Wildfires
10:08 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Final Day for Bastrop Fire Victims to Apply for Housing Aid

Thousands of people lost their homes in the Bastrop wildfires.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

People who lost their homes in the Bastrop wildfires last year have until the end of business today to apply for federal housing aid.

As KUT News previously reported, The Texas General Land Office says far fewer people than anticipated have applied for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development aid.

The Texas General Land Office is distributing about $20 million that could help as many as 200 fire victims.  Each applicant could get as much as $125,000 to put towards rebuilding their homes.

Another $5 million is going directly to Bastrop County for erosion control and other fire mitigation projects.

But at last check, less than 90 people had applied—although 2,100 homes were destroyed in the fire.

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Arts and Culture
9:05 am
Fri September 28, 2012

It's Mediterranean Festival This Weekend

Mediterranean food and drink will be offered at this year's MedFest.
flickr.com/winemegup

Rain or shine, the annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival is kicking off this weekend.

The festival, now in its 80th year, promises Mediterranean delights from Lebanon, Palestine, Greece, Eritrea and Romania. According to the festival, “Gyros, Kibbee, Baklava, Spanakopita and Mici are only the beginning as you feast outdoors on delicacies from the Orthodox world.”

Along with a feast of foods, the festival will offer shopping in a festival marketplace, dance demonstrations and children’s activities at the Kid’s Oasis. Music and live dancing will be provided by Laand Greek Ensemble.

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Texas
8:36 am
Fri September 28, 2012

What Gave Gov. Perry Sleepless Nights on the Campaign Trail

Gov. Perry says he's sleeping better now than he was during his presidential campaign, pictured above.
KUT News

According to the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry is downplaying the effects of his previously publicly unknown sleep apnea

Perry’s office released a statement to CNN on Sunday, confirming that the governor indeed had the sleep disorder, but had been diagnosed and treated during the campaign.

But on Thursday, Perry blamed pain resulting from back surgery in 2011 as keeping him awake.

“My issue was one of a hyper-fusion of that nerve in my foot that kept me awake,” Perry told The Houston Chronicle.

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2012 Presidential Election
8:23 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Obama, Romney Mine For Swing Voters In Ohio

Coal miners listened as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke during a rally last month in Beallsville, Ohio. Both Romney and President Obama have made the state a focal point of their campaigns.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 10:15 am

Undecided voters in Ohio got a lot of attention this week from President Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney. Coal may be the key to many swing voters in the Buckeye State, which remains a top coal producer.

It's an issue weighing on coal miner Rick Carpenter's mind at the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival in southeastern Ohio.

"Save coal — fire Obama. Yeah, I've got one of those signs in my yard," he says.

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Austin
5:07 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

A Big Mess: Cleaning Up After This Morning's Fuel Spill

Austin Fire Department Crews are specially trained to respond to hazardous materials situations.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The frontage road of Interstate 35 between FM 1327 and Slaughter Lane is expected to be closed for much of the day after a fuel spill this morning.

For much of the morning, all northbound lanes of the highway were also closed in the area — causing major traffic delays.

The Austin Fire Department says an estimated 700 gallons of fuel spilled on the roadway when an 18-wheeler overturned, creating a need for careful cleanup that shut the highway through morning rush hour.

But AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck says, in years past, the closures would have been even longer because the department would have had to wait for the trucking company to send a cleanup team.

“The Austin Fire Department is one of the few teams that has the equipment and the expertise to do this," Buck says. "A decade ago, we would have had to wait six to eight hours before the operation even started, so we would be talking about sometime this evening before we got the roads open."

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Transportation
3:50 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

American Airlines Fliers Fed Up as Labor Clash Rages

American Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Miami International Airport this month. Reports indicate that American Airlines has canceled somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of flights in recent days, reportedly blaming a surge in pilot sick days and maintenance write-ups by pilots.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 11:37 am

Pat Henneberry is an airline's dream customer. She flies all week, every week, and buying an $800 ticket so that she can have full flexibility is standard operating procedure. She's an American Airlines platinum customer. But she is fed up with the endless delays and cancellations.

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Education
3:36 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Report Examines How Budget Cuts Affected Texas Schools

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

How Texas public schools coped with the $5.4 billion state budget cut in 2011 is sure to dominate the conversation at the Capitol about school funding in 2013.

In advance of the next legislative session, one group aims to provide comprehensive data on exactly what has happened. A coalition of nonprofit foundations and the Houston-based advocacy organization Children At Risk released their initial findings Thursday at a Capitol press conference.

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Austin
2:29 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Judge Says City Hall Bans Unconstitutional

Some protesters were banned from City Hall Plaza for up to two years during last year's Occupy Austin protests.
KUT News

A federal judge says the City of Austin can no longer ban people from City Hall's plaza.

The case revolves around a practice that came to light last year, amid the Occupy Austin protest at City Hall. Some Occupy members were issued criminal trespass notices and told they were banned from the plaza, sometimes for up to two years.

Two Occupiers - Rodolfo Sanchez and Kristopher Sleeman - took the city to court.

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Environment
12:51 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Festival Was Green Long Before it Was Trendy

The Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair will feature a workshop on how to make rain collection barrels like these.
flickr.com/sarah_mccans/

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated 2012 is SXSW Eco's first year. KUT News regrets the error. 

SXSW Eco will kick-off next week. But it's a niche that the Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair in Fredericksburg first tapped into 12 years ago.

The 2012 festival is this weekend, from Sept. 29 to 30.

The roundup will concentrate not so much on policy but on practice —what Texans can do everyday to make the world a little greener. Panels include "How to Grow Your Own Groceries," "Growing Herbs and Making Your Own Vinegar,"  "Hot Attics: Turning a Problem into a Resource," and even "Green Smoothies."

There are also hands-on workshops about collecting rainwater and solar energy.

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Austin
12:47 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

First in Texas: Austin City Council Declares Support for Same Sex Marriage

A same sex couple married in California showed off their wedding rings ahead of this morning's council vote.
Hady Karl Mawajdeh

Today Austin became the first city in Texas to pass a resolution in support of same sex marriage. 

The measure passed the City Council unanimously this morning.

Before the vote, local civil rights groups declared their support for the resolution, which was sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and co-sponsored by Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council member Laura Morrison.

At a press conference, Mayor Pro Tem Cole spoke about the evolution of rights in Texas, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King: “… Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Whatever afflicts once directly also afflicts one indirectly.”

Council member Morrison acknowledged the progress made within the Austin community, when it comes to civil rights, but said there was still a ways to go.  Morrison pointed to practicality when making her point.

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2012 Presidential Election
12:09 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

2012 Gender Gap Could Be Historic, But Maybe Not For The Reason You'd Think

Supporters of Planned Parenthood wave banners during a rally for President Obama in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, ahead of the opening of the Democratic National Convention.
Mladen Antonov AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 12:26 pm

A slew of new presidential polls released this week not only confirm a long-established gender gap among voters, but also suggest that the male-female preference divide in this year's presidential contest could hit historic levels.

It may surprise that that divide appears not driven by social issues and arguments over reproductive care or choices, analysts say, but largely by the national conversation over the size of government.

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Politics
11:30 am
Thu September 27, 2012

TribCast: Satan, $10,000 Degrees and The Oops Diaries

Texas Tribune

Ross, Reeve, Jay and Ben review The Texas Tribune Festival, which featured talk of Satan and college costs, and Jay's new book, which goes behind the scenes of Gov. Rick Perry's doomed presidential campaign.

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Environment
10:22 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Austin's New Recycling Center Can Process 25 Tons an Hour

Balcones' new recycling center was built with the capacity to expand as the city grows.
Balcones Recycling

Austin is another step closer to its goal of reaching Zero Waste by 2040, with the opening of a new facility to handle over half the city’s recyclables.  

Austin has banned the use of single-use shopping bags, allowed residents to opt out of excessive mailing programs, and tried to educate the youth. And now, starting in October, 60 percent of Austin’s recycling will be funneled through Balcones Resources.

In the spring of 2011, the Austin City Council unanimously agreed to sign a 20-year deal with Balcones Resources to sort, bundle and sell 60 percent of Austin’s recyclables at its newly-built plant in northast Austin.

The new $25 million facility is a single-stream recycling center – which means it sorts and processes all the various recyclables (paper, glass and plastic) commingling in Austin Resource Recovery bins. Balcones says the center will be capable of processing 25 tons of single-stream recyclables.

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Transportation
10:14 am
Thu September 27, 2012

With 85 MPH Speed Limit, Trucks May Avoid New Toll Road

Max Ually via Texas Tribune

In a matter of weeks, a 41-mile stretch of toll road with the fastest speed limit in the country will open in Central Texas.

But truck drivers may steer clear of the new high-speed road, said John Esparza, president of the Texas Motor Transportation Association, which represents the trucking industry in Texas.

“It’s going to be a deterrent, yes,” Esparza said of the road’s 85 mph speed limit.

The Texas Department of Transportation has said it pursued a higher speed limit for the new portion of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin in part to entice drivers away from more congested highways. Agency officials have said engineering tests demonstrated that an 85-mph speed limit is safe for the new toll road.

While he acknowledged that some truck drivers drive faster than 65 mph, most trucking companies try to keep drivers from traveling faster than that speed, both out of concerns for safety and because it reduces a truck's gas mileage, Esparza said. 

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City Council
9:01 am
Thu September 27, 2012

City Council Preview: Gay Marriage Equality, Incentives for HID Global, More SH 45 Drama

A full agenda for the Austin City Council today. It's their first meeting since approving the city budget earlier this month.
flickr.com/atmtx

The Austin City Council meets today. Among the items it’s expected to approve: a resolution supporting marriage equality for gay couples, the first such measure from a Texas city.

The city’s draft resolution reads in part:

WHEREAS, all couples in loving and committed relationships should be given the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families through civil marriage; and 

WHEREAS, it is the intent of civil rights organizations in the State of Texas including Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (etc…) to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Texas, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN:

That we support marriage equality in the State of Texas.

The resolution is expected to pass unanimously; Mayor Lee Leffingwell previously joined dozens of other U.S. mayors in calling for marriage equality.

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Sports
8:03 am
Thu September 27, 2012

We Have A Ruling: NFL Referees Are Returning To The Field

They'll be welcomed back by fans: Regular NFL refs will be on the job again starting tonight. (2006 file photo.)
Shaun Best Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 6:34 am

  • Mike Pesca and Steve Inskeep

The not-so-long, not-so-much of a national nightmare is over.

Regular NFL officials will be on the field starting with tonight's game now that the league and its referees union have reached tentative agreement on a new, eight-year contract.

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Transportation
6:18 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Fuel Spill Shuts Down NB I-35 From FM 1327 to Slaughter

Northbound I-35 is closed from FM 1327 through Slaughter.
Map Data @2012 Google

Update (8:47 a.m.): Austin Police say the northbound lanes of I-35 are now open. The frontage road is still closed, however, until further notice.

Update (8:36 a.m.): AISD says Blazier Elementary School is being affected by the shutdown of I-35 - but the school is still open. The district says some buses headed for the school have been delayed, but classes have begun on time and buses are still going to the school. Buses that have not shown up to pick up students yet will be there eventually, the district says.

Update (7:53 a.m.): The City of Austin Transportation Department is controlling traffic lights on South 1st Street and Manchaca Road to give northbound drivers longer green lights.

Update (7:35 a.m.): Meantime, KUT News is confirming reports about a second incident causing delays on southbound I-35 between U.S. 183 and Rundberg Lane.

Update (7:10 a.m.): TxDOT is now waiving tolls on State Highway 45 Southeast and State Highway 130 between U.S. 183 and State Highway 71 while part of northbound I-35 is shut down this morning.

Update (6:25 a.m.): The Austin Fire Department says the overturned truck has spilled at least 700 gallons of fuel. It was carrying as much as 9,600 gallons of diesel, gasoline and ethanol. Emergency crews are trying to transfer the fuel to another trailer and have no estimate on how long that will take.

Original post (6:18 a.m.): A gas spill on northbound I-35 is expected to cause traffic delays through rush hour this morning.

Austin Police say northbound I-35 traffic including the frontage road will be diverted starting at FM 1327—that’s just north of State Highway 45.

Drivers won’t be allowed back on the highway until just north of Slaughter Lane.

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Public Safety
5:02 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Suspect Dies in Officer-Involved Shooting

The APD officer who shot the suspect is on paid administrative leave.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Update (5 p.m.): Austin Police tell KUT News Paladino died at University Medical Center Brackenridge approximately one-hour ago. 

Update (4 p.m.): Police have identified the suspect as 42 year-old Maurice Chad Paladino.

Update (2:40 p.m.): Austin Police have released the name of the officer involved in the shooting. APD officials say Officer Brandon Blanche was in danger for his life.

"In watching the video," Assistant Police Chief Sean Mannix says, "I think all of us are comfortable that there's not going to be any legal issues with the shooting, that the officer likely acted lawfully. But we hold our officers to a higher standard administratively. What we have to look at is the lawfulness of the shooting, but we also have to look at the tactics employed and how the officers got to the situation they were in as well."

Mannix says Blanche was clearly in the path of the vehicle that "actively engaged" when he discharged his weapon.

The still unnamed suspect is said to be in "grave condition."

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Immigration
4:48 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Young Illegal Immigrants Seek Work Permits

Carlos Martinez, 30, shows off his new work permit, which he received after applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Mamta Popat Arizona Daily Star

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 4:54 pm

It's been more than a month since the government began accepting requests for its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama administration's policy for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Hundreds of thousands of people are eligible for the program. So far, only 82,000 have applied.

Carlos Martinez is one of the 29 people who have actually gotten deferrals. It means that he won't be deported, and that he can get a work permit. Martinez applied for the deferred action program the first day.

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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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