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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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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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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