Trey Shaar

Producer, All Things Considered

Austin resident, on and off, mostly on, since 1986. Covering news of Central Texas and beyond since 1994. Father since 2010. Maker of sounds, informational and otherwise, since longer ago than any of the above.

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Austin
7:51 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Council Takes Steps for Wildfire Protection

The Austin City Council will acquire wildfire fighting equipment through a federal program.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Every day without measurable rain worsens the risk of wildfire here in Central Texas. And the Austin Fire Department is stepping up its efforts to be ready.

The Austin City Council Thursday approved a five-year agreement with the Texas A&M Forest Service to get more and better firefighting gear, at a lower cost, through the National Wildfire Program.

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Texas
7:48 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Bell County Wildfire Getting Under Control

A campfire is blamed for starting the 450-acre wildfire north of Austin.
courtesy flickr.com/morclaud/

A wildfire about an hour north of the Austin area has grown to 450 acres, but a Texas A&M Forest Service official says it might end up being even larger once final measurements can be made.

The fire is holding at 75 percent contained after firefighters started getting help from lighter winds.

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Texas
4:49 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Sales Tax Receipts Way Up in Austin

Growth and economic recovery are factors in the tax numbers.
Todd Wiseman & Mikhail Popov, Texas Tribune

Texas sales tax receipts are up 3.7 percent from a year ago. Here in Austin, sales taxes were up more than 13 percent from February 2012.

Economist Angelos Angelou says that points to the rapid growth of the Austin area, which he says is adding nearly 65,000 people a year.

“The economy is overperforming both the Texas and the national economies, so we’re doing well and we will continue, I think, to prosper,” Angelou said.

Politics
4:23 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Bag Ban Gets Pushback at Capitol

A state representative wants to bring plastic shopping bags back to Austin.
courtesy flickr.com/jonathanyoungblood

Five days into the Austin bag ban, a Texas lawmaker has filed a bill that would allow stores and shoppers to use whatever kind of bags they want.

First-term State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, calls his bill the Shopping Bag Freedom Act, which he says would stop what he calls “the overreach of big government.”

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Health
6:13 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

March for Texas Expanding Medicaid

Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez was one of the lawmakers speaking in support of Medicaid expansion today.
Mike Martinez via Facebook

Supporters of Texas expanding access to Medicaid, among them representatives of Planned Parenthood, marched up Congress Avenue Tuesday to the Capitol steps.

They’re calling on Texas lawmakers to accept Federal money as part of the Affordable Care Act to get healthcare to more than a million Texans who otherwise would not have it.

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Environment
7:06 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Effort Begins to Extinguish Austin Compost Fires

The (in)famous Dillo Dirt mud at Austin City Limits Fest 2009.
flickr.com/plutor

One week after strong winds sparked fires at City of Austin compost piles, Water Utility crews have started the process of putting them out.

The fires have been smoldering since Monday, February 25, in compost piles at the Hornsby Bend Biosolids Plant, where the fertilizer known as Dillo Dirt is produced. The fires were started by wind gusts of as much 50 mph.

The Austin Water Utility says air quality is being monitored with the use of "special" monitoring devices and says the amount of smoke should diminish this week. 

Transportation
6:42 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

DPS Stepping Up Patrols for Spring Break

Daniel Reese

The Texas Department of Public Safety is increasing patrols March 8-17 for Spring Break.

More DPS troopers will be on the roads watching for speeders, seat belt violations and especially drunk drivers.

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Transportation
6:27 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Express (Toll) Lanes Coming to State Highway 71

Texas Department of Transportation

Change is on the way for a stretch of State Highway 71 in Southeast Austin.

The Texas Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to build tolled express lanes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport east to the SH 130 toll road.

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Austin
4:12 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Sequester Cuts at ABIA Will Be Minimal

Daytime commercial flights at ABIA likely won't be affected by the loss of one air traffic controller.
KUT News

The automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester are scheduled to go into effect tomorrow.

It would mean a change at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, but one that most of us may not notice.

ABIA could lose a federally employed air traffic controller at a time of night when there are generally no commercial flights, according to a list the FAA released last week.

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Austin
8:09 am
Thu February 28, 2013

Parking Changes Coming to Rainey Street Area (Update)

Jessie Wang

Update: Parking meters in the Rainey Street District will start charging this morning. A $1 per hour parking cost will be applied and the schedule will be the same as downtown: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday. On Sundays parking in the Rainey Street area will be free.

The Rainy Street visitors can also park at the Mexican American Cultural Center. The parking fee will also be $1 per hour from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday and early Sundays. A 5$ flat fee from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m will be applied in the parking lot and besides those three late night hours, Sunday will be free.

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Politics
6:07 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

Tying Degrees to Higher Ed Funding

A bill in the House would let graduation numbers determine college funding levels.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

There’s a new effort at the Texas Capitol to tie higher education funding to results -- to use a business term, “productivity.”

And that’s the word Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond used today at an event headlined by State Representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee.

Branch has a bill connecting the amount of money colleges get from the state to the number of graduates they turn out.

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Politics
6:22 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Texas Texting Ban: Another Attempt

Felipa Rodrigues KUT

Texas lawmakers are taking a fresh look at a statewide ban on texting while driving, but the Governor may not be budging.

Members of the House Transportation Committee heard testimony today from people whose relatives were killed in crashes blamed on use of mobile phones.

There are concerns about enforcement.

A veteran Houston Police officer says he has no trouble seeing when someone is texting behind the wheel, but as it is now, he has to wait for the driver to do something more dangerous before he can make a stop.

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Politics
6:13 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

House OKs Stopgap Funding for Medicaid

The budget for Medicaid had fallen $4 billion short.
Liang Shi, KUT News

The Texas House voted today to close a $4 billion gap in the budget to pay for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled.

The House passed an emergency spending bill to make up for a shortfall in the 2011 state budget.

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Education
5:59 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Texas Students Beat Nation in Science, Math

Texas is above average in science and below average in literacy, according to the report.
Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

A better report card today for Texas students: they’re scoring higher than the national average in science and math.

And among the nation’s five biggest states, Texas spends less per student than any of the other four: New York, Illinois, Florida and California.

The grades are not all good for Texas kids: they’re doing worse than the national average in literacy, even when factoring out students for whom English is a second language.

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Politics
6:15 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Texas Braces for Military Spending Cuts

Credit U.S. Army

With lawmakers in Washington facing a March 1 deadline of automatic budget cuts, lawmakers here in Austin are doing what they can to get ready. 

Texas is home to 15 active duty military installations, thousands of military personnel and thousands more in support jobs. A Texas House Committee put together to look at how to prepare for the cuts known as “sequestration” calls the impact on the defense and aerospace industries a particular concern, citing Fort Hood, alone, as having a $25 million impact on the Texas economy. 

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