Nathan Bernier

Host, All Things Considered

Nathan Bernier a KUT reporter and the local host during All Things Considered and Marketplace. He grew up in the small mountain town of Nelson, BC, Canada, and worked at commercial news radio stations in Ottawa, Montreal and Boston before starting at KUT in 2008. 

Nathan has won numerous journalism awards including a National Edward R. Murrow Award, Texas Associated Press Awards, Lonestar Awards from the Houston Press Club, and various other awards and recognitions.  Nathan's hobbies outside work include producing music and enjoying Austin's many food and drink establishments.

Ways to Connect

U.S. Census Bureau

Texas has one of the nation's lowest rates of people on welfare, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. It says 1.8 percent of Texas households received benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program in 2012. 

Only Wyoming (1.7 percent), South Carolina (1.6 percent), North Dakota (1.5 percent) and Louisiana (1.5 percent) had lower welfare rates than Texas. The United States average is 2.9 percent. The tally did not include food stamps or Social Security benefits. 

Williamson County

A 19-year-old in Round Rock is no longer facing the possibility of life in prison for allegedly making marijuana brownies and selling them for $25 each. The case involving Jacob Lavoro attracted national attention. An online petition against the punishment has more than a quarter million signatures. 

Williamson County assistant District Attorney Mark Brunner says they decided not to pursue a charge based on the total weight of the brownies to avoid jury "distraction" during a possible trial. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

As the school year starts anew for Texas public schools, the Austin Independent School District is preparing for a year of changes.

In November, as many as five new school board members will be elected, a replacement superintendent will be hired in the wake of Meria Carstarphen’s departure and the district could face more, or less, funding after the legislature convenes in January.

The district’s interim superintendent Paul Cruz spoke with KUT about the difficulties facing Austin students, parents and educators as bells ring in the new academic year.

Fox News Sunday

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry on charges of abuse of power and coercion follows a general pattern in the U.S. of the “rule of law not being followed,” Perry said this morning on Fox News Sunday, adding it’s partly the result of a “government out of control.”

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

Texas Governor Rick Perry is facing accusations he broke the law two times when he threatened to veto state funding for a unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office that investigates public corruption. The story includes a lot of legal terminology, so here’s a decoder.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

Texas Governor Rick Perry firmly rejected criminal charges connected to his 2013 veto of state funding for a public corruption unit in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, labeling the prosecution a “farce” and promising to defend himself vigorously.

“I cannot and I will not allow this to happen,” Perry said at a brief news conference at the State Capitol this afternoon.

“I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win,” he said.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Almost four weeks after Gov. Rick Perry said he was deploying the National Guard to the border, the first wave of soldiers has started setting up at observation posts. Several guardsmen were seen Thursday afternoon manning an observation tower along the busy road leading to the Hidalgo International Bridge, which connects McAllen and Reynosa, in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico near Matamoros.

Perry announced in July he would send up to 1,000 members of the National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border, on top of extra state troopers he already ordered there from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Perry says the National Guard will serve as extra eyes, reporting suspicious activity to authorities.

Julian Aguilar/Texas Tribune

Sending additional state police and National Guard troops to the border will cost Texas between $17 million and $18 million dollars a month. That's according to a presentation Tuesday by top officials with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), who told state lawmakers they will have to find a way to keep paying for it. 

About one-third of that cost is for salaries, travel and other expenses of Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers sent to the border as part of "Operation Strong Safety II."  Close to two-thirds of the $18 million will cover salary, meals, lodging and other costs of deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops. 

National Association of Realtors

Austin is the best city in the United States for aspiring homebuyers between 20 and 34 years old, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It said even though housing prices in Austin have shot up in the last few years, the city's median home value of $252,520 is still about half of what it is in Boston and a third of what it is in San Francisco.

"Which is the reason why we still place Austin as reasonably affordable," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says. "This is where the millennial generations are moving into and [where] the job opportunities are available."

Texas has one of the lowest rates of marijuana use in the country, according to a closely watched federal report. Recently released state level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows less than five percent of Texas adults said they had used marijuana in the last month.

Among teenagers, six percent reporting having used marijuana in the last month. That rose to almost 14 percent for the 18-25 year old demographic. Only three percent of adults over 26 in Texas said they had used pot in the last month. The survey data was collected in 2010 and 2011. 

Nathan Bernier/KUT

The largest school district in Central Texas has hit a record high graduation rate. But the Austin school district still lags behind the state average.

In the five years that former Austin ISD superintendent Meria Carstarphen oversaw the district before leaving for Atlanta, graduation rates rose by ten percent. In 2013, it hit a new high of just over 84 percent. And the increases in graduation rates were across all student groups in AISD, including Hispanics, African-Americans, economically disadvantaged and special education students. 

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County residents could see a property taxes increase in the $901 million proposed budget for 2015. The increase, however, isn’t because of rising property values, but because of the demand for countywide services.

The budget calls to build out integral services for the ever-expanding county, but may lower the tax rate. County officials will debate and hear public comment on the budget before the final Sept. 23 vote.

November 5, 2009 Ft. Hood Memorial

People trying to build a memorial for victims of the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood hope a ground breaking ceremony they held Tuesday will help raise the last amount of cash they need to complete the project. 

It's been almost five years since Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan opened fire at the Army post, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30. Hasan, 43, was sentenced to death last year by a military jury.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It’s time for another edition of KUT’s Summer School. Every Friday this summer, we head out to learn new skills from people in Austin who are experts in their field. Today’s subject? Meat curing.

Our instructor is a butcher who used to be a vegan for almost ten years: Salt and Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria co-owner Ben Runkle. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

People stand in line for up to five hours to eat at Franklin Barbecue. The Austin restaurant, run by Aaron Franklin and his wife Stacey, has earned national praise for serving slow-smoked Central Texas barbecue within the Austin city limits. 

Franklin Barbecue has been closed for the past couple of weeks for an expansion that includes a new smokehouse. It is scheduled to reopen Tuesday, July 8. Aaron Franklin swung by the KUT studios to talk about it. You can read the interview below or listen to it here. 

LBJ Presidential Library and Museum

Update: President Barack Obama will give a public address during his visit to Austin this week.

Obama will be at The Paramount Theater on Thursday for a speech on the economy. Tickets are free and available to the public. They’ll be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30 Tuesday morning at The Paramount (713 Congress Ave). The White House will only distribute a limited number of tickets.

Doors will open for the speech on Thursday at 9:45 a.m. Tickets are required for entry and are not for sale or re-sale. The White House says all attendees will go through airport-like security.

Original Story (July 2, 2014): Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will host a fundraiser for President Obama on Wednesday, July 9, according to a Democratic Party source who wished to speak on background. Tickets for the event will range from $5,000 to the legal limit of $32,400. The proceeds will go to the Democratic National Committee.

North Carolina Department of Transportation

State transportation authorities announced this week that they received the green light to build a $6.7 million "diverging diamond interchange" at I-35 and University Blvd. in Round Rock. That's an area that gets a lot of traffic, partly because it's near the only IKEA in Central Texas and the Round Rock Premium Outlets, among many other retail businesses.

The Austin City Council is calling on the Texas legislature to legalize medical marijuana. The council passed this resolution Thursday, sponsored by council members Bill Spelman and Mike Martinez, who's running for mayor. The resolution calls for the city to change its state legislative agenda to include support for "legislation to legalize the use of medical marijuana."

Project Connect

By a unanimous vote – Austin city council endorsed a package of proposed transportation projects Thursday night, including a $1.4 billion dollar urban rail line

The Austin City Council limited public comment on urban rail to 30 minutes for each side, which angered some public transit advocates who support the concept of urban rail but reject the proposed route of the plan. 

Project Connect

A proposal to build a $1.4 billion urban rail line in Austin faces a key vote today in the city council. The 9.5 mile urban rail line would run from Riverside Drive and Grove, through downtown to Highland Mall.

Supporters of the plan say that route is going to see a lot of growth over the next few years. Opponents wonder why it’s not going in where things are already happening. Like, along Lamar or Guadalupe.