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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Parents Can Chime in on School Overcrowding

The Austin Independent School District is going to address overcrowding at North Central Austin schools during a public meeting tomorrow. This is part of the district’s planning for how facilities should be used in the 2012-2013 school year. The Board will vote on that year's plan this December. Tomorrow’s meeting is from ten to noon at the Dobie Middle School cafeteria.

Family Mourning Death of Fallen Marine

Photo by KUT News.

Update Today on Bastrop State Park

Later this morning the Texas Forest Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife will give an update on damage assessments and restoration plans for Bastrop State Park. The wildfires last month scorched much of the 6,000-acre park. The Forest Service says many of the trees are still unstable. The park has been closed to the public. KUT's Mose Buchele took a tour last month and took these pictures of the damage

Photo by Andy Uhler for KUT News.

Central Texas Man Charged in Terror Plot

A Round Rock man is being held without bail in New York after being charged with plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Manssor Arbabsiar, originally from Iran but now a naturalized American citizen, was one of two primary individuals involved in the terrorist plot. Arbabsiar was arrested at JFK Airport on Sept. 29. Holder said elements of Iran’s government directed the assassination plot.

Photo by KUT News

The Austin Independent School District’s board has voted unanimously to move trustee elections from May to November of even numbered years. Trustee Rob Schneider says the move will save the district money and increase the number of people voting in AISD elections, since they would coincide with state and federal elections.

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

This weekend's rain is helping to replenish the Highland Lakes - at least a little bit.  In the Austin area, most places got 1.5-2 inches of rain. Cedar Park and Leander got 2-2.5 inches. Further northwest in the Hill County 4-6 inches of rain fell. Lower Colorado River Authority Meteorologist Bob Rose says that was good for the Highland Lakes two water storage reservoirs.

Photo courtesy of William J. Serson via Flickr,

The City of Austin is facing a lawsuit from a pregnancy resource center. The lawsuit is over a city ordinance passed in April. It requires pregnancy resource centers that don’t offer or refer women to abortion or birth control services to post notices saying that they don’t.

The city was concerned that some pregnancy centers were representing themselves as medical or therapeutic counseling centers when they were religious organizations. The lawsuit from these groups claims that the city ordinance is violating their constitutional rights.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

No smoking, grilling or any kind of open flames are allowed at city parks in Austin right now, but the city can’t really enforce that ban.  That's because parks police can only ask people to stop those actions.  A resolution on tomorrow’s city council agenda could change that. 

It would direct the city manager to create an ordinance that would make it illegal to have an open flame in a park when a burn ban is in effect. Violations would be a Class C misdemeanor, with a fine likely around a couple hundred bucks.

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Firefighters Making Progress on New Bastrop Fire

Firefighters say they made progress overnight to contain another wildfire in Bastrop County. The Old Potato Fire started yesterday afternoon and has burned about a thousand acres. It was 25 percent contained, and firefighters expect that percentage to go up today.

Texas Longhorns Jump Up In Polls

The Texas Longhorns moved up several spots in the major college football polls after beating Iowa State 37-14 Saturday night. Texas is now ranked 11th in the AP poll and 10th in the USA Today coaches' poll. The Horns had been ranked 17th in both polls. 

Hispanic children now make up the largest group of children living in poverty in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center reports more than 6 million Hispanic children were classified as living in poverty last year. That’s more than any other racial or ethnic group. The report said the recession of 2007-1009 hit Hispanic children especially hard. The Center’s Mark Lopez said population growth and high birth rates are also factors.

Photo by KUT News.

Texas’ New Elections Maps Still in Limbo

A federal court in San Antonio has orderedTexas to halt redistricting plans for congressional and state legislative seats until the court has ruled on its legality.

Some Democratic politicians and minority groups sued the state, claiming the new district boundary lines, drawn by a Republican majority, would negatively impact minority voters. The new maps were supposed to go into effect tomorrow.

Al-Awlaki, U.S. Born Cleric Linked to Al-Qaida, is Dead

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

After two years of declines, Austin-area tourism rebounded last year to pre-recession levels. That’s according to a new report from the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. The report says 19.8 million people visited the Austin-Round Rock metro area in 2010 (including both day and overnight trips). 

Photo by KUT News.

Bastrop On the Road to Recovery

Bastrop County has been in recovery mode for weeks now, but county commissioners this week approved an official wildfire recovery plan. The plan outlines what the tasks for which local agencies will be responsible. The first priority is clearing all of the debris. Bastrop County will also hold several town hall meetings to talk about the recovery efforts. The  first one is is scheduled for October 10th.

Photo courtesy Yuri Long

Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. out of Kansas is recalling over 131,000 pounds of ground beef products that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says may be contaminated with E. coli. Some of the beef was distributed in Texas. Here's more from the USDA on the part of the recall that affects Texas:

3-pound chubs of a generic label "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWI." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Del., Fla., Ga., Md., Ill., Ind., Mo., N.Y., Ohio, Tenn., Texas and Wis. for retail sale.

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Brush Fire Destroys Alamo Film Set

The Texas Forest Service says the brush fire near Reimer’s Ranch in western Travis County is now 75 percent contained. The fire has burned more than 200 acres. Officials say it destroyed two park structures and about 8 structures from the movie set for the 2003 film “The Alamo. ”

Photo courtesy of Austin Energy.

More Wind to Power Austin

The Austin City Council has approved another wind power contract. This one is a 25-year agreement for 200 megawatts of coastal wind power from a project in Kenedy County, Texas. Power won't be flowing till the end of next year.

Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Brewer Executed for Jasper Dragging Death

Documented white supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in Texas yesterday. Brewer was put to death for the high-profile dragging death of James Byrd Jr., an African American man, in Jasper, Texas.

Photo by KUT News.

LCRA Vote Could Cut Off Water for Farmers

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Board is scheduled to vote today on plans that could reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers. 

LCRA staff recommends cutting off water to farmers, if lake levels don’t fill up significantly and if dry conditions continue into next year. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would have to approve any of the LCRA’s plans.  Lakes Travis and Buchanan are a major water supply for Central Texas cities, including Austin.

KUT News

The Lower Colorado River Authority is considering asking the state for permission to reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers next year because of the ongoing drought and dropping lake levels. In a press release, the LCRA stated: