Austin

Austin
8:28 am
Thu July 9, 2015

As Austin's 65-Plus Population Grows, Seniors Face Housing Hurdles

A company called Lennar builds homes for 'multigenerational' families — i.e., older parents who live with their adult children. They're calling it the "next-gen" home.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The 65-and-older demographic grows nationwide by about a million people every year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That spike in growth has played out in Central Texas, and Austin's been the epicenter of that growth. The city's seen a higher growth rate of its pre-senior population — those between 55 and 65 — than anywhere else in the country, and it has the second highest rate of senior growth, those 65 and older. 

While getting older has its perks, it also has its challenges, and a major challenge people 65 and older face is housing.

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Austin
4:13 pm
Wed July 8, 2015

Listen: Some of Austin Music Hall's Worst Yelp Reviews

Austin Music Hall owners announced they're having the venue torn down to make room for an office tower.
Roy Niswanger/flickr

Another Austin club announced it’s closing up shop. Representatives of the Cielo Property Group, the company that owns Austin Music Hall, confirmed to the Austin Business Journal that they’ll knock it down to build a 28-story office tower, with construction starting early next year.

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Wayback Wednesday
2:19 pm
Wed July 8, 2015

Austin's Australian Sister City Might Want Its Opal Back

This opal, originally part of a ceremonial necklace commissioned by a former Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Australia, now resides in a safety deposit box in Austin.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Adelaide, the capital city of the state of South Australia, was designated in 1983 as one of Austin's sister cities. That's why, 32 years ago this Saturday, Adelaide officials gifted a $50,000 opal to Austin — a gift that the Australian city now wants back.

Adelaide newspaper The Advertiser reported back in May that the opal, which was worth $10,000 at the time, was “donated” to Austin as a result of an Adelaidian feud. Papers from the area report “mysterious” circumstances surrounding the gift. 

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Austin
10:36 am
Tue July 7, 2015

Same-Sex Couples Looking to Adopt Could See Changes in Form Language

A sample birth certificate form from the City of Austin offers slots for 'Mother' and 'Father.' The state is reviewing the forms to offer language that accommodates same-sex couples.
Credit City of Austin

Earlier this month, Florida repealed its ban on adoption by same-sex couples. That’s never been illegal in Texas, but whether or not a same-sex couple can adopt a child has always come down to a judge’s opinion. But with the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges last month, judges in Texas can no longer discriminate based on a couple’s makeup.

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Austin
9:07 am
Tue July 7, 2015

Central Texas Students Fight 'Summer Melt' Between High School and College

amslerpix/flickr

High schools like to brag about how many students they graduate and how many of those students are headed to college in the fall. 

But once those graduating seniors receive their diploma, for many schools, their work is done. The support these students have grown accustomed to throughout high school disappears. 

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Austin
7:26 am
Tue July 7, 2015

Google Testing Self-Driving Vehicles in Austin

Google's confirmed that it's testing a self-driving car system in Austin. The project is working independently from the City of Austin and the Texas Department of Transportation, both of whom have expressed support for the project.

From the Texas Tribune:

After years of experimenting with its groundbreaking autonomous vehicle technology almost exclusively in California, Google confirmed Monday that it has begun testing one of its self-driving vehicles in Austin.

A white Lexus RX 450h SUV outfitted with the company’s sensors and software began making trips without the aid of a driver in the city within the past week, said Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google self-driving car project. Another vehicle will join it in the area for testing this week.

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Austin
8:15 am
Fri July 3, 2015

How to Enjoy the Fireworks (and Get Home Safely) This 4th of July

The city's fireworks celebration will begin as early as 5 p.m. on Saturday. It's the first time the event's been held at Auditorium Shores in two years.
Mengwen Cao for KUT

It’s nearly time for the Fourth of July celebration in Austin.

There’ll be warm weather and probably plenty of sun, all capped off by fireworks at Auditorium Shores for the first time in years. But there’s also going to be plenty of traffic, road closures and scarce parking. Here's a look at when and where to see the fireworks, closures and alternate ways of getting around. 

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Austin
4:25 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

How Could Austin Become More Welcoming to People From Other Countries?

An Austin commission is compiling a report trying to gauge how welcoming the city seems to new people.
Jessica Wright/flickr

What does it mean to be a "welcoming" city?

More specifically, what would Austin need to do to become more welcoming toward people from other countries? Perhaps it would need to implement signage in different languages, or perhaps, it'd need to do other things.

In order to find out what those other things are, a team of advisors recently surveyed Austinites and is compiling the answers into a report.

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Music
9:03 am
Thu July 2, 2015

Petition Suggests Giving Priced-Out Venues Rent Control. But Is That Possible in Austin?

The crowd at an event protesting the Hyatt hotel development adjacent to Cheer Up Charlies.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Last week downtown Austin music venue Holy Mountain announced it will close its doors this fall because of rising rent prices. Advocates say more music venues will begin to fall as Austin rents increase — the club's neighbor Red 7 is also staring down a rent hike. So some Austinites and out of town music-boosters are floating a solution.

A 500-plus signature petition on change.org is proposing a simple solution to the Austin City Council: rent control. 

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Wayback Wednesday
4:33 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Austin's Referendum That Would've Legalized Sexuality-Based Housing Discrimination

Jim Obergefell (second from left) celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage last week. Still, he said, housing discrimination remains an issue for the LGBTQ community.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Last week’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges represents a monumental step in the movement for LGBTQ equal rights, but it wasn’t the final footfall in Texas. As the case's lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell put it last week in a rally at the State Capitol, issues surrounding employment and fair housing protections aren’t codified in Texas state law.

But, in Austin, the city council passed a sexual preference employment protection in August of 1975, and a “public accommodations ordinance” that banned discrimination based on sexual preference in 1976. So why, despite those progressive policies, did an Austin organization lead an initiative to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual preference? 

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Austin
10:16 am
Fri June 26, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage is Now Legal in Texas

Bryna Wortham (left) and Diane Jones were married today at the Travis County Courthouse.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

This post will be updated. 

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, and within hours, the Travis County Clerk and other county clerks in Texas began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ruling means big changes for Texas, since to date the state had banned same-sex marriages, defining marriage strictly as between a man and a woman. Today, hundreds of marriage licenses were issued across the state to couples, some of whom had been waiting years for this opportunity. By 5:30 p.m., the Travis County Clerk's office had issued 181 marriage licenses to different- and same-gender couples. (Compared to yesterday, when they issued 17 licenses overall.)

But, there are still those who aren't so sure it's a good idea for the federal government to make this declaration about marriage. Mose Buchele talked to folks at the Texas Capitol today to see how they feel about the decision.

Update, 3:15 PM:

Hundreds of people went to the Travis County Clerk’s Office today to get their marriage licenses. For many, the next step was to head to the Courthouse for a three-day waiver from a judge. Texas law requires couples to wait three days before a wedding ceremony, but some same-sex couples don't want to wait any longer.

One of those couples seeking a waiver was Amy and Di Williams, who have been waiting years to marry legally. Their wedding ceremony is tomorrow, and they shared their story with KUT News. Take a listen: 

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Austin
5:00 am
Thu June 25, 2015

National Debate Has Austin Stores Asking: Should We Stop Selling Confederate Flags?

The owner of Banana Bay Tactical says they will continue to sell Confederate flag merchandise for now.
Terrence Henry/KUT

After a tragic shooting at a historical black church in Charleston, South Carolina this month, there’s been a growing national conversation on whether or not to display or sell symbols of the Confederacy.

National retailers Walmart, Amazon and eBay have all announced they will stop selling Confederate battle flag merchandise. Here in Austin, while some stores are also ending sales of Confederate flags and merchandise, others say they will continue to sell the products. 

"Took mine down, and they're out of here," says Ed Hall, owner of The Quonset Hut, a military surplus store just north of the University of Texas at Austin campus. 

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Wayback Wednesday
2:52 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

The Once and (Possibly Future) 'Dillo

The Armadillo Express, known affectionately as the 'Dillo, ran from the 1970s until 2009.
Austin City Council

This week’s Wayback Wednesday looks simultaneously back at and forward to a one-time staple of Austin life: the ‘Dillo. The once-beloved bus line transported folks around town from its inception in the 1970s until the lines hit their last stops in 2009.

The bus was, as Richard Linklater might say, a “spiritual sequel” to the streetcar lines that traversed the Downtown corridor as early as the 1870s, but, like the city’s first gamble with mass transit, the ‘Dillo could soon see a resurgence with the help of private sector backing.

The lines started initially as a downtown-circulating park-and-ride program in the 1970s. The city officially backed the program known as the “Armadillo Express” in 1983, allocating $88,650 from the budget for five buses. Backed by downtown businesses and the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Armadillo Express was officially dedicated in May of 1984.

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Austin
1:13 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

Task Force Will Examine Future of Jefferson Davis Statue Amid Call For Its Removal

Courtesy of students' petition at change.org

Update: UT Austin President Greg Fenves announced this morning the members of a 12-person task force that will discuss the future of the Jefferson Davis statue on campus. 

UT Austin's Student Government and Graduate Student Assembly want the statue of Davis removed and placed in a museum. Earlier this week, Fenves met with students to discuss their concerns.

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Austin
10:38 am
Wed June 24, 2015

New Council Introduces Era of More Meetings

In the first few months of 2014, Council members spent about 34.3 hours in committee meetings, and this Council has spent 108.15 hours so far.
Callie Hernandez/KUT News.

From the Austin Monitor: In January, there was a shake-up at City Hall, with Austin ushering in its first geographically based City Council. Now, six months later, what has it meant? Most obviously, a lot more meetings.

Videos available on the city’s website show that the amount of time the new Council had spent in meetings from February through June 23, 2015, increased approximately 121 percent over the previous Council during the same span in 2014 — from 152.6 hours to 337.9 hours.

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Austin
11:49 am
Tue June 23, 2015

Fun Fun Fun Fest Fights for Space

Parks Department staff says festival use of Auditorium Shores' off-leash dog area is something they specifically set out to prohibit during redesign.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor: The battle rages bloodless over a 3-acre tract of dog park.

The Parks and Recreation Department and the organizer of Fun Fun Fun Fest, Transmission Events, are ensnarled in a dispute over festival planning. At the center of that dispute is the new off-leash area at the renovated Vic Mathias Shores, formerly Auditorium Shores. If there isn’t a resolution by this Thursday, City Council may intervene.

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Higher Ed
2:00 pm
Sun June 21, 2015

Higher Ed: Conquering Math 'Phobia'

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

"I was told there would be no math!"

It's a line people sometimes say in mock frustration when faced with a situation involving arithmetic.  For some people, the thought of doing addition or subtraction causes their hearts to race and their palms to sweat.

Why is that? Why do so many of us fear numbers? In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger confront the concept of math phobia and explore ways to conquer it.

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Austin
5:03 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

Austin Church Holds Prayer Vigil for Victims of Charleston Shooting

Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church holds a prayer vigil for the victims of the South Carolina church shooting.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Austin church and community members came together today to pray and grieve for the victims of the Charleston, South Carolina church massacre, in which nine people were killed Wednesday.

The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Austin held a prayer service this afternoon to honor the victims. 

Minister Carolyn Turner Francis says she attended the ceremony to grieve with members of her community in a supportive, uplifting environment.

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Austin Police
11:06 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Austin Police Adding to DWI Enforcement Unit

Commander Art Fortune is adding officers to APD's DWI enforcement team.
Credit Miguel Gutierrez Jr for KUT News

Austin has seen a rise in traffic fatalities this year, with nearly double the number of deaths so far in 2015 as occurred during the same period last year. Many of the crashes have involved impaired driving, and the Austin Police Department is stepping up their enforcement in response.

For the last 17 years, the Austin Police Department has used a dedicated DWI enforcement team of a dozen police officers to go after drunk drivers. They help patrol officers respond to DWI arrests and do blood alcohol tests, but the department hasn’t staffed the unit seven days a week. 

Right now, the unit only works Tuesday through Saturday, even though DWI fatality crashes occur every night of the week, especially on Sundays. Of the nearly fifty traffic fatalities so far this year, 18 occurred on Sunday and Monday. 

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Austin
10:24 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Has Austin Really Reduced Its Plastic Bag Consumption By 75 Percent?

A report commissioned by the City of Austin says that a plastic bag ban reduced bag use by 75 percent. But no data was collected on bag use before the ban.
Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

Last week, a report commissioned by the City of Austin was released which looked at the effect of the plastic bag ban in the city.

The report says that, in the two years since the Austin City Council banned single-use plastic bags, Austin reduced its annual consumption of plastic bags by nearly 75 percent. But some researchers say that’s not entirely true.

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