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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2014 Governor's Race
1:48 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Anatomy of a Leak: How Wendy Davis Gains From Reports of Governor Run

Sen. Wendy Davis, at a rally folllwing her famous filibuster this summer. Supporters are leaking word Davis will run for governor.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The word is out: Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis will run for governor.

News of Sen. Davis’ run, attributed to anonymous Democratic sources, shot around newsrooms yesterday; a formal announcement is expected next week. But it’s unlikely the story was an inadvertent leak from the Davis camp. 

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Food
2:49 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Imagine a Permanent Farmers Market in Downtown Austin

Strawberries for sale at an Austin farmers market. A permanent farmers market is being proposed by the Downtown Austin Alliance.
KUT News

Is a Pike Place-style permanent farmers market a perfect fit for downtown Austin? The Austin Downtown Alliance held a meeting this morning exploring the possibility.

David O’Neill with the Project for Public Spaces spoke about the concept earlier today. He tells KUT News that permanent farmers markets are cropping up all over the country.

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Urban Rail
10:59 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Austin Urban Rail in 7 Maps

Credit notevenpast.org

It's no secret that traveling through Austin comes with a price: traffic.

However, the way Central Texans commute could change by the turn of the next decade as the region seeks a potential solution to traffic: urban rail.

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Music
1:53 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

What Arcade Fire Did When Someone in Austin Complained About Its 'Reflektor' Graffiti

The Reflektor symbol seen in London. The Arcade Fire logo is appearing in several other cities, including Austin.
flickr.com/djhon

Update: Shortly after Ian Dille’s Slate article appeared online, he received a handwritten apology from Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler.

The band's PR company “forwarded me a handwritten note from Win Butler apologizing for the graffiti and explaining that it was supposed to be put up in chalk or water-soluble paint,” Dille tells KUT News. “And somewhere along the line, someone started using spraypaint. He said it was hard to control all the small details of such a large project.” (Read the letter below.)

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Best of Austin
11:04 am
Thu September 12, 2013

The Austin Chronicle's 2013 'Best Of' Issue is On Newsstands Now

Master falconer Steve Oleson graces the cover of the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of Austin” issue this year.
KUT News

The Austin Chronicle’s 24th annual Best of Austin issue is on newsstands and online right now.

Senior Chronicle editor Kate Messer has overseen 19 of the paper’s Best of Austin issues. She stopped by the KUT studios to talk about this year’s issue: changes, surprises and the issue’s role in a growing Austin. 

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City Budget
2:23 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

2014 Austin City Budget Holds Line on Tax Rate (Update)

The Austin City Council may need three full days for budget adoption this year.
Liang Shi for KUT News

Update: For the first time since 2007, the Austin City Council has voted to lower the city’s property tax rate. The council finalized the fiscal year 2014 budget this afternoon.

Granted, the tax rate hasn’t fallen by much: two-hundredths of a penny (from 50.29 to 50.27 cents) for every $100 dollars of valuation. For the owner of a $200,000 home, that amounts to a savings of 40 cents a year. Mayor Lee Leffingwell had pressed for a bigger cut.

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City Budget
10:00 am
Tue September 10, 2013

How the Hyde Park Flag Store is Impacting Austin's City Budget

The Hyde Park Market, photographed in 2010. The city’s Code Compliance department briefly forced the store to remove its flags before its decision was reversed.
flickr.com/cote

The Austin City Council returns to the dais as 10 a.m. this morning to finalize the city's Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Yesterday, council members voted unanimously to hold the line of property tax rates. They also spent most of the day funding initiatives that weren't in City Manager Marc Ott's initial budget proposal.

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DELL
10:17 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Carl Icahn Won't Fight Dell Deal Any Longer

Dell founder Michael Dell's plan to take the computing company private has had a major stumbling block removed.
Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Investor Carl Ichan says he will not longer fight Michael Dell’s bid to take his namesake company private.

For the last several months, Michael Dell – who began selling PCs from his dorm room at the University of Texas – had been attempting to take the publicly-traded company back under private control. But his buyout bid, arranged though investment firm Silver Lake, had been fought tooth and nail by Ichan, a major Dell stockholder. Ichan said the bid undervalued the company.

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Austin Police
3:45 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Justice Dept. Declines Request to Review Austin Police Policies

The Justice Department won’t be taking another look at Austin Police policies.

City Manager Marc Ott asked the department to review Austin Police procedures following the shooting death of Larry Jackson Jr. by Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert. Jackson, an African-American, was unarmed.

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Transportation
12:21 pm
Mon September 2, 2013

Study Confirms the Obvious: Austin Drivers Aren't Very Safe

Austin's dropped six spots in Allstate's ranking of America's safest drivers.
Erik Reyna for KUT News

It may not be news to anyone trapped on Interstate 35, or suffering a meltdown on MoPac, but a new study confirms the obvious: Austin drivers are far less safe than the nationwide average, according to a study from insurance company Allstate.

Austin ranks among the bottom quarter of U.S. cities in Allstate’s “Americas Best Drivers” report – 155th out of 200 largest cities. The city actually fell six places from its ranking last year (149th), meaning Austin drivers have gotten less safe by Allstate's standards.

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AISD
10:23 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Meme Mix-Up: 'Unhelpful High School Teacher' in Austin School Guide

This image of an AISD publication posted on Reddit features the same art as a popular meme: Unhelpful High School Teacher.
reddit.com/r/austin

One of the dangers in using a stock photo? You never know who else has used it.

That’s the situation the Austin School District is finding itself in. As a post on the Austin Reddit page points out, the stock photo gracing the cover of AISD’s guide for new hires is the same photo used in a popular, unfortunately named meme: Unhelpful High School Teacher.

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Austin City Council
10:17 am
Thu August 22, 2013

At Austin City Council: Property Tax, Budget Hearings; Tweak to 10-1 Council; Google Fiber & More

Creating criteria for which charities will receive free Google Fiber access is one of the 126 items on the Austin City Council agenda today.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes today to another crowded agenda. Here’s a rundown:

  • Sound off on the proposed city budget, property taxes and fees

Lots of council action won’t happen until much later today: Several public hearings are set for this afternoon related to City Manager Marc Ott’s proposed city budget, which the council is currently discussing. There’s public hearings on the proposed property tax rate, Austin Energy and Austin Water rates, and additional proposed fee increases (trash, drainage, etc.)

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Geographic Representation
4:15 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Austin Redistricting Group Asks: How Should We Draw District Maps?

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission filled the stage at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Last November, Austin voters approved a plan to fundamentally change the city’s elections and form of government: Right now, all City Council members run citywide and represent all of Austin. But after the passage of Prop 3, beginning next year, they’ll be elected by district.

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Environment
10:02 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Austin Salamanders Protected Under Endangered Species Act

The Austin Blind Salamader lives in the dark aquifer underneath Barton Springs.
Dr. David Hills

Meet two of the newest creatures to receive federal Endangered Species Act protection: the Austin Blind Salamander and the Jollyville Plateau Salamander.

The Austin Blind Salamander – sightless, due to living deep in the Edwards Aquifer that feeds Barton Springs – was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Jollyville Plateau Salamander, native to streams and karst formations in Travis and Williamson Counties, was listed as threatened this week.

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Austin
11:11 am
Mon August 19, 2013

The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists

Critics' views on Austin are an ever-changing phenomenon.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Perception means different things to different people. The perception of Austin as a place that embraces the weird and wild is something the city – and its listicle writers – have embraced throughout the years.

Yet if you don’t pay close attention, these perceptions can change just as quickly as the declining reservoir in Lake Travis. Now in its fourth edition, KUT News presents The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists, a compilations of the accolades and slights – some rigorously methodical, some seemingly made up – that Austin’s received in the last few months.

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Austin
9:41 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Listen: I Live Here, I Give Here's Tom Spencer on Austin Philanthropy

Tom Spencer - known to many as the Central Texas Gardener - is the new executive director of I Live Here, I Give Here.

They say charity begins at home. But here in Austin, it took some prodding.

I Live Here, I Give Here was founded in 2007 to support charitable giving and Austin nonprofits. It was born out of necessity: a Chronicle of Philanthropy report from that time found Austin ranked 48th out of the 50 largest U.S. cities when ranked on giving. (Disclaimer: As a nonprofit, KUT partners with I Live Here, I Give Here.)

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University of Texas
1:47 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Bill Livingston, Former Acting President and Voice of UT, Dies

Livingston was a lifetime Longhorn who voiced UT's phone enrollment system, TEX.
Marsha Miller, The University of Texas at Austin

William S. Livingston, an educator and scholar who served as acting president for the University of Texas' flagship campus, passed away this morning at the age of 93.

Livingston joined the university in 1949 as a political science instructor. Before retiring from UT nearly 60 years later, he amassed an impressive string of positions on campus, including Chairman of the Government Department, Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs for the UT System, and Chairman of the Comparative Studies Program.

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Police
5:08 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Budget Battle Over Austin Police: Does APD Have Enough Detectives?

With a new city budget, argument over funding for public safety takes center stage again.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Every budget year, public safety – police, fire and EMS – take the biggest chunk of money from the funds used to finance city services. Today, Austin City Council Member Bill Spelman asked if the city was getting a good return on its investment.

The Austin City Council is considering the city budget for the next fiscal year. And the Austin Police Department was among the groups presenting budget requests to the council today. Police Chief Art Acevedo spent over an hour discussing the city manager's proposed city budget – which preserves Austin’s informal policy of two police officers for every thousand Austin residents.

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AISD
5:03 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

A 'School to Prison Pipeline?' Lawyers Ask AISD to Rethink Ticketing Students

Austin attorneys say the criminalization of student discipline is unfairly putting kids in the legal system.
KUT News

The Austin Lawyers Guild wants Austin schools to end disciplinary policy of ticketing students for minor misbehaviors – a practice it says creates a “school-to-prison pipeline” for troubled students.  

They want the school district to changes its policies for the upcoming school year. Last year, Texas schools issued over 300,000 non-traffic tickets to students with the most common offenses being truancy, disorderly conduct and simple assault.

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Austin
2:53 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Slideshow: 10 Breathtaking Visions for the Seaholm Intake Structures

BOKA Powell + Design Workshop’s “Lakehouse” includes an event deck on Lady Bird Lake.
BOKA Powell + Design Workshop/City of Austin

Update: The city has named three finalists in its design contest reimagining the Seaholm Intake Structures. The three finalists are:

  • “Link,” Gumbully
  • “The Lakehouse,” BOKA Powell + Design Workshop
  • “Intake,” Gensler

Take a look at the three winning entries in the slideshow above, which are expected to inform the redevelopment of the structures. The Parks and Recreation Department says it will issue a proposal for public-private partnerships for the intake structures in the near future.  

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