Emery Reifsnyder

Intern for KUT News

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Wildfire season is in full swing. And due to Texas’ ongoing drought, the state remains at exceptional risk for wildfires.

Wildfires spring up quickly and spread unexpectedly – making real-time information important. Twitter is an important resource for wildfire updates. And Facebook is an information clearinghouse for area residents in times of disaster.

ADAPT of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project held a press conference today announcing the filing of 29 lawsuits against establishments across Texas, including Austin mainstays like the Alamo Drafthouse and Threadgill's. The complaint ? Not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA, signed into law by Pres. George H.W. Bush in 1990, promises protection against discrimination based on disability. According to ADAPT, the defendant establishments are in violation of the act due to their inaccessible locations.


Update: The Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met Monday to discuss an investigation that could lead to impeachment proceedings against a University of Texas System Regent.

The committee is tasked with deciding which articles for impeachment it could possibly bring against Wallace Hall. But at a committee hearing, lawmakers found there's little historic precedent to guide the process. According to Jeff Archer with the Texas Legislative Counsel, there have been few attempts to impeach a public official in Texas and there’s no definition or standard for what’s considered an impeachable offense. 


With plenty of nearby water, Austin’s always been a great place for lake sports. This year there’s a unique new one to add to your summer to-do list: Flyboarding.  

The new sport uses the discharge from personal watercraft like Jet Skis to pump 1,000 gallons of water per minute through the bottom of a Flyboard strapped to users’ feet. The Flyboard – which looks like a wakeboard with two giant, 55-foot fire hoses attached to it – can turn almost anyone into a superhero capable of flying over 30 feet above the lake surface, according to Aquafly owner Bobby Vance. 


Preparations are underway for the Auditorium Shores concert and fireworks show Thursday.

The festivities start at 8:30 p.m., with a performance by the Austin Symphony. Fireworks are set to start at 9:30 p.m., and the event is expected to end at 10 p.m.

Above, you'll find a map of street closures for the event — streets marked red will be completely closed. Those in blue will be partially shut down.


With a little help from mother nature and the Texas Legislature, fireworks retailers might see a sales boom in the Austin area this Fourth of July.

Last month, Gov. Perry signed HB 1813, which allows Texans to transport and possess fireworks in cities, eliminating previous fines that ranged from $50 to $2,000.

courtesy flickr.com/atmtx

The Republic of Texas (ROT) Motorcycle Rally comes to Austin for the 18th time this weekend. It kicks off Thursday morning at the Travis County Expo Center and runs until noon on Sunday.

Several roads close early Friday evening for the event, including Congress Avenue between East 11th Street and Cesar Chavez Street. The ROT Rally Parade will also close roads from the Travis County Expo Center to downtown, beginning around 8 p.m. Friday.


The City of Austin ranked first among all Texas municipalities for investing in lobby groups during the 2013 Legislative Session, according to a report by Texans for Public Justice.

As a liberal city in a conservative state, Austin often finds itself in conflict with state government – or the target of “Austin-bashing” bills. And that can mean lobbying the officials at the Lege.


A 22,000-square-foot aquarium will come to North Austin near U.S. 183 and Anderson Mill Road, in what was once a Lack's Furniture store. It is expected to open later this year, in November.

Courtesy of the City of Austin

The University of Texas and the city are looking to change the way we use alleys in Austin, by possibly adding affordable housing in some Austin alleyways. 

Today, the Austin City Council approved an $18,000 grant to fund the Green Alley Demonstration Project, which could also add other amenities to spruce up alleys in the East Austin Guadalupe neighborhood.

Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Texas Parks and Wildlife announced a new statewide public service campaign: “Take Care of Texas.”

The campaign featuring a jingle written and performed by Texas country music star Kevin Fowler. The tune stresses the importance of water and energy conservation, especially during this period of extended drought.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

After four decades in business, local pizza purveyor Gatti’s Pizza is closing its campus location on Martin Luther King Boulevard this Monday, May 28.

The location is currently Austin’s oldest continuously running pizza place. The restaurant is closing its doors after it lost its lease with the landlord of the property.

The restaurant is somewhat of a fixture in the campus area, it’s buffet having filled untold numbers of undergraduate bellies since its founding in 1972. When KUT News visited this afternoon, the line was stretching out the door. (It doesn’t hurt that from now until closing, all buffet customers pay the “kid’s price” of $5.49.)

Photo by KUT Austin; lotto image courtesy aclfestival.com; graphic by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The 2012 lineup for the Austin City Limits Music Festival will be announced tomorrow. But, thanks to festival promoters and some silver-fingered Austinites, we’ve gotten a few previews of the lineup.

Over the weekend, festival fans started buying lotto-style scratch tickets for a chance to win passes and more. The tickets also revealed the names of attending bands. Each of the following bands were featured on the tickets, confirming their appearances at ACL this October (barring any cancelations, of course):

  • Quiet Company, Punch Brothers, Steve Earle, Bon Iver, Alabama Shakes, Freelance Whales, Kimbra, Barrington Levy, Jack White, Black Keys, Andrew Bird, Esperanza Spalding, A-Trak, Zola Jesus (via diffuser.fm)
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues

On Saturday, the Austin Poetry Society is kicking off its Poetry with Wheels contest. Open to anyone 18 or older, the winner’s poem will be posted on the placards lining the inside of Capital Metro buses.

"The Poetry with Wheels contest is not just for professional poets," the society writes on its website. "All members of the Austin community are encouraged to enter."

Although there’s no restriction poem topics or the amount of poems you can submit, the Poetry Society has four guidelines for submissions:

Photo courtesy Amy Gizienski, flickr.com/agizienski

Here’s a way to make your Friday workday more enjoyable: the Blanton Museum of Art has unveiled a new online database of the museum’s vast collection, containing records for over 17,000 works in the museum's collection. Almost all of the museum’s pieces have images on the database, and many feature historical information about the piece and the artist.  

It’s a dramatic upgrade from the previous Blanton database featured on the site, which only included images for some 150 pieces of art. 

New aspects of the database include an easy to use search feature, which allows users to search for works by keyword, artist name or nationality, period, or specific exhibition. It also features a portfolio of past exhibitions held by the museum, and more. 

Photo courtesy societyforscience.org

Today is the final day of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest pre-college science and engineering competition, with more than $3 million in awards and prizes.

Austin was well-represented at the Pittsburg-held ISEF, with several teens from area high schools vying for honors. KUT News talked to Michael Mann, an 18 year-old senior at Austin’s Westwood High School – and ISEF 2012 winner.

Mann’s project investigates the effects of the fungus Piriformospora indica on the water content and biomass of plant roots – or more simply, whether the fungus will cause a plant to grow more roots, enabling it to take in more nutrients and grow bigger and faster.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/nodivision

A high school diploma is touted as the bare minimum students need to achieve. And now a new study pegs the financial value of high school graduation to the Austin region’s economy.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington DC-based non-profit  focused on improving national graduation rates, has released a study detailing the effects on Austin’s regional economy if the amount of high school dropouts was cut in half – with benefits reaching into the millions.

It’s estimated that in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), some 6,100 students dropped out of the class of 2010. Home to 45 schools, the Alliance says the region is one of the lowest performing in the nation, with 28 percent of high school students failing to graduate on time and with a regular diploma.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/asifch

Merriam-Webster defines “eclipse” both as “the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another,” and “a falling into obscurity or decline.”

Dr. Jarita Holbrook hopes her new documentary about the former will prevent the latter from claiming young America’s interest in science.    

Dr. Holbrook is an astrophysicist, anthropologist and filmmaker. Her current project, “Black Sun,” is about two astrophysicists, Dr. Alphonse Sterling and Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, and their journey around the world chasing solar eclipses. However, the film is about more than just two globetrotting scientists, it’s also about the revitalization of American youth’s interest in the STEM field –science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – and specifically, in minority communities.

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.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Political trailblazer Gus Garcia – the first Hispanic elected to the Austin ISD Board of Directors, and the city's first Hispanic mayor – was honored today.

Garcia has been a major force in Austin politics for decades. In 1972, he became the first Hispanic to be elected to the school board, coming into office with a list of “17 Demands for Quality Education.” Programs at today’s event, sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, commemorated the 40th anniversary of his historic election.

Garcia’s colleague and keynote speaker, Ernest Perales, remarked on the difficulties the AISD board found itself in during the turmoil of the 1970s. Peralez called Gus Garcia “a hero” and praised his tenure on the board.