Austin

Austin
7:32 am
Fri August 29, 2014

City Council Bans Hand-Held Devices While Driving

The Austin City Council banned use of hands-free devices yesterday. The ban starts in January of 2015.
via http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyplanets/

Holding a phone while rolling on Austin streets is about to become against the law, but not just for Austinites driving cars and trucks.

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Eanes ISD
1:54 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Eanes ISD Approves Sports and Community Complex (Update)

An image from the Westlake Neighborhood Alliance website opposing Western Hills Little League's proposed complex. The proposed center's also been fought in court, but the builders say they don’t understand the concern.
nottherightsite.com

Update: The Eanes School Board last night approved an agreement with a private contractor to build a 60-70,000 square foot facility next to Westlake High School. 

The proposed complex includes five to six basketball courts, nearly a dozen volleyball courts and an indoor turf field. There are also plans to build an aquatic facility and it will used for other sports and activities, like band, karate, yoga or gymnastics. There will also be space for video conferencing and camps. The company, Westlake Athletic Center (WAC), will build the complex and pay for constructions. Ten years after it's built, WAC will also pay Eanes ISD $60,000 per year as  rent the school, with escalation costs of 2.5 percent.

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2014 Elections
10:05 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Candidates Talk Transportation at Mayoral Forum

KUT's Jennifer Stayton moderated the panel of five mayoral hopefuls at KLRU's forum.
Sam Butler/KLRU

This story from our city hall reporting partners, the Austin Monitor.
You can hear the entire mayoral debate on KUT 90.5 FM tonight at 8 p.m.

Though Austin residents can only vote for one Council member to represent their geographic district this Election Day, everyone in the city gets a say in who becomes the next mayor. Five of those in the running showed up for the Civic Summit Mayoral Candidate Forum, Wednesday, presented by KLRU, Austin’s PBS station and the Urban Land Institute.

Moderator Jennifer Stayton, host of KUT’s Morning Edition, grilled candidates Todd Phelps, Mike Martinez, Randall Stephens, Sheryl Cole and Steve Adler about how they would govern the city, focusing specifically on what each candidate would do to alleviate Austin’s traffic congestion.

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Austin
7:58 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Austin's Experimental 'Micro-Housing' Project for Chronically Homeless Breaks Ground

The interior of one of the micro-homes. Some can be rented for as low as $180 per month.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Yesterday, a decade-long dream took root for Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Graham and the organization celebrated the groundbreaking of Community First, a self-sustaining, employment-focused village for chronically homeless Austinites on the mend near Decker Lane.

The experiment aims to end homelessness by cheaply renting out up to 240 colorful cottages, offering tenants homegrown produce, employment services and a roof over their head in northeast Austin.

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Austin
2:43 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

City Council Will Consider Turning 'Barking Springs' Into an Off-Leash Park (Update)

Austin City Council will consider taking a look at turning the spillway outside Barton Springs Pool into a city park.
flickr.com/dingatx

Update: Council approved a study to turn the Barton Springs Pool spillway into a city park.

Original Post (Aug. 27, 2014): The Austin City Council will consider whether or not to turn the "free side" of Barton Springs Pool – some call it "Barking Springs" – into a city park.

A proposal from Council Member Chris Riley on tomorrow's agenda calls for studying the idea of turning the spillway that bridges the springs and Lady Bird Lake into an off-leash dog park, as well as allowing swimming there. Riley's resolution would direct City Manager Marc Ott to ask the Parks and Recreation Board and the Animal Advisory Commission what city code would need to be changed to make the park a possibility.

Earlier this month, the Austin Police Department banned drinking at the spillway after a rise in crime in the Barton Springs and Zilker Park areas.

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KUT's Summer School
4:24 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

The Secret of Comedy Success? Learning to Fail.

KUT's Mose Buchele on stage at the Velveeta Room in downtown Austin.
Terrence Henry/KUT News

On Thursday night, KUT's Mose Buchele found himself in front of a microphone, on stage at the Velveeta Room, a comedy club on Sixth Street in Austin.

"How did I get here?" he wondered. 

This summer, KUT reporters have been going to class, so to speak, to learn new skills or crafts from experts around Austin. So when Mose decided he would try his hand at stand up comedy, he called Brian Gaar for some advice. 

Take a listen to what happened:

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2014 Elections
5:29 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Can Ballot Placement Influence an Election Outcome?

City Clerk Jannette Goodall randomly draws candidate names by district and announces the order in which candidate names will appear on the ballot.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

For the 78 people running for Austin City Council and Mayor this fall, where their name is on the ballot can make a real difference on Election Day. And that was determined by a random drawing on Wednesday.

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2014 Elections
11:44 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Lack of Connections & Savvy Block Some Would-Be Candidates in Council Races

A crowded ballot may be one hindrance, but some cite a lack of political influence and savvy as a barrier in running for office.
Credit Photo by KUT News

Now that the ballot is set for Austin City Council elections, we've got a clear picture of what the races will look like heading into November. Seventy-eight candidates will be featured on the ballot. Though that may seem like a crowded field overall, some districts have as many as 12 candidates, while other districts could only have a few candidates.

That kind of disparity has some asking whether the new, for-the-people-by-the-people ethos of the 10-1 system can help political neophytes overcome the hurdles and trappings of political campaigns.

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2014 Elections
10:19 am
Tue August 19, 2014

Here's Who's Running for Austin Mayor and City Council

Construction crews renovate the inside of the Austin City Council Chambers earlier this year, to make room for a larger council.
Bryan Winter/KUT News

Nearly two years after Austinites passed the 10-1 plan – which allows voters to elect city council members from their respective geographic district while the mayor is still elected by all voters – the plan has arrived at its penultimate step: The ballot is set. 

In total, 78 candidates submitted their names for voter approval ahead of the city and county elections in November. The ballot features some familiar faces, with current council members Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo pitted against each other in District 9 as well as a Sheryl Cole vs. Mike Martinez match up in the at-large race for mayor. 

Below you can find a full list of the candidates on the ballot listed by filing date:

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Austin
9:35 am
Tue August 19, 2014

PHOTOS: UT Students Gather in Support of Ferguson Demonstrations

Over one hundred people turned our for a rally on the south steps of the UT Tower. Organized by University of Texas students Jarius Sowells and Jasmine Graham the rally was meant to show support for the people of Ferguson, Mo.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Last night, 31 protestors were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri in the latest batch of demonstrations – some have turned violent – in the weeks following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson.

The event, and the controversy surrounding it, has inspired protests across the nation.

2014 Elections
10:14 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Could the Hyperlocal Focus of 10-1 Reverse the Push to Make Austin a 'World Class' City?

The Circuit of the Americas track has been a boon for Austin's international reputation, but it's come with a cost. Geographic representation, some say, will allow for more on-the-ground, hyperlocal governance.
flickr.com/oxherder

Today is the last day candidates can file to run in the next Austin City Council election. Those elected in November will represent one of Austin’s 10 new geographic districts.  Some campaigns are already underway, and candidates are hearing about needs that are exclusive to their district.

A lot of those district-exclusive needs don't involve more international flights or starting another international festival in Austin.

So if the candidates, once they're elected, focus on solving the small-scale problems their constituents bring to their attention during the campaign season, Austin may experience radical changes over the next decade or so.

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Austin
12:52 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

First Burn Ban of Summer Now in Effect for Travis County

The scorched earth after the Bastrop Wildfires of 2011. Fire Marshal Lee says this summer has not been nearly as dry.
Mose Buchele, KUT News

Travis County is under a burn ban for the first time this summer.

Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says the area has been getting drier over the past few months and yesterday’s rain just wasn’t enough to make a significant different in the soil moisture.

“There’s very little moisture in the top eight inches of soil for plants to grow so the plants have lost their fuel moisture and are more susceptible to fire starting easily," Lee said. "With all of these factors taken into consideration, long-term forecast of 10 to 12 days of 100 degree weather, we felt it was time to implement a burn ban.”

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Austin City Council
9:20 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Austin Could Create a Municipal ID Program

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole says the municipally issued identification cards would allow undocumented immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.
Daniel Reese/KUT

Today, the Austin City Council could decide whether or not to move forward on municipal identification cards – cards which would allow undocumented immigrants to identify themselves without the fear of deportation.

The item on the council's agenda (PDF) would permit the city manager to conduct a study of the ID program to be delivered to council later this year.

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Austin
10:05 am
Tue August 5, 2014

No One Dies Alone: Austin Program Ensures Patients Don’t Face Death By Themselves

Dr. Leigh Fredholm, medical director of Seton Palliative Care, and Liz Powell, Seton’s Network Palliative Care Chaplain, visit a patient at the University Medical Center at Brackenridge in Austin.
Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

When a loved one is near death, friends and family often rush to their side – saying their goodbyes and remembering a loved one before they pass.

Yet sometimes that’s not possible. Family members may be unable to travel, or some may have completely severed ties with their loved ones.

But a program at Seton and Brackenridge medical centers ensures that patients don't face death alone – even if they were alone in life.

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Fun Fun Fun Fest
12:36 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Beards Versus Drag Queens: Just a Typical Afternoon in Austin

The may have lost, but the Tug Boat Queens still feel strong
Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Water, the outdoors, music: all things Austinites enjoy, especially when the weather is nice. And all three can go well with some type of beverage in hand.

That was the case during this weekend’s Aqua Olympics. The fourth annual family/tattoo/dog-friendly event, presented by Fun Fun Fun Fest, took over Fiesta Gardens on Saturday afternoon. Events included classic outdoor games like a potato sack race, balloon toss and a ‘6-legged’ race. And, in typical Fun Fun Fun Fest fashion, there were activities like a paddleboard joust on Lady Bird Lake, a taco cannon, a belching contest, and a ‘lagoon launch’ where some of Austin’s best BMX bikers shot down a ramp, flew and flipped through the air, landing in the lake. For many, it could be considered a typical Austin afternoon.

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Austin
7:41 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Despite a Rate Cut, Travis County Could Still See a Property Tax Increase Next Year

The Travis County Commissioners Court will debate the proposed budget and hear public comments up until a final Sept. 23 vote.
Credit Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County residents could see a property taxes increase in the $901 million proposed budget for 2015. The increase, however, isn’t because of rising property values, but because of the demand for countywide services.

The budget calls to build out integral services for the ever-expanding county, but may lower the tax rate. County officials will debate and hear public comment on the budget before the final Sept. 23 vote.

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Housing
3:36 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Under 10% of Austin Landlords Accept Vouchers. This Rule Could Change That.

Austin's "source of income" discrimination rule could require landlords accept vouchers and other housing subsidies.
flickr.com/milestonemanagement

The rental market in Austin is hot. The Austin Board of Realtors says more units are being leased than last year and the prices are higher.

But the City of Austin says it can be hard for people who use housing vouchers to find a place to live. Now, some city commissions are considering adding “source of income” discrimination [PDF] to a list of banned landlord behavior.

A study found fewer than 10 percent of rental units in Austin currently accept vouchers – a move that critics say contributes to a concentration of poverty in the northern and eastern parts of the city.

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KUT's Summer School
4:32 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Don't Get it Twisted: Making Balloon Animals Takes Lots of Practice

Kristen Crandall and Michael Hale work for Austin Kids Parties, a small business that does balloon twisting and face painting at birthday parties, festivals and corporate events.
Joe Capraro/KUT

It’s time for another edition of KUT’s Summer School! Every Friday this summer, we head out to learn new skills from people in Austin who are experts in their field. Today’s subject? Balloon Twisting.  

KUT’s Kate McGee teaches us how to learns the squeaky, yet delicate art of creating shapes out of balloons.

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Austin
9:20 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Why Kids' Summer Activities Could End Up Saving Parents Money

Isabelle DiCarlo rides a horse at Switch Willow. The money her mother Julie spent on activities this summer is around $5,000, which she could write off as a deduction in next year's taxes.
Filipa Rodigues for KUT News

For busy parents, the dog days of summer are less about beating the heat, and more about finding a way to keep the kids preoccupied.

Activities can range from summer camps to soccer leagues or stints at daycare, but they all have one thing in common: they cost money. But, while there's no such thing as a free summertime preoccupation, the money parents spend on their kids' activities could return later in the form of a welcome tax deduction.

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Traffic
7:19 am
Thu July 24, 2014

How Much Do Bad Roads & Texas Traffic Cost Drivers Every Year?

Deteriorating roadways and traffic congestion costs Austin drivers $1,700 every year.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Believe it or not, the state of Texas needs to spend money every year just to maintain current and ever-growing levels of traffic.

The Texas Department of Transportation needs at least $4 to 5 billion in additional funds to maintain roads and keep traffic from getting worse. In November, Texans will take to the polls to decide the fate of the agency's request via a constitutional amendment for the roadway funding.

While the sticker shock of that may not sit well with some, a new study says shaky infrastructure has an annual statewide cost of over $25 billion and Austin drivers an average of $1,700 a year.

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