Development
3:52 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Waller Creek Tunnel Excavation Over Halfway Complete

Progress inside the Waller Creek tunnel this May. Over half of the tunnel has been excavated to date.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It was a full house this morning for an Urban Land Institute breakfast on Waller Creek.

The design competition for the above ground portion of Waller Creek – including an inlet at Waterloo Park, an outlet at Lady Bird Lake, and the creek itself – is nearly at an end. But below ground, there’s still plenty to do.

Joe Pantalion, Deputy Director of the Watershed Protection Department says the Waller Creek tunnel is 60 percent excavated. Once completed, it will keep the water in Waller Creek at a steady flow, and pull 28 acres out of the floodplain.

"It’s actually right on schedule," Pantalion says. "They’ve excavated 2,000 feet north of Fourth Street," the construction site that serves as entrance to the tunnel. "The tunnel’s right under Ninth Street right now. And heading south, the tunnel’s gone about 1,200 feet, which would put it right under the Cesar Chavez bridge [over Waller Creek, between the Austin Convention Center and Iron Works BBQ]." 

While the tunnel is nearing completion, Pantalion says most of next year will be spent reinforcing the structure by lining it with concrete. “We hope to have the tunnel, all the pieces connected – the inlet, the tunnel, the outlet – all by the end of 2014,” he says. 

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Wildfires
1:47 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Few Bastrop Fire Victims Apply for Federal Housing Aid

Thousands of people lost almost everything in the Bastrop wildfires.
Teresa Vieira for KUT News

The Texas General Land Office says far fewer Bastrop fire victims have applied for federal housing aid than anticipated.

Friday is the deadline for Bastrop fire victims to apply for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Aid to fix or rebuild their homes.

So far, only about 85 homeowners have applied — although some 2,100 homes were destroyed in the fire.

“Definitely that is one of the drawbacks of federal funding is that it takes a long time to get down to the people and so the state didn’t have that available to them until just a few weeks ago to even put this application out. And so some people, when a year has passed, they’ve found other ways to recover on their own because they just can’t wait," says Katy Sellers, the land office's  Liaison Manager for Disaster.

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Lance Armstrong
1:07 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

USADA Says Its Lance Armstrong Files Are Almost Ready

The anti-doping agency that hounded cyclist Lance Armstrong says its case will be soon be submitted to the International Cycling Union.
flickr.com/rubenstein

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) says it needs three more weeks to prepare and send its Lance Armstrong files to the International Cycling Union (UCI), promising to have the documents ready by October 15.

The USADA has accused Armstrong of cheating and recommended that his seven Tour de France titles be stripped. Armstrong has said he won’t fight the decision. The USADA does not have the authority to actually strip the titles. It can only recommend the sanctions to cycling’s international governing bodies.

USADA spokesperson Annie Skinner, in an email to KUT News this afternoon, says "USADA is in the process of finalizing the written reasoned decision in its U.S. Postal Services pro cycling doping case. We will provide the reasoned decision addressing the lifetime bans and disqualifications imposed to the UCI and [World Anti-Doping Agency] as provided for under world rules. "

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Transportation
12:52 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

When Will the Driverless Car Travel to Texas?

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute is traveling to California to learn about Google's driverless car, pictured above.
flickr.com/jurvetson

Robots can perform surgerybuild machinerytrade stocks, and even write news stories. And now they can drive cars.

California legalized so-called self-driving cars yesterday. Nevada has actually issued a drivers license to a robot car. And while Texas isn't exactly stepping on the gas with regards to driverless cars, it isn't stuck in neutral either.

The only traffic-ready self-driving car is currently offered made Google – although it’s not for sale. The system uses sensors and computers to navigate through traffic. Current laws require a human to sit in the driver’s seat, in case something goes haywire with the computer.

Google says its fleet of six Toyota Priuses, an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450 hybrid have logged more than 300,000 trouble-free miles. There have been two collisions, but the company says that neither was the robot driver’s fault.

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Public Safety
12:04 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Weekend Death 11th Fatal Hit-and-Run This Year

Sunday morning's fatal traffic accident, the 53rd of the year, occurred on the Congress Avenue Bridge.
flickr.com/rutlo

The hit-and-run death of a bicyclist on an Austin road this weekend was the 11th fatal incidence of a failure to stop and render aid this year, according to Austin Police.

The incident occurred early Sunday morning. Cyclist Robert Anthony Ramirez was on the Congress Avenue Bridge when police say he was struck by motorist Brian Adam Mahy:

On Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 4:34 a.m., Austin Police responded to an auto/bicyclist crash at 100 South Congress Avenue. The bicyclist was operating a bicycle southbound in the far right lane of the Congress Bridge. According to witnesses, a black Ford Mustang was operating at a high rate of speed in the center lane of southbound Congress Avenue. The Mustang then passed another vehicle to the right, placing him in the same lane as the bicyclist. The Mustang crashed into the bicyclist, then left the scene and did not stop to render aid to the bicyclist.

Ramirez was pronounced deceased at the scene. Mahy turned himself into police afterward, and was charged with second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter and third-degree felony failure to stop and render aid.

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Criminal Justice
11:32 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Texas Executes Cleve Foster, Ninth Inmate to Die This Year

Former Army recruiter Cleve Foster was executed for the 2002 slaying of a Fort Worth woman last night.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The State of Texas executed Cleve Foster last night. He was put to death for the sexual assault and shooting death of Nyaneur Pal (“Pah”) in Fort Worth in 2002.

His attorneys say he was innocent and didn’t have proper legal defense early on. Foster’s co-defendant, Shelton Ward, died of cancer on death row in 2010.

The Austin Chronicle writes Foster was charged under Texas’ “law of parties,” which stipulates those involved in the commission of a murder can be charged with the crime, even if they didn’t directly participate in the act of murder. Foster claimed he was incapacitated at the time of Pal’s death:

In several statements Ward repeatedly claimed that he alone murdered Pal, but prosecutors have said Ward's statements are inconsistent with the evidence. DNA evidence showed both men had sex with her before her death, but Foster insists he was passed out from sleeping pills and wasn't involved in Pal's killing.

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Sports
10:35 am
Wed September 26, 2012

After Uproar, No Signal NFL Refs Will Be Back Soon

Things haven't been going well for these guys: Some of the NFL's replacement referees, during a Sept. 23 game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.
Kevin Dietsch UPI /Landov

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 1:22 pm

  • David Green and Tom Goldman talk on 'Morning Edition'

Though the nation's football fans — from President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to the average couch quarterback — are begging the two sides to settle their contract dispute so that regular NFL referees can come back to work, there seems to be no clear reason to think that's going to happen in time for this week's games.

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The Lead
10:09 am
Wed September 26, 2012

The Lead: Officer-Involved Shooting, ERCOT's Summer Evaluation, F1 Track Race Ready

The State of Texas executed Cleve Foster, 48, last night. He was put to death for the sexual assault and shooting death of Nyaneur "Mary" Pal in Fort Worth in 2002.

Here’s what KUT News has been working on this morning:

Here’s a roundup other Austin and Texas stories from around the web:

  • Austin's First 'Kids Only' Yoga Studio (KEYE)

KEYE reports that The Little Yoga House is Austin's first "kids only" yoga studio. Creators say it teaches kids not only about the importance of a healthy lifestyle but also about dealing with stress in a healthy way.

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Texas
9:04 am
Wed September 26, 2012

ERCOT Board Examines Summer Power Usage, Makes Predictions for Fall

ERCOT predicts no demand problems for fall, winter.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that though the Texas electric grid saw new monthly peaks in June and July, the overall electric demand fell below last summer’s record-setting numbers. 

At the Board of Directors September meeting yesterday, directors were briefed on the summer’s power grid demand and peaks over the summer and made projections for fall and winter. 

This summer, ERCOT didn’t have to issue any energy emergence alerts (EEA)—which can result in rotating outages in order to prevent a power grid overload and statewide blackout. Last summer, ERCOT issued seven EEAs. Though this summer’s weather was hotter than the state’s 15-year average, it didn’t reach the sweltering levels achieved in 2011, so air conditioner use was somewhat lower.

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Formula 1
7:46 am
Wed September 26, 2012

F1 Officials Declare Austin Track Ready to Race

Inspectors from Formula 1's governing body take a look at the Circuit of the Americas track.
Circuit of the Americas

After a visit from Formula 1 officials yesterday, Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is right on track to host the United States Grand Prix in November, according to a press release from COTA. 

Charles Whiting, the director of racing, safety and technical matters for the Fédération Internationale de l’ Automobile (FIA), the international body that oversees F1 racing, declared Austin’s track “ready to race.”  His approval is necessary for an F1 circuit to conduct Grand Prix races.

The track was awarded a Grade 1 designation, the highest distinction that can be given to a motorsports venue.  Whiting declared that the circuit was “built to the highest quality” and that he had “no complaints whatsoever.”

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police
4:37 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Now Austin Cops Can't Search Your Car Unless a Supervisor OKs It

Changes to vehicle search procedure and more were announced by Austin Police today.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin police officers will be required to get permission from a supervisor before searching a vehicle with the owners’ consent. That’s one of several APD policy changes announced today by police chief Art Acevedo. Officers will also have to get the driver to sign a form saying they voluntarily consent to the search.

Acevedo made the announcement while standing alongside local civil rights leaders Nelson Linder with the NAACP and Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Right’s Project.

“It was historically an issue for years,” Harrington said in a phone interview.  “Police on the East Side would stop people and search them and claim it was by consent. I think we’ve seen considerable progress in limiting consent searches to where there really is consent and now of course there has to be supervisor approval.”

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Criminal Justice
3:57 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons

The recidivism rate for ex-cons in Texas has fallen 11 percent - meaning less former felons returning behind bars.
flickr.com/hmk

Fewer Texas ex-convicts are returning to prison, according to a report released today by the National Reentry Resource Center.

The report tracked individuals released from prison between 2005 and 2007 until 2010, to see whether they returned to prison. It found that the three-year recidivism rate went down 11 percent in Texas.

Other states with significant drops in their recidivism rates were Ohio, Kansas and Michigan.

The report credits the lowered recidivism rates in many states to increased funding for programs that ease the transition from prison to society, including the 2008 Second Chance Act. The act provides federal grants to state and local governments and community organizations to provide services that ease the transition from prison to society. Funds can be used to provide employment services, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and mentoring to prisoners and ex-cons.

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Arts and Culture
3:31 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Austin Children's Museum Moving to Mueller

The Austin Children's Museum will move from its downtown location to the Mueller development.
flickr.com/mirsasha

Have you ever seen a dizzy golf ball? 

The Austin Children's Museum assures you will. The museum is dedicated to what they call informal learning; one exhibit, called "Ready, Set, Roll," teaches children about physics by sending golf balls through all manner of gravity-defying courses.

The Austin Children's Museum is expanding their facilities. Today, its leaders broke ground at their new location in the Mueller development in central east Austin. 

New exhibits will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, highlighting hands-on interactive learning. The museum will also encourage activity, with the grounds featuring interactive outdoor elements.

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Public Safety
3:05 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Travis County To Buy $2.4 Million Fire Fighting Helicopter

A UH-1H used by fire fighters in California. Travis County commissioners approved the purchase of a "like new" UH-1H today.
Flickr user davidhofmann08, bit.ly/Qj4MVy

Travis County will spend $2.4 million on a helicopter to fight fires. County commissioners approved the purchase today.

The county already has three EC-145 helicopters, but Danny Hobby with Travis County Emergency Services says this UH-1H helicopter will be different.

“It’s specific to firefighting, which is a great benefit to us," says Hobby. "We found that during the Labor Day fires that we were limited in having [the state's] aircraft available to us, because the entire state was burning up. Now we’re going to have an aircraft available to us that is a fire aircraft.”

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Texas
2:42 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Appeals Court Upholds Open Meetings Law

A posted notice for an Austin school board meeting, as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A federal appeals court is upholding a Texas law aimed at government transparency.

A group of city officials from across Texas had challenged the Texas Open Meetings Act, saying it violates their free speech rights. The law requires public officials to post notices and agendas for their meetings and restricts how officials can meet with each other to discuss public business.

The ruling today from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling that found the law is constitutional and does not improperly limit elected officials speech.

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Why Bother?
1:20 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

With So Many Registered Voters, Why is Austin Turnout So Low?

The voter registration drive at the Travis County offices today. While county voter registration is high, turnout is another matter.
facebook.com/TravisCountyTaxOffice

Today is National Voter Registration Day, a push to get voters on the rolls before registration ends. (In Texas, that’s Oct. 9.)

According to a statement from the Travis County’s voter registrar, the county “enjoys the highest voter registration rate (78%) among urban counties in Texas.” That’s some 607,000 county residents. As part of National Voter Registration Day, officials want to swell that number to 650,000.

But will more registered voters actually lead to more votes and more engagement?

“There are about 460,000 registered voters here inside the city of Austin,” local political consultant Mark Littlefield tells KUT News. “We have about 79,000 likely voters in a City Council election. If it is a municipal election where there is no hot mayor’s race, you are looking at turnout of 30,000, about eight percent.”

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2012 Presidential Election
11:29 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Romney's Medicaid Remarks On '60 Minutes' Raise Eyebrows

Mitt Romney talks with 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.
AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 3:21 pm

It's not so much what Mitt Romney said about whether the government should guarantee people health care in his interview on CBS's 60 Minutes Sunday that has health care policy types buzzing. It's how that compares to what he has said before.

To back up a bit, Scott Pelley asked the former Massachusetts governor if he thinks "the government has a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don't have it today?"

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Politics
10:34 am
Tue September 25, 2012

It's National Voter Registration Day - Are You Registered?

Voter Registration Day comes two-weeks before the Oct. 9 registration deadline.
flickr.com/athrasher

Several voter registration events are scheduled around town today for National Voter Registration Day.

The Travis County Tax Office on Airport Boulevard will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. to register voters.

The League of Women Voters and the Austin Community College student chapter of Unite Women will help people register to vote on ACC campuses today.

And both the Travis County Republican and Democratic parties are opening up their headquarters to help people register.

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City Council
9:38 am
Tue September 25, 2012

City Council Considers Same-Sex Marriage Resolution

Council members will consider a resolution supporting 'marriage equality' in Texas.
flickr.com/weho

The Austin City Council is scheduled to discuss a few hot-button issues at its work session today.

Council members will discuss a resolution that would declare the City Council’s intent to support what the agenda refers to as “marriage equality” or same-sex marriage in the state.

The council will also consider filing a legal document that shows their support for area school districts who have filed school finance lawsuits in Travis County.

Council members will also consider a request to the city manager to seek more information on two types of salamanders that could be placed on the Endangered Species list.

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Austin
9:14 am
Tue September 25, 2012

The Lead: Travis County Tax Increase, Austin’s Hipster Bonafides

Good morning. This morning’s scattered fog is expected to burn off quickly, leaving another sunny, slightly warmer than average day, according to the National Weather Service.

Here’s what KUT News has been working on this morning:

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