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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Politics
11:24 am
Wed January 18, 2012

Keystone Pipeline Application to be Rejected, Sources Say

If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline will stretch from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Image courtesy transcanada.com

Approval for the Keystone XL pipeline – a controversial 1,700 mile pipeline designed to transport oil sands from Canada all the way to Texas ports along the Gulf of Mexico – is expected to be rejected today by the Obama Administration, according to a report from The Washington Post.

StateImpact Texas notes the announcement comes just a few weeks before the Obama administration would have been forced to make a decision on the proposal.

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Politics
9:06 am
Wed January 18, 2012

How is the SOPA Blackout Affecting Austin?

Wikipedia visitors today see nothing but a darkened page opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

A wave of coordinated protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the companion PROTECT Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are “blacking out” popular sites across the Internet.

Wikipedia is the highest-profile site to completely darken their site in protest. Google has “censored” their logo, and created a page urging Congress to “End Piracy, Not Liberty.”

The SOPA strike is being felt in Austin, too, with local sites darkening in solidarity, and Twitter users voicing discontent with Representative Lamar Smith, the Central Texas legislator who introduced SOPA.

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Austin
4:12 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Blowing in the Wind: A Plastic Bag Ban Timeline

Austin's plans to ban single-use bags have been revised several times.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/arselectronica, Ramin Bahrani

Plans to phase out single-use plastic bags at Austin retailers are still up in the air.

Austin Resource Recovery, the department tasked with drafting an ordinance banning the bags, has drafted and scrapped two separate ordinances in as many months. But with a lull before the department rolls out their third (and presumably final) draft, now is as good a time as any to pin down their previous proposals.

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Austin
2:11 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Austin Tech Firm Convio Acquired by Competitor

Convio, a firm that sells software tailored to non-profits, was purchased by a competitor today.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/mydigitalslrcamera

Austin based tech firm Convio – which sells fundraising and outreach software to non-profits (including KUT) – has agreed to be purchased by South Carolina-based Blackbaud, a competitor that sells similar software.

The agreement was announced today on Blackbaud’s website. In a press release, the company wrote “The acquisition of Convio will combine the two companies’ strengths to accomplish a common mission – making multi-channel supporter engagement a reality – at a faster pace than either company could achieve on its own.”

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Austin
1:25 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Travis County Burn Ban Back On

The Travis County Commissioners Court and county Fire Marshall agree it's time to reinstate the burn ban.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/compasspoint

The burn ban is back.

At their meeting this morning, the Travis County Commissioners approved a recommendation from county Fire Marshall Hershel Lee to reinstate the ban.

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Texas
11:56 am
Tue January 17, 2012

John Cornyn Predicts Texas Primaries Will Be Delayed Again

Sen. John Cornyn predicts Texas primaries will be pushed past their current April date.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/musicfirstcoalition

Sen. John Cornyn suggested yesterday that Texas many not be ready to hold its primaries on April 3.

While the political prognostication isn’t terribly surprising, considering the twists and turns the primary calendar has taken, it does have people wondering when elections will be held in Texas.

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energy
10:20 am
Tue January 17, 2012

City Council Discusses Austin Energy Rates

The Austin City Council is holding a special-called work session this morning to tackle Austin Energy’s proposed rate increases.

Council got an earful from citizens opposed to the increase at their last meeting. Since then, Mayor Lee Leffingwell has said he too opposes the increase as drafted.

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Arts and Culture
4:50 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

The Panopticon Shot Bar: SceneTap Uses Cameras to Survey Nightlife

Smartphone app SceneTap uses cameras and facial recognition software to assess the male-to-female ratio in Austin nightclubs.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/mrjoro

So this is the way we live now: a new mobile application is coming to Austin that rates bars. But instead of relying on user-submitted data like Yelp, it has a network of cameras in participating nightclubs feeding real time information on a club’s capacity and demographics.

That’s the idea behind SceneTap, launching across several Austin bars this Friday.

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Austin
3:15 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Five Rules For Allies Against Oppression this MLK Day

Students from Webb Middle School were among the many on hand celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Photo by Wells Dunbar/KUT News

A crowd of hundreds gathered on the University of Texas’ East Mall this morning to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event’s speakers spoke to King’s legacy, but also emphasized the work remaining to be done in the struggle for equality.

Several speakers were on hand, including State Representative Dawnna Dukes, UT president William Powers, and more. But the most provocative speech of the morning came from Omi Osun Joni Jones, Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance and of African and African Diaspora Studies, who shared her “five rules” for allies in the struggle against racism, sexism, and homophobia.

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Austin
1:08 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Five (or Six) Reasons Lee Leffingwell Opposes Austin Energy's Rate Increase

Following a public outcry, Mayor Lee Leffingwell announced he does not support Austin Energy's rate increases as currently proposed.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

You can add one more voice to the chorus opposing Austin Energy’s proposed rate increases: Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who announced this weekend that he does not support the current proposal from the utility.

As seen in the uniformly negative public reaction to Austin Energy’s proposal at City Council’s last meeting, the rate increase – potentially the first in 17 years – has struck a nerve.

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Austin
4:50 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

City Round-Up: Street Closures, Surplus Sales, and Parking Goes Mobile

View Larger Map

It wouldn’t be a weekend in Austin without a few street closures, but this one’s lasting a little longer than most. The city advises West 34th Street, between Medical Parkway and Lamar Boulevard will be closed for three months, as the city repairs pipes under the stretch of street.

The city has more information on street closures on their Special Events website.

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2012 Presidential Election
4:43 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Who's Buying the Rick Perry Action Figure?

The Rick Perry action figure comes in "regular man" and "executive" outfits.
Photo courtesy www.herobuilders.com

Rick Perry’s been immortalized in plastic.

Texas Public Radio reports that Texas governor and faltering Presidential candidate has been cast in plastic by a Connecticut-based boutique toy firm, Hero Builders. You can score a “Regular Man Rick Perry” for the low, low price of $39.95, or spring for the speaking “Executive” version of the Texas Governor for $69.95. (The doll “speaks” the infamous audio from Perry’s presidential debate where he couldn’t remember the third federal agency he would eliminate.)

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Politics
2:01 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Sonogram Before Abortion Law Can be Implemented Immediately

Texas is told a controversial requirement for sonograms before abortions can occur immediately.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/msjacoby

A ruling earlier this week affirmed that Texas can implement its controversial law requiring a non-medically necessary sonogram prior to an abortion while the law is being challenged in court.

Today, an order from a federal appeals court states the procedure can be required immediately, without the customary waiting period accompanying judicial decisions.

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Politics
12:00 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Austin Takes Case Against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) to John Cornyn

A YouTube free future? SOPA opponents fear a chilling effect on sites hosting user-generated content.
Image courtesy americancensorship.org

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has provoked a firestorm of controversy online.

Ostensibly drafted to crack down on piracy of films, music, and other items illicitly traded online, SOPA proponents like the Motion Picture Association of America argue the law will protect intellectual property. But opponents of the bill fear the legislation will effectively cripple the Internet by targeting the hosts of user-generated websites like YouTube instead of the offending uploaders; hoist huge legal uncertainties and liabilities onto websites and start-ups; and create potential security threats in the way it redirects traffic from so-called “rogue” websites.

The proposed SOPA legislation, introduced by Texas Rep.Lamar Smith, is a big deal in tech-savvy Austin. Today, members of Austin’s tech community are making the case to Sen. John Cornyn’s office that SOPA is a bad bill.

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Austin
5:46 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

City Council Passes Short Term Rentals Study

City Council members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison didn't see eye-to-eye on the subject of a short term rental property audit.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

There were plenty of signs that today’s City Council meeting would be controversial. It wasn’t electricity rates, but debate over a study of short-term rentals (STRs) that ate up hours of council’s time this morning and afternoon. (That hearing on Austin Energy’s proposed rate increase is on for around 6 p.m.)

Avalanches of amendments were offered to the STR proposal by Bill Spelman and Chris Riley, but not enough for a unanimous vote. It passed 5-2, with Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo voting no.

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