Tyler Pratt

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Austin
10:09 am
Mon October 29, 2012

The Lead: Austin Preps for F1, Hogs on SH130, Texas Wants More Medicaid Control

Good morning! It may be in the chilly this morning, but we'll see a high of around 70 this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Austin Is Revving Up For F1 Weekend

Formula 1 is only three weeks away. The City of Austin is making some big preparations as race weekend approaches.

Satellite Monitors Texas’s Water Supply

A satellite called GRACE, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, is monitoring the water situation in Texas. And there’s a couple of disturbing trends in the data: a Southeastern drought trend and a lot of a lot of groundwater depletion in the Panhandle.

Crashes on New Stretch of SH130

The new, high-speed section of State Highway 130 opened last Wednesday. That first night, wildlife caused a handful of accidents.

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Austin
9:04 am
Mon October 29, 2012

Revving Up for F1: Austin Preps for Tens of Thousands

There's much to be done as the city nears the big F1 finishline
Photo courtesy the Circuit of the Americas

F1 is still three weeks away. Or only three weeks away, as the city is looking at it. Austin is making some big preparations as the big race weekend approaches.

City Cleanup

  • The Public Works Operation will be cleaning up downtown around all the construction sites.
  • City contractors will clean and restore pedestrian access areas downtown.
  • Austin Resource Recovery is planning ahead for the big weekend. They will adding up to 200 additional trash receptacles downtown.  They will also be ramping up their downtown litter control services to extended to a much larger area.
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Austin
8:33 am
Fri October 26, 2012

The Lead: Planned Parenthood Funding Cut, AISD Debt, Texas State Threat Suspect Arrested

Good morning. Looks like Austin's entering a cool down! There may be some light showers today, but it looks like clear skies all weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts. That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But, calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. AISD also has the lowest debt per capita.

A former Texas State University student, 19-year-old Brittany Henderson, has been arrested for making a bomb threat at the school last week. Several buildings were evacuated because of the threat. Henderson was arrested in Bryan on Tuesday and charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a third-degree felony, and making a false alarm, which is a class A misdemeanor.

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Austin
7:39 am
Fri October 26, 2012

Map: Events Close Roads This Weekend

Several events are taking place around downtown Austin this weekend. That means road closures and detours for drivers.

Below is a list of events causing closures:

All Weekend

  • The Texas Book Festival is back! But, along with all the books come lane closures around the Texas State Capitol. There will be both full and partial lane closures stretching north and south from 9th to 13th streets, and east to west from Lavaca Street to San Jacinto Boulevard starting Thursday at 9 a.m. and ending Sunday at 11:59 p.m. (Map)
  • Happy Halloween Weekend! Expect some traffic delays as costumed revellers celebrate. Temporary road closures will begin on Saturday at 6 p.m. and last through 3 a.m. East 6th Street from Brazos Street to San Marcos Street will be shut down. IH-35 north and south bound exits for 6th Street and 8th Street will also be closed. For a complete list of road closures, click here.
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LGBT
4:27 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

Study: Transgender Texans Face High Levels of Discrimination

A rainbow flag flies high at Austin Pride, but a report says transgendered Texans are fighting high rates of discrimination.
http://www.flickr.com/asaustin

According to research from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, people who are transgender and/or gender non-conforming experience widespread discrimination across the country.

Now, new Texas-focused research released by Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas shows that 79 percent of transgender Texans have reported harassment or mistreatment in the workplace.

The new research also stated that respondents identifying as transgender or gender non-conforming while in grade school (K-12) reported a physical assault rate of 46 percent.

“This report graphically demonstrates the discrimination faced by Transgender Texans,” Equality Texas interim executive director Chuck Smith says in a press release. “In our state, where the right of self-determination is so valued, it is unconscionable that anyone would be denied the ability to earn a living, to live where they choose or to be educated.

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Road Closures
8:48 am
Fri October 19, 2012

Highway 183 in Cedar Park Closed at 9 a.m.

View Truck Convoy Route (i.e., where to avoid) in a larger map

A stretch of US 183 in Cedar Park will be closed this morning.

Starting at 9 a.m., 183 will shut down between the Leander city limit and RM 620. The freeway will stay closed until sometime around noon.

The closure is needed to make room for two trucks carrying oversize loads. Power lines and stoplights need to be lifted along the route to allow the trucks to pass underneath.

Intersections and sections of the highway will be open before and after the trucks pass through each intersection, but traffic will be unable to pass the trucks in either direction.

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Texas
7:35 am
Fri October 19, 2012

'Dire' State of Central Texas Lakes Costing Area Millions

The "Sometimes Islands" of Lake Travis have become permanent fixtures on the lake over the past few years.
flickr.com/daleremote

State lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss the Texas drought and how extremely low Central Texas lake levels are hurting the economy. 

The Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation, & Tourism heard testimony from Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber and the Central Texas Water Coalition. Both Commissioner Huber and the Coalition are seeking assistance from the state for the populations living and working around the lakes. They told lawmakers that funding and assistance is needed to support the impacted communities.

Huber recounted stories she's heard from several Lake Travis business owners:

"One gas station owner says he has shut 3 of his 4 gas stations. Another business owner who owns several business on the lake says he is raiding his kids' college funds for two years. My partners and I have cashed in every IRA we have tucked away. And we are running out of options."

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Politics
1:42 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

This West Texas Attack Ad Has Pictures of Jesus, a Baby and Two Men Kissing

Jesus, a baby and two men kissing asre depicted in this mailer from the Canseco campaign.
Pete Gallego campaign, via Huffington Post

A Congressional race in West Texas is getting ugly: Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco is running for re-election against Democratic State Rep. Pete Gallego, and using some scorched-earth campaign tactics. 

The Canseco campaign has been sending out mailers that accuse Gallego of:

  • Saying “no to God” – a reference to controversy ginned up regarding the Democratic Party’s national platform, which does indeed reference God;
  • Promoting abortion for young girls – supposedly in reference to abortion-rights group NARAL’s support of Gallego, and
  • Pushing for “marriage to be between man and man.”

The accompanying imagery features a picture of Jesus, a baby and two men kissing.

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Bond Election
5:02 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Prop 16: Public Safety

Money for Austin's Fire Department is included in Prop 16, but some say it doesn't do enough to address wildfire dangers.
KUT News

Seven bond spending propositions are included among the 18 propositions Austin voters will decide on this fall. KUT News is reporting on all seven of the bond propositions, which together are worth $385 million; today we take a look at Prop 16, which would allow the city to spend $31 million on public safety projects.

The money would go toward police, fire and emergency medical services. But some critics contend it’s not enough to cover Austin’s public safety needs. Austin Public Safety Commission vice chair Mike Levy says Austin’s number one need didn’t get included on the proposition.

“There’s a huge deficit, not including a new fire station in the very-high-risk 360 corridor,” Levy said. “The Public Safety Commission has said that the biggest risk facing Austin is wild land fire. “

Levy says the population has grown significantly in that part of town, and emergency response times are slow. The proposed improvements on Prop 16 do include a new Onion Creek Fire and EMS Station, fire department renovations and ambulance bay expansions and new police substations and facilities. But Levy says  the bond missed an important APD need.

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Health
10:25 am
Fri October 12, 2012

Funds for Austin AIDS Patients Up One Day, Down the Next

There's new funding for AIDS services in Austin, but organizations may not be getting all they need.
flickr.com/asaustin

A financial shot in the arm is coming for people living with AIDS in Austin. As much as $5 million in federal funding is on the way, spread out over five years. But the federal funding comes as local AIDS assistance groups wrangle with funding cuts of their own. 

The announcement came at a city council meeting yesterday. The grant funds come from federal awards called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, funds. For Austin that means about $1 million each year for two Austin non-profits, AIDS Services of Austin and Project Transitions. The money is intended to help people with HIV and AIDS with housing need – short-term rent and mortgage assistance, help with utilities and other related expenses. 

According to Josh Allen, executive director of Project Transitions, housing is an area of incredible need for Austin. “As quickly as we can move someone into housing, there are two other folks on the waiting list.”

This grant money comes at a time when Project Transitions is struggling to fill a $45,000 gap left by reduced funding from the United Way. In July, the United Way for Greater Austin eliminated $1.2 million in grants to local nonprofits. “We’re seeing it across the board generally with fund raising efforts,” says Allen. “Specifically, with grants and foundations. It’s just a much more competitive environment.”

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Bond Election
5:30 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Prop 15: Affordable Housing

Prop 15 would dedicate $78 million to the acquisition, finance and construction of affordable housing.
flickr.com/dymllc

Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions this fall, including seven bond spending propositions worth $385 million. KUT News is reporting on all seven of the bond propositions; today we take a look at Prop 15, which would dedicate $78 million in city dollars to affordable housing.

“There is a need for affordable housing everywhere, and there is a strong desire to have the ability for residents to have a housing choice in all parts of Austin,” says Rebecca Giello with the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office.

Prop 15 would provide funding to build, renovate and repair homes for low-income Austinites. It also earmarks money for home improvements for the disabled and elderly.

Supporters say that all types of people in Austin need affordable housing.

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Education
4:40 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Bridging Cultures, Building Revenue: Saudi Arabian Students May Get Texas College Experience

Thousands of Saudi Arabian students may enroll in community colleges across Texas in the next few semesters.
http://www.flickr.com/markyharky

The UT College of Liberal Arts is co-hosting an open house today that may place thousands of Saudi Arabian students in Texas community colleges.

The open house is organized by The Global Initiative for Education and Leadership and hosted by the Saudi Arabia Cultural Missions (SACM), The US-Alhabra Chamber of Commerce and the College of Liberal Arts.

At the event SACM officials will present their intention to place 8,000 Saudi Arabian students in two-year community colleges. The students are fully funded and sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, which will includes their tuition, books, medical and housing needs as well as $2,000 to $4,000 a month stipends. 

UT says its main goal is to foster relationships and knowledge between our countries. "Education is one of the ways in which we can begin to build collective futures across these boundaries," says Richard Flores, senior associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts. "Where students begin to know each other, recognize the differences but begin to see the similarities, and begin to build those relationships."

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Austin
3:35 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

The View From Rainey St.: City Plans for Garage Spark Controversy

The Mexican American Cultural Center is at the heart of a debate growth the Rainey Street
http://www.flickr.com/mirsasha/

The Austin City Council may make a decision on Thursday that could alter the future of Rainey Street.

It's close to impossible to find parking in the trendy lower downtown district. With so many new restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, the popularity of Rainey Street grows alongside the difficulty of getting in and out by car.

A group of investors (70 Rainey Street LP) which own several Rainey Street lots has presented the city several bids to purchase a property at 64 Rainey St.for a multi-story parking garage. 70 Rainey Street LP is currently planning to use its existing lots to build a 31-story mixed use project.

The city is mulling three options: Selling the lot for $100,000, plus 30 parking spaces and their revenue;  for $400,000, plus 20 parking spaces and their revenue; or for $1.2 million and no parking spaces.

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music
8:36 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Cheer Up Charlies, Formula 1 Events Come Before Austin Music Commission

DJ Dylan Reece spins dance music at East Sixth bar and live music venue, Cheer Up Charlies
Tyler Pratt for KUT News

The Austin Music Commission is holding a special meeting today.

One notable item on the commission’s list is a discussion of the outdoor music permit for East Austin haunt Cheer Up Charlies. In August, the East Sixth Street bar and music venue had its outdoor music hours restricted to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m .on weekends due to an ongoing neighborhood disagreement.

Other presentation and discussions on the commission agenda include:

  • Music events and festivals during Formula One weekend
  • How downtown music is affecting North Austin neighborhoods
  • Possible creation of a Musicians Initiative Working Group of the commission
  • Proposal for a new special event permitting process
  • Approve a list of 2012 Austin Music Memorial inductees
  • Information on two new Austin Music Foundation programs
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Austin
9:00 am
Sat October 6, 2012

Microbreweries: Another Austin Tech Scene

Freshly canned Black Thunder from Austin Beerworks. The local brewery will be at today's Texas Craft Brewers Festival.
Kelly Connelly, KUT News

Today is the annual Texas Craft Brewers Festival. It's billed as the largest celebration of microbreweries in Texas.

Many of the 27 breweries participating in the festival are new Austin businesses, part of a recent surge in local microbreweries.

Austin Beerworks was busy canning Black Thunder, a German-style schwartz beer, on Friday. There’s plenty of technology involved, though not the same as other high tech industries in Austin.

“It is absolutely our version of Austin’s tech industry,” said Adam DeBower, co-founder of Austin Beerworks. “We have a lot of controls, but most of them are analog.”

DeBower and three friends started Beerworks in 2011. Mike McGovern said the idea for a microbrewery grew out of a shared love of the drink.

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Economy
8:24 am
Fri October 5, 2012

National Unemployment Rate Drops, Austin's Employed May Be Seeing Raises

Austin may be getting some raises soon.
http://www.flickr.com/niwru/

The national unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent in September. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 114,00 jobs last month. This means the number of unemployed in the U.S. is now 12.1 million. It's the first time this year that unemployment has fallen below 8 percent.

So what does this mean for Austin? As KUT News reported last month, Austin added 5,900 jobs in August, and local unemployment dropped to 5.9 percent, well below the national average.

But what about the already employed in Austin? According to staffing agency Robert Half International, technology professionals are expected to salary increases of about 5.3 percent. Administrative staff may see salaries rise by 3.5 percent. And accounting and finance salaries could jump 3.3 percent.

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Texas
8:05 am
Fri October 5, 2012

26 Years Later: Exonerated Citizen Michael Morton Reflects

Exonerated citizen Michael Morton speaks to an attentive audience at the Texas Capitol.
Tyler Pratt for KUT News

Former Williamson County resident Michael Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. Then 25 years later, he was freed after DNA evidence showed he was not guilty.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Morton’s release. He spoke at the Texas Capitol about his experiences over the past 26 years, and the difficulties the Williamson County justice system presented in obtaining the evidence that eventually exonerated him.  

Morton told the audience: 

The odd thing about it is that The Innocence Project was willing to say “Look. Texas statute allows this. We will pay for all the expenses.  Just let us have it and we’ll do it." And for reasons that haven’t been elaborated on or maybe articulated, to mine or anyone else’s satisfaction that I’m aware of, is that they fought this. And fought this. And fought this.

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Austin
5:34 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Double Your Pleasure: Mayor Makes Two-Weekend ACL Official

Bob Landers talks about ACL's economic benefits on the Mayor's Balcony of City Hall
Tyler Pratt, KUT News

We heard it in August, when City Council unanimously voted to let city council negotiate an ACL two weekender with C3. Then we hear it on Monday, when ACL announced it had created a two-weekend ACL Festival. Well, in case there was a shadow of a doubt that it wouldn't happen, Mayor Lee Leffingwell announced today that ACL was indeed getting expanded.

Leffingwell doted on ACL for bringing in "a hundred thousand visitors with over a hundred million dollars in economic impact to our city every year," and creating over 1,400 jobs.  

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Texas
2:52 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Report Finds Texas 'Energy Inefficient'

Texas wasn't ranked very high in energy efficiency according to ACEEE Scorecard
http://www.flickr.com/ixtlilton

The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has released its 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. According to their findings, Texas didn't do so well.

The report ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their policies and programs regarding the use of energy in buildings, transportation, and industry. This year, Texas is ranked #33

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Austin
12:15 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Austin Gets Green with SXSW Eco

Philippe Cousteau. grandson of the famous ocean explorer, headlines the SXSW Eco Conference and Festival
facebook.com/pages/Fans-of-Philippe-Cousteau/

The Second Annual SXSW Eco Conference and Festival kicks off today and is aptly named Evolving the Environmental Conversation.

The three day conference will bring in experts from all over the globe who are working to find sustainable environmental solutions. Attendees will get top-level presentations and discussions with professionals in the public, private and academic sectors. SXSW Eco hopes that the participants will gain access to information that will allow them to both collaborate and advance solutions for the challenges facing the environment, economy and society. 

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