Crystal Chavez, KUT News

Morning Edition Producer

Crystal Chavez has been at KUT since January 2007.  She currently produces the Central Texas content for Morning Edition and starts her day in the newsroom at 4:30 a.m.  Crystal is a 2005 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Communication.  Her hometown is Corpus Christi, Texas.

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News Brief
6:04 am
Tue December 6, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/06/11: Yogurt Shop Murders:20 Yrs Later, Baylor QB Named Heisman Finalist

Photo by KUT News.

20 Years Since Yogurt Shop Murders

Today marks 20 years since the Austin yogurt shop murders, and the case remains unsolved. Four teenage girls were murdered at a north Austin yogurt shop in December 1991. The victims were 13 year-old Amy Ayers, 17-year old Eliza Thomas and sisters Sarah and Jennifer Harbison, who were 15 and 17.

In October 2009, Travis County prosecutors dropped murder charges against two men who had been convicted of the murders, amid new DNA evidence and allegations of coerced confessions. A third suspect in the murders was fatally shot by a police officer last year after slashing the officer with a knife.

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Austin
12:26 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

A Good Soaking Rain, But the Drought Isn't Over

The weekend rain in Central Texas was enough to soak the ground but it had a minimal impact on Lake Travis.
Photo by KUT News.

Central Texans are all wrapped up for this cold and breezy day. We got some much-needed rain over the weekend and through early Monday morning. Most areas got between one and two inches - some places as many as three.

“This rain did percolate into the topsoil which prior to this event had very, very little moisture in it," Bob Rose, Meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority, said. "This is good for our landscape, our trees, wildflowers next Spring. It did put some water into area ranchers’ stock ponds and things like that.” 

But a good drenching does not “an end to a drought make.” Rose says the rain didn’t do much to fill area aquifers or the Highland Lakes.

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News Brief
4:56 am
Mon December 5, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/5/11: Weekend Rain Totals, Public Safety Commission Meeting

Photo by KUT News.

Weekend Rains Drench Central Texas

Chances are you woke up to some drizzle. The rain came down steady earlier this morning and over the weekend. YNN Meteorologist Rich Segal says Camp Mabry got more than two inches since Friday. Downtown Austin got an inch and three-quarters of rainfall. Lakes Buchanan and Travis remain at 37 percent capacity. Austin remains in exceptional drought - the worst case.

Imagine Austin, Occupy Protests on Public Safety Agenda

The City of Austin's Public Safety Commission has a busy agenda today. It will get briefings and updates on the city's Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, the Occupy Austin protests and downtown cameras. The public meeting starts at 4 p.m. at City Hall, in the Boards and Commissions Room. Citizens are allowed to speak.

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News Brief
5:23 am
Fri December 2, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/2/11: Eastside Principal Resigning, UTMB to Continue Prison Health Care

The Austin Independent School District has confirmed the principal at Eastside Memorial High School is resigning.
KUT News

Eastside Memorial Principal Resigning

Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus Principal Joseph Coburn is resigning effective January first. The Austin Independent School District told KUT he announced his resignation during a staff meeting yesterday. An AISD spokeswoman says Coburn is leaving to pursue a doctoral degree. The Eastside school has struggled to meet state academic standards for years.

UTMB Likely to Continue Prison Health Care in 2012

University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have reached a tentative agreement on prisoner health care. The state would continue to fund UTMB to provide health care to about 120,000 Texas inmates through next August. UTMB was concerned about rising health care costs and more losses in running prisoner health care.

As KUT's Ben Philpott reported during Morning Edition, the Texas Legislature will begin its periodical review of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice starting in January. Scott Medlock, with The Texas Civil Rights Project, spoke to KUT about the group's concerns over health care in the state's prison system.

The TCRP sent a letter to the Sunset Advisory Commission pointing out what it considers inadequate health care for prisoners. Arguing for prisoner rights doesn’t always get results, Medlock said, so he’s also proposing measures to improve prisoner conditions while cutting costs for the state. For example, Medlock said the state should review policies that keep geriatric inmates behind bars as they will require a disproportionate amount of the state prison system’s healthcare dollars.

You can read Philpott's entire story here.

ERCOT Warns of Tight Power Supplies

The state's grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is warning there's a threat for rotating power outages next summer- especially if we have more record-setting temperatures. ERCOT says power reserves are down because some power plant units are scheduled to go offline and some planned units have been delayed.

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SXSW
12:16 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Bruce Springsteen to Keynote SXSW Music Conference

Photo by Lord_Henry http://www.flickr.com/photos/10567940@N05/

Organizers of Austin's South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival announced the keynote speaker for 2012. It's the biggest catch yet for the 26 year-old event.

It was a well-kept secret but SXSW organizers revealed Bruce Springsteen will be the music conference's keynote speaker in March.

"After the death of Clarence Clemons, it marks a new chapter. So doing something like this which you know, it's an event where he can kind of assess his career; makes tons of sense," said Ann Powers, NPR Music critic and correspondent.

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News Brief
5:49 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/1/11: Charter Revision Meeting, World AIDS Day

A map showing one proposal for new Austin City Council districts.
Image Courtesy of the City of Austin.

How Should Austin City Council Members be Elected?

The City of Austin's 2012 Charter Revision Committee is meeting tonight. It's scheduled to discuss whether to recommend a single member district map, which could include some at-large seats. Under single member districts, council members would represent specific geographic areas of town. Right now all Austin city council members are elected city-wide.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Carver Library, 1161 Angelina Street. KUT has reported on some of the proposals on the table, check out that story here.

World AIDS Day

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Education
12:35 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

AISD Superintendent Calls For End Of Financial Emergency

AISD superintendent Carstarphen delivered her 2011 State of the District address inside McCallum High School's new performing arts center.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District’s superintendent says there will be no layoffs this school year. Meria Carstarphen made the announcement this morning during her 2011 State of the District Address inside McCallum High School's new performing arts center.  Carstarphen said she will ask the school board to lift the financial emergency declaration made back in February.

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News Brief
5:43 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/30/11: Hasan Hearing, Wildfire Response Report & Jobless Benefits Extended

Travis County Report Assesses Wildfire Response Successes, Failures

Travis County's Office of Emergency Management has released a report outlining what went right--and what didn't--in the response to the Labor Day weekend fires. Travis County had six large fires on September 4th, including the Steiner Ranch and Pedernales fires.  57 homes were destroyed and the fires burned about 7,000 acres. The report praised responders for doing their best with the local resources at hand. The report says state and federal resources were not available because of all of the other wildfires burning across the state.

The report laid out several communication failures. It says more public information officers were needed to get accurate information out to residents more quickly. The report even cited a "rumor mill at the shelter due to lack of information and conflicting media reports." It also suggested more social media networks need to be created to get out information to the public.

Hasan Hearing Wednesday

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Austin
2:50 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

Noticing More Grackles in Austin?

A flock of grackles swarms near I-35
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Today’s cold weather has probably prompted the few bird stragglers that didn’t migrate already to hit the skyways fast.  But many local species don’t migrate. If you’ve noticed more grackles around Austin, you’re not the only one.

“People do notice them more in the wintertime because that’s when they are in their large communal roosts,"  Jane Tillman, chair of the Urban Habitat Committee for Travis Audubon, said. "In the summer they spread out and nest, so the males actually have territoriality. But in the winter there’s no breeding going on so everybody gets together in these huge flocks in our H-E-B parking lots."

But just because we may not notice grackles in large flocks year round, doesn’t mean they leave town.

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News Brief
5:20 am
Wed November 23, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/23/11: Thanksgiving Travel

Thanksgiving Travel Up in Texas

If you’re flying out of Austin’s airpor todayt, officials suggest you arrive two hours early. At Austin Bergstrom International Airport things have quieted down. But there were long lines at security checkpoints around 5:30 a.m. And passenger traffic is expected to pick up at noon and again at 3 p.m.

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News Brief
5:49 am
Tue November 22, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/22/11: IDEA Proposal Facing Opposition, Georgetown Suspends Dog Adoptions

One of many signs on display at Monday night's AISD Board meeting. The signs showed opposition to a plan that would create some in-district charter campuses.
Photo by Nathan Bernier/KUT News

AISD Charter IDEA Facing Opposition

Emotions ran high at last night’s Austin Independent School District Board meeting. Some teachers and parents passionately told the board they don’t want the district to partner with a charter school.

AISD is considering collaborating with IDEA Public Schools to run in-district charter programs at some struggling East Austin campuses. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan December 12th. KUT's Nathan Bernier was at last night's meeting; you can read or listen to his report here.

Georgetown Puts Dog Adoptions on Hold

The City of Georgetown Animal Shelter has temporarily suspended the adoption of dogs. The city says a significant number of dogs at the shelter have flu-like symptoms and are being quarantined.

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News Brief
6:44 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/18/11: More Occupy Austin Protesters Arrested, ABIA Expecting Heavy Traffic

Austin Bergstrom International Airport's security checkpoint in November 2010. ABIA officials say passenger traffic should start increasing Friday for the holiday weekend.
Photo by KUT News.

Expect ABIA to be Busy Starting Today

You may want to get to Austin's airport two hours early if you're flying anywhere for Thanksgiving. Austin Bergstrom International Airport officials expect passenger traffic to increase starting today. People may notice some changes at ABIA. The airport now has some body scanners running at security checkpoints.

Also, people picking up passengers can wait in a new free cell phone area until friends and relatives call for pick-up. The airport no longer has free 30-minute parking in its garage.

Occupiers Arrested After Chaining Themselves to Tree

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News Brief
6:10 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/17/11: Texas Executes Child Murderer, Arraignment in Killeen Bomb Plot

Photo by KUT News.

Texas Executes Man who Murdered Child

The State of Texas executed a man last night for killing a child in June 1999. Guadalupe Esparza was put to death for raping and strangling seven year-old Alyssa Maria Vasquez after kidnapping her in San Antonio. Esparza was the 13th Texas inmate put to death this year. No more executions are scheduled until January.

Arraignment Today in Killeen Bomb Plot

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News Brief
5:03 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/16/11: AISD Charter Proposal Mtg, Post Office Could Be Named After Soldier

AISD East Austin Facilities Meeting Tonight

The Austin Independent School District is holding a community meeting tonight to continue discussion on its button Facilities Master Plan. Tonight's meeting will focus on college readiness for schools in East Austin. AISD is considering in-district charter programs for some East Austin campuses.

The meeting is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Martin Middle School. KUT News recently interviewed the CEO of IDEA Public Schools, which is in talks with district officials to run the in-district charter programs. You can listen to that interview here.

Resolution Passed to Name Post Office After Fallen Soldier

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News Brief
5:20 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/15/11: 1 Yr Since Wildfire Season Started, ACC Breaking Ground in Elgin

Charred car in Bastrop County in September. The Texas wildfire season has lasted one year since November 2010.
Photo by KUT News.

Texas Wildfire Season Turns A Year Old

Today marks one year since the first of the many wildfires broke out across Texas. The Texas Forest Service says fires have burned nearly 4 million acres statewide since November 2010. That includes the 34,000 acre Bastrop County Complex fire that started Labor Day weekend. Despite the rain overnight, fire bosses are bracing for another active fire season this winter.

State Assistance to Rebuild Fences Destroyed by Wildfires Extended

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Austin
5:35 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Top Morning Stories 11/14/11: Report on UT Faculty Productivity, Bluesman Bramhall Dies

A new report out of UT Austin says the university reaps twice as much as it pays for faculty.
Photo by KUT News.

Report: UT Professors Provide Good Return on Investment

In the midst of an ongoing debate about how efficiently Texas colleges and universities manage taxpayer money, UT Austin has released a report saying its instructors generate nearly twice as much revenue through research funding and educational dollars as they cost the state in salary and benefits.

The report, authored by College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean Marc Musick, analyzes data released earlier this year by the UT System. A UT press release highlights some of the report's key findings:

  • All instructors generated about $658 million in teaching and research-related revenue in 2009-10. They were paid about $318 million in salary and benefits from state funds.
  • On average, tenured and tenure track faculty members earn $129,000 in salary and benefits from state funds, and each generates $280,000 in educational and research funding.
  • Among the one-fifth of instructors who teach the most semester credit hours, 56.8 percent are tenured and tenure track faculty members. Of those who teach the fewest semester credit hours, 77.2 percent are graduate students or non-tenured faculty.

While the report points out some successes, it also says UT can do better. It lists recommendations to push productivity higher, such as providing incentives to reward faculty who apply for grants and reconsidering the teaching mix to make sure there is a good balance of large and small classes.

Bluesman Doyle Bramhall Sr. Passes Away

Singer, songwriter and blues drummer Doyle Bramhall Senior passed away over the weekend at his home in Alpine. Bramhall was a key figure in helping establish Austin’s blues scene in the 70's. He wrote and co-wrote several songs for Stevie Ray Vaughan and released three of his own albums.

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News Brief
6:01 am
Fri November 11, 2011

Top Morning Stories November 11, 2011: It's Veterans Day, Penn State Scandal Reaches San Antonio

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Veterans Day Closures, Parade

City of Austin offices are closed today in observance of Veterans Day. That includes City Hall, public libraries, and all recreation, cultural and senior centers. Garbage, recycling and yard trimmings will be picked up as usual.

The City of Austin and Travis County Veterans Day Parade will start at 9 a.m. at the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge and will make its way up to the Capitol. 

Two Texas Soldiers Killed Overseas

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News Brief
8:09 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Top Morning Stories November 9, 2011: Nationwide EAS Test, 2011 Elections Wrap, Water Main Fixed

Nationwide Test of Emergency Alert System Today

This afternoon at one the Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct the first nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test.

You're more than likely familiar with the Emergency Broadcast System and the tests that break into programming on TV and the radio. Today's test will be a nationwide check of the entire system.

Tell friends and family there's no need to be alarmed or to call 911 when they hear it today.

2011 Elections Wrap

Texans approved seven state constitutional amendments in Tuesday’s election. One allows the state to issue bonds to fund low-interest student loans and the governor was given more power to issue pardons. Three state propositions were rejected including one that would have given tax breaks to landowners for water conservation.

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News Brief
5:05 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Top Morning Stories November 8, 2011: Election Day, Police OT for Occupy Austin

Photo by KUT News.

Election Day is Here!

What's on the Ballot?

Today Texans will decide the fate of ten amendments to the state constitution. You can find KUT's reports on all of the state propositions here. Travis County voters are also voting on two bond propositions for transportation and park projects.

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