Wells Dunbar

Social Media Host & Producer, Texas Standard

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering 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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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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Food
12:20 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Austin: One of the Nation's Best Pizza Places?

The order window at Home Slice on South Congress - one of Austin's most popular pizza joints.
flickr.com/atmtx

Austin’s seen its share of boom-and-bust food cycles: Think the explosion of cupcake places, or proliferation of upscale burger joints. One of the newest beneficiaries of Austin’s irrational culinary exuberance is the pizza place. The last few years has seen a marked increase in the number of posh pie purveyors: Umami Mia, backspace and Winflo, to name a few.

Austin’s pizza scene garners some shine in controversial rankings from TripAdvisor – controversial, as Austin’s sixth place ranking puts it just two spots behind behind pizza mecca New York City. 

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Health
8:33 am
Thu August 8, 2013

How Central Health, Seton & UT's Medical School Want to Change Health Care Forever

UT's medical school is one player in a community-wide effort to improve health and health care.
flickr.com/ejmc

Launching a new medical school is a major undertaking. But launching the University of Texas’ new medical school – in tandem with a new model of treating the sick and preventing illness – is even bigger.

When Austin voters approved Proposition 1 last year, increasing the property tax collected by Central Health, the measure was commonly referred to as the medical school initiative. But instead of financing the building of a medical school, taxpayer dollars are going toward a new medical program aiding the uninsured and under-insured. And yes, UT’s Dell Medical School is a part of that.

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Fort Hood Shootings
6:56 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Ft. Hood Update: Lawyers Say Hasan's Seeking Death Sentence

A sketch of Maj. Nidal Hasan delivering his opening statement yesterday. His standby attorneys have asked to be removed from his trial.
Brigitte Woosley

Update: The trial of Major Nidal Hasan is expected to resume at 9 a.m. after an abrupt recess yesterday. Nidal's council filed a motion to clarify their role in the trial. Listen above to hear what  happened yesterday. 

Update: (12:53 p.m.)  When Maj. Nidal Hasan was wheeled into the courtroom Wednesday morning, the press expected to hear continued testimony in the trial. But it quickly became apparent today would present another twist in an already unprecedented case.

Late Tuesday night, Hasan’s standby council, led by Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, filed a motion to clarify the council’s role in the trial. The council believes Hasan wants the death penalty, and they do not want to provide legal assistance to him if that’s his goal.

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Transportation
3:05 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

A Deeper Look at Austin Plans to Bury I-35

Architect Sinclair Black’s “cut and cap” plan places access roads directly over the capped portion of I-35, freeing up more developable space.
Reconnect Austin

Austin traffic can be awful. And Austin drivers know that a great part of that congestion comes from stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 35.

Big problems demand big solutions – and the "cut and cap" proposal to bury I-35 is gaining momentum. The plan, developed by Austin architect Sinclair Black would “cut” I-35 from Cesar Chavez to 12th Street. Those lanes would then be built underground, and “capped” by something. The Austin City Council OK’d a closer look at the plan back in June.

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West Plant Explosion
11:30 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Federal Disaster Declaration Approved for West, Texas

A home devestated by the blast in West, Texas, a month after the April blast. A federal disaster declaration should mean the release of rebuilding funds to West.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

It looks like a denial of federal aid to West, Texas will be overturned.

This morning, Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement saying West – the site of a devastating fertilizer plant explosion that claimed 15 lives and flattened entire city blocks – would benefit from a Major Disaster Declaration.

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City Budget
2:20 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

'Not Able to Keep Up:' Taxes, Fees Rise in Austin's Proposed City Budget

Construction cranes are a familiar sight in Austin nowadays. But despite record development revenue, taxes and fees will likely rise for Austin residents.
flickr.com/dingatx

A proposed budget for the City of Austin has the cost of living on the rise – again.

The proposed city budget for 2014, unveiled today, would mean about a $4 monthly increase for owners of a $185,000 home. And that doesn’t include additional rate and fee changes.

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Wildfires
11:30 am
Thu August 1, 2013

The Best Sources For Central Texas Wildfire Info

An unidentified fire crew tamps down the very last of the Bastrop wildfires, in September 2011. Central Texas is in a heightened time for wildfire risk.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Wildfire season is in full swing. And due to Texas’ ongoing drought, the state remains at exceptional risk for wildfires.

Wildfires spring up quickly and spread unexpectedly – making real-time information important. Twitter is an important resource for wildfire updates. And Facebook is an information clearinghouse for area residents in times of disaster.

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Transportation
12:28 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

How Tough Is It To Apply for Cap Metro's Disabled Transit Service?

MetroAccess applicants are assessed for their ability to get on and off a mock bus located at Capital Metro's eligibility center downtown.
Rachel Adams-Heard

It’s an exciting time for Capital Metro. The transportation authority is launching its MetroRapid bus service next year, and is looking to play a role in urban rail if and when rail launches.

But there’s one large constituency that’s dependent on Cap Metro right now: the disabled. For Austinites seeking independence while living with a disability, public transportation makes perfect sense. But some people are saying that Cap Metro is making it unfairly difficult for some disabled individuals to get around.

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Austin
11:33 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Loud, Late Night Amber Alert Rattles iPhone Users: How to Change Settings

Some iPhone users were unaware they would receive new "Government Alerts” – until they were notified of an Amber Alert last night.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

An Amber Alert issued late yesterday evening was a wake-up call to many iPhone users in Texas.

An alert was issued close to 10:45 last night for abducted children in San Angelo, Texas, 200 miles northwest of Austin. An Amber Alert was then sent to iPhone users in Austin – which was announced with a loud, jarring tone. 

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Texas
6:45 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Eric Holder: Texas Should Still Clear Election Changes With U.S.

After a decision weakening the Voting Rights Act, Texas implemented a controversial Voter ID law.
Texas Dept. of Public Safety

Update: (6:43 p.m.) U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech Thursday mark the beginning of a new fight over the Voting Rights Act.

“It’s clear that Texas is the big test case for what may be a potentially broader effort to use the bail in mechanism to patch some of the damage caused by Supreme Court in Shelby v Holder into our voting rights regime," UT Law Professor Joseph Fishkin says.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. It’s the formula that determines which states need federal approval to change their voting laws or practices. Without the formula, there are no guidelines to determine which jurisdictions need their voting laws and practices pre-approved. Now the federal government is arguing Texas requires pre approval under another provision—section three. 

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Texas
9:14 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Watch the Daily Show's Lewis Black Rip Rick Perry

“Texas is calling?” Good thing I got caller ID,” Black says

Gov. Rick Perry’s radio and TV ads seeking to lure out-of-state jobs to Texas are beginning to get some serious pushback: Not from California Gov. Jerry Brown this time, or editorial pages in Connecticut or Illinois, but instead The Daily Show’s Lewis Black.

On last night’s Daily Show, comedian Black excoriated Gov. Perry’s latest round of business-poaching ads. Targeting employers in New York State, Perry says his state offers a reprieve to the Empire State’s atmosphere of “over-taxation, over-regulation and frivolous litigation.”

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Politics
4:51 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Committee Weighs Impeaching UT Regent: How We Got Here and What's Next

A view from the 40 Acres to the State Capitol. The fight between UT's Board of Regents and the legislature is widely seen as a proxy fight between Bill Powers and Gov. Perry.
flickr.com/jasonunbound

Update: The Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met Monday to discuss an investigation that could lead to impeachment proceedings against a University of Texas System Regent.

The committee is tasked with deciding which articles for impeachment it could possibly bring against Wallace Hall. But at a committee hearing, lawmakers found there's little historic precedent to guide the process. According to Jeff Archer with the Texas Legislative Counsel, there have been few attempts to impeach a public official in Texas and there’s no definition or standard for what’s considered an impeachable offense. 

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Austin
2:55 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Why Austin's the Reason 7-Eleven Stays Open Around the Clock

The south campus 7-Eleven location. Austin had the first 24-hour location of the company.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

If you're heading to 7-Eleven today for a free Slurpee, raise your glass to the city of Austin and her Texas Longhorns: After all, it was here in Austin the convenience store giant first went 24/7.

In its corporate history, the Dallas-based chain writes that in 1963 “one 7-Eleven store in Austin, Texas, located close to the University of Texas, stayed so busy after a football game, it couldn’t close. The store just remained open.” That night’s success kept the store open 24 hours from there on out - inspiring other locations to do the same.

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Politics
4:55 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Watch: Abortion Rights Advocate Gets Personal - Then Gets Kicked Out

There's been countless explosive moments in Texas' ongoing legislative battle over abortion — but few moments like this posted to YouTube. 

Yesterday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 1, which would restrict abortions across Texas. Some 13 hours of testimony later, committee chair Sen. Jane Nelson called on abortion rights advocate Sarah Slamen, whose two minutes included pointed descriptors of the committee members themselves – language that got her ejected.

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Austin
3:05 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Conservative Texas Think Tank Looks to Influence Local Policy

Voters cast their ballots at a Houston polling place. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, traditionally focused on state legislation, is now looking to influence local policy.
flickr.com/luna715

After influencing state policy at the Capitol, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) – a non-profit conservative think tank – is now turning its attention to local municipal governments.

TPPF officials say its new Center for Local Governance will work on the local level to tackle issues including spending, funding, local control and government transparency.

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Breaking
12:31 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

DOMA Struck Down: What’s Next for Same-Sex Couples in Texas?

A rally at the Texas Capitol in May, when the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing the DOMA and Prop 8 cases.
Tyler Pratt, KUT News

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on two same-sex marriage cases today means those unions will now be recognized by the federal government. In separate cases, the court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and the state of California can now resume efforts to legalize same sex marriage.

But neither of these rulings will directly affect Texas residents. 

“The ruling today was limited in the sense it didn’t extend to strike down defense of marriage acts that exist on state level," says Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.

Texas’ own Defense Against Marriage Act will remain on the books. Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2003.  In 2005, the state legislature also passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. If that amendment were repealed, it would need two-thirds approval by the state House and Senate. It would then go to voters for final approval. 

Same sex marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. 

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Voting Rights Act
5:39 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Voting Rights Act Partially Overturned; Texas Implements Voter ID Law

flickr.com/tabor-roeder

The Supreme Court has overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says this morning’s decision means a Texas voter ID law "will take effect immediately." Scroll down for updates. 

The high court struck down Section 4 of the act, which establishes a formula to identify portions of the county (primarily the South) where changes to elections must be approved by the Department of Justice. That was to ensure minority voting rights weren’t infringed upon.

From the court's opinion:

"Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in covered States have risen dramatically."

The court didn’t do away with Section 5 of the act – the portion that allows the Department of Justice to reject state laws it sees as discriminatory. Instead, the court says the new standards should be created, instead of the expanded coverage called for under Section 4.  

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