Austin

Austin
4:22 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Three Things to Watch For in the Bag Ban Vote

Plastic bags would be completely phased out by 2014 in a proposal before the City Council.
Photo by KUT News

The hotly debated question of whether to ban disposable bags comes to the Austin City Council tomorrow.

The council is posted to hear comments and take action on the proposal in a public hearing tomorrow evening. But considering the proposal has been fluttered around more wildly than a Wal-Mart bag in a strong breeze, it’s worth contemplating three aspects of the ban that have remained most controversial.

Here’s a brief primer, from KUT News:

Paper or Plastic? Or Both?: Although the proposal started out as a ban on single-use plastic bags, the ordinance has since expanded to include paper bags as well. This hasn’t escaped the attention of Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who questioned Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) director Bob Gedert at a previous meeting as to how the ban was broadened.

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Austin
9:32 am
Wed February 29, 2012

The Five Topics at City Council's Policy Retreat

Council heads to the Palmer Center to talk policy today.
Photo courtesy palmereventscenter.com

Think about corporate retreats, and you’ll likely envision team-building exercises. But no zip-lining or “trust falls” are on the Austin City Council’s retreat agenda today – just policy planning.

This morning, the council is decamping to the Palmer Events Center for a “policy retreat work session,” a chance to meet and discuss upcoming topics and initiatives. Five topics are on the agenda:

  • Using the upcoming Comprehensive Plan “for policy guidance and planning,” a topic from council member Laura Morrison.
  • Fostering collaboration with counties and school districts in the city limits, sponsored by council member Kathie Tovo.
  • A “review of past and existing City youth programs,” also from Tovo.
  • “Community public safety goals and resource allocation priorities,” from council member Bill Spelman.
  • A discussion of the structuring of council committees –  groups tasked with delving into specific topics like public health or city finances – as proposed by council member Chris Riley.

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Texas
3:58 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Five-Way Split for Travis County in Redistricting Map

A detail of a newly released map, showing Travis County's five districts.

A federal court in San Antonio has issued maps for United States House and Texas House seats that, barring further appeals, will be used for elections this year. 

The new maps boost the number of congressional House districts that dip into Travis County to five, dramatically changing the district for long-time Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett. Uncertainty over how the districts would be drawn (in turn leading to postponement of the Texas primary date) have thrown a wrench in election plans for candidates, including Doggett, who currently represents District 25.

Doggett is widely expected to run in the new District 35, which stretches from eastern Travis County down to San Antonio.

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Austin
3:04 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Leslie Cochran Hospitalized

Leslie Cochran, posing in the foreground, as photographed in 2006.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/chainsawpanda

Contrary to recent reports that transgendered homeless icon Leslie Cochran was moving to Colorado, Leslie is still in Austin. And according to a statement from friends and family, Cochran is currently recuperating in an area hospital.

Local activist Debbie Russell says she is a spokesperson for Cochran and a relative. Russell sent out a release this morning:

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Austin
11:43 am
Mon February 27, 2012

Check Out Time for Austin Hostel? Not If Some Council Members Have Their Way

Hosteling International Austin's lease could either expire next year or be extended by a decade, depending on the City Council.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/jstephenconn

The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is seeking to reclaim the land on which Austin’s only hostel sits. But a contrary resolution before the Austin City Council this Thursday may extend the hostel's stay by a decade.  

Hosteling International Austin, located on South Lakeshore Boulevard off of Riverside Drive, backs onto the shores of Lady Bird Lake. As the hostel sits on parkland, PARD director Sara Hensley says her department can find a better use for the space. “We support the hostel and we believe that they are doing a great thing, but it does not meet a park purpose and it does not necessarily meet the need of our community,” she tells KUT News.

Hensley notes the agreement with the hostel was inked in 1988, and since then, “as you can imagine, a lot of things have changed. This is on prime parkland – right there where the mouth of the new [Lady Bird Lake] boardwalk will be built.”  

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economy
5:05 pm
Fri February 24, 2012

Austin Gas Prices: Below Average, But On the Rise

Gas prices are on the rise, both locally and nationally
Photo by KUT News

The price of a gallon of gasoline is capturing people’s attention – including presidential candidates.

The increase in gas prices is being felt nationally, and Austin is no exception. The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge pegs the current price per gallon in the Austin-San Marcos region at $3.51.

That’s still below the national average of $3.65. But locally, Austin’s current gas process have risen over six cents since last week; a year ago, Austin prices stood at $3.06.

Austin Gas Prices has a rundown of the lowest prices in the area. 

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Arts and Culture
2:32 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Austin Ascendant on ‘Top Chef: Texas’

Cheftestant Paul Qui works with king crab in this season's penultimate "Top Chef: Texas" episode.
Photo courtesy bravotv.com

Spoiler alert: This season of “Top Chef: Texas” is living up to its name.

Only two contestants are left heading into next week’s finale, and (spoiler alert: we really mean it this time) Austinite Paul Qui is one of them. Qui earned a place in the finale and won a trip to Costa Rica last night with his dish of king crab with sunchoke chips, lobster broth and lemon snow.

Austin American-Statesmanfood writers Annie Broyles and Nicole Villalpando say that Uchiko  chef Qui “will either win “Top Chef Texas” or, in what would be the biggest upset in “Top Chef” history, come in second to Chicago chef Sarah Grueneberg.”

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economy
5:09 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

With Thin Apartment Vacancy, Home Buying Jumps in January

January home sales showed a 10 percent spike over sales the same time last year, says the Austin Board of Realtors.
Photo by KUT News

Austin saw a surge in single-family home sales last month, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

In a new report, the board says home sales were up ten percent last month over January 2011. While comparing two months worth of data has limitations, the finding speaks more broadly to Austin housing demand.

Eldon Rude, director of the Austin market for real estate tracking firm Metrostudy, says the January numbers are part of an ongoing recovery of Austin’s housing market.

Rude says the numbers are “driven by continued increases in population and household in the region over the last several years, and people beginning to react to increasing rents in the apartment market, and so they’re moving toward the for sale housing market.”

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Environment
1:04 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

What Can Corpus Christi Learn From Austin's Bag Ban Debate?

Plastic bags at a recycling center in Corpus Christi. The coastal town is discussing whether to charge for the disposable bags.
Photo courtesy .facebook.com/pages/Skip-The-Plastic/242542302446854

In its short history, Austin’s proposed disposable bag ban has already seen its share of controversy:  A series of stops and starts, recent revisions, and more.   

But Austin’s far from the only city considering such a measure. In fact, the Texas town of Corpus Christi is also considering a similar proposal.

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Austin
11:45 am
Tue February 21, 2012

The City Task Force Facing a Billion Dollar Decision

In addition to the task force's work, the city is looking for online input on the bond development process.
Photo by KUT News

It turns out compiling a $1.5 billion wish list of city projects was the easy part.

Last week KUT reported about the massive “needs assessment” City of Austin departments compiled with an eye towards this November’s bond election: millions of dollars for projects including development of the Waller Creek riverwalk downtown, new police and fire stations, and open space acquisition.

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traffic
9:54 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Street Closures, ‘No Refusal’ Blood Draws for Fat Tuesday

The Sixth Street entertainment district is closed to traffic, and portions of the I-35 access road will be closed as well this Fat Tuesday.
Image courtesy austintexas.gov

Downtown revelers will need to take extra precautions this Fat Tuesday. Several street closures are in effect this evening, while Austin Police have announced the holiday means another “No Refusal” action where police can subpoena and draw suspected drunk drivers’ blood.

As seen in the map detail above, full closures are in effect on all the side streets off of Sixth, between the southbound I-35 access road and Brazos, starting at 9 p.m. Neches, from Sixth to Seventh street, will also be closed starting at 5:30 p.m.  You can view a full map of the closures on the city website.

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Texas
9:17 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/20/12: Santorum Takes Lead, Latino Population Grows, 'Linsanity' Touches Texas

With 45%, Rick Santorum leads the GOP presidential primary in Texas.
Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore, flickr.com/gageskidmore

Support for Santorum Spreading in Texas

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum has a substantial lead in Texas, according to a recent poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.

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music
1:17 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

City to Study 'Silent Disco' As Sound Mitigation Option

A silent disco at a music festival last year in Gdynia, Poland

Wireless headphone technology now makes it possible for people to have a dance party just about anywhere without large amps and speakers blowing away the entire neighborhood. The “silent disco” phenomenon has been growing over the past several years, and the City of Austin is now considering it as one option to help tackle the controversial issue of sound permits.

The Live Music Capital of the World stands out among its peers as being relatively tolerant of loud music. As Community Impact News recently pointed out in this chart, Austin allows venues to generate up to 85 decibels of sound on weekends, while San Antonio caps music at 63 decibels. Portland, Oregon seems almost sleepy by comparison, with its 60 decibel limit.

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Austin
11:26 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Watch Lee Leffingwell's ‘Ferris Bueller’ Homage

Mayor Lee Leffigwell sports a soapy fauxhawk in a viral campaign clip.
Image courtesy youtube.com/TheLeeTeam2012

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell has never been big on the theatrics that defined his predecessor, Will Wynn. But with a single campaign video, Leffingwell surpasses Wynn’s zombie costumes, “Thriller” dancing and SXSW partying in one fell swoop.

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Austin
3:44 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

$400 Rent in Downtown Austin? Nonprofit Says They Can Make it Work

Construction of affordable housing downtown could start in less than a year.

At a meeting tonight, Austin nonprofit Foundation Communities is making a pitch for their Capital Studios development – 135 apartments to be located on what's now a parking lot at 11th street and Trinity.  A Foundation Communities spokesperson tells KUT News Capital Studios will be the first truly affordable downtown development in the last 40 years – and with rents ranging from $400 to $650, all bills paid, it’s hard to argue.

The low rents are designed to attract Austinites that work and play downtown, but can’t afford to live there – primarily young adults making $27,000 annually or less. Ten of the units will be reserved for working musicians and artists. Another 27 units will provide permanent supportive housing for clients transitioning out of homelessness, processed through agencies like Caritas, the Trinity Center, and the ARCH.

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