Austin
2:52 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Gimme Shelter: 'No Kill' Has New Animal Center Straining

Like a rolling stone: A puppy at the Austin Animal Center shortly after its opening last year.

The Austin Animal Shelter, which opened last November, already has more animals than it can hold. The city says it’s taken in about 140 more pets than this time last year, and is adopting out fewer animals.

But why does the newly built Austin Animal Center have less space than the Town Lake Animal Center, the city’s former shelter?  

City spokeswoman Patricia Fraga says when the Austin Animal Center was designed three years ago, organizers didn’t take into account that Austin would be a “no kill” city. “So, what’s happening now is we’re keeping animals longer,” Fraga says. “We’re not euthanizing animals for space, so we have animals that are living at the shelter longer than they would have previously.”

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2012 Presidential Election
2:04 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Ron Paul to Stay in Race, But Stop Campaigning

Candidate Paul greets supporters at an event last year.
Photo by KUT News

Texas congressman Ron Paul has announced that while he’s not dropping out of the Republican presidential primary, he will no longer be actively campaigning.

“Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process,” Paul writes on his campaign blog. “We will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future.”

Indeed, Paul’s delegate strategy – and whether it might create a rift on the convention floor – has been the subject of much speculation.

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Weather
1:04 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

In Houston, Billboards Go Digital This Hurricane Season

Digital billboards like this one can display emergency alerts.
Photo courtesy Clear Channel Outdoor

The Texas Gulf Coast is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.

Today emergency and traffic officials tested digital billboards that will provide emergency messages throughout the Houston area.

Drivers saw a message that said, “Emergency Alert: This is only a test.”

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Austin Energy
12:17 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Council Members Pitch New Austin Energy Rate Plan

Council member Bill Spelman, with colleagues Sheryl Cole and Chris Riley to his right, presented Austin Energy rate proposals this morning.
Photo by Emery Reifsnyder for KUT News

Is the long-deliberated redesign of Austin Energy electric rates coming to a close?

Three members of the Austin City Council – Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Chris Riley and Bill Spelman – seemingly hope so. The three held a press conference this morning to propose a new rate structure for the city utility, which they would like to take effect this fall.

“I wish we could wait another year or two before proposing higher electric rates, but we can’t,” said Spelman. While he admitted no one wants an increase in rates, the five-tier rate structure the group proposed – with rates increasing in amount as customers use more electricity – could allow for rates to be lowered in the future. For residential customers, the average rate increase will be reduced from 20 percent in the originally proposed plan to eight percent. A monthly fixed charge, originally proposed at $22, has been lowered to $10.

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Health
10:58 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Pounding Away At America's Obesity Epidemic

In the United States, more than 78 million adults and 12 million children are obese.
Jessica Dimmock HBO

Originally published on Mon May 14, 2012 11:37 am

The numbers are staggering: One-third of Americans are obese; another third are overweight. Some 26 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. An additional 79 million more are pre-diabetic. Thanks to these figures, the children of today have a good chance of becoming the first generation of Americans to die at younger ages than their parents.

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Texas Primaries
10:13 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Early Voting in Texas Primaries Starts Today

From one election to the next: Early voting in state and county primaries kicks off today.
Photo by KUT News

It's time to vote – again. On the heels of Austin's city election Saturday, early voting for the state and county primaries starts today, and runs through May 25.

The primary was originally scheduled for March but was pushed back because of disagreements over redistricting. Voters will get to choose the party nominees for President, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, among others.

In Travis County, voters will cast primary ballots for offices including district attorney, sheriff, and more.

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AM Update
8:12 am
Mon May 14, 2012

AM Update: Austin Election Recap, MoPac Toll Lanes Meeting, Drug Violence in Nuevo Leon

The scene Saturday at Scholz Garten, the Leffingwell campaign's election night spot.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Low-Turnout Election Returns Incumbents to Council

Voters returned all four incumbents on the Austin City Council – including Mayor Lee Leffingwell – to the dais on Saturday.

The council members’ fates were revealed as soon as early voting totals were released, with the incumbents – Leffingwell, Place 2 council member Mike Martinez, Place 5 council member Bill Spelman, and Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole – all leading by comfortable margins.

Many of the council members commented on the exceedingly low-turnout in the election – just under five percent in early voting, and roughly the same amount on election day. Similarly, many of the council members also endorsed the idea of moving municipal elections to November, and moving to a form of geographic representation for the city council. Voters will most likely have a chance to vote on those proposals this November.

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City Council Elections
11:32 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Bill Spelman: In Re-Election Win, Validation

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Despite facing down six opponents in his Place 5 re-election bid, Bill Spelman did surprisingly well, winning a second consecutive term without a runoff.  

With 217 of 237 precincts in, Spelman collected 58 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor, Dominic Chavez, only garnered 19 percent.

"This kind of validates one of those things I've been thinking about Austin politics for a long time," Spelman told KUT News. "Even though there's no way you can be on the city council without making everybody angry at least some of the time, in the long run the vast majority of people will forgive you because they understand that. And because they understand you can't govern a great city and have everybody agree on everything all of the time. There's too many differences of opinion in a highly political place like Austin."

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City Council Elections
10:52 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Lee Leffingwell Heading to Re-Election

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

With 52.08 percent of the vote and only 20 precincts outstanding, incumbent Mayor Lee Leffingwell has declared victory.

Mayor Leffingwell just finished delivering a speech to supporters at Scholz Garten, where incumbent Austin City Council member Mike Martinez also recently celebrated success.

Leffingwell came out on top of his two challengers – former city council member Brigid Shea and community activist Clay Dafoe. Leffingwell has narrowly avoided a runoff, coming in with about 52 percent of the vote.

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City Council Elections
10:08 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Mike Martinez: 'We Feel Good'

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

With a steady lead over challenger Laura Pressley, Austin City Council member Mike Martinez just declared victory.

The Place 2 incumbent just finished speaking to supporters minutes ago. KUT News spoke with Martinez shortly before his speech.

"We feel good, Martinez said. "The numbers are still coming in, but you have a ten point lead. We feel like we're on the path to re-election."

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City Council Elections
9:18 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Austin Election Results: Update

Photo courtesy flickr.com/vox_efx

Update (Midnight): Here are the final results.

Mayor’s race

Clay Dafoe: 5,307 10.86%

Lee Leffingwell (incumbent): 25,434 52.06%

Brigid Shea: 18,115 37.08%

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City Council Elections
8:44 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Sheryl Cole Returning to Place 6

Mayor Pro Tem Cole's seat on the City Council is safe.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

With a commanding 70 percent of the early vote, it's safe to say Place 6 Austin City Council member Sheryl Cole is assured a third term on the council.

KUT News conducted interviews with all 14 of the candidates running for local office. Cole describes several issues will face this year, including the Austin Energy rate redesign, increasing affordability and more.

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City Council Elections
7:51 pm
Sat May 12, 2012

Austin Early Voting Results

Did you follow this graffiti's advice? Only 5% of registered voters voted early.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/ginapina

Early voting results are out in the Austin city elections. All incumbents are in the lead.

In the mayor's race, Lee Leffingwell is leading Brigid Shea by a margin that should probably hold all night.  

In Place 2 things are closer, but incumbent Mike Martinez still leads Laura Pressley.

In the most crowded race, Place 5 incumbent Bill Spelman is having little trouble, with 55% of the vote – currently enough to keep him out of a runoff.

Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole leads challenger Shaun Ireland, 70 percent to 30 percent.

Mayor’s race

Clay Dafoe: 11.10%, 2,287

Lee Leffingwell (incumbent): 55.25%, 11,381

Brigid Shea: 33.65%, 6,932

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City Council Elections
8:32 am
Sat May 12, 2012

City Elections: All You Need to Know to Participate

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Do you care at all about who runs the City of Austin? If not, you can go back to sleep. Otherwise, get pumped. Today is your chance to participate in the democratic process. Fourteen people are running for three city council positions and the mayor’s post.

Here’s a list of polling stations across the city [PDF]. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. During early voting, fewer than five percent of registered voters cast ballots. That’s down about 25 percent from the last mayoral election in Austin.

To make your decision easier for you, we interviewed every candidate and posted links to those interviews right here. You can also find links to newspaper and other endorsements below that.

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Austin
4:50 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

‘No Kill’ and At Capacity: What Should the Austin Animal Center Do Now?

Austin's new home for strays is already operating well above capacity.
Photo by KUT News

The new Austin Animal Center, opened only in November 2011, is already well over capacity. And the city is asking for your input on what to do now.

While the new center has helped with the city’s ‘”no kill” goals – maintaining a 90 percent “live outcomes” rate for pets that pass through the shelter – it’s straining. And it’s not just seasonal, city officials say.

‘Since April the animal intakes at the city shelter are not leveling off and the Animal Services Office can not keep up with the high number of intakes versus those animals that are being adopted or rescued by the City’s partner animal rescue groups,” city officials write in a press release.

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Health
3:55 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Eyes Overworked? Put Down the iPad for '20-20-20' Vision

Brief breaks from computer screens fight eye strain, a doctor says.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Most students would agree that cramming for finals is painful. 

But one overlooked stressor is eye strain, which can result in computer vision syndrome. A recent BBC article noted 90% of matriculating students in major Asian cities are suffering from nearsightedness.

According to Dr. Benjamin Warta, a VSP optometrist with Vision Care Specialists in Denver, Colorado, people that engage in daily or extended work, reading, or entertainment viewing on a screen near their face – “close work,” as Dr. Warta calls it – tend to show a definite increase in eye-strain.

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Business
3:15 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Asian Chambers of Commerce Merge to Serve Growing Population

Austin’s Asian population is growing – and now it’s leading to some big changes for two organizations that support Asian businesses.
Photo courtesy Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

Austin’s population is more Asian than Texas as a whole – but it has a lower percentage of Asian-owned businesses.  That’s one reason two local chambers of Commerce are merging.

Today the Texas Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Asian American Chamber of Commerce officially joined forces to form one group: the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce.

Board member Ying McGuire says the united chamber will offer help to Asian-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

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Education
2:35 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

More Interested Students than Spots at IDEA Allan

Allan Elementary will be home to an in-district charter school next year.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Student registration for IDEA Allan – the new in-district charter school for the Austin Independent School District – ended at midnight. It will be housed in the current Allan Elementary School campus on Gonzales Street and serve kindergartners as well as students in first, second and sixth grade next school year.

Matthew Randazzo is IDEA’s Chief Growth Officer. He says registration has been strong. In fact, there are more interested students than spaces. A lottery will have to be held for each grade level to determine which students will be able to attend.

Randazzo says the most popular grades for registration were kindergarten and sixth.

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Arts and Culture
1:17 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Author Charlaine Harris on 'Deadlocked,' 'True Blood,' and What's Next for Sookie Stackhouse

'Deadlocked' is the second-to-last novel in the Stackhouse series.
Image courtesy Ace Books

Author Charlaine Harris may not be a household name, but her creation Sookie Stackhouse is. The spunky, problem-prone heroine of Harris’ supernatural fiction series – the inspiration for HBO’s hit series “True Blood” – is at it again in “Deadlocked,” the latest in the Stackhouse series.

Harris will be at BookPeople this Saturday, May 12 at 7 p.m. She recently spoke with KUT News about “Deadlocked,” achieving success after a tumultuous start, and her post-Stackhouse plans.

KUT News: “Deadlocked” is the twelfth in the Sookie Stackhouse series, correct?

Charlaine Harris: Yes, the twelfth, the penultimate book. I just felt like I had said everything about Sookie that I had it in me to say, and I really don’t like to extend the series when the heat isn’t in me.

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Texas
10:25 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Fake Twitter Feeds, Deceptive Websites Shake Up Primary

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Looking for state Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s personal website? It's not jeffwentworth.com, an attack site that blasts the 20-year San Antonio incumbent as “the most liberal Republican senator in Austin.”

Want to know what Ted Cruz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, says on Twitter? Don't follow @RealTedCruz, which calls the former state solicitor general a “trial lawyer standing with a Chinese conglomerate to kill American jobs.” 

Straddling the line between dirty tricks and political strategy is as old as elections. And campaign impersonation dates at least as far back as the 1970s, when Donald Segretti, President Richard Nixon’s re-election operative, forged letters seeking to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Edmund Muskie — a move that landed Segretti in prison.

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