Austin

Austin City Council
9:45 am
Tue May 12, 2015

How One Austin City Council Member is Shaking Up the Dais

Zimmerman at the Ballot Boxing District 6 forum last year.
Credit Mengwen Cao/KUT

The Austin City Council’s switch to geographic representation was aimed at electing a council that’s more in touch with their constituents’ concerns. The change has also brought voices to the council representing viewpoints that weren’t heard on the old at-large council.

One of those voices belongs to District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman. The council member’s controversial board and commission nominations prompted two hours of debate at the dais last week. Typically, approval for nominations takes minutes of the council’s time. KUT’s Jennifer Stayton spoke with the Austin Monitor’s Michael Kanin about the move, which is the latest in a series that has put Zimmerman at odds with the council at large. It’s also demonstrated his effectiveness as the council’s chief dissenter.

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Austin
10:55 am
Mon May 11, 2015

Learning Fair Housing Laws is 'Due Diligence' for Austin's New Landlords

As the demand for housing increases in Austin, some property owners are taking on the role of landlord.
Jon Shapley/KUT News

It’s no secret that there's not enough housing in Austin. The city has few homes with more than three bedrooms, and it doesn't have enough affordable housing.

There’s even a scarcity of upscale homes. Rents have risen as that market has gotten tighter, too. Has the housing demand led more landlords to engage in unfair housing practices?

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Austin
12:40 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Why This Austin-based DIY Gun Group is Suing the U.S. State Department

A 3D printed gun part at Defense Distributed.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Two years ago today, Cody Wilson received a letter from the State Department asking him to take something off the internet.

In short, the letter asked Wilson to take some design files offline and suggested he may be aiding and abetting enemies of the United States. He complied, agreeing to take down the computer-aided design (CAD) files. Still, being the ex-law student he is, he held out hope for his day in court.

But like most things on the internet, the files in question — Wilson's designs for the world's first 3D-printed readymade pistol — weren't easily deleted. And two years later, Wilson's expanded his enterprise, known as Defense Distributed, creating a gun-manufacturing machine known as the Ghost Gunner — so called because the machine aids in the production of untraceable firearms that don't bear serial numbers. This week, his hope for a day in court got one step closer to reality: He filed a lawsuit against the State Department.

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Austin
8:43 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Council Again Questions Zimmerman Appointments

District 6 council member Don Zimmerman again has drawn controversy with his commission appointees.
Callie Hernandez/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Facebook posts did them in.

As City Council members nixed two of Council Member Don Zimmerman’s appointees — some citing comments made on social media pages — they debated Zimmerman’s judgment following what they said has been a string of controversial nominees to city boards and commissions.

Council Member Greg Casar said he felt the time that has been taken discussing Zimmerman’s appointees, and their various merits, could be better spent. “Our time on Council is very precious, and I don’t want to spend my time having these discussions,” he said. “There are people that could have diverse viewpoints that would not cause us to take so much of our time that we really need to dedicate to greater policy issues.”

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Austin
8:00 am
Thu May 7, 2015

In Legal Limbo, Mobile Home Residents Organize to Take on Landlords

Gloria Cordova, president of the newly created homeowners association at Stonegate Mobile Home Park, speaks with an APD officer. Officer Jason Murray told residents that even though they were peaceful he still needed to file a report.
Joy Diaz/KUT News

Something new is happening in several mobile home communities in Austin. Over the last month, at least two such communities have established new neighborhood associations. And this week, one of them filed a lawsuit against the company that owns the land where their mobile homes are.

Residents at Stonegate Mobile Home Park in North Central Austin say they can't stand their living conditions anymore.

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Wayback Wednesday
2:50 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

A Look Back at the Dicey Days of Beef, Before Brisket Was King

Brisket's hot now, but it wasn't always the hip, award-winning cut of beef it is today.
KUT News

Pitmasters across Texas may have mixed feelings about Aaron Franklin winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest this week, but it does mark the first time the prestigious culinary award’s honored a barbecue pitmaster.

But brisket, for which Franklin is well known, was not always so revered. This Wayback Wednesday looks back on the days before beef became haute cuisine, when you used the whole cow because you had to, not because you wanted to — back when beef was used for everything from "beef tea" to bread pudding.

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Austin
10:42 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Travis County Commissioners Ponder Drunk-Tank Proposal

Perhaps better known colloquially as a drunk tank, a proposed sobriety center in Austin would serve as an alternative to Travis County Jail or local emergency rooms as destinations for people detained for public intoxication.
AlexVan/pixabay

From the Austin Monitor:

The Travis County Commissioners Court took another tentative step toward establishing a sobriety center in partnership with the City of Austin at its regular voting session. Perhaps better known colloquially as a drunk tank, the proposed sobriety center would serve as an alternative to Travis County Jail or local emergency rooms as destinations for people detained for public intoxication.

On Tuesday, the commissioners voted 4-0 to direct the brain trust behind the effort to come up with specific proposals for the center’s governance that the county and city can then consider. Commissioner Ron Davis abstained from the vote, citing unanswered questions about the exact role the city would play in the center’s establishment and operation.

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Austin
12:53 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

As Austinites Move to City's Outskirts, Support Services Follow

As people move outside of Austin proper, some social services and non-profits are moving with them.
KUT News

Central Austin is experiencing what some have called an exodus of sorts: Higher housing prices and other factors have pushed entire communities out.

Over the last decade, some have migrated to northern suburbs like Round Rock and Pflugerville or south to Kyle, Buda and San Marcos. But up until now, the services many of those people rely on have stayed put in downtown Austin.

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Austin
11:59 am
Mon May 4, 2015

City Urged to 'Proceed Cautiously' When it Comes to Police Body Cameras

The city's Public Safety Commission, which advises the city council on police policies, is expected to tell the city to proceed with caution when it comes to police body cameras.
Nathan Bernier/KUT News

In the wake of high profile police shootings across the country, a lot of cities are considering equipping their police officers with body cameras

Today, Austin’s Public Safety Commission will vote on recommendations for Austin Police.

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Austin
2:15 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

City Seeks to Improve Demolition Permit System

Jumpolin Rentals store owner Monica Lejarazul (right) and neighbor Diane Ontiberos (left) look on as a fence is erected around the remains of the storefront in February.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

A City Council committee is directing staff to look at adding requirements to the demolition permit system that would ensure tenants are notified of planned tear-downs.

During a review of the city’s demolition permits, the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee heard from Sergio Lejarazu, the former owner of Jumpolin, the East Austin piñata store that was torn down in February with the merchandise still inside. 

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Austin
10:16 am
Fri May 1, 2015

Downtown Austin Trader Joe's Opens Its Doors

Trader Joe's opened its third store in the Austin area today, this one in the Seaholm development.
Bill Shaner/flickr

Trader Joe’s is opening a new location in downtown Austin today. The popular grocery chain is known for its quirky offerings and laid-back, tropical styling.

The supermarket is going to anchor the retail stores at the multi-million dollar Seaholm development, part of the city’s plan to transform downtown into a mixed residential-commercial district.

“Grocery has been one of the gaps for downtown living, and we see Trader Joe’s as helping fill that gap in addition to the Whole Foods and Royal Blue,” says Fred Evins, a Project Manager at the City of Austin Economic Development Department. “We’d like to see more,” he adds.

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Austin
12:03 pm
Thu April 30, 2015

How You Can Help Earthquake Victims in Nepal

Students at the UT-Austin campus accepting donations for those affected by the earthquake outside Kathmandu.
Credit via Facebook

Last week's 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Nepal has left thousands dead and even more displaced across the country — from remote rural towns to the country's capital, Kathmandu, the quake's epicenter.

Despite the best efforts of those on the ground and in the air, authorities need all the help they can get as they battle both the elements and problematic terrain that have hampered both rescue and cleanup efforts.

Below you can find a list of local and national organizations that are accepting donations to help those affected in Nepal.

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Austin
8:18 am
Thu April 30, 2015

Love Letter to a Landmark: Highland Mall Closes its Doors For Good

Highland Mall, a North Austin landmark, is shutting down the last of its shops. ACC is taking over the space.
Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

This week, it finally ends for the handful of shops still operating in what’s left of Highland Mall. The mall closes to the public for good Thursday after years of decline. Austin Community College will soon take over the rest of the site.

Walking around the giant, mostly empty space, with Captain and Tennille playing in the background, you might think this is a relic of conspicuous consumption’s past.

But this isn’t about what Highland Mall is now. This story is about what it used to be.

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Wayback Wednesday
1:51 pm
Wed April 29, 2015

William Sydney Porter and Austin's Original 'Rolling Stone'

The cover of The Rolling Stone's final issue from April 25, 1895.
Austin History Center

Today's Wayback Wednesday looks back at Austin's onetime Victorian-era literary magazine, The Rolling Stone. The DIY-minded rag published short stories, cartoons and other Onion-esque items, but it is largely known as the first creative sandbox for its publisher, William Sydney Porter.

Porter, a North Carolina transplant who moved to Austin in the late 1880s, worked as a druggist and as a clerk at the General Land Office before he took a job at the First National Bank as a teller. It was during his time as a teller that he started The Rolling Stone in 1895. A year later, in April of 1896, Porter printed the last issue after being fired from the bank for embezzling money. Turns out he was using the money to support his enterprise, a crime that would land him time in federal prison, where he would continue writing under his now-famous pseudonym: O. Henry.

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Austin
7:13 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Travis County Home Values Increase by 11 Percent in 2015

Jon Shapley/KUT News

If you’re a homeowner, start checking your mail. You should receive the most recent appraisal of your home value from Travis Central Appraisal District by the end of the week.

And expect those values to have gone up.

The average home value in the county increased by 11 percent in 2015, to $355,312 from $320,032 last year. Taxable values rose about nine percent.

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Austin
8:18 am
Tue April 28, 2015

City to Close Some Swimming Pools, Reduce Hours

Austin Parks and Recreation Department head recently said in a memo to Mayor Steve Adler that the city's public pools will cost $41 million to repair.
via Flickr/smreilly

From the Austin Monitor: Citing budget shortfalls, water conservation issues and a lack of lifeguards, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department says it will close two pools and cut back pool operating hours this summer.

The department says it would cost the city $41 million to bring all of its public pools into good repair.

According to a memo written by Parks and Recreation Department Director Sara Hensley to the mayor and City Council, a shortage in lifeguards means that the city will not be able to open pools June 5, which is the first day of summer break.

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Austin
3:09 pm
Mon April 27, 2015

Why Some Downtown Austin Buildings Sit Vacant for Years

920 Congress is one of four buildings on Congress Avenue that's had little activity over several years.
Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT

For the past 10 years, the Austin skyline’s been in a state of constant flux. In the past year alone, two towers have gone up in the downtown area: the Colorado Tower and the IBC Bank Plaza. Those two buildings, which combine for nearly 570,000 square feet in office and retail space, were all but leased by the time they opened their doors.

But, for some buildings, the wait is a little longer.

For some buildings – like the former headquarters of La Bare on Riverside Drive, the boxy little historic building at Congress and Riverside just down the road, and even some properties in the heart of Downtown Austin, just a few blocks from the Capitol – the wait is seemingly interminable, leaving daily passersby wondering why such high-value real estate lies vacant in the middle of a Austin’s development boom.

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Austin
10:24 am
Mon April 27, 2015

Without a Permit System, Austin's Street Performers Busk with Uncertainty

James Anthony Johnson performs on South Congress. Johnson, originally from Tennessee, has been playing local venues and busking for over 20 years in Austin.
Miguel Gutierrez, Jr. for KUT Austin

Austin prides itself on being the live music capital of the world — anywhere you go, there's music, even just walking down the street. But the city’s buskers — not just the musicians, but also the magicians, bucket drummers, jugglers and others who perform for spare change on the city’s sidewalks — are operating in a legal gray area.

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Austin
7:28 am
Mon April 27, 2015

Austin Energy Working to Restore Power to Affected Areas

Energy outage map as of 7:15 this morning.
Credit Austin Energy

Storms that rolled through the area around 1 a.m. last night caused various power outages throughout Austin and surrounding areas. Austin Energy has a map of current outages here. Customers still experiencing loss of power should call 512-322-9100 to report it.  

Crews have been working to assess damage, some caused by fallen limbs, and some customers have had their power restored as of this morning.

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Austin
4:59 pm
Fri April 24, 2015

Can City Officials Create a Level Playing Field for Cab, Uber and Lyft Drivers?

Raido Kalma/flickr

Many things have changed in the five years since the Austin City Council last approved a contract with taxi franchises.

For one, ride service companies like Uber and Lyft have become more of a norm than an anomaly. Still, cab companies say their drivers are not operating on a level playing field when it comes to regulations.

Now, the Austin City Council, for the first time, says it's going to do an analysis of exactly how level the field is.

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