The Lead
8:23 am
Tue December 18, 2012

The Lead: Texas Gun Laws, AG Warns About Senior Scam

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for unseasonably warm weather today ahead of a cold front in time for the holidays. Here’s some stories from KUT News, StateImpact Texas and the Texas Tribune: 

“In Texas, five bills relating to firearms had already been filed ahead of the session before Friday. A couple were related to the state’s permit to carry concealed handguns; one would reduce the hours of instruction needed to acquire a permit.

So far only one bill, by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Kingland, attempts to expand where a person can carry a gun in Texas. It would allow people with concealed-carry permits or officials, including school board members and superintendents, to bring guns to school board meetings.”

“The attorney general’s office says hundreds of seniors in east Texas were scammed by a company called Syam Tax Services.

Spokesman Jerry Strickland said the company sought out elderly Texans at churches and senior residences, told them they may be eligible for cash benefits, and fraudulently filed tax returns claiming refunds in their name, which the IRS demanded its victims repay.”

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The Lead
8:55 am
Mon December 17, 2012

The Lead: Newtown Tragedy Aftermath; AISD Meeting Tonight

Good morning. The National Weather Service says sunny and warm temperatures are on tap today, with an expect high in the low 70s.

The aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues. Here’s a round-up of Newtown reporting and related news from KUT News and other sources:  

“The Austin school district police force took time Friday, in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shootings, to reassure parents that the district is doing all it can to keep campuses safe.

The district already has armed officers at all middle and high schools in Austin, with regular armed patrols at elementary schools.”

Austin Police chief Art Acevedo announced on Twitter last night that APD was stepping up their presence around schools this morning:

“People of ATX may notice visible Law enforcement presence in school zones in morning. Please drive safely & report suspicious behavior.”

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The Lead
8:57 am
Fri December 14, 2012

The Lead: The Texas School Finance Lawsuit, Explained; UT Pumps Breaks on New HQ

Good morning! The National Weather Service says cloudy weather and drizzle will define this Friday, with a greater chance for thunderstorms this weekend. (Got your John Aielli-approved KUT Rain Gauge handy? Share any rainfall totals on Twitter with hashtag #KUTgarden.) Here’s some overnight stories from KUT News:

“A school finance lawsuit underway now could transform how we pay for public education in Texas.

About 600 school districts are suing the state. Arguments started nine weeks ago and could last another month or longer and a decision is not expected until after the next legislative session ends.”

“After East Texas landowner Mike Bishop won a temporary restraining order against the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this week, a Nacogdoches County judge reversed that order Thursday.

Ruling in favor of the Canadian company behind the controversial pipeline, TransCanada, Nacogdoches County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz reversed the restraining order, allowing TransCanada to continue construction on Bishop’s land.”

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The Lead
8:51 am
Thu December 13, 2012

The Lead: Austin Pet Registration, North Texas Earthquake, The Top Bars for DWI Arrests

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin will warm to the mid 60s today before scattered showers and thunderstorms blow in this weekend. Here’s KUT News’ top overnight stories:

The group that advises Austin City Council on animal matters met to consider the possibility of having a new rule: that every year, pet owners register their cats and dogs with the city.

If Austin Animal Services’ Abigail Smith is able to sell her idea to city staff and then to city council,  Austin will start a huge database with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of pet owners – along with the animal’s information.

"People love Austin. They are moving here in droves. And they bring their kids with them. And they enroll their kids in the local school district. But the school district can’t build fast enough to accommodate everyone. So some campuses are getting really, really crowded.

The Austin school district will build two new elementary schools in north Austin over the next couple of years and add classrooms at other campuses. But that’s not going to be enough to fix the problem."

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12:35 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

What Austin Googled in 2012

The Alamo Drafthouse was Austin's most searched term in 2012.

Google has released its Zeitgeist 2012, cataloging what the world was searching for online this year.

And sure, while Austin has its share of Whitney Houston and Gangnam Style fans (Houston and the song from Korean rapper PSY being the world’s top two search terms), Austin residents made plenty of queries closer to home.

Without further ado, here’s the top 10 most searched terms in Austin in 2012:

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The Lead
9:01 am
Wed December 12, 2012

The Lead: Austin Job and Population Growth; Comptroller Delivers Millions to Formula 1

Good morning! The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a sunny and cool day, with highs inching up into the low 60s. Here’s some stories KUT News and our partners have been working on:

“Angelos Angelou, an economic forecaster, expects 130,000 people to move to Austin over the next two years. But Angelou warns there’s a kryptonite to this super story.

‘The only factor that can reduce our growth is transportation, if we don’t build our infrastructure, if we have gridlock just like the Silicon Valley did in the ’80s,’ Angelou said.”

“The Austin-area job market is expected to be among the strongest in the nation next year. That’s according to an employment outlook survey by the HR consulting firm Manpower. A quarter of companies in the Austin area said they plan to hire more employees in the first three months of next year.”

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8:23 am
Wed December 12, 2012

Water Main Break Shuts Down Part of South 1st Street

View Water Main Break in a larger map

Austin Water Utility crews have shut down two lanes of South 1st Street because of a water main break.

One northbound lane and one southbound lane of South 1st Street is closed between St. Elmo Road and Radam Lane. That’s just south of Ben White Boulevard.

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3:57 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Is the Power Grid Ready For the Electric Car?

A pair of electric vehicles parked outside the Blanton Museum. A discussion on electric cars is taking place there tonight.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Is the electric grid ready for an influx of electric cars?

That’s one of the topics under discussion Tuesday at a discussion on electric vehicles at the University of Texas.

The university’s Electric Vehicle Transportation and Electricity Convergence Center (EV-TEC) is hosting a panel discussion at the Blanton Museum with engineering and electromechanical experts, plus auto industry representatives. (Nissan and General Motors are listed as event sponsors.) The event begins at 4 p.m. this afternoon with a screening of “Revenge of the Electric Car.”

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12:46 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Water Under the Bridge: Coolers Returning to Hike & Bike Trail

Coolers along the trail under Mopac. The free service will return with some extra precautions.

The coolers are coming back in the new year.

A report this morning that the popular water coolers on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail had been removed got pulses racing.

Run Tex and Rogue Running have provided free water to trail enthusiasts for years. But the practice apparently ran afoul of health and safety regulations: about two weeks ago, the water coolers evaporated from the trail.

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The Lead
8:56 am
Tue December 11, 2012

The Lead: Worker’s Comp Reform, UT Law Prof Sparks Controversy

Good morning. The National Weather Service says a freeze warning is still in effect through 10 a.m., before Austin warms to the mid-50s this afternoon. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

“When the Senate Committee on State Affairs of state lawmakers got together Monday at the Capitol, they were urged to require companies to provide workers’ compensation insurance.

The Texas Department of Insurance says one out of five employees in the state works for a company that does not provide workers’ comp. That number has stayed relatively unchanged for two decades.”

“State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), has announced his intention to challenge current speaker Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio.)

Following the announcement another Straus challenger – Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) – dropped out and put his support behind Simpson.”

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12:11 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Broadening the Franchise: Seeking Diversity in Austin Government

The George Washington Carver Library in East Austin.

If you’ve been around Austin for a while, chances are you’ve heard Andrew Zuniga's sentiments before.

“This is not the same Austin I used to know,” Zuniga said. “Because I was away for 40 years see?”

Zuniga is a musician. He’s 79 years old.

“Well, it’s a lot bigger, a lot of traffic and more people,” he said.

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The Lead
8:46 am
Mon December 10, 2012

The Lead: Cold Snap Hits Austin, More Rumblings on 2013 Lege

Good morning. Hope you’re bundled this chilly and blustery Monday. Here’s some of KUT News’ top weekend stories:

“Texas lawmakers cut billions from public school funding formulas in 2011. Now one Republican leader says he hopes that money can be restored in the upcoming legislative session.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is not promising, but he hopes lawmakers will restore about $4 billion cut from the state funding formulas last year. In an interview with the Associated Press, Straus did promise $2 billion in new funding, enough to cover enrollment growth.”

“In less than a month, Texas lawmakers will convene in Austin for the 2013 legislative session. A couple of bills already filed would have a huge effect on which lawmakers get to come back in future sessions.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, have each filed a bill to create term limits for elected officials. Larson’s proposal would limit all statewide elected officials and legislators to 12 years in office. Eltife’s would limit consecutive terms for statewide offices including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.”

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8:28 am
Mon December 10, 2012

Power Outages, Freeze Warning & Wind Advisory for Central Texas

The first big freeze of the season is expected tonight.
Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service

It’s a windy, chilly morning. There’s a wind advisory in effect for all of South Central Texas until noon today. A freeze warning is in place starting at 11 p.m.

The cold weather is moving across Texas, even bringing some snow to the Dallas area this morning.

The wind was a factor in power outages that left more than 3,400 Austin Energy customers in the dark this morning. Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark says damage to a pole knocked out power to about 2,300 customers around Brodie Lane and William Cannon Drive. Clark expected power to be restored to about 70 percent of those customers by 7:30 a.m.

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2:25 pm
Fri December 7, 2012

The Surprising Reason Austin Chose an Artificial Tree for the Texas State Capitol

Crowds marvel at the tree outside the Texas State Capitol during the 2012 Sing-Along and Holiday Stroll.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT Austin

You can’t miss the Christmas tree outside the Texas State Capitol this year. Standing 45 feet tall, it’s adorned with 137,000 LED lights, and synched to seasonal music.

It’s also, in a break with tradition, artificial.

Each holiday, the Downtown Austin Alliance is tasked with trimming the tree just outside the Capitol gates. 

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11:45 am
Fri December 7, 2012

Photos: Inside Downtown Austin’s New Federal Courthouse

The Jury Assembly room features natural light and colorful artwork.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

A new United States Courthouse for the Western District of Texas opened in downtown Austin this week.

The decidedly modern space, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, is a departure from the stodgy, unimaginative architecture associated with government buildings. The 230,000 square foot building is stark, clean and geometric on the outside. Inside, wood tones warm the courtrooms, natural light works its way into common areas, and a stunning piece of artwork inside the entryway provides more color.

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