Wells Dunbar

Senior Online Editor

As  online editor for KUT News, Wells Dunbar covers news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond. Before joining KUT, Wells served as staff writer and news blog editor at The Austin Chronicle, and covered the Texas Legislature for Gallery Watch. Hailing from El Paso, Wells is a longtime Austin resident whose interests include technology and social media, film and music, and spending quality time with his wife, child and cat.

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SXSW 2014
2:10 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

SXSW Crash Update: Capital Murder Charge for Rashad Owens; Victims Remain Hospitalized

Onlookers at a memorial in front of The Mohawk honoring victims of a crash outside the club earlier that week.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

Summary: 21 year-old Rashad Owens has been formally charged in this week’s crash that killed two people and injured 23 on Red River Street during South by Southwest. As of Saturday, he remains in custody.

Court documents show Owens had a blood alcohol content of 0.114, above the legal limit of .08. Read the entire charging affidavit here.

Owens was charged with one count of capital murder. His bail was set at $3 million. More charges could follow.

South by Southwest concluded Sunday with a handful of events. A charity fund created for the crash victims and their families, SXSW Cares, has already netted tens of thousands of dollars. 

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SXSW 2014
4:52 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Two Dead After Driver Plows Into SXSW Crowd; Suspect in Custody

The incident took place outside The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue.
Ashley Park for KUT

This post is no longer being updated. See more from KUT:

Summary: An Austin woman and a male visitor from the Netherlands are dead after a car plowed through South by Southwest crowds in Downtown Austin early this morning. The collisions took place along Red River Street near The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue. Nearly two dozen were injured.  

Austin Police have a suspect in custody, 21 year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens. He's been charged with two counts of capital murder.

The Austin victim is 27-year-old Jamie Ranae West, according to several news reports, including one from the Austin American-Statesman.  

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Thursday morning that the incident started as a traffic stop (part of police efforts to crack down on drunk drivers) at the Shell Gas station at Ninth Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road. Chief Acevedo says the driver drove into the gas station parking lot, but then sped off and started driving the wrong way down Ninth Street.

APD pursued the driver, who then tried to strike one officer working barricade duty, and continued speeding onto Red River. Acevedo says the driver hit multiple pedestrians on the street, killing two on vehicles: an Austin female that was a passenger on a moped, and  a male visitor from the Netherlands who was killed on his bicycle. (Initial police reports said both passengers on the moped were killed.)

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Austin
4:07 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Mayor Leffingwell Hosts Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' Thread

Mayor Lee Leffingwell is fielding questions on Reddit right now.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Mayor Leffingwell just finished fielding questions in his Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session. Here's a sampling of his answers.

A robust defense of South by Southwest:

In response to a question describing the "burden" of hosting SXSW, he wrote:

"SXSW brought $218 million of economic impact in 2013. Austin benefits incredibly from being on the international stage due to the festival. I believe it's well worth a week's worth of minor inconvenience for all of the positive impacts it brings. It is also a tourism festival. People come here, spend all of their money and then go home. Not too shabby."

A dig at Austin's wage floor:
In October, the Austin City Council approved a $11/hour wage floor for companies receiving city incentives. Leffingwell used his IAmA to take a swipe at the requirement, in answer to what can be done about Austin's growing economic divide:

"We collaborate with educational organizations, such as UT, ACC, etc. I believe increased training and education will help create more opportunities and a better quality of life. I support bringing manufacturing level jobs to our city, but this is challenging because of wage restrictions recently passed by council. I realize that this is an important issue."

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Austin
3:45 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

In Time for SXSW, a Brief History of Austin's 'Don't Move Here' T-Shirts

An artist's rendering of the back of the Wannabes' 1997 t-shirt.

The story of Austin's various "Don’t Move Here" t-shirts is, in many ways, the story of Austin itself: the transformation of an undiscovered secret into something much bigger. 

While the "Don’t Move Here" meme certainly predates its first recorded t-shirt printing – not to mention the concept of a "meme" itself – modern history posits spring 1997 as the time it was first put to cotton.

It was then that Austin pop-rockers The Wannabes minted a batch of merch bearing the slogan.

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Same-Sex Marriage
1:50 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Travis County's Clerk is Confident Gay Couples Will Marry Soon in Texas

"My office would be thrilled if we could offer marriage licenses equally to all couples," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says.

The ruling this week calling Texas' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional prompted plenty of reaction from politicos.

One of the lesser-known politicians to sound off: Dana DeBeauvoir. As Travis County Clerk, she's decidedly downballot of the state's top races. But DeBeauvoir is also uniquely affected by the decision, since the county clerk's office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Austin and Travis County.

When the ruling was announced, DeBeauvoir offered a ringing endorsement:

“Because of the stay order in the ruling, the County Clerk cannot issue marriage licenses to gay couples at this time. This is a joyous day, but we will have to wait a little longer to actually deliver the justice and equal rights gay couples so deserve.” 

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Austin City Council
1:06 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Live Blog: Mayor Leffingwell's 2014 State of the City Address

Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell  delivered his final "State of the City" address today at noon.

Leffingwell's office billed the 40-minute speech as an overview of the mayor's two terms in office. Leffingwell was elected mayor in 2009 and 2012; Austin will elect a new mayor this November. Read below for a real-time report on the mayor's remarks. Video of the mayor's speech will be included in this post once it is available. 

That's a wrap: Leffingwell ends his speech with a call for interconnectedness going forward into single-member districts. On to a Q&A session with the crowd.

Not many major proclamations coming out of the mayor's address: calls for a medical school innovation district and urban rail were big moments from the mayor's speech last year. Still, the address can be viewed as doubling down on initiatives Leffingwell wants to accomplish before leaving office; as soon as his speech ended, his office issued a statement titled "Mayor defines focus for
 final 10 months in office."

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Winter Weather
12:37 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Weather Delays Have Austin Asking: Why Are We So Bad at Winter?

Students dressed warmly on the University of Texas campus today. UT, like most Austin-area schools and governments, started at 10 a.m. today due to inclement weather.
KUT News

Morning delays at Austin schools are receiving some ribbing online.

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, the City of Austin and dozens of other school districts and government agencies postponed start times until 10 a.m. this morning.

Some districts, like Round Rock ISD, also posted through explanations of their thinking in making the decision to issue late starts.

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Capital Metro
5:04 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Is Capital Metro's New MetroRapid Service Leaving Bus Riders Behind?

Critics say a standing-room-only 1M is a common sight since Capital Metro launched its new MetroRapid service.
Reddit user KidOmni

Disclaimer: Capital Metro is a sponsor of KUT.

Capital Metro's new MetroRapid bus service launched on Sunday. And with the new route came additional service changes some say give short-shrift to existing riders on Cap Metro's most popular lines.

MetroRapid line 801 travels from Southpark Meadows to the Tech Ridge area in North Austin. Its route through the urban core – along South Congress Avenue and Guadalupe Street – parallels Cap Metro's 1L and 1M bus lines, the routes with the highest ridership in Austin. And another route – the 101 Express – traveled largely along the same line. (Read more about service changes.)

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Winter Weather
1:19 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Meet the Austin Ice Scraper: a Credit Card, CD or Spatula

In Austin, ice scrapers are a hot commodity when the temperature drops. Check out our Instagram roundup of Austin alternatives.
flickr.com/rs_butner

The Austin area’s freeze this morning is no laughing matter: The wintry weather – which worsened in tandem with the city’s morning rush hour – snarled traffic and caught schools and government offices by surprise. (See a list of delays and closures here.)

But it’s also provided ample fodder on social media, where Austinites are sharing stories and images of their morning commute – or their snow days.

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Halloween Floods
9:39 am
Sun January 26, 2014

Perry Appeals Denial of FEMA Benefits for Halloween Flood Victims

Mike Espinoza gets help pulling damp sheetrock from the kitchen of his home. He and his wife waited out the sudden flood in the second floor of their Onion Creek home.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is asking President Barack Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Administration [FEMA] to reverse a decision denying benefits to individual victims of southwest Austin’s Halloween floods.

Fast moving floodwaters in the early hours of Oct. 31 last year – concentrated in the southwest Austin neighborhood of Onion Creek – claimed six lives and ruined hundreds of homes.

In a letter to the President, Gov. Perry writes:

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Austin City Council
2:00 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Candidates Are Already Declaring for Austin Mayor

Austin's switch to geographic representation is drawing a slew of candidates – well ahead of November elections.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Austin City Council elections are still some nine months out – but the races are already heating up.

Today saw one of 2014’s first official announcements for mayor: Patsy Woods Martin, a former executive with the United Way for Greater Austin, and founder of umbrella charity organization I Live Here, I Give Here. (Disclaimer: Martin also launched online giving campaign Amplify Austin, which KUT participated in last year.)

Martin is the latest in an increasingly crowded field of official and unofficial candidates. The Austin Chronicle has a comprehensive rundown of candidates. Martin is joined officially by Bill McLellan, whom the Chronicle describes as a “former 3M executive, chief development officer at Family Eldercare, and longtime civic activist.”

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Business
2:51 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Austin Snail Mail Disruptors Outbox Shutting Down

A fleet of Outbox "unpostmen" would pick up and scan subscribers mail. Today, the company announced it was closing.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Less than a year after expanding, an Austin startup is shutting down.

As KUT reported in February of last year, “Outbox picks up its customers’ mail, scans it, and makes it available online. … Outbox workers open and scan letters, catalogs and flyers. Customers log in to Outbox’s website to see their – now-digital – mail.”

At the time, Outbox had expanded its operations into California after testing its service in Austin. But citing a litany of issues impacting its service, Outbox announced today it was ceasing operations.

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Halloween Floods
2:23 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Obama Issues Disaster Declaration for Austin's Halloween Flooding

Maria Isabel Fabian sorts through clothes salvaged from her Dove Springs home which flooded when record rains hit the Austin area on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Nearly two months after devastating floods impacted Southeast Austin, President Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Travis, Hays and Caldwell Counties. The declaration offers federal help with recovery from the Halloween floods that rocked the region earlier this year. 

Pete Baldwin, emergency management coordinator for Travis County, says he’s still waiting for a list of categories the federal money will cover, but he says it could address everything from debris removal to roads and bridges. “Until we get those spreadsheets,” Baldwin says, “we won’t know which categories that we were awarded.”

The findings will be sent to the state and then be sent on to the local level; Baldwin says it’s unclear how soon that will happen.

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Technology
3:08 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Apple is Manufacturing its New Mac Pro in Austin

A screen shot from a promotional video showcasing the new Mac Pro.
youtube.com/apple

Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says Apple’s local manufacturing of the Mac Pro means about 800 new jobs.

“I think it’s another day in the life of a growing city,” he tells KUT News, “but it’s a big day in the life of Austin, because as you know, Apple is a premiere company around the world. When they make an important step like this here in our city, that’s going to be heard around the world to our advantage.”

Apple has already announced it’s building a $300 million operations center in Northwest Austin. For that project, Apple is receiving a $21 million grant from the state, over $8 million from the city and $6 million from Travis County

Original story (11:58 a.m.): Apple’s new Mac Pro is being manufactured in Austin.

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Austin
5:57 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Austin 911 System Back Up After Disruption (Update)

Phone calls to 911 made from Austin were redirected to Round Rock, Georgetown and Pflugerville.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Update: The City of Austin is looking into what caused its 911 system to stop working yesterday.

The system is running as normal today.

Original Story (Dec. 16, 6:14 p.m.): Austin's 911 emergency call functions were disrupted Monday afternoon, leading to some longer wait times for callers.

The city activated its Emergency Operations Center to manage the outage. The Austin Police Department put more officers on the streets to increase visibility and accessibility.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the city has been getting help from agencies in surrounding communities.

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Google Fiber
3:32 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

MAP: The 99 Places in Austin Getting Free Google Fiber (Update)

Update: Sites Approved

The Austin City Council approved recommending 99 public and nonprofit organizations for free access to Google Fiber. The much-anticipated high-speed internet service will include 23 public libraries.

Read more about the council's actions - and which site got cut from the initial list - here: City Council Update.

Update: Council Postpones Action (Nov. 21)

This morning, the Austin City Council voted to postpone adopting a list of 100 sites receiving a free “community connection” to Google Fiber.

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Austin City Council
11:28 am
Fri December 13, 2013

City Council Update: Dogs Banned From Auditorium Shores ‘Event Lawn’

A rendering of upcoming changes to Auditorium Shores.
Credit City of Austin

In its final meeting of the year, the Austin City Council approved a full slate of items.

Among the measures passed was a decision restricting where dogs are permitted at Auditorium Shores. More than a dozen speakers took to the council floor to argue against the change, which would prohibit dogs from lingering on the so-called "Event Lawn" on the east end of Auditorium Shores.

Parks and Recreation Director Sara Hensely said the department took community suggestions under advisement when revising the $3.5 million plan for the parkland. But under a new amendment, dogs are only allowed on the event lawn when traveling from a parking lot to the neighboring areas where dogs are allowed. (No one on Parks staff or the City Council bothered to explain just how that would be enforced.)

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Project Connect
10:12 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Why Highland? Urban Rail Advocates Question Project Connect Process

Project Connect lead Kyle Keahey, presenting his group's initial recommendations last month.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Disclaimer: Project Connect is a KUT sponsor.

Update: The Austin City Council unanimously endorsed two locations for urban rail last night: the Highland Mall region and East Riverside. You can watch citizen testimony and council action on the recommendation.

As KUT reported, investment in those corridors was proposed by Project Connect – a working group of City of Austin, Capital Metro, and other regional transportation officials.

Project Connect named Highland and East Riverside after what it said was a robust, data-driven public input process – but many rail advocates present at the vote last night questioned the process and the decision.

Original story (Dec. 12): To hear Project Connect tell it, they’re practically drowning in data. Project lead Kyle Keahey cited some 45 different measures of information and 11 indices when the group announced its recommendation. (You can look at lots of that data here.)

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Street Art
2:54 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Austin Graffiti Artists Go To Work in this Awesome Time-Lapse Video

A still from “Start Fresh: Never Give Up,” a digital short documenting graffiti art at Austin’s Hope Outdoor Gallery.
Highfield Media

Think of the Austin skyline as a canvas. Despite all those cranes and construction, it doesn’t change very much on a day-to-day basis.

Andrew Takano’s very familiar with the skyline’s appearance. He filmed and produced two time-lapse videos documenting the city: a haunting tour of the city at night, and an amazing journey through downtown, sunrise through sunset.

In his latest time-lapse video, “Start Fresh: Never Give Up,” he turns to a much more dynamic medium: the HOPE Outdoor Gallery at Castle Hill. 

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Austin Police
12:35 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Report: Austin Police Search Blacks 3 Times More Often Than Whites

The Austin Police Monitor’s Office released an analysis of police activities in 2012.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Police Monitor's Office finds racial disparity continued in police activity during 2012.

According to a recent report, almost 1,300 people contacted the independent Monitor’s Office to make a complaint, a decrease of 11 percent from 2011. But concern about racial profiling remains: African-Americans and Hispanics are still more likely to be searched by police, with blacks three times as likely to be searched as whites.

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