
In an attempt to increase funding for affordable housing in a rapidly gentrifying part of East Austin, Council approved a change to the existing homestead preservation district, whose boundaries extend roughly between Interstate 35 to the west, Airport Boulevard to the east, Manor Road to the north and Lady Bird Lake to the south.
Although Council created the district in 2007, it was not activated until 2015. At that point, the city began setting aside 10 percent of any tax revenue resulting from property value increases after 2015. That portion of the revenue is dedicated to funding income-restricted housing in the area…
City reluctantly fulfills legal obligation for Oak Hill Parkway (Austin monitor)
When the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved the Oak Hill Parkway Project on Jan. 14, Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s only regret was the loss of a good opportunity to use tolls to cover maintenance costs. Austin City Council members Jimmy Flannigan, Ann Kitchen and Alison Alter also contributed “ayes” at the time. So it’s no surprise that City Council chose to grant the Texas Department of Transportation’s request Thursday afternoon for $3,301,401 for right-of-way purchase and relocation of reimbursable utilities at the project’s site in Oak Hill.
The figure is 10 percent of the total cost of reimbursable utility relocation and purchase of two right-of-way agreements for the project’s individual sections. The city is required by law to contribute the 10 percent local participation but is not responsible for additional costs that may arise beyond the $3.3 million.
Because the project involves the intersection of two major highways – U.S. Highway 290 and State Highway 71 – it requires individual right-of-way agreements for both sections. The right-of-way agreements cover U.S. 290 from RM 1826 to SL 1 and SH 71 between Silvermine Drive and U.S. 290. The project features over two and a half miles of depressed highway with six main traffic lanes and another six service lanes, and an interchange elevated at 30 feet…
Riding on an HQ2 high, Washington, D.C. expected to recruit businesses hard at SXSW (Austin Business Journal)
Economic development officials from Washington, D.C as well as its Virginia suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria have been promoting their jurisdictions at the annual South by Southwest conference for years.
Now Montgomery County, Maryland — just north of Washington, D.C. — is, too, headed to Austin for the big show that attracts business leaders from around the globe.
The larger D.C. delegation will be bolstered further by the fact that Amazon.com Inc. believes their area is good enough to host part of its second headquarters…
TxDOT, tolling agency partner to improve connectivity between two toll roads east of Austin (Community Impact)
Drivers who use Toll 290 and SH 130 and those on the frontage roads could start seeing relief from traffic congestion by the end of 2021.
Construction began in December on a $127 million project to add three flyovers, or direct connectors, between the two toll roads east of Austin. Besides improving mobility on the two highways, the project is also expected to shift about 67 percent of vehicle traffic off the frontage roads, providing relief to those drivers who prefer a non-tolled option, according to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing construction.
“A goal of the … [Mobility Authority] is always to improve the improvements,” said Ray Wilkerson, chairman of the agency’s board of directors. “We try to always be cognizant of when things don’t always work.”…
Expect A Fight Over Texas Suburbs In 2020, As Democrats Eye Republican Bellwethers (KUT)
At a coffee shop in downtown Round Rock, Texas, freshman State Rep. James Talarico is hosting his first meet-and-greet with constituents since the midterm election.
“We were talking about constitutional amendments and marijuana policy,” Talarico says. “And we had a member of a local mosque here talking about the issues in the Muslim-American communities.”
Though not the youngest lawmaker ever to serve in, at 29 years old, Talarico is currently the youngest member of the Texas legislature. But what may be more notable is that Talarico is a Democrat who was elected in ruby-red Williamson County.
“As Austin grows, there are a lot of new folks moving into this area and that changes the demographics, the economics, and it also changes the politics,” Talarico says…
Texas leaders want voters to OK property tax revenue growth over 2.5 percent. They couldn't get 4 percent in 2017. (Texas Tribune)
Flanked by the state's top legislative leaders, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that both chambers of the Texas Legislature will push to curb property tax growth by limiting how much money local governments collect without voter approval.
Fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, as well as the heads of both chambers' tax-writing committees, joined Abbott in making the announcement. Their news conference followed the filing of identical bills in both chambers, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2.
Abbott said it was "completely unprecedented" for lawmakers to be so closely aligned on such an important issue this early in the session…
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has nearly $6 million ready for his Texas re-election campaigN (Texas Tribune)
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, will begin his campaign for a fourth term with hefty campaign funds.
Cornyn had $5.8 million in cash on hand at the beginning of this year, according to his campaign. In the latest reporting period — between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 — Cornyn raised $491,000 for his 2020 bid.
It's unclear if Democrats will nominate a candidate who can seriously threaten the seat, but any Cornyn challenger will have to scramble to match the millions Cornyn banked during the off-cycle years of his third term…
Shutdown creates lasting fallout for food stamp recipients (Washington Post)
Nearly a week after the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the Department of Agriculture’s hasty solutions to what could have been a food stamps crisis is still causing problems for many of the 39 million Americans who depend on food stamps.
Partway through the shutdown that left hundreds of thousands of workers without pay and paralyzed much of the federal government, USDA rushed to roll nearly $5 billion in benefits by Jan. 20, weeks ahead of schedule. In the vast majority of states, SNAP benefits are staggered throughout the month according to last name or Social Security number. Suddenly, millions of families that normally get their benefits toward the middle of the month will have to live off what little they have for about 50 days…
The Shutdown Is Over. Now The Federal Workforce Faces 'Untold Morale Problems' (KUT)
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers received their first partial paychecks this week as the government reopened Monday after a 35-day partial shutdown.
Some 400,000 workers had been furloughed, and another 400,000 had been on the job but were not getting paid.
While the financial costs for those workers were high, the shutdown also took a heavy toll on employee morale. And it may have the longer-term impact of making it more difficult to bring new people into the government.
"I think this is just going to further kill morale," says Jared Hautamaki, an attorney at the Environmental Protection Agency. "It's going to hurt recruiting."…
Episode 32: State Representative Sheryl Cole (D-Austin)
(RUN TIME - 11:53)
On today’s episode we speak with Representative Sheryl Cole (D-Austin). Elected in November 2018, she is one of several incoming freshman members representing Central Texas.
While new to the Texas Legislature, Representative Cole is a veteran politician, having served on the Austin City Council from 2006 to 2015. She served as Council Mayor Pro Tem of Austin from 2011 to 2015. She was the city’s first African American woman elected to City Council.
An accountant and attorney by training, Representative Cole got her start in public life stepping up in her local PTA, and organizing community support for our schools as one of the Tri-Chair’s to the AISD Bond Committee in 2004.
She was recently assigned to the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, as well as respectively the Committees on County Affairs and Redistricting…