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

Image by KUT News

Austin's Parks and Recreation Department will close Barton Springs Pool January 24, to remove gravel and debris that has built up at the deep end of the popular swimming hole since 1991

The Austin City Council approved the contract for the project last fall.  Officials say special precautions will be taken to safeguard the protected Barton Springs Salamander during the clean-up process, which is expected to last until March 12. 

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT.

Here's your chance.  Texas is about to face one of its toughest legislative sessions ever.  What issues, concerns, opinions, or questions do you have? 

Send an email to and let us know.  Or leave us a voicemail at (512) 475-8079.  Be sure to leave us your name and phone number in case we need to contact you.

The 2011 Texas legislative session kicks off on January 11th.  We will air your "Letters to the Lege" later this month during Morning Edition on KUT 90.5.

This is your bullhorn!

Logo courtesy of the TLLRWDCC

Radioactive Waste Expansion Plan OK'd

A Texas commission has voted to allow up to 36 more states to dump their low-level radioactive waste in West Texas.  The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission approved the plan 5-2 Tuesday.  Initially, Texas and Vermont were the only states that were going to be allowed to dump at the site still under construction in Andrews County.  Some environmentalists are opposed to the expansion and may challenge it.  Here's what Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club Conservation Director Cyrus Reed said in a press release:

Image by KUT News

Does a day go by without Austin ranking high on some cool list? Yesterday it was third place in a ranking for entrepreneurs, today we are number one on a list of top spending cities.'s list doesn't account for boring expenses like mortgage and rent. That's probably why New York City ranked number 53, and it's why relatively affluent towns with low housing costs fared better.

Photo courtesy of J. Stephen Conn/via flickr

Judge Allows Radioactive Waste Vote Today

A Commission is scheduled to vote today on whether to allow up to 36 more states to dump their low-level radioactive waste in Andrews County in West Texas.  A federal judge yesterday lifted a restraining order that would have stopped today’s vote. 

Leona Wagoner Owen
Image courtesy APD

The body of an 81-year-old woman who went missing in South Austin last night has been found in the Greenbelt, according to the Austin Police Department.  KUT News reported earlier today that APD were trying to find Leona Wagoner Owen.

10th street and Brazos
Image by Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Live Music Capitol of the World has topped another list of awesome cities. This time, it's the list of Top 10 Cities for Young Entrepreneurs in 2010.

Coming in third place right behind New York City and San Francisco, Austin is praised for all the familiar reasons:

Photo courtesy of the Austin Police Department.

APD Searching for Missing Woman

Update at 3:30 pm: 81 year-old Leona Wagoner Owen has been found dead in South Austin.

Image courtesy Austin Fire Department

2011 has already started as a busy one for Austin firefighters. reports six people have been hospitalized after two separate fires early this morning.  Two elderly men are in critical condition after a fire on Mt. Barker Dr., after being rescued by firefighters.  Four other men are being treated after an apparent fire at a Shell gas station at E. 10th and I-35.

Dogs at Town Lake Animal Center
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

To some people, New Year's Eve fireworks displays like this one are an awe-inspiring form of entertainment.

But to many cats and dogs, it sounds more like the end of the world.

Image by Erika Aguilar/KUT

New Year’s Eve 2011 will look a little different in downtown Austin tonight. The bar and club scene will be about the same. But there won’t be a “First Night Austin” celebration, as there has been in years past.

In fact, this will be the first New Year’s Eve in six years where there has been no “First Night Austin” celebration. Organizers announced at the end of September that they didn’t have the money to stage the family-friendly downtown party this year. They’re hoping to be back to ring in 2012.

Image courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Department

Travis County Sheriff's investigators say 63-year-old John Joseph Debrecht died this morning at University Medical Center Brackenridge.  He and musician Bill Maddox were both found by deputies after a shooting early Monday morning.  Maddox, a drummer for the Eric Johnson Band in the '70s and for several other acts through the years, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Austin Fire Department truck
Image by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Austin Fire Association President Bob Nicks believes that Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr is setting the bar for job applicants too low in an attempt to increase diversity. Nicks says he will file a formal grievance with the city tomorrow.

Currently, four out of five firefighters are white. Women make up only five percent of the force.

The fire department has an extremely rare opportunity to change that. It has about 100 positions to fill. But not everyone agrees on how screen the candidates.

Image courtesy Travis County

Former Travis County Sheriff Margo Frasier will be Austin's next police monitor. 

City Manager Marc Ott made the announcement this afternoon at a City Hall news conference.  She was one of six semifinalists seeking the city-appointed civilian watchdog position, reviewing citizens' complaints against the Austin Police Department.

Parking lot
Image courtesy Google Street View

Travis County Commissioners didn't take any moves to block the planned purchase of a lot in downtown Austin, clearing the way for the deal to close tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock.

As KUT News reported two weeks ago, the county will pay $21,750,000 for the downtown block next to Republic Square Park.

County Judge Sam Biscoe says that’s half a million more than the appraised value.

“But I think that the location, more than justifies that. Plus it’s the size that we need,” Biscoe told KUT.

Bouldin creek cottage
Image coutesy Zanthan

The Travis County Tax Office wants you to know you can pay your property tax bill as late as January 3 and still get a December receipt. That's important to people who want to claim their property tax as a deduction on their 2010 tax return.

"That's because we are closed on the last day of this month, December 31st," tax office spokesperson Tina Morton told KUT News. "By law, when the deadline falls on a business day and we're closed, it automatically moves to the next business day."

Frog sculpture
Image courtesy City of Georgetown

The City of Georgetown emailed us to let us know a 130-pound frog sculpture, stolen from San Gabriel Park in late-October, had been returned on Christmas Day. Surveillance camera footage from December 25 shows two people unloading the sculpture from an SUV and then driving away.

Georgetown Parks and Recreation superintendent Glenn Moss just happened to be strolling through the park yesterday and noticed the sculpture had been returned.

Echelon building after plane attack
Image by KUT News

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report into the attack on an IRS building launched earlier this year by Joe Stack, a man believed to be frustrated with the federal government.

Nasha Lee for KUT News

10:50 a.m. UPDATE--Austin Police have identified the man shot to death by an APD officer who was stabbed in the neck during a struggle in north Austin late last night.  Maurice Pierce, who was one of the men charged in the "Yogurt Shop Murders" of 1991, reportedly died at the scene near Parmer Lane and McNeil Road.  Pierce was charged in 1999 with the rape and murder of four teenage girls at a north Austin yogurt shop.   He was later cleared of the charges.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Christmas Vacation's Clark Griswold meets his match in a dazzling Clarksville lights display.

Each December, there's one tradition that just sort of defines what it means to "Keep Austin Weird." And you can find it right in front of 66 year-old Willis Littlefield's Clarksville home on 12th street just west of West Lynn. If you stop by, you're sure to get a candy cane... and a tour of the dazzling light show from the man himself.