Texas Will Use State Land for Homeless Camp

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state convert five acres of land near Austin into a camping spot for homeless people.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state convert five acres of land near Austin into a camping spot for homeless people. Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Border mayors convene in San Diego … Virginia governor announces tech talent pipeline … Idaho governor asks state agencies to cut budgets.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that the state will convert five acres of land near Austin into a camping spot for homeless people, a week after his administration ordered the state Department of Transportation to remove homeless people and their belongings from highway overpasses in Austin. Homeless people will have to bring their own tents, but the location will have portable restrooms, handwashing statements, and food delivered by local charities several times per day. The state’s Department of Public Safety will provide 24-hour security. John Wittman, a spokesperson for Abbott, said the governor is stepping in because the city has not done enough. “This is the governor following through on his commitment. He said he would clean up downtown,” he said. The designated area is about five miles away from the state Capitol, near the city’s airport.Wittman said the charities might provide transportation to the site, but did not specify any specific plan for moving people there. Abbot said that efforts to clear out homeless encampments in the city will take a while. Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who has sparred with Abbott recently over the city’s response to a growing homeless population, said that the city will be focusing on long-term housing solutions. "Shelters can be an important part of the range of housing we need and are most effective when associated with a housing exit strategy. The State’s temporary camping area can be constructive when it provides people with a choice that has greater safety, services and support and a real prospect of a housing exit. The city will support such efforts with continued focus on permanent housing solutions and we could really use the State’s help here, too,” he said. [Wall Street Journal; Texas Tribune; Houston Chronicle]

BORDER MAYORS | San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer hosted a group of U.S.-Mexico border mayors last week to discuss waste problems, immigration, and international trade. Fifteen mayors from California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico joined mayors from Mexico in signing two resolutions. The mayors want the reauthorization of the North American Development Bank and an increase in funding for border infrastructure projects and the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. "Border cities in Mexico and the U.S. are closely linked by a common economy, environment and shared community. This is an important time for the U.S.-Mexico border regions to gather to illustrate the dynamic opportunities of the cross-border economy to leaders at the federal levels on both sides of the border,” said Faulconer. Tijuana Mayor Arturo González said that the economies of U.S. and Mexico border cities are inextricably linked. “Tijuana and San Diego represent a $255 billion economy and one of the busiest land border crossings in the world with a flow of 50 million people per year. Our Cali-Baja region will continue to work together to strategically develop our economies to uniquely position our bi-national area for success. By joining forces, we will compete globally,” he said. [Times of San Diego; ABC News; San Diego Union-Tribune]

TECH TALENT | Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced an initiative to invest in universities in the state that produce high numbers of graduates with technology degrees. The tech talent program is expected to create 31,000 new computer science graduates over the next 20 years through agreements with 11 schools. Northam said that the arrival of Amazon’s new headquarters in Virginia and the general growth of tech in the state has fueled a demand for workers. “Virginia’s tech sector will continue booming only if we can train the workforce that those jobs require. With today’s announcement, we are educating a workforce that will fill jobs at hundreds of tech companies around the Commonwealth, including at Amazon,” he said. Anne Holton, interim president of George Mason University, said that the investment will help the university’s ability to support students interested in technology. “We’re grateful to state officials for their confidence in our ability to continue to deliver talent for decades to come,” she said. [WTVR; Inside Higher Ed]

BUDGET CUTS | Idaho Gov. Brad Little last week asked state agencies to cut their budgets by at least 1% and to expect more cuts in the coming year. The request excluded public schools. Zach Hauge, the governor’s chief of staff, said that Little is dedicated to funding education. “Gov. Little’s No. 1 priority is education. He has said it is our moral and constitutional obligation to ensure Idaho students are prepared for a lifetime of learning and eventual careers,” he said. The request to cut costs was made after it was revealed that revenue from state taxes will be significantly lower than expected. The state has a cushion built into the budget, though, and $500 million in rainy day funds. Alex Adams, Little’s budget chief, said that because of those factors, residents of the state shouldn’t worry. “This is not a holdback, when revenue is not sufficient to meet your spending for the year. That’s simply not the case in Idaho. We have a belief that spending has grown faster than we can keep up with,” he said. [Associated Press; Boise State Public Radio]

PRESIDENTIAL RACE | Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary. Bloomberg last week dispatched staffers to Alabama to gather signatures before a deadline for candidates to qualify for the presidential primary there. He previously said he would not run in 2020, but sources told news organizations he has since reconsidered given the growing popularity of left-of-center candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who he does not believe can win against Trump. Howard Wolfson, an advisor to Bloomberg, said that the billionaire believes there is space for more moderate candidates. “Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to [defeat Trump]. If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America’s biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America’s toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist,” he said. The Warren campaign has since issued a message calling Bloomberg’s potential candidacy as “another example of the wealthy wanting our government and economy to only work for themselves.” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, agreed. “More billionaires seeking more political power surely isn’t the change America needs,” he said. [New York Times; CNN]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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