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.

Ways to Connect

Photo courtesy decentralizeddanceparty.com

Austin’s never wanting for parties, and certainly not last weekend: A touring soirée known as the Decentralized Dance Party invaded downtown Saturday, Jan. 7, leaving a trail of a boombox-touting party people in its wake.

The brainchild of Canadians “Tom and Gary” (no last names given), the DDP is essentially a flash mob on steroids, embodying the nimble, adaptable nature of those gatherings, with a nod to the public space reclamation in movements like the Occupy protests. Or more simply, Tom and Gary use radio frequencies to transmit music from an MP3 player to party goers’  boomboxes. (The music encompasses “Booty Bass, Eurodance, Party Metal, Jock Jams and Choice Hard Rock,” according to the Music section of their “Party Manifesto.”) Wherever the crowd goes, the tunes do to.

For some time, the city has hovered above the 90 percent “live outcomes” benchmark animal centers must meet annually to be a “no-kill” shelter. And now it’s official: With a 91 percent live outcome for all of 2011, the Austin Animal Center is now officially no-kill.

The city’s animal rescue efforts have made big strides over the last few years, first with City Council adoption of a no-kill plan [PDF], and more recently with the opening of the new Animal Services Center in East Austin.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The shock and disbelief at Esme Barrera’s murder early New Year’s Day – shared in a stream of social media updates – is giving way to questions about the police investigation.

As the young and vibrant Barrera was friends with dozens, if not hundreds in Austin’s close-knit music scene and beyond (including, I should note, this reporter), the news of her death spread rapidly over Facebook and Twitter.

But while many posts are links to tributes and fundraising initiatives, many others are pointedly questioning the Austin Police Department’s response that morning, and the subsequent manhunt.

Photo by Erika Aguilar, KUT News

The 2012 Charter Revision Committee – the group tasked with recommending items to be placed before voters for a November charter election – met again last night at the Mexican American Cultural Center. And while they shied away from making any recommendations to City Council, it sounds like some final recommendations – including a decision on district representation – are on the way.

Sabine Romero with the city’s Law Department serves as the city’s staff liaison to the group, and notes final recommendations are expected at the group’s next two meetings.

As the deadline to apply for federal wildfire disaster aid approaches, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  is sharing some statistics that underscore the fires’ impact: The disbursement of some $36 million in wildfire aid, including $13.2 million in grants, and $19 million in low-interest “disaster loans.” And the agency is urging anyone who hasn’t yet filed a claim to do so before Friday.

FEMA public information officer Bob Howard says the agency’s grants have gone to different needs: $10.7 million to rental assistance and grants to rebuild homes, and $2.5 million to cover lost personal property, medical care, and even funeral expenses.

New year, new laws: The Texas Tribune reminds us that legislation aimed at reining in payday lenders, passed by the Texas Legislature last year, came into effect January 1:

New laws aimed at curbing predatory lending take effect this week, meaning payday and auto title loan businesses will have to be licensed by the state and post a schedule of fees in a visible place, similar to the overhead menus seen in fast food restaurants.