Kelli Ainsworth

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Deer Season
8:16 am
Mon November 5, 2012

Watch Out: It's Deer Mating Season!

Watch out drivers: It's deer mating season, and the ornery animals’ thoughts aren’t with traffic safety.
flickr.com/TooFarNorth

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services department is warning drivers to be on high alert for deer in the road during November and December.

These two months are what’s known as the “rut,” or deer mating season. During this time, deer can be inattentive to their surroundings and are more likely to dart out into the road and into the path of an oncoming car.

According to data released by the City of Austin and APD, there were 50 deer-involved collisions in 2011.  There have been 11 so far this year. Nationwide, research has found that approximately 200 people a year in the United States die in deer-related car accidents. Eighteen percent of all accidents involving deer occur during November. December is the third most common month for accidents involving deer.

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2012 Presidential Election
2:05 pm
Fri November 2, 2012

Early Voting is Underway - Here’s Where and When You Can Vote (Updated)

Early voting starts today and runs through Nov. 2.
flickr.com/athrasher

Update 2 (Nov. 5): Early voting is over in Austin, but on Election Day (Nov. 6) Austin voters can cast ballots at any polling place in Travis County.

Update (Nov. 2): Today is the last day to cast a ballot during early voting. Most early voting locations are open until 7 p.m. but the "Mega Voting Site" at Highland Mall will be open until 9 p.m.

So far, more than 202,000 Travis County voters have cast a ballot—that’s about 32 percent of registered voters.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Capital Metro is offering free rides on all buses and the MetroRail throughout the day on Election Day to help people get to the polls.

On Election Day, Travis County voters do not have to cast a ballot at their precinct but can vote at any polling location in the county.

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The Lead
9:39 am
Wed October 31, 2012

The Lead: UT Pushes for Prop 1, Domestic Partner Benefits, Video Chats in County Jails

Good Halloween morning. It’s going to warm up a bit today, with highs in the low 80s, but be prepared for a cool Halloween night, with a low of 57, according to the National Weather Service.

Here are some stories KUT has been working on:

Automatic Admission to UT Getting More Difficult:

UT President Bill Powers says that for the Summer/Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015, UT will automatically admit Texas seniors who rank in the top 7 percent of their high school class. That’s down from the top 9 percent this Fall/Spring and the top 8 percent next Fall/Spring.

UT Makes Final Push for Prop 1:

The University of Texas is responding to criticism directed at Proposition 1, which would raise property taxes to help fund a UT medical school. Critics have said that UT has enough money to fund the project. However, UT President Bill Powers says, that a great deal of the money in the university’s coffers is already earmarked for other purposes.

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Austin
7:09 am
Wed October 31, 2012

A Few More Reasons Not to Drink and Drive This Halloween

Nathan Bernier

1. You're More Likely to Get Caught Tonight:

The Austin Police Department is enforcing a "No Refusal policy" beginning tonight at 9 and ending Thursday at 5 a.m.

That means police will conduct blood search warrants on drivers who are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and refuse to voluntarily submit to a breathalyzer or blood test.

2. It'll Cost You:

Police say anyone found with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and could face 3 days to 6 months in jail, a one year suspension of their driver’s license and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense.

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Health
12:53 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Next Breakthrough in Alzheimer's Research Could Happen in Texas

MD Anderson Hospital in Houston.
flickr.com/8113246@N02

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is partnering with Baylor College of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study Alzheimer’s and similar neurodegenerative diseases.

Together, the researchers are forming the Neurodegeneration Consortium (NDC). The researchers plan to take what they say is a new approach to studying Alzheimer’s. Most previous research has been based primarily on one theory, which posits that Alzheimer’s and the related degeneration are caused by the build-up of a specific chemical in the brain.

But NDC investigators believe recent medical research and advances indicate that many factors may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. They plan to study and identify these factors and hope the knowledge they gain can be used to create better diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s and similar conditions.

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Transportation
2:21 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Fastest Road in the Country Now Open in Central Texas

The 41 mile portion of SH 130 takes drivers from Mustang Ridge to Seguin.
SH 130 Concession Company

The fastest road in the country is now open to drivers in Central Texas. The 85 mile per hour portion of State Highway 130 opened this morning.

The toll road stretches across about 41 miles from Mustang Ridge to Seguin. It will soon cost drivers 15 cents per mile—or $6.17 to drive the length of the road—but it’s free through Nov. 10th.

Eighteen-wheelers will be charged 60 cents per mile. But, as reported last month, truckers may avoid the toll road altogether because driving over 65 mph reduces fuel efficiency and also raises safety concerns.

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The Lead
9:00 am
Wed October 24, 2012

The Lead: Historic Tax Exemptions, SXSW Takes Vegas, Oil Boom Creates Jobs Across Texas

Good Morning. Once the clouds dissipate, Austin can expect warm weather with a high of 86, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Three Austinites are suing the City of Austin, Travis County, the Austin Independent School District and Central Health for allowing tax breaks on what the plaintiffs refer to as “allegedly” historic properties.

AMLI Residential, builder of several high profile apartment communities in Austin, has announced it is going to build a mid-rise project in Mueller town center.

The popular Austin film, music and interactive festival is rolling out the SXSW V2 festival in Las Vegas in August. Rather than merely being an extension of the music and film events that take place in Austin, SXSW V2 is geared toward tech startups.

Texas Republicans have made limiting trimming the state budget an integral part of their mission over the last decade, but many worry the state has simply shifted the burden to local governments.   

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Texas
12:29 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

North Texas Makes Most Requests to Withhold Information; Austin Ranks 14th

Out of all Texas cities, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (pictured above) receives the most confidentiality requests from the Metroplex area.
Gage Skidmore, Texas Tribune

Suburbs and cities surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex rank highest in the state for petitions to the Texas Attorney General's office to withhold municipal information, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Under the Texas Public Information Act, citizens and the media can make requests to state agencies for government records. In normal circumstances, the agency has to respond to the request within 10 days and provide the requested information or documents in a timely manner. 

However, if the agency believes that the request touches on information that the government has an interest in keeping confidential, they can petition the Attorney General’s office for the right to deny the request. The Attorney General’s office then has 45 days to rule on whether the information can be fully or partially withheld, or must be released.  

The study looked at the number of petitions to the Attorney General’s office to withhold information requested under the Public Information Act per 100,000 in population in Texas’s 20 largest cities. Seven of the 10 cities that submitted the most requests to Abbott’s office to withhold information were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 

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Texas
7:32 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Recall: 8,200 Pounds of Uninspected Meat Products Made, Distributed in Texas

Though packages were labeled with the USDA mark of inspection, federal officials say they were not inspected by the USDA.
U.S. Department of Agriculture/Lao Chareune

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Monday that a Dallas-based beef and pork distributor, Lao Chareune Foods, has recalled 8,200 pounds of meat.

The products being recalled weren’t inspected and were mislabeled. 

Lao Chareune is recalling 3 oz. and 8 .oz packages of “Pork Snack Stick;” 3.2 oz. packages of “Seasoned Fried Beef;” 1.76 oz. packages of “Fried Pork Skins;” and 1.2 oz. packages of “Sliced Fried Pork Ears.” 

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Austin
12:26 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

What Draws People to Austin (And What Drives Them Away)

Many Austin transplants attend events like South by Southwest, pictured here in 2012, before deciding to move here.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It’s no surprise that Austin ranks highly on many lists: fastest growing cities, best cities, even “hipster” cities.

But a more personal conversation has been unfolding on the Austin page of popular social website Reddit, simply asking “Why did you choose Austin?”

A native Austinite posed the question, noting many friendships made with people who decided to move to here. “So, my question to you Austin Redittors, why do you love Austin? Why is this where you want to live over other places? I'd love to see from another perspective why you think this city is so awesome.”

The question garnered 70 responses. Several answers dwell upon Austin’s traditional draws, but others are more attached to what makes Austin weird:

  • People come for school – then stick around: “I moved here to finish school at UT about 20 years ago after traveling like a nomad for quite a bit,” writes Redditor MonsterBronson. “Of all the cities I've seen, Austin is the best (for multiple reasons) so I never left.”
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Education
10:52 am
Wed October 10, 2012

How Advanced Placement Success Could Save Texas Students Millions

Many Texas students are saving money by taking college exams in high schools.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Education Commissioner Michael L. Williams and the Texas Education Agency announced this week  that the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams rose by four percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Advanced Placement Program allows high school students to take college-level courses and ultimately exams that they can earn college credit for. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 . A score of 3 or higher is considered satisfactory. Last year, 194,391 Texas students took 350,700 AP exams.

The College Board, which created and oversees the AP program, estimates that if all of the students who scored a 5 on the exams last year enrolled in one of the state’s two flagship universities and received course credit, they would collectively save between $36.2 million and $42.9 million in tuition costs.

This news comes at a time when climbing college tuition rates are a major talking point in Texas, and on the cusp of a legislative session that will likely address these issues. 

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Texas
4:10 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Court to Hear Tom DeLay's Appeal in Money Laundering Case

Former House Speaker Tom DeLay faces jail time and probation if his conviction is upheld.
U.S. Congress

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin will hear the appeal of former U.S. House Majority Leader cum reality show contestant Tom DeLay, who was convicted of money laundering in 2010.

DeLay was found guilty by an Austin jury of conspiring to circumvent campaign finance laws and channel corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002. His conviction followed a 2005 indictment on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering alongside aides John Colyandro and Jim Ellis. DeLay resigned from his position in the House as a result. In 2009, he appeared as a contestant on the TV series "Dancing With the Stars."

DeLay has been out on bond, working to have his conviction overturned for the past two years. If his conviction is upheld, he faces a sentence of three years in prison and five years probation. As a convicted felon, he would also be ineligible to run for state-level political office in Texas and ineligible to vote until he completes his probation. 

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Austin
2:41 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

A Short-Term Rental License is $235 - But the True Cost is Twice That

Austinites hoping to make money by renting out their homes during this weekend's ACL festival will first have to shell out more than $400 to register with the city.
flickr.com/interpunct

Austin property owners have started applying for short-term rental licenses to comply with a new city ordinance that took effect last week.

To obtain a license, property owners have to pay a $235 short-term rental licensing fee. But they are also required to pay a $241 notification fee– money that will be used  by the city to notify neighbors within 100 feet of a short-term rental property. 

This fee has generated controversy because all applicants pay the same amount, whether they have to notify 10 neighbors or 100.

"The fee is the standard notification fee that the city has," says Jerry Rusthoven with the city's Planning and Development Office. "My department, the planning department mails out notices to folks for a variety of different types of cases – zoning cases, subdivision site plans – and we have a standard $241 notification fee that’s paid for all those," 

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Education
11:56 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Should Texas Embrace Virtual Schools?

Lawmakers heard this morning about virtual schooling in Texas.
flickr.com/sammers05

The Texas Senate Education Committee is holding a hearing to address virtual education and its growing use in Texas. Committee members will hear testimony on virtual education and recommendations to improve programs that are underperforming. 

Texas offers both supplemental and full-time virtual education. Students in supplemental programs take online courses in addition to attending traditional face-to-face classes. Those enrolled in virtual schools full-time get all of their instruction online and don’t receive any classroom instruction.

The number of students enrolled in virtual schools in Texas is growing rapidly. Raise Your Hand Texas, an education policy non-profit, reports that enrollment in virtual education programs grew 97 percent in the past six years. In the 2010-2011 academic year, 17,000 Texas students were enrolled in supplemental online courses.  Last school year, 6,000 students were enrolled in full-time virtual programs. 

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Transportation
10:29 am
Wed October 3, 2012

Study: Bad Road Conditions Cost Austinites $1,200 a Year

Though construction is a common sight along Austin roads, a study finds several roads are in need of serious repair.
KUT News

Austin’s roads cost each local driver $1,200 a year. That's according to TRIP, a highway industry nonprofit. The organization also found that deficient roads in Texas cost drivers a total of $23 billion each year.

The report says poor road conditions cause accidents and additional traffic which lead to longer commute times and greater fuel usage. Substandard roads can also result in more wear and tear to vehicles and tires, resulting in higher maintenance costs. 

Overall, TRIP found that 18 percent of Texas’s major urban roads are in poor condition, while 27 percent are considered mediocre. Though $1,200 a year isn't chump change, the report still found Austin has the fewest number of roads in poor condition with nine percent. San Antonio ranks highest, with 33 percent of its roads in poor condition. 

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