Austin
9:32 am
Tue January 27, 2015

How You Can Help Rewrite Austin's Confusing, Outdated Campaign Finance Rules

Some Austin City Council candidates before the city's ballot selection in August of 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The city's Ethics Review Commission (ERC) is looking for ways to update Austin’s campaign finance rules for two simple reasons.

One, the language is very complicated. And two, the limits that are in place haven't been updated in a long time. The ERC is meeting tonight to hear from Austinites about how to spruce up the rules.

Anyone with ideas as to how the ERC can make the language on campaign finance rules more understandable, can post those ideas at SpeakUpAustin.org or can attend the public meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m.

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Austin City Council
8:52 am
Tue January 27, 2015

What Happens If Steve Adler Forgoes His Salary?

Mayor Steve Adler.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

It's no secret that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is independently wealthy and that he doesn't need the $82,000 and change his position pays every year.

Adler has said he instead wants to use the money to boost the salaries of some of his staff, but the move may have some tricky implications for his successor.

Steve Adler is not the only Austin politician to forgo his salary. Recently, former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd got paid one dollar to complete Sarah Eckhart's term as Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Why did he do that?

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Science
2:36 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Will Your Self-Driving Car Turn on You? and Other Important Questions

A Google self-driving car that will hopefully one day share our human values.
Credit Stanford Center for Internet and Society/flickr

Researchers, scientists, professors and engineers from around the U.S. and the world are in Austin for the 29th annual Conference on Artificial Intelligence. They're here to talk about the latest developments in the field of artificial intelligence and how those developments are affecting human lives.

Some of the field’s prominent names are speaking about AI’s potential impact on the human race. Will robots steal everyone’s jobs? Will machines render humans irrelevant? Or will they rise up and dominate the human species with their superior intelligence?

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Energy & Environment
1:28 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Quiz: Beer, Coffee, or Crude Oil? Sometimes It's Hard to Tell

Credit Amanda/flickr

Anyone who spends time looking at how oil is drilled for and refined around the world comes to notice something strange. The names people give to different types of crude oil can sound surprisingly delicious.

In reporting on the role that benchmark oil prices play in moving the price of gasoline,  I was introduced to one person who had made a game out of it. Rice University student Aruni Ranaweera created the quiz "Beer, Coffee, Crude" to test her classmates' ability to distinguish between types of crude, types of beer, and blends of coffee.  It's harder than is sounds. Go ahead, crack open a can of Tia Juana Light and give it a shot.

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Austin City Council
7:12 am
Mon January 26, 2015

As 10-1 Council Steps Forward, Meet the New Committees

Austin's City Council holds a rare work session today before tomorrow's scheduled council meeting.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The new 10-1 Austin City Council will gavel in for its first regular meeting this week, and one of their ambitions is to be a more open, efficient council. To that end, they've indicated they want to move much of the nuts and bolts of policy-making to council committees, much in the way the state legislature works. The number of committees proposed is a big jump, from eight to at least 14 so far.

Here's what we know so far about the different committees:

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Austin
7:00 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Does the Future of Austin's 'No Kill' Animal Policy Lie in Creating a 'No Birth' Policy?

Two of the hundreds of cats Del Goss, of Montopolis, feeds every night. Goss' neighborhood is one of the poorest in Austin's District 3.
Credit Joy Diaz/KUT News

Among the many politically contentious issues the new Austin City Council will need to grapple with is the issue of “No Kill.” This February will mark the fourth consecutive year that Austin's shelters have achieved a no kill status, meaning that ten percent or fewer animals in shelter care are euthanized.

But, even with several measures including "no kill," Austin is still dealing with a large number of homeless animals.

Del Goss lives in Montopolis, one of Austin's poorest neighborhoods in City Council District 3. Every evening, he hops on his old white pick-up truck and heads to his friend Florence's. On the truck's bed sits a five-gallon plastic bucket full of cat food.

Goss feeds Florence's cats. And then he makes seven other stops to feed colonies of homeless animals.

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StoryCorps
5:30 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Gertha Murphy & Rev. Marion Childress-Usher on Growing Up in Goodwill

Rev. Marion Childress-Usher and Gertha Murphy at the StoryCorps mobile booth

Gertha Murphy was born 101 years ago in Goodwill, Texas, a small community in Washington County. She is, in her words, a "dyed in the wool" Texan.

She recently sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth with her daughter, Reverend Marion Childress-Usher. They talked about many things, and in this section of the conversation, Rev. Childress-Usher asks her mother about her childhood. 

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Higher Ed
2:00 pm
Sun January 25, 2015

Higher Ed: The Ins & Outs of Liberal Arts

The phrase "liberal arts" often goes hand in hand with discussions about higher education. But really, what are the liberal arts? Are they liberal? Are they arts?

How about none of the above? In the latest episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore what comprises liberal arts. Think it's literature, history, science, maybe the study of a foreign language? Think again and listen on.

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KUT Weekend
2:18 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Listen to Our Weekly News Podcast!

KUT Weekend brings you our favorite stories from the KUT newsroom. Updated Fridays!

Crime & Justice
1:20 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Report Finds No Clear Warning Signs Before Deadly 2014 Fort Hood Shooting

Fort Hood the day after the 2014 shooting.
Credit KUT News

The U.S. Army has closed its investigation into the April 2014 shooting at Fort Hood that left four people dead. The Army concluded that there was “nothing in the assailant’s background, medical or military profile” that might have provided officials with warning signs that he would act violently.

Specialist Ivan Lopez opened fire on the Army base on April 2 of last year, killing three soldiers and injuring 12. Lopez then took his own life.

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City Hall
11:06 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Council Postpones Salary Debate Until Next Week

Credit Callie Hernandez/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

On Thursday, City Council temporarily backed away from a plan that could have members voting to reduce their own salaries.

Council members voted 11-0 to postpone action on the resolution until their Jan. 29 meeting. The resolution directs the city manager to change the current office budgeting structure to allow Council members to decrease their individual compensation and shift funds within their offices. Mayor Steve Adler explained that the postponement will give Council members the opportunity to take a closer look at the proposition, then address it further at next week’s Tuesday work session.

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Agenda Texas
10:04 am
Fri January 23, 2015

What to Watch in the Texas State Budget

Credit Todd Wiseman & Stuart Seeger/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

Two weeks down in the 84th Texas Legislature. This one was filled with the pomp of Inauguration Day, and the curious circumstance of the Texas Senate's rules for bringing up a bill. But today's Agenda Texas talks about the state budget.

Out of the billions and billions spent, there are two numbers to focus on to help understand it all.

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Austin
9:36 am
Fri January 23, 2015

City Leaders Join Obamacare Enrollment Push As Deadline Nears

Austin city leaders joined Get Cover America in a press conference on Jan. 22, 2015, to remind people about the upcoming deadline to sign up for health insurance through healthcare.gov.
Credit Callie Hernandez/KUT News

The end of the open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act is less than a month away. In Austin, city leaders are pushing hard to get the word out.

At City Hall Thursday, some Austin City Council members reminded people they have until Feb. 15 to sign up.

"I just want to join my colleagues in this great group in getting the message out to folks that now is the time to do it," Austin Mayor Steve Adler says. "It’s easier than you think, and there’s more assistance available than you might think."

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Two Guys on Your Head
8:48 am
Fri January 23, 2015

How to Temper a Tantrum

Credit missmomma.com

There's a time during childhood when something as innocuous as an impending bedtime can cause uncontrollable tears, screaming and thrashing. The question for parents and caregivers is: What's the best way to deal with a tantrum?

In this edition of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke talk about why people throw temper tantrums and how to deal with them in the future.

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Austin Police
7:32 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Man Killed in Officer-Involved Shooting Near Slaughter Lane

Austin Police have said an officer-involved shooting shortly before 3 a.m. involved a man in his 60s who brandished a weapon at responding officers before he was shot by a two-year veteran officer.
Credit Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Update 11:26 a.m.: Austin police have identified the suspect who was killed: 61-year-old Robert Francis Mesch. Mesch was armed and suicidal, police say. Two-year police department veteran Daniel Hannah was the officer involved in the shooting, and he has since been placed on leave as a routine procedure. Police Chief Art Acevedo calls the shooting a "tragedy for everyone involved."

The Austin Police Department says an officer shot and killed a man in his early 60s. The shooting happened just before 4 a.m. near Bill Miller Bar-B-Q on West Slaughter.

Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo says a woman called police around 3:30 a.m. to say that her husband was threatening to kill himself and threatened her life as well. Two officers pursued the man in his tan pickup. Police say when he got out of the car near West Slaughter, the suspect was carrying a gun. The officer fired several rounds at the man. He was pronounced dead soon after.

Below, you can listen to the full audio of Acevedo's press conference from earlier this morning.

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Parks
3:48 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

City Plans to Repair Cyclocross Damage at Zilker

An aerial map of the affected portion of Zilker Park.

From the Austin Monitor:

City staff has revealed a one-year plan that they hope will remediate tree and turf damage related to a national Cyclocross championship held in Zilker Park earlier this month.

Watershed Protection Department Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak told the Environmental Board Wednesday that Parks and Recreation Department staff and City Arborist Michael Embesi have “a pretty robust restoration plan in place to address any damage to root zones and trees.”

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Austin
10:46 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Who Are the Powerful People in Your Neighborhood?

Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But are powerful neighborhood groups preventing it from becoming denser and more affordable?
Credit Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

As you might have heard, and most probably have felt, Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But how it should handle that growth is an ongoing debate. As a new city council steps forward, it might help to take a look at some of the people who are likely to be a vocal part of that debate: your neighbors.

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Austin City Council
10:42 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Can't Make a City Council Meeting? Austin Now Offers Input Options Online

Austin City Council is offering online options for public input. The council's historically long meetings that stretch into the early morning have often hampered public input.
Credit KUT News

The new Austin City Council knows everyone has an opinion about what things it should be doing, what things it should change and how those changes could come about. A recurring theme along the current council’s campaign trail was that many Austinites felt unheard and sometimes outright disregarded by city politicians.

At the beginning of the year, council proposed altering its meeting and committee format to pare down their traditionally long meetings.  So, starting tonight, there will be new ways to communicate with council and the mayor.

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Austin
9:25 am
Thu January 22, 2015

What Do the US-Cuba Talks Mean for Refugee-Friendly Austin?

With the opening of U.S.-Cuban relations, some wonder how the diplomatic thaw will affect Austin, which has a history of harboring Cuban refugees.
Indrani via Flickr

For decades, Austin has been a host to thousands of refugees arriving from Cuba. In fact, up until around 2010, Cubans were the largest single group of refugees in the city.

Now that diplomatic talks have started between the United States and Cuba, some in Austin wonder what role will our city play in this new relationship.

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Weather
7:44 am
Thu January 22, 2015

As Rain Falls, Some Low Water Crossings Closed; Flood Advisory In Effect

Credit National Weather Service

Update (9:47am): The National Weather Service says there's now a flood advisory in effect until 11am for several counties in the Austin area.

Update (9:06 a.m.): The National Weather Service has ended the flood advisory it issued earlier this morning for parts of Central Texas. 

Low water crossings continue to close in the Austin Area.

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