AM Update
8:05 am
Thu May 3, 2012

AM Update: Texas State Joins Sun Belt Conference, Cyclists Ride for Safety, Lawmakers Talk Taxes

A “ghost bike” represents a cyclist killed while on a ride. In a demonstration tonight, cyclists hope to spur changes that will help prevent crashes involving cyclists.
Photo courtesy Jason Thompson via the Please BE KIND to Cyclists Facebook page

Texas State University Celebrates Move to the Sun Belt Conference

Texas State University is holding a reception for students today to mark the upcoming move to the Sun Belt Conference. The reception will give students an opportunity to meet and visit with head coaches and athletic administrators to discuss the move.

Texas State University President Denise Trauth announced yesterday that the university will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2013-2014 season.

Right now, eleven schools participate in the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia State will also join the conference in 2013. Texas State and Georgia State will join Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky.

Read more
Downtown
4:00 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Making the Pitch for Waller Creek

A portion of existing Waller Creek development, near Sixth Street.
Photo courtesy Larry Miller, flickr.com/drmillerlg

Could Waller Creek – currently a flood-prone, trash-strewn downtown creek – ultimately stand along New York’s High Line Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park as a premier urban space?

That was one of the rosy assessments the Real Estate Council of Austin shared at a lunchtime talk about the future of the Waller Creek, and its potential as a central riverwalk-style district.

Plans for redeveloping Waller Creek have lurched along with little success dating back to the 1970s. Things began falling into place in 2007, when the city and the county developed a financing agreement to pay for the tunnel that would create a steady flow, and preventing flooding.

Read more
Sports
3:15 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Former NFL Player Junior Seau is Dead; Possible Suicide

Junior Seau in 2009, when he played with the New England Patriots.
Elsa Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 3:36 pm

San Diego's Union Tribune reports that former NFL linebacker Junior Seau "has died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his beachfront home."

It adds that:

"Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said he was notified of the death and is on his way to be with family members."

Read more
Austin
2:54 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

512, Meet 737: New Area Code Coming to Austin

While no new 512 numbers will be released, existing numbers will stay the same.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The 512 area code, which has about 8 million phone numbers on record, will be exhausted by the end of the year. Soon, new phone numbers will come with a 737 area code. 

Terry Hadley is a spokesman for the  Public Utility Commission of Texas, a group that regulates state telecommunications. He says the need for another area code in and around Austin is due to “explosive” growth in cell phone lines.

“That is what is exhausting the available supply,” he says. “In regard to land lines, there’s been a reduction in residential land lines, but it’s been more than offset in the vast increase in cell phone numbers.”

Read more
Austin
1:19 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Is Austin's Texting Ban Making a Difference?

Austin drivers may not be paying much attention to the ban on texting while driving.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

In Austin, it’s illegal to use your cell phone for anything other than phone calls while driving. That includes texting and surfing the internet. The ban went into effect January 1, 2010.

But is the ban making a difference?

The Austin Police Department told KUT that officers have written just 26 citations for texting while driving since the city’s ban took effect.

Read more
Austin
12:16 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

What’s in the City’s $650 Million Bond Proposal?

New fire engine bays are among the items suggested for funding in a November bond election.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

A few million dollars here, a few million there, and pretty soon, you’re talking real money.

The Bond Election Advisory Task Force is currently soliciting input on a bond package to send to voters this November. In February, city departments presented lists of projects and programs they would like to see funded. Since then, the committee has narrowed down an initial $1.49 billion of funding requests to just $650 million. (You can view the recommendations here.)

Tonight, May 2nd, and tomorrow, May 3rd, the task force is holding public forums it will use to further narrow its $650 million list. Here’s a look at what’s made the cut so far. 

City Facilities: About $117 million

Big Ticket Items: Fire Department– Fire Maintenance & Breathing Air Shops ($14,852,000)

This nearly $15 million would go towards “relocation of fire department fleet maintenance and breathing air shops from their 2011 E. 51st Street location.”

Read more
Business
11:36 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Today at UT: The 'Super Bowl' or 'Project Runway' of Business Pitches - Take Your Pick

The McCombs Business School is sponsoring a high stakes venture competition today.
Photo by Teresa Viera for KUT News

Rental maternity clothing? Malnutrition-fighting porridge? Dust compressors? Soon, one of these inventions could be part of your daily life.

Beginning today and running through Saturday, the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition will evaluate business concepts from 40 teams around the world. Hosted by McCombs School of Business' Texas Venture Labs, it's the longest-running competition for graduate student entrepreneurs – the "Super Bowl of business plan competitions," as the school describes it in a press release.

To qualify for the competition, teams had to win regional competitions first, with competitors culled from 13 countries including Thailand, Brazil, Germany and Norway. UT's team has invented a product called eyeQ, which according to McCombs School of Business spokesperson Renee Hopkins, uses video-based technology to monitor consumer purchasing behavior. In other words: Stores get information about how their customers shop, and customers will get an Amazon.com-like retail experience in a brick and mortar store.

Read more
City Council Elections
10:37 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Early Voting Totals, Day Two: About What You’d Expect

Early voting figures for Tuesday looked much like Monday's numbers.
Photo by Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Second day tallies are in for early voting in the Austin city elections.

1,821 Austinites went to the polls yesterday – a hair's-breadth better than Monday's number of 1,779. Add in ballots received by mail, which exhibited a drop-off from day one, and a total of 2,026 ballots were cast yesterday. That brings Austin’s grand vote total to 4,200 – or .88% of registered voters. That’s almost one percent.

A Randalls in Northwest Austin, at Research and Breaker, lead day two, delivering 213 votes. By contrast, only 16 people voted at East Austin’s George Washington Carver Complex, the low vote-getter of the day.

Read more
Special Coverage
9:52 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Obama: The 'Light of a New Day' is Visible in Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address to the American people on U.S. policy and the war in Afghanistan during his visit to Bagram Air Base on Tuesday.
Kevin Lamarque AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 8:14 am

In a speech delivered from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, President Obama said that after more than 10 years of war in the country, the U.S. is on a path toward peace.

Read more
AM Update
8:03 am
Wed May 2, 2012

AM Update: Tuition Rising at UT, A&M, Cameras Fail in Train Crash, Help Decide Bond Spending Tonight

University of Texas and Texas A&M are both considering tuition hikes.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Tuition Going Up at UT, Texas A&M

Tuition at schools in the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems could have their tuition raised this week.

The University of Texas System regents will meet today to consider increasing rates (page 37 of agenda) at all nine of its campuses over the next two years. If the recommendations are approved, tuition for in-state residents at UT Austin would increase 2.6 percent annually for two years. Out-of-state tuition would increase 3.6 percent. The raise in tuition would raise an estimated $25 million. Rates at Texas A&M's main campus in College Station would not go up (page 14), but all other A&M campuses would see a ten dollar per credit hour increase for undergraduate classes.

Read more
Special Coverage
5:01 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

On Anniversary of Bin Laden Death, President Obama Speaks From Afghanistan

President Obama, photographed in 2011 while the Bin Laden raid was underway.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

He’ll be addressing America in a speech tonight, the one year anniversary of a special forces mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.

KUT News will broadcast NPR's coverage of President Obama’s remarks tonight, beginning at 6:30 p.m. You can listen on KUT 90.5 FM, or stream online at kut.org. 

Transportation
4:49 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Another I-35 Accident Closed Lanes Earlier Today

I-35 was subject to two separate closures today.
Photo by KUT News

Authorities shut down the north and southbound lanes on Interstate 35 earlier this afternoon, after a pickup truck hit a small propane tank trunk just south of Slaughter Lane.

“The pick up truck caught on fire and there was a small leak from the propane tank,” said Veneza Aguinaga, a senior police officer at the Austin Police Department.  “It is typical protocol to shut down a road if we feel there is a threat to citizens.”

Read more
Education
4:38 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott Stepping Down

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott speaks at the TASA midwinter conference in Austin, Texas February 1st, 2011.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott is leaving the post Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to in 2007. 

When Scott steps down on July 2 from the agency that oversees the public education of Texas' nearly 5 million students, he will be the longest serving education commissioner of the past two decades. 

Scott said in a statement that it had been a "privilege" to serve at the agency and noted that he began his career there in 1994 — when his son was one and his daughter was three months old — and they have both now gone on to graduate from Texas public schools. 

"It's time," he said.

Read more
Transportation
4:20 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

'Click It or Ticket' Photo Op Leaves Onlookers Hanging

Raising awareness for auto safety, seatbelts were used to hoist a truck in Downtown Austin.
Photo by Jillian Schantz Patrick

In recent years, cranes have become an integral part of the Austin skyline. But it's not very often you see one suspend a pickup truck by seatbelts. 

This morning, the Texas Department of Transportation did just that as part of a demonstration to show the strength and power of seatbelts. 

The Click it Or Ticket campaign will stretch from May 21 to June 3 as an attempt to bring awareness and enforcement to the state seatbelt laws. Current law requires that every person in the vehicle must be secured by a seatbelt whether in the front or back seat.

Read more
Austin
2:56 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Three Arts Projects in Bond Package – For Now

An artist's rendering of the proposed, $30 million Mexic-Arte Museum.
Image courtesy of Fernando Romero

The Mexic-Arte Museum is asking for $10 million in City of Austin bond money to finance the construction and design of a $30 million, six-story building downtown.

Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, architect of the $70 million Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, the new Mexic-Arte Museum is designed to be 54,000 square feet, half of which will be leased as office space, the Austin American-Statesman reported on Monday.

The Statesman notes that in 2000, the museum received $740,000 to buy their current location at 419 Congress Ave. In 2006, the museum received $5 million in voter-approved bonds to design and construct a new facility on the Mexican American Cultural Center campus, and the museum announced that it would sell its existing building. But three years later, the museum canceled those plans and announced it would stay on Congress Avenue. The museum started thinking about building again in 2010, receiving $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Read more
Business
2:25 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Travis County Approves Apple Incentives Deal

Travis County joined the city and state in offering incentives to Apple today.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/cdnphoto

The Travis County Commissioner’s Court has approved an incentives package for computing company Apple to expand operations in Austin.

As reported earlier today,Travis County is estimated to give Apple between $5.4 and $6.4 million dollars in tax rebates over 15 years. This comes on top of Austin's estimated $8.6 million in tax rebates over the next ten years, and the state's $21 million in incentives. In return, Apple says it will bring well over 3,000 jobs to the Austin area.

County commissioners said Apple should consider economically disadvantaged individuals for employment. However, that’s not stipulated as part of the contract’s requirement.

Read more
City Council Elections
1:20 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Austin Early Voting: With These Totals, Your Vote Matters

Students smiling and laughing - but not voting - outside the Flawn Academic Center
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Early voting in the Austin city elections is in full swing – i.e., characteristically low.

Turnout for Monday, April 30, the first day of early voting, shows a total of 2,174 votes. That’s only .37 percent of registered voters. One third of one percent.

Some areas are attracting more voters than others. North Austin’s Ben Hur Shriners Hall at 7811 Rockwood Ln., led the pack with 180 total votes. A Randall's grocery store in Northwest Austin, at Research Boulevard and Braker Lane, pulled in 175 votes. And the Travis County offices on Airport Boulevard nabbed 169 votes.

Read more
University of Texas
11:23 am
Tue May 1, 2012

No Arrests at Second UT Sweatshop Protest

Protests calling for stricter monitoring of factories producing UT apparel continued this week.
Photo by Divya Darsi for KUT News

Two weeks after 17 students were arrested in a similar protest, members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition conducted another sit-in yesterday.

The sit-in was held in the University of Texas Tower with more than 40 students participating. At about 5 p. m. yesterday, the students left the Tower after warnings from police they could be arrested, said the Austin American-Statesman. At 8 p.m. on Sunday night, a candlelight vigil of students, faculty and community members convened in front of UT Austin President Bill Powers’ house; the vigil was led by Pastor Jim Rigby.

As KUT News previously reported, the coalition wants UT to join the Workers Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories. A statement on the WRC homepage specifically mentions their goal to protect the rights of workers who make clothes.

Read more
Special Coverage
11:01 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Looking Back: How the World Quickly Learned About Bin Laden's Death

Iconic image: President Barack Obama and members of his national security team as they monitored the mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Pete Souza White House

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 8:18 am

One year ago today, we learned that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had been located and killed by U.S. Navy SEALs at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

There's no shortage of stories and news related to that event, including these:

-- "After Bin Laden, Al-Qaida Still Present As Movement." (NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, on Morning Edition.)

Read more
Arts and Culture
9:59 am
Tue May 1, 2012

What Makes Austin's Food Scene Great: A Conversation with Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern says the best part of Austin's food scene is the diners.
Photo courtesy of Austin Food & Wine Festival

Andrew Zimmern, the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods (where he's made a name for himself eating exotic things like fermented beetle anus), heaped some praise on the local food scene at the Austin Food Festival this weekend. But while Zimmern is fond of many Austin chefs, farmers and restaurants, he saves the highest praise for Austinites themselves.

KUT: So tell us why you're here at this food festival in Austin.

Andrew Zimmern: "I think Austin has a very special food community in terms of diners. It's the diners and the Austinites that have created the atmosphere for all this amazing food here to flourish.

Every single person I've spoken to here at this festival, I think, gets it all wrong about Austin. Everybody puts the food and chefs first, and I think it's not chicken or egg, it's very matter-of-fact: the audience here in Austin is unique. They are willing to be experimented at, and they do not hold grudges against chefs that make mistakes or have failures, as long as that chef is willing to get back on their bicycle and start pedaling again.

Read more

Pages