Wells Dunbar

Online Editor

As  online editor for KUT News, Wells Dunbar covers news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond. Before joining the KUT family, 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 and cat.

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The Lead
8:33 am
Tue November 13, 2012

The Lead: 2013 Lege Gearing Up, Statesman Names New Publisher

Good morning. The National Weather Service says to expect highs in the 60s and gusty winds today. Here’s a look at stories KUT News has been working on:

"The Texas House has formed a committee to look into how the state would handle “sequestration.” That’s the package of automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases that take effect at the end of the year — the so-called 'fiscal cliff.' That includes about $109 billion in cuts.

The committee was put together by House Speaker Joe Straus, who said in a news release that he hoped Congress would be able to find a way to reduce the deficit without increasing taxes or cutting jobs."

"Today is the first day Texas lawmakers can file bills ahead of the 2013 legislative session. The 200 or so early bills are usually a hodgepodge of political statements, second attempts and high priority legislation. …

Several first-day bills filed by Republicans in 2010 focused on illegal immigration, and efforts to curb it in Texas. Maybe because of Mitt Romney's poor performance among Hispanics (or maybe not), there were no immigration bills filed by mid-afternoon today."

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Lance Armstrong
10:35 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Armstrong Out at Livestrong Foundation

Lance Armstrong has left the board of Livestrong, the charity he created.
twitter.com/lancearmstrong

Lance Armstrong has fully stepped down from Livestrong, the cancer-fighting charity he helped create.

Armstrong stepped down as Livestrong chairman in in mid-October. He apparently resigned from the board on Nov. 4, although news outlets didn’t catch up with that news until this weekend.

The Washington Post spoke with a Livestrong official. He told the Post the move was necessary to preserve Livestrong's viability:

In a statement, new board chairman Jeff Garvey said Armstrong resigned from the board to spare the organization any negative effects resulting from the controversy surrounding his cycling career.

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The Lead
8:39 am
Mon November 12, 2012

The Lead: Veterans Day News, Armstrong Out at Livestrong

Good morning. This morning's chilly temperatures  aren't going anywhere; the National Weather Service says the season’s first freeze is expected in the Hill Country tonight. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

On Monday, state officials and business leaders will also gather at the Capitol to show gratitude. The event is part of Operation Enduring Opportunity, which encourages businesses nationwide to hire and recruit veterans and their spouses.

On Veterans Day, Americans salute those who have served this country in the armed forces. But service takes many forms: and this year, KUT followed one family dealing with military service. From the soldier whose family has served for generations dating back to World War I, to the family who had to learn how to live without him.

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2012 Bond Election
12:02 pm
Sat November 10, 2012

Map: How Prop 15, the Affordable Housing Bond, Lost

Suburban neighborhoods largely voted against Prop 15, while the urban core voted in favor.
Ryan Robinson, via the City of Austin

All City of Austin bonds passed on election night except one: Proposition 15, which would have dedicated $78.3 million to affordable housing.

The map above shows how Prop 15 lost.

 Ryan Robinson is demographer for the City of Austin. He produced this map, plotting how the vote against Prop 15 went. The darkest blue voting precincts went overwhelmingly against Prop 15 (by a margin of 65 percent or more); the warmer-colored precincts were mixed or voted in favor, with less than 40 percent of voters in red precincts voting against Prop 15.

 While Prop 15 carried Central Austin,  a majority of suburban precincts, largely west of MoPac, voted it down.

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The Lead
8:52 am
Fri November 9, 2012

The Lead: Helicopters OK'd for F1 (But Cap Metro Could Strike); SXSW Music and More

Good Friday morning to you. Austin’s in for a warm and breezy weekend until a cold front blows in Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Though it’s only November, the springtime music conference that takes over Austin each year, South by Southwest, is already beginning to take shape.  Thursday, organizers released the initial lineup.”

“Austin-based singer-songwriter Darden Smith is working to do something about the thousands of service members affected by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). …

Smith is the founder of a new program to help promote soldiers’ healing through music. Texas Music Matters’ David Brown reports from a camp outside Fort Hood, site of a recent Songwriting with Soldiers retreat.”

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Crime
6:49 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

Are There Juggalo Gangs in Austin? (Update)

An anonymous cop says that Juggalo gangs may be responsible for a rise in crime downtown.
clockwise from left; FBI, Ohio Attorney General's Office

Update: A commenter below and others on social media have noted Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was asked about the FOX 7 story on KLBJ 93.7's "Dudley and Bob Show" this morning. Some believe he disputed the report on Juggalo gang members in Austin.

KUT News spoke with Chief Acevedo this afternoon. He says he does not dispute the content of FOX 7's reporting.

Original Post (12:47 p.m.): Has the dark carnival spread to Austin?

An anonymous Austin Police detective is saying that Juggalo gangs – fans of rap crew the Insane Clown Posse engaged in criminal activity – may be responsible for an increase in downtown crime.

FOX 7 News reports:

“The crimes associated with Juggalos include assaults, thefts and drug use.

‘They're doing a lot of pocket checks where they use force to take something from somebody. Or they'll come up [and] pick someone's pocket,’ the detective said.

The victims, officers say, are downtown patrons who have had too much to drink. The homeless have also been targeted.”

For those not in the know, Insane Clown Posse is a Detroit-based rap group that has slowly amassed one of the most devoted fanbases in underground music.

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Austin City Council
9:52 am
Thu November 8, 2012

City Council Preview: F1 Coming In for a Landing

Back at it: City Council shakes off its election hangover today.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Thanks to this week’s election fever, you’d be forgiven for forgetting there’s an Austin City Council meeting this week. But there is (albeit mercifully, the 98-item agenda isn’t a terribly contentious affair). Here’s a few agenda highlights:

Raising Hel(icopters): A pair of items related to helicopter permits hover onto the dais this week. The impending Formula 1 race (eight days away and counting) means charter helicopter companies are looking to ferry high-rolling race attendees to and from the track via chopper.

Council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo have sponsored two resolutions (Items 51 and 52) relating to both temporary and permanent “helistops.” The former would limit temporary stops to a cumulative total of 18 trips, far fewer than the dozens anticipated. The Austin Chronicle says that “judging from Tuesday's work session, it won't be an easy sell, at least not quickly – other members were skeptical that they knew enough yet to regulate the process and, even should such an ordinance pass, it could not take effect in time for this month's race.”

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The Lead
8:33 am
Thu November 8, 2012

The Lead: Austin Elections Debrief

Good morning. That dense fog advisory is still in effect, so stay safe on the roads. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Nonprofits that help people in Austin get into housing are scrambling to come up with a plan B after Tuesday’s election. They were expecting Austinites to pass Proposition 15, which called for $78 million to build affordable homes and maintain existing ones. They never expected it to fail at the polls.”

“Austin’s form of government will never be the same. Voters have approved sweeping changes to way Austinites will vote in the future and who will represent them at City Hall. It all comes down to single-member districts, but it will be a long road from election night to a 10-1 City Council.

A citizens’ commission will draw the district boundaries. And that commission will get to work quickly. Prop 3 calls for the city auditor to start looking for volunteers next month, with an eye toward elections in November 2014.”

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Medical School
6:00 am
Wed November 7, 2012

So Prop 1 Passed. Now What's Next For Austin's Medical School? (Updated)

Sen. Kirk Watson fires up Prop 1 supporters at their watch party.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update (Nov. 7, 6 a.m.): The final tally shows Central Health's Proposition 1 passed 54.67 percent (186,128 votes) to 45.33 percent (154,308).

Original Story (Nov. 7, 12:12 a.m.): It looks like Austin is getting a medical school.

As of this writing, Central Health’s Prop 1 is ahead 54 percent (176,755 votes) to 46 percent (148,375). Numbers like that were enough for Prop 1 supporters to declare victory at the Driskill Hotel earlier this evening.

As part of Prop 1, the University of Texas has pledged upwards of $25 million annually for a medical school, while Seton Hospital has announced it will build a $250 million “teaching hospital” to replace the aging University Medical Center Brackenridge.

“Almost immediately, you will start seeing an effort to recruit a dean of a medical school,” State Sen. Kirk Watson tells KUT News. 

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2012 Election
8:31 pm
Tue November 6, 2012

Live Blog: It's Election Night in Austin

An Obama supporter at the Driskill Hotel
Filipa Rodrigues

1 a.m.: And That's a Wrap

Thanks for staying with KUT News this election night. For KUT News' complete election night coverage, click on the 2012 Election tag. 

11:30 p.m.: More Races From Around the State 

Here's more races from around the state KUT News has been watching, 

State Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, defeated former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Ron Paul in the 14th Congressional District.

Democratic incumbent Wendy Davis managed to eke out a victory over Republican Mark Shelton for the state senate seat in District 10.

10:30 p.m.: Rep. Donna Howard on Plans for Second Term

State Rep. Donna Howard is going to hold on to her District 48 seat. It’s a far cry from her 2010 election, where she narrowly won.

“It’s very different than it was last election,” Howard tells KUT News. “And redistricting certainly was a part of that. The fact is I have a 60 percent new district this time.”

So what are Howard’s plans for the 2013 Legislative Session?

“What I hear from my constituents they’re very concerned about the cuts to public education and the cuts to the women’s health program and family planning. I think we’re going to have to look at, how do we find sustainable revenue streams that can help provide those things that we expect government to provide. Quality public education is one of those, as well as making sure that women have the health care that they need.”

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2012 Election
7:19 pm
Tue November 6, 2012

Local Election Results: Austin, Central Health, AISD and ACC

Here are voting results from the City of Austin, as of 1:18 a.m.:

Central Health

Prop: 1 (Expanded healthcare and medical school)

For: 55%

Against: 45%

City of Austin Charter Amendments

Prop: 1 (Moving elections to November)

Yes: 77%

No: 23%

Prop: 2 (Moving elections to November and changing City Council terms)

Yes: 76%

No: 24%

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Election
1:04 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

The 18 Propositions Before Austin Voters This November (Updated)

When Austinites cast a ballot this fall, they'll have numerous propositions to consider.
KUT News

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. For more on the local issues facing voters, see our topic page, "Austin Election: Bonds, Props and More." 

Update (Oct. 22): Early voting began today, Monday, Oct. 22. KUT News has more information, including a map of early voting locations. And for more information on the $385 million in bond spending proposals, check out KUT News’ bond election coverage.

Original post (September 13, 2012): Austin elections are traditionally sleepy affairs – you can look at local turnout to bear that out.

But moreover, the elections themselves are pretty straightforward: the election of the mayor and city council members (held in May), or every few years, a bond election to fund city initiatives (usually held in November.)

This fall, it’s a different story: While no elected positions are on the ballot, a $385 million bond election, coupled with several possible amendments to the city charter, means Austin voters will face a whopping 18 propositions when they head to the polls on Nov. 6. Below, we list them all.

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Arts and Culture
12:02 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Photos: Here’s 250 Pictures From Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012

The Friday night Fun Fun Fun Fest crowd welcomes Run-D.M.C.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The seventh-annual Fun Fun Fun Fest came to a conclusion last night.

In its second year at Auditorium Shores, the underground music festival drew roughly 15,000 people a day, according to co-founder James Moody. The fest also received some unexpected mainstream coverage from outlets like “Good Morning America,” which reported on the fest’s Taco Cannon loaded with grub from Torchy’s Tacos. But as Moody told KUT News this weekend, “It’s growing, but it’ll never do well as a very big festival.”

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The Lead
8:48 am
Mon November 5, 2012

The Lead: Election Day’s Almost Here (And Formula 1’s Up Next)

Good morning. This weekend’s week cold front will lead to highs in the lower 80s, along with a chance for some isolated thunderstorms in the region, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s a look at some stories KUT News has been working on.

"Now let’s get into the big change for this presidential election. You probably know that during early voting you can stop anywhere with a 'Vote Here' sign – usually at a grocery store or other high-traffic public location.

Travis County has decided to adopt that strategy on Election Day. 'You can vote at any one of the polling places that are designated' within Travis County, said County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir."

Voters should also know the state’s contested Photo ID requirement is not in effect this election –  a voter registration card, copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document showing your name and address are all acceptable forms of ID.

"If Prop 4, the 8-2-1 plan, were to pass, the City Council would presumably be drawing Austin’s new districts. But Prop 3, the 10-1 plan, provides for a redistricting commission. The commission would have 14 members; three auditors would randomly select eight people from a pool of candidates, and those eight would then pick the remaining six, ensuring that they are diverse in race, ethnicity, geography and gender.

Some redistricting commissions in the country have been accused of drawing maps for political gain or with cronyism in mind. Others, like those in San Diego and Minneapolis, have been commended for keeping politics away from the process."

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