Austin

Geographic Representation
7:49 am
Tue November 26, 2013

MAP: With 10-1 Map In the Books, Austin Concludes Redistricting (Update)

Update: Austin’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted unanimously last night to certify the district maps for future city council elections.

The group split the city into ten districts. Starting next November, voters in each district will elect a single city council member. Previously, all council members were elected at-large.

Check out this interactive version of the district map:

View Larger Map

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Winter Weather
12:27 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Winter Weather Advisory Canceled; Warmer, Drier Weather Ahead (Update)

Temperatures are expected to rise in the Austin area over the next few days.
National Weather Service

Update: Rain is expected to continue today through the Austin area but our chances of freezing precipitation have gone down considerably.

While sleet is still possible, forecasters don’t expect any of that frozen precipitation to accumulate.

Corey Van Pelt is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Austin/San Antonio. He says the outlook is warmer and drier as the week continues.

“It looks like by tomorrow afternoon this upper low moves through, so then we’ll get some drier weather behind it. It’ll still be cool though, Wednesday and Thursday mornings we’re expecting temperatures down in the 20's in the morning but then they warm back up into the 50's during the today. And it looks like by next weekend we’re back in the 60's, close to 70.”

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Halloween Floods
9:49 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving in Dove Springs: How Families Are Celebrating After the Floods

Volunteers prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for Onion Creek flood victims Sunday. Overall, they served 120 meals and delivered dozens more to families affected in the area.
Connie Gonzaes, Facebook

As people are gearing up for Thanksgiving, many families impacted by last month’s flooding are still trying to put their lives back together.The floods severely damaged more than 600 homes and many of those people still don’t have a permanent place to stay.

But residents came together Sunday night to provide some flood victims with a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to escape the cold temperatures, if only for a few hours.

The event was organized by Dove Springs resident Robert Kibbie and Pastor Richard Villarreal with The Springs Community Church. Overall, 120 meals were served. Volunteers also delivered 60 meals to people who were not able to attend the actual event.

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Homelessness
8:45 am
Mon November 25, 2013

VIDEO: The Hidden Face of Austin's Homeless

Children and families are among Austin's homeless.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

While the visible face of homelessness tends to be a single person by the side of the road in the downtown area, homelessness is so much more – it can be your cousin, your neighbor, your childhood friend, families with little children.

KUT’s Jorge Sanheuza-Lyon put together this video on the hidden face of homelessness in Austin:

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Geographic Representation
8:22 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Is This City Hall's Most Powerful Leader Under Austin's Change to 10-1?

City Manager Marc Ott at a council work session in 2011. Ott is not a very visible figure in city politics – but that doesn’t mean he’s not influential.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

This article was co-produced with KUT News’ Joy Diaz as part of an ongoing City of Austin reporting partnership between In Fact Daily and KUT. Listen to KUT's broadcast story in the audio player below.

Among the changes that will accompany the start of districted representation for Austin City Council members, at least one unintended consequence is causing some level of civic heartburn for interests represented by figures ranging from current sitting Council members to the outspoken face of the 10-1 movement: A potential shift in the way things get done at City Hall.

That change, should it play out, will find the office of City Manager – the unelected executive arm of city government –  becoming a much more powerful position. “The City Manager, at least temporarily – until people find their footing – is going to have a substantial amount of power,” said longtime Austin political organizer David Butts.

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JFK Assassination: 50 Years Later
4:23 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

After Dallas, Austin Would Have Been JFK's Next Stop on Texas Tour

Among the stops planned for President Kennedy in Austin: a fundraiser at the Municipal Auditorium and Convention Center, where the Long Center for the Performing Arts now sits.
Austin History Center/Image No. PICA 07067

It was supposed to be a five-city tour of Texas.

Over the course of two days in November 1963, President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline were scheduled to visit San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth and Dallas – ending with a stop in Austin. 

The Kennedys arrived in San Antonio Thursday, Nov. 21. From there, they traveled to Houston and before packing it in at the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth.

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Urban Agriculture
10:11 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Where Do We Grow From Here? Urban Farms and Gentrification in East Austin

Eastside graffiti near HausBar Farms asks a pressing question about the future of the rapidly changing neighborhood.
Phoebe Ann Flanigan for KUT News

Debate over whether urban farms contribute to the gentrification of Austin’s eastside was prolonged last month, when the Austin City Council decided to postpone a decision on changes to the city's urban farm rules. The council is slated to take action on that matter today.

Before their decision, a look at the issue from two standpoints: an examination of the gentrification debate, and a look at one urban farm in action.

Walk down the gravel path at 3300 Govalle Road and you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the middle of the countryside. “It doesn’t even feel like you’re in the city of Austin,” says Dorsey Barger.

She would know: as a co-owner of HausBar Farms, she gets to live there.

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Enviorment
8:32 am
Thu November 21, 2013

How Rain Brought Fall Colors Back to Austin

Austin's seeing brighter leaves this fall, thanks to recent rainfall.
Credit flickr.com/visualpanic

Think of fall’s turning leaves, and Texas may not be the first state to come to mind. But Austinites have seen their fair share of autumnal red and gold this year – thanks in large part to recent rains.

Jerry Brand, a molecular bioscience professor at the University of Texas, says the color changes in the leaves are due to a specific molecule called a carotenoid.  

“These color molecules called carotenoids can come in several different colors depending on the plant, depending on the light intensity they’ve been exposed to, and other environmental factors,” Brand says.

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Halloween Floods
11:10 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Austin, Travis Co. Flood Damage Falls Short of FEMA Aid Threshold

In this Nov. 4 photo, Maria Isabel Fabian tries to salvage an heirloom tablecloth from her flood-damaged home in Dove Springs. Damage from the Halloween floods is estimated at over $14 million.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The region's Halloween’s floods caused some $14 million in damage in Travis County. But it doesn’t look like the county will get federal assistance.

That’s what Emergency Management coordinator Pete Baldwin told the Travis County Commissioner’s Court yesterday. In order to get Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, the state has to have at least $35 million in damage.

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Childhood Obesity
11:28 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Could a 'Healthy Food Zone' Keep Fast Food Away from Austin Schools?

A “healthy food zone” ordinance on track for 2016 could prohibit new fast food restaurants from opening near schools and parks.
flickr.com/dno1967b

A “healthy food zone” ordinance could be in the works for areas surrounding Austin schools, parks, recreation centers, libraries and child care centers. And that could potentially mean a prohibition on new fast food restaurants in those areas.

In an effort to battle childhood obesity, the City of Austin and Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services have developed a Community Health Improvement Plan. One of the priorities in the plan is creating healthier environments for children. To that end, the plan has an objective of creating “healthy food zones” around specific areas by June 2016.

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Geographic Representation
9:35 am
Tue November 19, 2013

MAP: Austin Redistricting Commission OKs Final Council Districts

Credit Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

After some last minute changes, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission unanimously approved a map for Austin’s new City Council districts last night.

Most changes to the map were relatively minor, especially compared to previous revisions. South Austin District Five, for instance, was extended to reach up to Lady Bird Lake.

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Chief Innovation Officer
4:29 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Austin's Getting a Chief Innovation Officer. (So What the Heck Does That Mean?)

Austin is adding a new Innovation Office, but the actual work of the office is yet to be defined.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The City of Austin will soon name a leader for its newly created Innovation Office.

So what exactly will this person do – and does Austin need one?

Innovation – like sustainability, transparency, and social responsibility – are buzzwords the public sector is appropriating from the business world. Austin established its own Office of Sustainability in 2010.

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Halloween Floods
10:45 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Cause of Onion Creek Flood Gauge Failure Still Unknown

During the Halloween Floods, two of the flood gauges in Onion Creek failed, forcing National Weather Service workers to rely on workers in the field to read flood levels. Officials are still investigating why one of the gauges failed.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Early on the morning of Oct. 31, as waters rose to historic levels in Onion Creek, two of the flood gauges that officials rely on to monitor water levels weren't working. The flooding heavily damaged more than 600 homes and killed five.

One gauge was completely submerged by water, damaging the equipment – which isn't waterproof. But the other had malfunctioned before the flooding even began. And more than two weeks after the Halloween Floods, city and emergency officials still don't know why.

The gauges, which are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), provide emergency responders with critical information during floods about how fast and how high flood waters are rising. In Austin, there are 130 flood gauges that measure water levels, rainfall and low-water crossings 24 hours a day.

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Formula 1
8:38 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Record Airport Travel Expected as Austin F1 Ends; Downtown Road Closures Persist (MAP)

Sunset at the Circuit of the Americas on Thursday. Officials at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport say today’s F1 exodus could mean the airport’s busiest departure day ever.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

More than 113,000 people attended Austin’s Formula 1 Grand Prix race on Sunday. Race fans watched Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel speed to a record-breaking eighth consecutive victory.

Many of the out-of-town visitors here for the F1 races will be making their way back home today. Officials at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport predict today could be the busiest departure day ever.

Austin-Bergstrom set a record of more than 21,000 departures the Monday after last year’s race.

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Homelessness
5:57 am
Mon November 18, 2013

VIDEO: Sunrise Memorial Service for Homeless Austinites Who Died in Poverty

Austinites gathered at the Homeless Memorial and Tree of Remembrance at Auditorium Shores on Sunday to pay tribute to people in the city's homeless community who have died over the past year.

Organizers of the 21st annual House the Homeless Sunrise Memorial Service read the names of 146 people. They placed a small star for each name on the Tree of Remembrance next to the memorial.

KUT's Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon was at the service and put together this video:

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Recycling
12:09 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

On America Recycles Day, UT Students Go for the Record with Box Castle

A student works on the box castle.
Emily Mathis for KUT News

The sound of masking tape being stretched and torn, cardboard boxes being folded, and students laughing and chattering filled Gregory Plaza on Friday morning, as more than a hundred students gathered to build the first cardboard box castle at the University of Texas.

The box building comes as a part of America Recycles Day, and the project is quickly becoming a national fad. In universities across the country, students gather to build a temporary structure made entirely of cardboard boxes and held together with masking tape.

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Geographic Representation
8:41 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Austin Holds Its Last Input Meeting on Geographic Council Districts

Redistricting commission members listen to speakers on Austin's 10 new city council districts. It was the commission’s final public input meeting.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Thursday night was the final public input meeting for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission – the group drawing Austin's ten new city council districts.

Held at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin, it was a homecoming of sorts. The same places the commission’s first input meeting back in August.

While many district boundaries have evolved, the district containing the Millennium Complex – District 1 – really hasn’t between the commission’s preliminary and final proposed maps.

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Halloween Floods
4:45 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Austin Flood Survivors Say Questions Keep Mounting as Answers Fall Short

People gathered at Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs on Nov. 13, 2013, to get more information after the Halloween Floods devastated their homes.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State lawmakers hosted a town hall meeting in a Dove Springs school last night. It’s not the first meeting for victims of the Halloween flooding, but many are still facing the same frustrations as they grapple with more questions than answers about the future of their homes.

At Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs, the scene was familiar – dozens of flood survivors gathered inside a school cafeteria to get help.  

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, was present to try and answer questions from people like Lillie Flores, whose house was gutted by the flood. She was frustrated, trying to figure out more about a new fund that Rep. Rodriguez has helped set up with State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin. It's the Austin-Travis County Flood Relief Fund.

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Austin Home Prices
3:10 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

What Recession? Census Says Downturn Didn't Hurt Austin Housing Market

flickr.com/winemegup

Austin’s housing market is hot. So hot, in fact, that it wasn’t seriously dampened in the recession to post-recession period.

New census data shows home values in Austin and in Travis County increased between 2007 to 2009 and 2010 to 2012. Most other large areas in the country saw home values decrease between those two periods.

Out of the country's  50 most populous cities, only nine cities saw an increase in the median home values during those periods. And Austin lead the pack:

  • Austin, TX: + $13,800
  • Denver, CO: + $9,600
  • Oklahoma City, OK: + $8,100
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Formula 1
12:24 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

What Austin’s Doing – and Isn’t Doing – for F1 After Last Year

A classic racer at last year’s F1 expo. Austin is making a more measured predictions after hosting its first Formula 1 race last year.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

This time last year, many local businesses were staffed up and overstocked.

In the weeks and months prior to its first Formula 1 Grand Prix, Austin prepared to host thousands of fans from around the globe.

With the sport attracting a coterie of high rollers, business expectations were high. The Austin Better Business Bureau even urged local businesses to consider accepting foreign currency.

For some, the event brought an increase in business. But for many vendors and retailers, the crowds never seemed to show up.

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