Austin
11:21 am
Wed February 15, 2012

KUT News Roundup: City Website Reloading, Cattle Ranchers Fight Drought, and Fact Checking Gingrich

It's Wednesday, which can only mean one thing: A mid-week round-up of news in Austin and Central Texas from KUT.org, our reporting partner StateImpact Texas, and our friends at KUHF Houston:

New Austin City Website Still Ironing Out Kinks (KUT News)

Say you’re thinking of grabbing a drink after work with a few of your buddies in downtown Austin. The only problem is, you don’t really know where to park. You Google “city of Austin parking garages,” and the first link offered by the city gives you one of those error 404 messages. So you blow it off and just end up parking downtown at a meter. But your meter runs out. And you get a parking ticket. In order to pay the ticket, you go online and search “city of Austin pay parking ticket.” Again, you get a 404 message.

“That was consistent feedback that we’ve gotten from others that have done this before,” said Chris Florance, the city’s website content manager. He says his team has received more than 1,000 unique comments about the usability of the new Austintexas.gov.

Taking the Train to Houston? Not for a While (KUT News)

TxDOT is pitching a rail line that would take passengers from Austin to Houston in three hours, with stops along the way in Giddings, Brenham, Hempstead and possibly Bryan-College Station. “We have some money we can use for planning,” said Jennifer Moczygemba at TxDOT’s Rail Division. “But once we get to project level, we don’t have a source of funds for that.”

Moczygemba estimates the project would cost $1 billion. TxDOT will begin the required environmental study soon. That will take three to four years. And it’ll need to do another study to estimate ridership and revenue projections to see if the project is even worth it.

Fact-Checking Gingrich on Texas School Prayer Case (KUT News/PolitiFact Texas)

A Texas judge figured into a recent Newt Gingrich victory speech. KUT’s Nathan Bernier spoke with Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas about Gingrich’s assertion that the federal government’s legislative and executive branches should remove judges who are believed to be abusing their power and acting out of sync with our culture.

Too Many Straws in the Highland Lakes (StateImpact Texas)

The Lower Colorado River Authority says it’s going to start cracking down on home owners who pump water from the Highland Lakes without permission.  For StateImpact Texas, KUT’s Terrence Henry reports on the more than 1 billion gallons of water that households pull directly out of the lakes every year, most of whom don’t have contracts to do so.

The Long Road Back for Texas’ Cattle Industry (KUT News)

Ranchers sold off cattle in droves last year, sending prices temporarily lower as beef flooded the market. The United States Department of Agriculture says the number of cattle in Texas dropped by 10 percent in 2011. That’s an especially large decline when you consider Texas is the biggest beef producer in the country.

“Nationwide, we’ve got the fewest cows in 50 years. We’ve got the smallest total cattle inventory in 60 years,” said David Anderson, a livestock economist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He says the state’s cattle industry has a long road to recovery.

HIV Advocates Say Medicaid Expansion Could Challenge Patient Care (KUHF Houston)

Right now, poor, uninsured Texans with HIV/AIDS are served by two programs: Medicaid and the Ryan White program, named after a teenager who fought prejudice against AIDS in the 1980s. Both programs receive federal funding. In Texas, the Ryan White program functions as a last resort. More than twice as many patients are on Ryan White than on Medicaid, because Medicaid eligibility is so strict in Texas.

That will change in 2014 when a provision in the Affordable Care Act will shift most of today’s Ryan White patients to Medicaid. The sudden transfer of tens of thousands of people from one program to another worries HIV health care advocates