Austin

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

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

This is the first story in our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

One hundred and two people died on Austin’s roads in 2015 - the most ever recorded. More than 20 have met a similar fate so far this year. Nearly every death involved a car. Yet, in a city where 93 percent of households own a car, Francis Reilly does not. Reilly works in the city's planning office.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft were dealt a stunning blow Saturday, as Austin voters rejected Proposition 1 by a 12-percent margin.
 

The proposition, put on the ballot by a petition circulated by the political action committee backed by Uber and Lyft, would have repealed a city ordinance requiring fingerprint background checks for ride-hailing drivers.


KUT News

Update 9 p.m. Election day totals now are nearly the same as those reported earlier, with 44% in favor and 56% against Prop 1. 

7 p.m. Early voting totals are in for Austin's Proposition 1 election: 44% voted for Prop 1, and 56% voted against. Proposition 1 deals with regulations for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Both companies have said they'll cease to operate in Austin if the measure does not pass. Uber set a hard-out for 8 a.m. Monday. Lyft set its out for 5 a.m. Monday.

KUT

Austin voters head to the polls today to vote on the question known as Proposition 1, which deals with regulations for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Only people who live inside the Austin city limits and are already registered to vote will be able to cast a ballot on this issue.  

You've probably heard something about the ballot measure, but if you're not fully up to speed, we've arranged this handy guide.

Council Votes to Permanently Tighten Water Restrictions

May 6, 2016
flickr.com/camknows

Central Texas is drought-free. The Highland Lakes are full and for the first time in years, Austin was on the brink of ending its water use restrictions. But not so fast – yesterday the Austin City Council passed new water conservation guidelines, which include some permanent restrictions. The city won’t be going back to the way things were before.


Ride-hailing service Lyft notified drivers this afternoon that it would shut down operations in Austin at 5 a.m. Monday if voters reject Proposition 1.

If the measure fails, requirements for fingerprint-based background checks for ride-hailing drivers would be phased in over the next year. Both Uber and Lyft have said they will not operate under those requirements, insisting their own background checks and GPS tracking technology make the service safe. 

Austin City Limits Announces 2016 Lineup

May 5, 2016

The Austin City Limits Music Festival has announced the lineup for its 15th installment of the festival, with heavy hitters Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem and Mumford & Sons headlining the fest. Austin's own Willie Nelson will also join the festivities in his first ACL appearance during the fest's second weekend.

The festival's first weekend will descend on Zilker Park from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, with the second weekend running Oct. 7 to Oct. 9. Tickets for the festival go on sale today at 10 a.m. on ACL's website.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Unbeknownst to some, the City of Austin has licensed five ride-hailing companies for operation. In case you haven’t opened your mailbox or clicked on your TV recently, two of those companies, Uber and Lyft, are currently embroiled in a public vote over what regulations the companies should be subject to.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Uber is facing a federal class action lawsuit after mass-texting its Austin users ahead of the Proposition 1 vote over ride-hailing regulations.

The lawsuit, filed by Austin activist Melissa Cubria, alleges Uber violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when it robo-texted Austinites this week, urging them to support Proposition 1 at the ballot box. The suit argues that Uber's texts violated users' privacy and violated the law, which protects consumers against unwanted voice or text contact from political campaigns "unless in an emergency or with consent of the recipient of the call," according to the suit.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

The City of Austin’s Vision Zero plan continued its final parade through boards and commissions Monday with a visit to the Public Safety Commission. And while some commissioners were dissatisfied with the 94-page document, others had little to say.

“About the only thing I can say is the pictures are pretty,” said Commissioner Mike Levy to open the discussion. “It was as if it basically has nothing to do with what the task force did.”

Mose Buchele/KUT

We’ve had a pretty rainy April here in Central Texas, with more rain ahead for May.  During our weekly deluge, you might have noticed a lot of rain seems to fall in the middle of the night.  Well, KUT’s Mose Buchele has always wondered why. So, he took his questions to Time Warner Cable News meteorologist Burton Fitzsimmons.

vcucns / flickr

The University of Texas at Austin is working to get a drug that stops people from overdosing on opioids, such as heroin and prescription pills, into the hands of resident advisors and campus police. The student government recently approved a resolution, and advocates are working to get a standing order at the school’s pharmacy.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

The political action committee that put Proposition 1 on the ballot and is campaigning for it received about $6 million from ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft in the past month.

According to documents filed Friday with the Austin City Clerk’s office, Ridesharing Works for Austin raised that sum between March 29 and April 28. The campaign has spent the bulk of that money over the past month, in staff salaries, television advertising, direct mail and consulting work.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Zilker Tree turns 50 this coming winter, and it’s getting spruced up for the occasion. The Tree, which most of the year is actually one of Austin's moontowers, was taken down Friday morning and removed from Zilker Park to be sandblasted, repainted and touched up at a shop in New Braunfels.

The city still has 17 of its original 31 moonlight towers (the uninitiated might remember the towers from cameos in Dazed and Confused), and Austin Energy has contracted with tower restoration company Enertech Resources, LLC, to repair and restore all 17. They’ve fully restored one so far, but they have inspected all of them. None of the towers, more than a century old, have any major structural damage, said Carlos Cordova with Austin Energy.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This year's heavy rains and severe thunderstorms have city officials asking Austin’s small business owners to set aside time to prepare for natural disasters and emergencies.

David Hook was working at his furniture store last year when floodwaters began seeping in from under the door. He was able to move a lot of the merchandise out of the water’s way.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

When she’s not driving for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, Sara Kaminsky works as a personal trainer. In fact, I exited her Toyota Corolla with a brochure for Shakeology, a weight loss program that helped Kaminsky shed more than 100 pounds over two years.

I confessed that I needed to get in shape. “I could help you with that,” said Kaminsky. But mostly she helped me with a free ride Thursday morning to my nearest polling station, at Maplewood Elementary School.


Miguel Guitierrez Jr. / KUT

At the City of Austin’s budget season opener Wednesday, council members heard again of Austin’s two cities: the city’s widening economic divisions amidst claims that the city is “an economic star.”

“This is extraordinary growth,” economic consultant Jon Hockenyos told council members as he pointed out a 4.6 percent increase in jobs last year, plus an anticipated 7 to 8 percent gain in personal income in the coming year. “It is hard to imagine any other community that has consistently grown in the aggregate that the Austin metro area has.”

Jimmy Maas / KUT

What’s on your city flag? If your city has one at all, it’s likely an official seal with wording. More likely, you have not given a city flag any thought at all. But there is one man who wants to change that for his town.

Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell is on a mission to create a lasting legacy for his city, something citizens can look upon for generations: a city flag.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

UPDATE: In a news conference this afternoon, City of Houston officials made clear they did not plan to concede to Uber's demands to repeal the city's current regulations for permitting ride-hailing drivers.

“If the city’s process protected even one person as relates to public safety, it has been worth it, and in this city we cannot afford to compromise public safety,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Turner said he hoped Uber would not leave, but stood firm that the company must comply with the city's current regulations. He claimed to be surprised by a letter from Uber today saying it would cease doing business in Houston if the rules, specifically related to fingerprint background checks, were not altered. Turner said the company had not expressed their need to leave, absent a change, in meetings he had with company officials in the past several months.

Turner called it "ironic" that Uber would make such a demand in the midst of Austin's vote on a measure that would roll back requirements for fingerprinting driver here.

From the Texas Tribune: Uber announced Wednesday that the company plans to cease operations in Houston if the city council does not repeal its existing regulations relating to vehicle-for-hire companies.

Houston is one of two cities in the country where Uber continues to operate despite a local requirement that its drivers undergo fingerprint-based background checks. Uber has recently left three cities in Texas for approving similar regulations and has threatened to do the same in Austin.

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 1894. 

Pages