News, events, and entertainment happening in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

Travis County and the City of Austin take part in a regular fiscal dance with the State of Texas over who pays the costs of government. Over the next three days, KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.” Today, we take on Austin’s Municipal Courts. 

When Austin residents are handed traffic tickets or other Municipal Court fees and fines, they likely assume that the city is profiting handsomely from those often colorful sheets of paper. If they could see where those revenues go, however, they might come to a different conclusion.

In fact, the city’s current budget projects that the court will face a roughly $3.7 million shortfall in the fiscal year that started in October by incurring about $19.7 million in general expenses and pulling in about $16 million in general revenue. On top of that, it projects that the court will fall short in three of its special revenue funds and break even on the fourth.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Last year, we met Redding McArdle outside Hyde Park’s Shipe Pool. The two-year-old wore blue arm floats and a bathing suit, but the gates to the pool were locked, and McArdle had a slightly dejected look on his face.

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

There's a buffet of tax cuts lying before state lawmakers this session, and cut supporters say the state wins no matter what gets put on its plate.

Lawmakers have served up plans to cut business franchise taxes, slice sales tax rates and even nibbled around the idea of a proposal to phase out property taxes entirely. While some of these proposals won’t make the plate this session, the state is prepped to approve billions in tax cuts before the legislature’s regular session gavels out in six weeks.

Sarah Montgomery for KUT

John Legend is well-known for his music. He’s won Grammys and, most recently, he and Chicago rapper Common won an Academy Award for the original song “Glory” from the film Selma. During his acceptance speech, Legend used the podium to draw attention to the high incarceration rate in the U.S.

Yesterday, he came to the Texas Capitol to continue that advocacy and kick off a national campaign called Free America, which aims to drop the country’s incarceration rate.

Screenshot from Youtube.

Update Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 3:30 p.m. Council member Don Zimmerman confirmed that Rebecca Forest has stepped down from her appointment to the Immigrant Affairs Commission.

Of Forest's remarks, made at the 2011 rally (see the youtube video below), Zimmerman said, "I don't judge Rebecca Forest by a clumsy remark. I judge her based on ten years of knowing her, and she's not a bigoted person."

Daniel Hoherd/flickr

This story has been updated since it was originally published and corrected due to an editing error.

From the Austin Monitor: A bill that could have major implications for Austin Energy and the city budget passed its first hurdle on Tuesday and now goes to the Senate floor. It could give certain Austin Energy customers the ability to break away from the utility and buy energy on the deregulated market.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development passed Senate Bill 1945 on a six-vote majority, with Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) casting the sole opposing vote.

ACL via YouTube

Today’s Wayback Wednesday looks back at some memorable performances of the 41-year-old music program. One of ACL's creators, Bill Arhos, passed away last Saturday at the age of 80. So as a tribute of sorts, we’ve compiled videos from the show’s four-decade run, with a song from the show’s inaugural broadcast in 1974 with Willie Nelson, a 1982 set from Emmylou Harris, a cut from what would be Stevie Ray Vaughan’s final performance at Studio 6A, and a recent tune from Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Check out the full video playlist below.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

It's been 100 days since the new Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler took office, and last night Adler delivered his first State of the City address.

It was a packed and very diverse event — with nearly a thousand in attendance — which was a change of pace from the typically subdued addresses of the past.

While the event was free and open to the public, it wasn't free for the Mayor. As he told reporters afterwards, he and his wife paid to rent AISD's Performing Arts Center for the occasion. While he didn't say how much it cost, he did say he also footed the bill for a set from Austin musician Max Frost, who performed "White Lies," perhaps a curious choice for a political event.


Austin City Limits co-founder Bill Arhos, who was instrumental in the development of the longest-running music program in the nation's history, died over the weekend. He was 80.

While working as a producer at KLRN (now KLRU) in October 1974, Arhos partnered with Paul Bosner and Bruce Scafe to produce the first show in the concert series, which featured Willie Nelson.

“He was a real character, known and loved not just in Austin but throughout the PBS system. The idea for Austin City Limits was not just his alone, but he brought it to life, and he kept the show going and growing through some difficult times,” said Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona in a written statement. “Whether they know it or not, millions of music fans, artists and PBS viewers owe a debt to him for his enormous contribution to what’s become a cultural institution.”

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

This is normally a busy time of year for anyone involved with city elections in Austin. Some school districts and local governments in the area have things on the ballot.

But it's the first time Austinites will not be voting for city council in May, and this new timing may help solve a city-wide voting challenge: finding an open polling place.

Nathan King/flickr

From the Austin Monitor: Before the Austin Animal Advisory Commission endorsed a proposed ordinance Wednesday banning the use of painful devices on circus animals, commissioners deliberated how the city should define a circus animal.

Members said the inclusion of lions, tigers and bears, plus other usual circus animals, was certainly right. However, Commissioner Babette Ellis worried that including horses and dogs might affect those animals traveling to the city for non-circus events, such as the upcoming Austin Kennel Club Dog Show.

Courtesy of Jerry Parsons

This week’s Wayback Wednesday examines the state’s beloved bluebonnet, though not the "blue" so much as the other hues that have graced the petals of Texas' state flower.

The wildflower comes in all manner of colors – blue, white, pink, red and even maroon, which Longhorn fans became intimately aware of last year. But the roots of these bluebonnet variants stretch back over 30 years, when a young, if not naïve, Texas A&M vegetable specialist took up the challenge of creating a Texas flag solely comprised of the state flowers.

“Being naïve, I said, ‘We’ve already got a third of it done!’ like an idiot,” says former Texas A&M horticulturist Jerry Parsons. “You know how young people are.”

KUT News

Craigslist and other online forums are all about connections. Some are hilariously missed. But other times those connections go horribly awry, and one party is left with less than they bargained for — or worse.

So to combat scams, robberies and assaults resulting from online transactions, Craigslist suggests that people make “high-value” exchanges at local police stations. And police departments across the country have started opening up their doors to buyers and sellers and creating so-called Craigslist safe zones.

KUT News

Every spring clouds of green pollen descend on Austin, bringing misery to allergy-suffering public radio reporters like me and frustrating drivers like DeAunderia Bowens.

"You know I just got my car washed and literally got up the next morning and my car was covered with this green stuff!" she said on her way to work. "If I had a green car it would be alright, but clearly not working on a grey vehicle.”

This time of year the stuff is oak pollen, but why does its get everywhere? The answer might make you look at trees a little differently.

It turns out we are surrounded by tree sex.

Megan Jo Olson for Texas Standard.

This story comes from Texas Standard.

At the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, Texas Standard volunteer Megan Jo Olson approached a handful of women and asked them an uncomfortable question: “Have you experienced stress urinary incontinence?”

The answer from a lot of the women was, “Yes.”

Joy Diaz/KUT News

There are more than 100 registered neighborhood associations in Austin. Sometimes there are even multiple associations in the same neighborhood. In mobile home communities, however, they're rare — not just in Austin, but nationwide.

But after the neighbors at Stonegate Mobile Home Park in North Central Austin started feeling pressured by fees from management, they decided to organize their own.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

For some, Easter means dyeing eggs, stuffing candy into colorful baskets, and maybe eating some of those chocolate Easter bunnies. But some people have noticed another trend: Parents buy their kids baby bunnies – real ones – for Easter.

Then, once the bunnies grow to full size – some can be up to 13 pounds – what had at first seemed like a cute gift ends up demanding a lot of care.

Courtesy of Valerie Romness

Long-time Austinites might remember Homer the Homeless Goose, who rose to local and even national fame in the late 1980s as a champion for the rights of the homeless community. Homer served as the mascot for Austin’s unhoused population. He passed away last month at the age of 27 (a pretty long life for a goose – over 100 in goose years, according to Austin Zoo officials).

“Austin’s homeless mascot for 27 years took a forever flight…Folks that hear about him for the first time will wish that they could have met Ole Homer,” Fred Pettit wrote in The Challenger, a newspaper written and distributed by Austin's homeless.

A memorial will be held for Homer this weekend.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Following weeks of deliberation, the mayor and City Council offices are receiving a boost in staffing — at least for the next few months.

Council voted 9-2 Thursday to approve a resolution that will effectively add three full-time staff members to Mayor Steve Adler’s office and one full-time staff member to each Council office for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 1. This will raise the number of staff members in Adler’s office from five to eight, and in each Council office from three to four.

Council Members Delia Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo cast the dissenting votes.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Update Thursday April 2, 2015, 4:20 p.m. At today’s meeting, the Austin City Council voted to start a stakeholder input process on possibly regulating barbecue smoke from restaurants.

Recommendations will be made by the city manager to the Health and Human Services Committee and the Economic Opportunity Committee. After July 31, there will be another chance for public comment.

ORIGINAL STORY from the Austin Monitor: In response to owners of barbecue restaurants worried about their future in Austin, City Council Member Pio Renteria is making some changes to his resolution directing city staff to create rules to regulate smoke from commercial barbecue smokestacks.

Originally, the resolution was written to require restaurants and mobile food vendors who use a wood or charcoal burning stove or grill within 150 feet of properties zoned residential to install exhaust systems called smoke scrubbers or similar devices.