AM Update
8:19 am
Mon April 30, 2012

AM Update: Early Voting Starts, Education Committee Meets, Toros Win Title

Early voting begins today for four positions on the Austin City Council, including mayor.
KUT News

Early Voting Begins Today

Early voting begins today in the Austin city election. There are a total of 14 candidates running for four different positions, including mayor and three city council seats.

You can find information on the candidates and their views on Austin’s pressing issues at kutnews.org. You can stream interviews with candidates for the Place 5Place 2 and Place 6 seats, and beginning today, interview with Austin’s mayoral candidates. The City of Austin has also put videos for the council candidates including those vying for mayor.

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City Council Elections
7:45 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Video: Mayoral Candidate Clay Dafoe

Today, Monday April 30, is the start of early voting in the Austin city elections.

Four council positions are up for grabs, including Mayor. Three candidates are running for the top spot, including Clay Dafoe. KUT’s Matt Largey met with Dafoe and discussed his opinions on keeping Austin affordable, transportation, geographic representation, and his stance on limited government .

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food and wine festival
10:47 am
Sat April 28, 2012

First Austin Food & Wine Festival Gets Cooking

Gail Simmons says Austin is bursting with creativity.
Photo courtesy Austin Food & Wine Festival

Austin’s long been known as the Live Music Capital of the World. But these days the city’s also on the map for its food scene.  Today the first Austin Food and Wine festival kicks off at Auditorium shores. We sat down with Gail Simmons, a judge on Top Chef and a figure at Food and Wine magazine, about what’s on tap at the festival and why they chose Austin in the first place. 

KUT: What was it about Austin that attracted you and the festival here?

Gail Simmons: "Interestingly, I think both art and craft in Austin are alive and well. It's a young, energetic city, obviously partially because of the huge student culture here. And it's just full of great art and great design and great music. And it only makes sense that food would follow.

Over the last several years, we've seen a huge surge in great, creative young talent in the food world. There's been some great young chefs coming out of Texas, notably Tyson Cole at Uchi and Bryce Gilmore at Barley Swine just a year or two ago. Those are only two of them, certainly. But there seems to be a great energy here, a great mix of cultures and cuisines creating this signature style that Austin is really known for now.

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City Council Elections
4:33 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Video: Place 6 Candidate Shaun Ireland

Early voting starts in the Austin City Council races this Monday, April 30, and political newcomer Shaun Ireland is running in Place 6.  

KUT’s Nathan Bernier recently spoke with Ireland about cutting spending at the city, the Austin Energy rate redesign, transportation, geographic representation and more. You can view an expanded version of the interview above; a condensed version of the conversation is posted at kut.org.

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City Council Elections
3:12 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Video: Place 6 Candidate Sheryl Cole

Austin City Council member Sheryl Cole is up for re-election this May.

The Place 6 council member and Mayor Pro Tem recently came by the KUT studios to discuss her candidacy. KUT’s Wells Dunbar spoke with Cole about affordability and the Austin Energy rate redesign, transportation, and the question of geographic representation on the council.

You can listen to a condensed interview with Cole at kut.org; above, we present an expanded version of the discussion with Cole.

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City Council Elections
2:26 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Audio: Place 2 Candidate Mike Martinez

Council member Mike Martinez recently stopped by the KUT studios.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Early voting in the Austin city elections begins Monday, April 30. 

As part of interviews with all 14 candidates running for the Austin City Council, KUT’s Matt Largey spoke with incumbent Place 2 City Council member Mike Martinez recently. The conversation covered ways to improve affordability and transportation, the ongoing Austin Energy rate redesign, and whether Austin should adopt a form of geographic representation.

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Sports
1:34 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

College Football Edges Closer to Playoffs

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, left, hands off to running back Trent Richardson during the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU in New Orleans last January.
Bill Haber AP

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 12:16 pm

"Major college football is on the verge of implementing a playoff, its own version of the final four — two semifinals and a title game," The Associated Press writes.

Or, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

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Wildfires
12:40 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

What’s Your Wildfire Risk? New Website Lets You Know

Texans can visualize potential fire conditions at texaswildfirerisk.com.
Image courtesy texaswildfirerisk.com

As wildfire season begins in Central Texas, the Texas Forest Service has launched a new website to let people know what the wildfire risk for their area is.

Texaswildfirerisk.com uses the same data the Forest Service used ahead of last year's devastating fires. The Forest Service's Tom Spencer says now anyone in Texas can see how susceptible their area is to wildfire.

“They can click on the 'what's your risk' tool, click on the map where their home is and it would actually go in and calculate the average risk within about a two mile radius of their home,” says Spencer. “And then give them an idea of what the wildfire risk is to them – whether it's low, moderate, high, very high."

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Business
11:29 am
Fri April 27, 2012

Amazon to Start Paying Texas Sales Tax

Amazon has promised a Texas expansion, in addition to paying sales tax starting this summer.

After talks between online retailer Amazon.com and the state over paying sales taxes collapsed last year, the parties have reached an agreement.

The Office of the State Comptroller and Amazon stated today that beginning in July, Amazon – which had a distribution center in Irving, Texas – will begin paying state sales tax.

Amazon also announced it will “create at least 2,500 jobs and make at least $200 million in capital investments” in Texas, over the next four years.

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City Council
9:00 am
Fri April 27, 2012

City Council Recap: Districting Proposal Deep Sixed, Solar Group Approved, Payday Lenders Zoned Out

A flurry of activity City Hall yesterday, as council met for the last time before the May 12 elections
Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

The big story out of the Austin City Council meeting on Thursday was the decision to withdraw a proposal that would have called for a community task force to advise on single-member council districts for future elections. A citizens group pushing to put its own districting proposal on the ballot applauded the withdrawal.

Several other items related to city elections did pass, including an item which will ask voters whether to move local elections from May to November.

The council also held a public hearing and approved an ordinance over zoning for “alternative financial services businesses,” aka payday lenders.

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AM Update
8:24 am
Fri April 27, 2012

AM Update: Army Bases Go Green, Food & Wine Fest, and Austin Toros Force Game Three

"Da Bull" will be cheering on the Toros in their championship game.
Photo courtesy of facebook.com/austintoros

Army Bases in Texas Going Green

Fort Hood and other Texas Army bases are working to become more energy efficient, according to an article in the Texas Tribune.

By 2020 the Central Texas base aims to reduce its waste to “net zero.” Brian Dosa, Fort Hood’s director of public works, believes it won’t be an easy task.  

“It’s really as much about behavior change as it is about technology,” said Dosa. Recycling rates at soldiers’ housing complexes, for example, are low, he said.

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2012 Presidential Election
5:28 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Ron Paul Speaking at UT Tonight

Republican Ron Paul is speaking in Austin tonight
Photo courtesy paul.house.gov

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul is making a campaign stop on the 40 acres.

With this week's announcement that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is dropping out of the presidential race, the Texas congressman is the last challenger left for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin, has a take on why Paul's still in the race.

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Politics
2:23 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

It's All in the Timing: Group Opposes Work on Geographic Representation Before Vote

Supporters of the "10-1" district plan, including speaker Gonzalo Barrientos, at City Hall today.
Photo by Andy Uhler for KUT News

Today the Austin City Council is considering a proposal that would create a community task force to draw geographic districts for future council elections. The task force would then make a recommendation to the council on district lines. But, as the proposal is written now, the council would still have final say on the district lines.

One group of doesn’t think that’s a good idea. In a press conference this morning  in City Hall, Austinites for Geographic Representation said the task force should have the ultimate say on the district lines.

They also want more measures in place to make sure the task force is independent and representative of the community.

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Arts and Culture
1:47 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Marooned In L.A. For A Week, Coachella Bands Make Do

Ian St. Pe of the band Black Lips performs at this year's Coachella festival in Indio, Calif. Like many of the artists on the bill, the band agreed not to book other shows in Southern California within months of the event.
Michael Buckner Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:51 am

The massive Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival came to a close in California on Sunday after two weekends worth of sold-out shows by over 150 artists.

One of those acts was the Austin, Texas, band Explosions in the Sky, which first played Coachella back in 2007 and has seen its profile grow since then.

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City Council
10:00 am
Thu April 26, 2012

City Council Preview: Coming Down Like Cats and Dogs (And That's Just the Animal Shelter)

City Hall is hosting a council meeting that should stretch well into the evening.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

At 142-items long, saying the Austin City Council faces a full agenda today is an understatement.

Today’s regular meeting is filled with a number of contentious and convoluted issues – certainly not the stuff incumbent council members up for re-election would prefer to address on the eve of early voting. Here's a roundup of three big items up today:

1. Speaking of Voting: Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would create a task force to study options on organizing the city into council districts. The task force would be made up of Austin voters. (Currently council seats are elected at-large.)  The proposal has garnered pushback from a citizens group, Autinites for Geographic Representation, which is collecting signatures to put their 10-1 district plan on the ballot.

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AM Update
8:39 am
Thu April 26, 2012

AM Update: Lakes Travis & Buchanan Low, Ron Paul Speaks at UT, Perry Endorses Romney

Lake Travis remains low due to dry conditions in April, despite the rains we received in March.
Reshma Kirpalani, KUT News

Lakes Travis and Buchanan Still Low

According to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), lakes Travis and Buchanan remain low –less than half full to be exact.

Texas saw an increase in rainfall last month but that hasn’t been enough to raise water levels in the Highland Lakes. As of April 25, lakes Travis and Buchanan combined are about 48 percent full; that’s much lower compared to last April when the lakes were 71 percent full.

The record-setting drought last year hit the Highland Lakes hard; the lack of rain brought the amount of water flowing into the lakes, called inflows, to a record low. The rains this March caused inflows to surpass the historical average, but with dry weather this month the inflow levels have not hit their normal average.

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City Council Elections
8:12 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Video: Place 5 Candidate David Conley

KUT concludes its  profiles of the seven Austin City Council candidates running in Place 5 with David Conley.

KUT’s Wells Dunbar speaks with political newcomer Conley about his ideas for improving affordability, traffic and Austin’s property taxes. You can listen to a condensed version of the interview at kut.org.

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City Council Elections
4:03 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Video: Place 5 Candidate Dominic 'Dom' Chavez

Early voting for city elections begins Monday April 30. 14 candidates are running for four spots on the Austin City Council, and half of those contenders are in Place 5.

Above, you can view an extended video interview with Dominic “Dom” Chavez.  KUT spoke with him about whether Austin Energy needs to increase its rates, alternatives to Urban Rail, improving education, addressing affordability and more.

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Austin
3:25 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Johnson Family Donates $1M to Namesake Wildflower Center

Executive Director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Susan K. Rieff, Ian Turpin, Luci Baines Johnson, and UT President Bill Powers pose at the announcement of the donation.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Luci Baines Johnson and her husband have donated $1 million to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in southwest Austin. The donation will be used to help build a garden designed for children.

The daughter of the former president says it will feature a maze, an elevated walkway, and giant bird nests that kids will be able to climb into.

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Texas
1:15 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Texas Beef Industry Watches Futures in Wake of Mad Cow Discovery

Texas cattle prices may not see a big impact from a discovery of mad cow in California
Photo by KUT News

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says he doesn’t expect the Texas beef industry will be significantly affected by a case of BSE — or mad cow disease – found in a California dairy cow.

The disease was discovered when the cow was selected for random sampling. It did not enter the food supply, and mad cow disease cannot be transmitted through milk.

Still, Staples and those in the Texas beef industry are watching the futures markets closely. Prices dropped immediately after the news of the discovery but rebounded overnight.

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