Austin

SXSW
3:20 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Julian Assange to Speak at SXSW Interactive (Update)

Assange speaking at a 2010 conference in Sweden.
flickr.com/photos/newmediadaysdk/

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will speak via satellite at SXSW Interactive in March. In a rare public interview, Assange will discuss the "pervasive spread of surveillance, advantages and abuses of the digital age, and the future of democracy," according to a statement from the festival. 

Assange will speak with Benjamin Palmer of New York-based web marketer The Barbarian Group at 11 a.m. on Mar. 8, the second day of the Interactive portion of the festival. 

Palmer told KUT that his conversation with Assange at South By will be more of a conversation about the future of the Internet and international communication, and less of a formal interview. 

"This is where everyone that's inventing all the next platforms goes to kind of hear thought leadership, you know?" Palmer said. "And I feel like Julian's point of view — where the Internet has come from, where it's going and what's generally happening — is a really important conversation to have at a place like South By Southwest."

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Austin
12:42 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Fun Fun Fun Fest to Stay at Auditorium Shores in 2014

Jurassic 5 performing at the 2013 Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores.
Mary Mang/KUTX

Transmission Events announced their annual Fun Fun Fun Fest will stay at Auditorium Shores this year, despite the city's ongoing renovation of the park that initially put the fest's location up in the air. 

The ninth annual fest will be held Nov. 7 to Nov. 9 this year.  

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Austin
7:00 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Starting Next Week, HD 50 Voters Head to the Polls for Special Election

The HD 50 special election will head to early voting next Tues., with Mike VanDeWalle taking on Celia Israel
Photo by KUT News

Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VanDeWalle emerged as the leaders in a four person race in November. VanDeWalle leads the pack with about 39 percent of the vote. On election night, he said the win was driven by energy from Republicans who want a change after nine years of Democrat Mark Strama.

“Yes I think there’s been a pent up excitement waiting to happen," VanDeWalle told KUT. "And I think we’re seeing it now.” 

But the concern for VanDeWalle’s campaign is that the November victory could be his ceiling—the remaining 61 percent of voters picked one of the three Democrats in the race. With Israel getting the majority of that support, the long-time Democratic activist and real estate agent knows a special election runoff brings its own set of problems for her.

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Austin
8:56 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Democratic Candidates Square Off In County Judge Debate

Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown will face off this March in the Democratic primary for county judge
facebook.com/saraheckhardtaustin and facebook.com/andybrowntx

Travis County will pick a new county judge this year. The county judge is like the mayor of a county, presiding over and votes in meetings of the county commissioners, where county policies and budgets are set.

With longtime County Judge Sam Biscoe retiring, Democratic candidates Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt will face off in the March primary to replace him on the Democratic ticket.

When you see the candidates for Travis County Judge in action – that is – debating each other – one thing is clear – both Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown realize each is facing a strong contender.

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Austin
2:58 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Tour Highlights Future Lakefront Development Issues

The forthcoming Lady Bird Lake boardwalk won't solve all of the walkability issues along the lake, and the city is looking for input on how to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
Image courtesy courtesy of the Trail Foundation, townlaketrail.org

The City of Austin will host a walking tour of the south shore of Lady Bird Lake tomorrow to get public input on future development along the shore from Auditorium Shores to the area near I-35. The tour of the roughly 100-acre strip is open to the public and will feature a dozen experts on development, cultural and environmental issues that could arise over the next 20 to 30 years of development.

Alan Holt, a planner with the Planning and Development Review Department, says the tour will begin a long process of public outreach as the area develops, but that it will also highlight connectivity issues that won't necessarily be mitigated by the boardwalk project, which is nearing completion. 

"Right now, if you would walk down to the shore, or to the lake or to the boardwalk, you have to hop fences to get into gated communities to do that, or walk through acres and acres of parking lots," Holt says. 

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Austin
12:42 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Eckhardt Criticizes McCombs for Seeking Tax Breaks, Suing Appraisal District

Travis County Judge Candidate Sarah Eckhardt criticized Texas booster and San Antonio billionaire Red McCombs over his request for tax breaks from the county.
facebook.com/saraheckhardtaustin

This is an excerpt from an article written by our Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily).

Travis County Judge candidate Sarah Eckhardt continued her verbal campaign against billionaire businessman Red McCombs Thursday, taking him to task for asking taxpayers to contribute millions of dollars to build the Circuit of the Americas race track but going to court to get his property tax bill on the facility lowered.

Eckhardt, a former Pct. 2 Commissioner who is running for the top job in Travis County, issued a statement criticizing McCombs – one of the developers of the Formula 1 race track – for throwing his political and financial weight around to get what he wants.

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Turning the Corner
10:18 am
Fri January 10, 2014

In Dove Springs, Defying the Downward Trend in Teen Pregnancy

Damaris Covarrubias with her daughter Dalilah, 2, at the home she shares with her family.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Damaris Covarrubias lives in Dove Springs, with her entire extended family. It is a huge family. So large in fact, that Damaris has never stopped to actually count how many there are.

“Okay, my grandparents, I think they had 9 kids. Cousins? I think there’s like 30 or 40 of us. Including the little ones? I don’t know. And now every cousin’s having babies so it keeps on growing and growing,” Covarrubias admits. 

The vast majority of her cousins have become parents while they were still in their teens, and that’s pretty typical for Dove Springs.

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Austin
3:59 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Could These Iconic West Campus Murals Be Lost to Vandalism?

The mural on the north wall of the University Co-Op was painted in 2003, but the co-op and artists say they don't have enough money to renovate the mural marred by graffiti.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT

In 1974, a group calling themselves the Austintatious Artists wanted to express themselves. So, they found a wall in West Campus and painted what would become a venerated piece of Austin public art. Since then, that mural has lived on. They even painted another one in 2003 on the south wall of the same building.

Now, younger graffiti artists are laying claim to the same walls in droves. While it's something that's happened a lot over 40 years, the University Co-Op and the artists say the murals desperately need repair or they could be lost. 

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Austin
4:01 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Valerie L. Phillips, KUT and KUTX Fundraiser, Dies After Battle With Cancer

Valerie Phillips, KUT's Leadership Circle Manager, with her longtime partner Bob Mann in a November 3, 2012 photo.
Paul Woodruff/KUT

Valerie Louise Phillips, KUT and KUTX's major gifts officer and a popular personality in Austin’s philanthropic and political circles, died Tuesday, after a three-year battle with breast cancer.

As leadership circle manager at KUT, Valerie dealt daily with Austin’s best, brightest and most powerful -- always with a touch of joy, efficiency and enthusiasm.

Originally from Fort Worth, she was a talented writer, arts and literature lover and noted for a keen and quick wit.    

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Austin
11:27 am
Wed January 8, 2014

iHeartRadio Country Fest Will Head to Frank Erwin Center

Florida Georgia Line will play both Red Fest and iHeartRadio's Country Fest.
flickr.com/concerttour

Austin's got another music festival. 

Today, iHeartRadio announced a one-day country festival, featuring Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum, among others. 

The Clear Channel-sponsored, Bobby Bones-hosted festival will descend upon the Frank Erwin Center on March 29th, making it the second country music fest planned for May 2014, after Jeff Foxworthy's Natty Light-sponsored Red Fest at Circuit of the Americas. 

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Austin
3:47 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Travis County Commissioners Decline to Renew Gun Show Contract (Update)

The Houston Gun show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in 2007. Travis County Commissioners are considering doing away with gun shows that take place on publicly-owned property.
Credit flickr.com/glasgows

Update: Travis County Commissioners effectively ended their contract with Saxet Gun Show today by refusing to renew their contract to operate at the Travis County Expo Center.

The majority of commissioners declined to renew the contract after the promoter refused to allow background checks for all purchases, not just purchases from federally licensed vendors, which already require checks. The term would have closed the so-called gun show "loophole," says Judge Sam Biscoe. He estimates 10 percent of purchases at Saxet shows are done without background checks.

"So far we have been unwilling to give them a new contract without background checks as a term,” Biscoe tells KUT. “So as long as they insist on not doing background checks on this 10 percent, unless we change our minds, they’re still without a contract.”

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Halloween Floods
2:09 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Commissioners Approve $2 Million Towards Onion Creek Buyouts

Travis County authorized $2 million towards forthcoming buyouts of homes damaged in the Onion Creek area.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT

Travis County Commissioners today authorized just over $2 million to buyout 40 flood-prone properties in the Onion Creek-area that were damaged in the Halloween floods.

Thirty-one homes and 9 commercial properties in the Brandt Road, Bluff Springs Road, Arroyo Doble Road and the Maha Creek area were affected or severely damaged by the floods and could be eligible for buyouts from the county.

Melinda Mallia, an environmental project manager with Travis County, says buyouts

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UT Football
12:06 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Longhorns Welcome Charlie Strong as Head Coach

UT President Bill Powers and Athletic Director Steve Patterson welcome Charlie Strong to the 'Longhorn family' on Jan. 6, 2014.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT

The Longhorns welcomed new head football coach Charlie Strong today in a press conference at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. And if the presser had a theme, it was simple: Integrity. 

Strong told reporters he respected the foundation of Mack Brown's tenure, that the coach was a man with integrity, and that players must perform, both on and off the field, with integrity and accountability. Ultimately, Strong says his goal is to bring the Longhorns back into the national title conversation.

"The bricks are there," Strong said. "And I just need to put another brick on top of it." 

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Austin
10:32 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Teens Aren't the Only Drivers Distracted by Phones. Seniors Are, Too

A new study from State Farm Insurance found that drivers over 65 are nearly as likely to be on smartphones as their teenage counterparts.
Flickr.com/gaffney

Do you become uneasy when you see a clearly inexperienced driver behind the wheel? How about when you spot someone texting while driving?

It’s part of Patty Kelly’s job to know the latest dangerous driving trends. Kelly works for State Farm Insurance, and she learned something surprising from the company's latest study. 

“What we found out is that older adults are getting smart phones at an increasing rate, first of all. And with that they are getting on the Internet and doing all those distracting behaviors almost as much as teenagers are," Kelly says. 

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Halloween Floods
1:03 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Travis County Provides Tax Relief for Flood Victims

In this Nov. 4 photo, Maria Isabel Fabian tries to salvage an heirloom tablecloth from her flood-damaged home in Dove Springs. Fabian is one of over 600 who qualify for tax relief from Travis County.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It is property tax season and, for the people affected by last October’s floods, there will be some relief. The disaster declaration Texas Governor Rick Perry signed in December means flood victims can have their properties re-assessed and can make their payments in installments.

The relief will be small, since it will only cover the months of November and December, but Travis County Tax Assessor Bruce Elfant said at a press conference today that, for over 600 properties, the relief means they’ll have a smaller tax payment. 

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Halloween Floods
11:38 am
Fri January 3, 2014

With Help from the Community, Flood Survivors Celebrate the Holidays

Soledad Serrato was surprised this Christmas when strangers brought them a Christmas tree and presents for their children.

These days, the streets in the Onion Creek neighborhood look desolate.

Rows and rows of homes are still boarded up. But as you walk down the streets, you can see the occasional truck hauling construction materials and hear the clatter of recovery, as crews work to rebuild what was lost in the flooding over Halloween weekend last October.

While the cleanup efforts continue, and homes are rebuilt, over the holidays it was the giving spirit of strangers that really helped families get back to normal after the floods.

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Free Week
4:00 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

20 Surefire Shows to Check Out During Austin's Free Week

The Mowawk will host plenty of free shows this week on both the inside and outside stages.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/rogerho

It's a new year with plenty of new resolutions. And, if your resolutions involve saving money, getting active and/or catching more live music, we've got just the thing: Free Week, a magical time of year when free music fills the streets of Austin for half a fortnight. 

With that in mind, we've put together a list of the shows to check out in this year's annual installment. 

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Austin
3:42 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Activist, Attorney Andi Sloan Succumbs to Complications From Cancer (Update)

Andi Sloan died of cancer on Jan. 1 after battling the disease for over 7 years.
facebook.com/OfficialAndisArmy

Well-known Austin attorney and activist Andi Sloan has died of complications from pneumonia, after a 7-year battle with cancer. 

While Sloan worked as an attorney and executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project, she was best known for her work lobbying California-based pharmaceutical company BioMarin to release an experimental drug to treat breast and ovarian cancer with her group Andi's Army.

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Austin
9:09 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Austin's Sizzling Housing Market May Cool in 2014

The number of Austin homes on the market in 2013 were at a 13-year low, while home buying was at an all-time high.
Credit KUT News

Austin's housing market had one of its hottest years on record in 2014, but some economists are looking for things to slow down in 2014.

Even without December's numbers, the Austin area recorded more home sales than ever in 2013 — almost 31,000 single-family homes, condos and townhomes were sold, a 20 percent increase over 2012. The average home sales price was higher than ever as well at $286,000. 

But as the city continues to grow, the market is becoming more competitive and some say a 2014 dip in sales will benefit Austin's market in the long term.

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Austin
11:00 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Austin Offers Christmas Tree Disposal Options; Authorities Say Do It Soon

The City of Austin is offering curbside pick up for Christmas trees.
Credit flickr.com/jonny2love

Once the presents are opened and the ornaments are packed away, you may be wondering what to do with your Christmas tree. According to fire safety experts, it's important to get rid of it as soon as possible. 

Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says Christmas trees pose a serious fire hazard, and the holiday season marks an annual spike in the number of house fires. In addition to keeping trees well-hydrated and away from heat, Lee says they shouldn't stick around the house long after the holidays. 

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