BG Note | News - What We're Reading (September 20, 2017)

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[LOCAL] First progress and then postponement as Central Health returns to Commissioners Court (Austin Monitor) LINK TO STORY

The Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday signed off on Central Health’s proposed $238 million budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18, but came up short on reaching an accord between the hospital district and activists who demand more transparency from it.
State law requires the court to approve the budget created by staff at Central Health, an otherwise autonomous jurisdiction with its own board of directors and taxing authority.
That board approved the proposed budget at a meeting on Sept. 13. The new tax rate of 10.74 cents per $100 of taxable land value represents a nominal decrease from last year’s rate of 11.05 cents. However, rising property values mean it’s effectively a 4.5 percent increase and the owner of an average home worth $305,000 will pay an extra $12.50 on their tax bill next year.

[LOCAL] Austin ISD Bond Proposal Shakes Up Eastside Schools (KUT) LINK TO STORY

Austin Independent School District is asking voters to approve a $1 billion bond that would bring major changes to East Austin schools. 
The bond, which voters will decide on in November, is the district’s largest bond proposal ever. If voters approve it, every school would get money for building and technology improvements.
"We want to make sure that as [Austin changes] we are also being responsive," AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said.

[STATE] House official blamed for crimping felony charges against Rep. Dukes (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

After announcing last week that they are holding off on the most serious charges in the corruption case against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Travis County prosecutors revealed the reason in a court filing Tuesday: A House official has given conflicting statements about rules on state travel reimbursements that are at the heart of the 13-count felony indictment against the Austin Democrat. Prosecutors say they learned Sept. 6 that Steven Adrian, executive director of the House Business Office, informed Dukes’ attorneys in January that his office does not require a House member to travel to the Capitol building in order to receive per diem payments when the Legislature is not in session. But, according to prosecutors, Adrian said the opposite in 2016 when he told an investigator with the state auditor’s office that Dukes had to travel to the Capitol to earn the reimbursement, $61.50 per day.


[State] Meet the Dallas urban planner behind Texas' pursuit of the hyperloop (Dallas Morning News) LINK TO STORY

Flat geography. A booming population. And a business-friendly environment. Those are just three reasons why Dallas urban planner Steven Duong says Texas is an ideal place for the hyperloop, a futuristic mode of travel that would use levitating pods to shuttle people and goods across hundreds of miles in minutes. Duong is a senior urban designer for the Dallas office of AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering, design and construction company. He led the Texas proposal that made it onto the short list of possible routes for Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company that wants to have at least one operational route somewhere in the world by 2021. Now, the hyperloop company will explore other factors, such as economic conditions and customer demand.


[STATE] Abbott makes mid-term shift in TxDOT leadership (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

San Antonio banker J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Texas Transportation Commission in 2015, has been named chairman of the five-member panel that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation.

Bugg succeeds Tryon Lewis, a former state representative and district judge from Odessa. The switch is unusual in that it comes in the middle of both of their six-year terms, and because Abbott appointed both men to the commission.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday why Abbott made the switch. The Abbott news release announcing it had just two sentences, along with a short bio of Bugg. Abbott’s office did not provide further comment.


[TECH] Office Envy: Inside Google’s New, 450-Person Downtown Austin Offices (AustinInno) LINK TO STORY

Big city views from three terraces. Meandering multi-floor stairwells that give it an Austin greenbelt vibe. And an airstream trailer that embraces Austin’s food truck dining culture.
That’s all part of the new Google office in downtown Austin. The new 300,000-square-foot space spread across several floors at 500 W. 2nd St. is the new work home of 450 Google employees. And the company says two more floors of the building are being constructed now and will open next year.
Google has had a significant presence in Austin since it acquired Austin-based Postini about 10 years ago. More recently, in 2015, the company made Austin its second location for the testing of self-driving cars (a business that has since become Waymo).

[TECH] Elsewhere Partners, a New VC Firm, Gives Austin and Other Emerging Tech Hubs Growth Funding (AustinInno) LINK TO STORY

Austin Ventures General Partner and AVX Partners Founder Chris Pacitti is partnering with two other high-level Austin investors on a new venture capital fund that could deliver some of the growth capital Austin area startups — and those in other emerging tech hubs — have been so hungry for.
Elsewhere Partners, a new VC firm led by Pacitti and two other experienced founders, investors and tech executives, plans to provide growth capital to tech startups that already have some traction and revenue — but haven’t significantly diluted ownership with big seed rounds.
The new firm looks to invest $1 million or more into promising software startups.

[TECH] Car insurance site The Zebra raises $40M and announces a new CEO (Austin American-Statesman) LINK TO STORY

The Zebra, an Austin company that lets consumers compare car insurance rates online, has raised $40 million and named a new CEO.
Silicon Valley-based Accel Partners was the lead investor icentn the Series B deal, which brings the total amount raised by The Zebra to $61.5 million.
Meanwhile, tech industry veteran Keith Melnick has joined The Zebra as CEO. He takes the helm from co-founder and CEO Adam Lyons, who remains at the company as chairman.
Melnick was formerly president of Kayak, a travel search engine and fare aggregator operated by the Priceline Group. Prior to that Melnick was a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, focusing on travel, e-commerce and financial services.

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