Austin

Austin City Council
9:52 am
Thu November 8, 2012

City Council Preview: F1 Coming In for a Landing

Back at it: City Council shakes off its election hangover today.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Thanks to this week’s election fever, you’d be forgiven for forgetting there’s an Austin City Council meeting this week. But there is (albeit mercifully, the 98-item agenda isn’t a terribly contentious affair). Here’s a few agenda highlights:

Raising Hel(icopters): A pair of items related to helicopter permits hover onto the dais this week. The impending Formula 1 race (eight days away and counting) means charter helicopter companies are looking to ferry high-rolling race attendees to and from the track via chopper.

Council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo have sponsored two resolutions (Items 51 and 52) relating to both temporary and permanent “helistops.” The former would limit temporary stops to a cumulative total of 18 trips, far fewer than the dozens anticipated. The Austin Chronicle says that “judging from Tuesday's work session, it won't be an easy sell, at least not quickly – other members were skeptical that they knew enough yet to regulate the process and, even should such an ordinance pass, it could not take effect in time for this month's race.”

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The Lead
8:33 am
Thu November 8, 2012

The Lead: Austin Elections Debrief

Good morning. That dense fog advisory is still in effect, so stay safe on the roads. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Nonprofits that help people in Austin get into housing are scrambling to come up with a plan B after Tuesday’s election. They were expecting Austinites to pass Proposition 15, which called for $78 million to build affordable homes and maintain existing ones. They never expected it to fail at the polls.”

“Austin’s form of government will never be the same. Voters have approved sweeping changes to way Austinites will vote in the future and who will represent them at City Hall. It all comes down to single-member districts, but it will be a long road from election night to a 10-1 City Council.

A citizens’ commission will draw the district boundaries. And that commission will get to work quickly. Prop 3 calls for the city auditor to start looking for volunteers next month, with an eye toward elections in November 2014.”

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Austin
7:00 am
Thu November 8, 2012

The Battle for Lake Austin: Hydrilla vs Asian Grass Carp

Grass carp are an invasive species themselves. That's why the fish released into Lake Austin are sterile.
Dan O'Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant

The battle for Lake Austin continues: 6,000 sterile Asian grass carp were released into the lake this week in an effort to combat the invasive water plant hydrilla. That brings the total number of Asian grass carp stocked in Lake Austin to 11,000 this summer and 40,000 overall.

Hydrilla is a non-native aquatic plant that has spread rapidly in Lake Austin since it was first discovered in 1999. It grows to be very thick and can clog up pipes that carry drinking water from the lake. It can also cause problems for those who use the lake for recreation.

Mary Gilroy, an environmental scientist with the City of Austin, told KUT News earlier this year that if the plants get thick enough, they pose a danger to swimmers.

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Austin
11:09 am
Tue November 6, 2012

Aggressive Panhandling Top Concern of Downtown Residents

People line up outside of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless in downtown Austin.
KUT News

Some people who live and work in downtown Austin spoke out at yesterday's Public Safety Commission meeting in support of the Austin Police Department’s so called “Public Order Initiative."

While Police Chief Art Acevedo says the zero-tolerance policy that went into effect in September is not an anti-homeless initiative… it does crack down on crime often associated with the homeless—including violations of the city’s ‘sit and lie’ ordinance.

Some have speculated that APD’s crackdown is happening because of the influx of visitors expected for Formula 1. But the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA) says it’s a long-term problem.

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Weather
4:50 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Cold Front May Bring Severe Weather to Region

Scattered storms in the Austin region may produce high winds and hail.
National Weather Service

Areas east of I-35 and the Austin metro area may see some severe storms this evening as a cold front moves through.

Forecasters say the main threats are wind and possibly large hail.  Rainfall is expected to be light and spotty – although some areas may get up to one inch of rain.

The National Weather Service has a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for parts of the eastern Central Texas until 9 p.m.; no watch has been issued for Travis County, but the NWS has issued a “hazardous weather outlook.”

Health
4:15 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Does Austin Already Have Enough Doctors?

A new study finds doctors are moving to Austin.
Credit Phalin Ooi, flickr.com/phalinn

While advocates of a proposed medical school in Austin claim that the region faces a looming doctor shortage, a recent study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio seemingly argues otherwise.

The San Antonio study, led by surgeon Ronald M. Stewart, M.D., examined changes in the number of physicians throughout the state of Texas, compared with changes in the general population, in the years after Texas lawmakers limited medical liability claims in 2003.

The study found that the number of physicians practicing in Texas grew by 44 percent since 2003, which is more than double the state's 21 percent overall population growth.

In the Austin-Round Rock region, Stewart's report found that the number of physicians per 100,000 people grew from 178 to 216 from 2002 to 2012.

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Public Safety
3:54 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Austin, F1 and the Black Market in Human Trafficking

U.S. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca says a comprehensive approach is needed to fight human trafficking.
flickr.com/americanprogress

As the City of Austin gears up to host some extra 90,000 out of state fans during the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Austin Police Department is preparing for another increase – a potential increase in human trafficking cases.

Police say trafficking cases rise with every big influx of visitors into a city. “When there's an increased demand for a product, there's going to be an increase in supply,” says Sergeant Keith Suitt with the Austin Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit. “And we expect that for a lot of events so we try to address that."

The City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission is scheduled to receive an update on local human trafficking cases at its meeting this afternoon. It’s a subject that’s very important to Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. Ambassador appointed to combat modern day slavery around the world.

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Election
1:04 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

The 18 Propositions Before Austin Voters This November (Updated)

When Austinites cast a ballot this fall, they'll have numerous propositions to consider.
KUT News

Update 2 (Nov. 5): Early voting is over in Austin, but on Election Day (Nov. 6) Austin voters can cast ballots at any polling place in Travis County. For more on the local issues facing voters, see our topic page, "Austin Election: Bonds, Props and More." 

Update (Oct. 22): Early voting began today, Monday, Oct. 22. KUT News has more information, including a map of early voting locations. And for more information on the $385 million in bond spending proposals, check out KUT News’ bond election coverage.

Original post (September 13, 2012): Austin elections are traditionally sleepy affairs – you can look at local turnout to bear that out.

But moreover, the elections themselves are pretty straightforward: the election of the mayor and city council members (held in May), or every few years, a bond election to fund city initiatives (usually held in November.)

This fall, it’s a different story: While no elected positions are on the ballot, a $385 million bond election, coupled with several possible amendments to the city charter, means Austin voters will face a whopping 18 propositions when they head to the polls on Nov. 6. Below, we list them all.

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Arts and Culture
12:02 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Photos: Here’s 250 Pictures From Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012

The Friday night Fun Fun Fun Fest crowd welcomes Run-D.M.C.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The seventh-annual Fun Fun Fun Fest came to a conclusion last night.

In its second year at Auditorium Shores, the underground music festival drew roughly 15,000 people a day, according to co-founder James Moody. The fest also received some unexpected mainstream coverage from outlets like “Good Morning America,” which reported on the fest’s Taco Cannon loaded with grub from Torchy’s Tacos. But as Moody told KUT News this weekend, “It’s growing, but it’ll never do well as a very big festival.”

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The Lead
8:48 am
Mon November 5, 2012

The Lead: Election Day’s Almost Here (And Formula 1’s Up Next)

Good morning. This weekend’s week cold front will lead to highs in the lower 80s, along with a chance for some isolated thunderstorms in the region, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s a look at some stories KUT News has been working on.

"Now let’s get into the big change for this presidential election. You probably know that during early voting you can stop anywhere with a 'Vote Here' sign – usually at a grocery store or other high-traffic public location.

Travis County has decided to adopt that strategy on Election Day. 'You can vote at any one of the polling places that are designated' within Travis County, said County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir."

Voters should also know the state’s contested Photo ID requirement is not in effect this election –  a voter registration card, copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document showing your name and address are all acceptable forms of ID.

"If Prop 4, the 8-2-1 plan, were to pass, the City Council would presumably be drawing Austin’s new districts. But Prop 3, the 10-1 plan, provides for a redistricting commission. The commission would have 14 members; three auditors would randomly select eight people from a pool of candidates, and those eight would then pick the remaining six, ensuring that they are diverse in race, ethnicity, geography and gender.

Some redistricting commissions in the country have been accused of drawing maps for political gain or with cronyism in mind. Others, like those in San Diego and Minneapolis, have been commended for keeping politics away from the process."

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Formula 1
6:20 am
Mon November 5, 2012

Here's All the Permits Vendors and Promoters Need for F1 Weekend - Deadline Today!

Brandon Mulder for KUT News

Update (Nov. 5, 6:20 a.m): If you are planning to sell t-shirts, handmade necklaces or anything else around town during Formula 1, you need to have a permit. And, as a friendly reminder, the deadline to apply for one is today.

Original Story (Oct. 17)As Austin’s inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix rounds the corner, city officials are reminding business owners and entrepreneurs that permit applications are fast approaching.

At a press event today, city officials emphasized public safety as their main goal, saying F1 will be an event unlike any the region has ever experienced. With that in mind, they spoke to the importance of permitting, running though several upcoming deadlines. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Temporary Use Permit [PDF]: If you want to sell merchandise over events like downtown’s Fan Fest, vendors will need a Temporary Use permit. This allows sales in private commercial zones; selling within public right of ways, like sidewalks, is not allowed. The application deadline is Nov. 5.
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Fun Fun Fun Fest
12:05 pm
Sun November 4, 2012

Fun Fun Fun Fest Grows While Staying True to its Roots

Mash up maestro Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, playing Saturday night at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Mary Kang for KUT

Fun Fun Fun Fest describes itself as “the darling of independent festivals for music lovers and music makers.” But this year, with headliners like Run DMC and Girl Talk, is Fun Fun Fun Fest outgrowing its underground roots?

“It’ll never become super popular,” says James Moody, co-creator of the festival and owner of music venue The Mohawk. “It’s growing, but it’ll never do well as a very big festival.” That’s because Moody says they aren’t interested in billing big names.

Moody says they try to give attention to bands that aren’t as widely known, or inspire a small but devoted following. “We try to keep people on their toes and remind people that there are no genres anymore, so we don’t try to pigeon hole with our headlines,” Moody says. “We could throw a curveball and get The Cure next year or something.”

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The Lead
8:32 am
Fri November 2, 2012

The Lead: Early Voting Ending, Election Monitor Controversy

Good morning. The National Weather Service says we’re in for warm and muggy weather this weekend with highs in the 80s, until a weak cold front blows in on Sunday. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

The county’s Highland Mall early voting location will stay open until 9 p.m. to accommodate more of those who wish to participate.

In 2011 lawmakers passed a law requiring the secretary of state to cross-check federal Social Security rolls when performing its regular deceased-voter checks. This check created several thousand “soft matches” — names on the federal document of people who’d died that were similar to names on Texas voting rolls.

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families
1:30 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Today, 28 Local Children Were Adopted Into Permanent Homes

Attorney Denise Hyde addresses the judge on behalf of her clients, Alexander Wells and his adoptive mother Kelly Wells.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

After spending years wading through temporary homes in the foster system – some for most of their lives – 28 children were adopted into permanent homes today during legal proceedings at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center on South Congress Avenue. It is one of dozens of events taking place across the state during National Adoption Month.

One of the adoptees was 18-year-old Alexander Wells, a teenager who had been removed from his biological family twice and had changed foster homes many times, according to a state official. Wells was smiling throughout the adoption proceeding as he sat next to his new mother and answered questions from their family attorney, Denise Hyde.

“Why is it important for Judge Hathaway to legally make you their child?” Hyde asked Wells.

“This is my new forever family,” he responded. “I get to come home for Christmas. I get to come home for all the holidays. It’s a place where I get to have a solid ground to come home to, a solid place. A home that I can call mine now.”

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Austin
8:49 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Austin Taxi Drivers Say There Are Too Many Cabs on the Road

Cab drivers say that even business at the airport has declined with more drivers on the road.
Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin taxi drivers are working more but seeing a decline in income and business. And, as you might imagine, many aren’t happy about that. The Taxi Drivers Association of Austin (TDAA) is even more upset that the trend may be exacerbated if the Austin City Council approves 30 new cab permits on Thursday.

The TDAA says the noticeable decline in business happened after a first round of new cab permits approved by the Austin City Council hit the streets in July. Because, while more taxis on the streets means more options for riders, it means more competition for drivers.

A new report released by the City of Austin’s Transportation Department finds the average cab driver made about one fewer trip in July 2012 than in July 2011. Cab drivers made an average of $461 less this July than last—equivalent to a drop of $2.40 an hour. That’s despite an increase in cab fares but doesn’t take tips into account.

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Austin
2:05 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Mapping the Future of AISD

KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is inviting community input at a public hearing tonight about the 2013–2014 Annual Academic and Facilities Recommendations (AAFR) tonight at the Carruth Administration Center on West Sixth Street.

There are a several important issues on the AAFR, the most polarizing being single-sex schools, improvements for athletic facilities and fine arts programs, and the expansion of the dual language program.

Here's a roundup:

  • The conversion of two middle schools to Single-Sex schools in northeast Austin were talked about back in August, but a School for Young Men was often left out of the headlines. The proposed School for Young Men would be college and career preparatory academy that develops a community of leadership and character centered young men. Enrollment could start as early as next school year.
  • The recommendation to improve athletic facilities has three potential proposals to throw out to community members with price ranges from $82 million to $179 million. Increased pay and flexible schedules for coaches are included within these proposals.

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Austin
1:05 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

What Draws People to Austin: Readers Respond

An illustration of the most common words left by commenters on KUT News' blog post, "What Draws People to Austin (And What Drives Them Away)."

Reaction to KUT News’ post about what draws new residents to Austin has been great. While the 26 comments readers left on the blog are shy of the 85 now in the original Reddit thread that inspired the post, they’re no less illustrative or provocative in their assesment of the changing face of Austin. (And that doesn't even count the 58 comments left on the Facebook thread NPR started.)

Let’s start with the highest-rated comment, a joke from Jessica Ellison:

My favorite Austin joke: How many Austinites does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but 25 to talk about how great the old light bulb was.

Commenters seem divided on what change means for Austin. Commenter tee vee dee writes:

Austin is certainly suffering the "Best City" curse. Mass waves of people all trying to escape the dregs of their life, yet unwilling to let it go completely and fully embrace what's here. They're drawn to the vibe without ever really experiencing it or adding to it before giving it a white wash of familiar chain stores and restaurants. I'm all for inner city development, but much of the growth of the past few years has been decidedly un-weird.

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Transportation
1:01 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Will 'Left Lane for Passing Only' Signs Make a Difference?

Is there any hope for Mopac? A TXDoT initiative is reminding motorists the left lane is for passing only, but the signs are mainly going up on faster highways.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Here’s a mantra you may repeat to yourself in Austin traffic (likely in-between bouts of profanity): The left lane is for passing only.

Despite the fact that passing on the left is the safest practice (and the fact that Texas has prohibitions against passing on the right), it’s a practice that’s routinely disregarded – just ask any Central Texas motorist.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) is trying to do something about that, by installing a little reminder on Texas highways: some 3,400 signs stating “Left Lane for Passing Only.”

Before you get your hopes up, here’s the rub – they’re only going up on highways with speed limits over 75 mph. That excludes Mopac and Interstate 35 as they cut through most of Central Austin.

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Austin
8:33 am
Thu October 25, 2012

Austin Playing Catch Up in International Air Travel

A plane waits for passengers to load at ABIA.
Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

As metropolitan economies, like Austin, expand their global reach, international aviation plays a pivotal role—moving passengers from there to here.

But, for the most part, international travel coming into the United States, takes place in many of the same metropolitan gateways. Despite Austin's growing role in technology and other business industries, the city isn't playing a big role in international travel. One major challenge may be the competition provided by bigger Texas cities.

According to a report by The Brookings Institution, 17 areas account for almost three-quarters of all international travel either starting or ending in the U.S. Atop the list of gateway cities is Atlanta, which accounted for more than 6 million international travelers last year.

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Police
1:29 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

No Charges for Driver Shot at by Police While Fleeing Sixth Street

A screen shot from an amateur video capturing the aftermath of the incident on Sixth Street.
YouTube

Austin police say no charges will be filed against a driver who police fired on on Sixth Street over the weekend.

As KUT News previously reported, shortly after 2 a.m. early Sunday morning an Austin police officer opened fire on a car that the officer said was driving straight at him after hitting two bystanders.

YNN Austin quoted police chief Art Acevedo’s description of the scene: "This person, for unknown reasons, decided to rapidly accelerate to the extent that she left acceleration skid mark on the pavement … And not only drove toward civilian victims – and struck civilian victims – but also drove toward the officer and refused to stop until shots rang out."

But this afternoon, police announced no charges would be filed against the unnamed motorist, whom they described as fleeing the scene quickly out of concern for her safety.

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