Austin

Austin
10:41 am
Mon June 15, 2015

Short-Term Rental Regulations Prove Difficult to Enforce

The City of Austin may crack down on short-term rentals brokered by companies like HomeAway and Airbnb.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

This week, Austin City Council will start discussions about increasing the enforcement of short-term rental property regulations. Currently, the city requires short-term rental operators to hold a license, and renters must agree to certain rules.

But those rules have proven difficult to enforce, and council will hear recommendations on the license program and enforcement of  illegal rentals this afternoon.

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Higher Ed
2:00 pm
Sun June 14, 2015

Higher Ed: Summer Break for the Brain

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

Once school is over for the summer, many students are tempted to put it as far out of their minds as possible and take a break from the rigors of the academic year.  And they certainly aren't thinking about the school year ahead. In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger talk about striking a healthy balance between letting your brain take a summer vacation and keeping it busy enough to be fresh for the fall.

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Austin
10:55 am
Fri June 12, 2015

How to Get Around Austin During the ROT Rally

A year ago, riders took over downtown Austin for the Republic of Texas Rally, and they are back again this weekend.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Tens of thousands of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts have descended upon Austin for this year's Republic of Texas Biker Rally, and tonight they'll swarm downtown for a procession that will shut down 54 square blocks.

The bikers will ride along a nearly ten-mile parade route stretching from the Travis County Expo Center all the way to the intersection of Congress and Cesar Chavez. The bikers at the end of the procession won't leave the Expo Center until the first bikers have already arrived at the end of the route.

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Austin
11:15 am
Thu June 11, 2015

City Looks to Two-Way Streets, Enhanced Signal Timing to Slow Down Traffic Woes

The City of Austin has already converted parts of Brazos Street from a one-way street to a two-way.
mrlaugh/flickr

There are a couple of new trends in Austin transportation that will change the pace, and on some streets the direction, of traffic.

In an effort to make downtown streets safer and more attractive to Austinites on foot or on bike, the city has been converting certain one-way streets downtown into two-way streets. And the city is also working on some upgrades to traffic signal systems, with a goal of alleviating some of the red light frustrations drivers face downtown. 

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Austin
9:41 am
Thu June 11, 2015

East Cesar Chavez Hotel Fails at Planning Commission

Opponents objected to the size of the boutique hotel proposed for East Cesar Chavez. But if the hotel doesn't go up there, some argue, something else inevitably will.
Audrey McGlinchy/Austin Monitor

From the Austin Monitor:

Residents opposed to a proposed 65-room boutique hotel at 1207 East Cesar Chavez St. told the Planning Commission on Tuesday night that they do not want to see their neighborhood become “another Rainey Street.” At the meeting, several residents held signs that read, “Don’t Rain-ey on our Chavez … No East Side Hotel.”

Commissioners agreed that the hotel should not go up in East Austin, and a motion to approve a conditional use permit failed (Commissioner Richard Hatfield created the motion, but none of the other four commissioners present seconded it).

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Austin
4:50 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Austin Bag Ban Study Finds Reusable Plastic Bag Use on the Rise

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

*This post has been updated since Wednesday.

Two years after the city of Austin banned single-use plastic bags, a new report estimates Austinites have used nearly 200 million fewer plastic bags annually — a 75 percent reduction.

That report was presented Wednesday evening to Austin’s Zero Waste Advisory Commission.

While the estimated reduction in plastic bag use has gotten a lot of attention, another finding of the report has received much less: Single-use bags have been replaced in Austin recycling streams by another type of bag — the reusable plastic bag.

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Wayback Wednesday
2:44 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Texas's 150-Year-Old Cold Case

A band of robbers stole over half of the state's gold reserves in an 1865 robbery. They nearly made off with $25,000 more in treasury warrants.
via crutchwilliams.com

One hundred fifty years ago this week, the city of Austin, and a large portion of Texas, was effectively lawless. As news of the Confederacy’s loss of the Civil War hit Texas in the spring of 1865, many state and municipal officials abandoned their posts out of fear they’d be prosecuted by the Union. One of these officials was Pendleton Murrah, the state’s governor, who fled to Mexico and died in August of that year.

With that in mind, a fortuitous band of former Rebels decided to ride on the state’s capital, perpetrate the largest raid in Texas’s history and ride off to Mexico with all the gold in the state’s coffers.

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Austin
12:32 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Hospitals Send K2 Patients Home With Their Technically Legal Stashes

K2, sometimes branded as Spice, isn't quite illegal yet in Texas.
DEA

Since May 29, the number of patients hospitalized with bad reactions to "K2," the catch-all term used to refer to synthetic marijuana-like substances, has spiked dramatically. Austin-Travis County EMS reports that they've responded to 156 K2 calls since then. Yesterday, more than 12 patients were treated for K2 symptoms at University Medical Center Brackenridge. ATCEMS only responded to one call Tuesday night, which may indicate a waning surge.

Texas lawmakers passed a bill during the most recent session that has updated language sufficient to outlaw the substance, which is essentially plant matter — dried herbs, dried leaves — sprayed with unknown chemical compounds. The bill was signed by Gov. Abbott, but the law doesn't kick in until September 1, and right now hospitals are having to deal with a dramatic influx of bad K2 reactions. 

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Austin Police
2:24 pm
Tue June 9, 2015

When Can Austin Police Officers Use Pepper Spray?

A screenshot of a video showing an Austin Police officer spraying pepper spray at a bystander went viral over the weekend.
Credit YouTube

The YouTube video that surfaced last weekend of an Austin Police officer pepper-spraying a suspect on Sixth Street has many questioning use of force by APD. In 2014, the department documented 147 incidents of the use of pepper spray, but when can they use it, how is it justified and how exactly does the review process work?

Let's take a look at APD's guidelines.

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Austin City Council
8:05 am
Tue June 9, 2015

Many Boards and Commissions Seats Still Vacant

The Austin City Council still has 300 spots to fill in its commissions and boards before July 1.
Credit City of Austin

From the Austin Monitor

While City Council members have almost 300 spots to fill on commissions and boards before current membership expires on July 1, some groups have adjourned their June meetings still uncertain about who will be seated next month.

With Commissioner Reynaldo Moreno absent, the Public Safety Commission last week voted unanimously to cancel its July meeting because members were not assured they would have a majority, or quorum, present.

“I’ve been putting the pressure on the mayor and Council to continue making appointments,” said Boards and Commissions Coordinator Deena Estrada. “There’s a lot of guilty emails going out, or my stomping of feet in front of the mayor’s office. I’ll send an email saying we now have only five boards that are able to meet quorum. … I can handle the guilt trip pretty well.”

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Austin
2:54 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

Tough Sell or Vital Investment? A Look at Travis County's $300 Million Courthouse

A rendering of the concept for a new 14-story Travis County Family and Civil Courthouse.
Travis County Commissioner's Court

This November’s election will be here before we know it, and while there aren’t many high-profile races or hot-button issues in the off-year election, there is one big-ticket item on the ballot: a nearly $300 million bond to build a new Travis County Civil and Family courthouse.

While nearly everyone seems to agree that Travis County needs a new courthouse – the existing Civil and Family Courthouse on Guadalupe Street was built in 1931, when Travis County had just 77,000 residents – some are concerned about the price tag for building a new one.

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Austin
2:53 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

Starting Today, Four Cap Metro Bus Routes Will Run More Frequently

Some changes are coming to a few of the city’s bus routes this week. In an attempt to increase ridership, four Capital Metro bus routes will be running more often.

“We’re going to be upgrading five of the busiest routes in our whole system. And four of those will run every 15 minutes or better across the weekday,” says Todd Hemingson of Cap Metro.

Of the four routes that will run more often, the longest is Number 7, which runs from Heritage Hills to Dove Springs. Hemingson says the goal of the added frequency is to begin creating a network of buses in town that run regularly enough that you can conveniently get around town without having to wait for a bus or transfer for more than seven minutes.

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Austin
11:00 am
Mon June 8, 2015

Updated: K2 Emergency Calls Continue to Rise

In the past week, Austin has seen a dramatic uptick in hospitalizations from K2 use.
Texas Tribune

Update Tuesday, June 9: More K2 cases were called in Monday night, bringing the total for this past week and a half to 147 calls.

Update Monday, June 8, 12 p.m. ATCEMS reports that K2-related emergency calls continued to come in frequently over this weekend.

Original story from Thursday, June 4: Since Friday, Austin/Travis County EMS has responded to 56 incidents involving 64 people who’d taken K2, the synthetic cannabinoid that comes up in the news periodically when there’s a sudden dramatic uptick in emergency calls, like this one.

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Higher Ed
2:00 pm
Sun June 7, 2015

Higher Ed: Extreme Learning Makeover

Credit Dawn Endico/flickr

A new haircut. Maybe some new clothes. What about gutting a house and rebuilding the whole thing? Those sound like pretty extreme makeovers. What about an extreme learning makeover? In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss ways to transform how we teach and learn.

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Austin authors
10:00 am
Sat June 6, 2015

New Book Encourages Women to Embrace Aging With Humor, Drama.... and Maybe a Little Wine, too

Aging. We all do it. Most of us try to avoid it, or at least stave off the effects of it. But two Austin authors hope women will learn to savor the wisdom and benefits that can come with growing older.

Ruth Pennebaker wrote and Marian Henley illustrated Pucker Up! The Subversive Woman's Guide to Aging with Wit, Wine, Drama, Humor, Perspective, and the Occasional Good Cry. Listen for their tips and tools for enjoying all that is good about the golden years.

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2016 Presidential Campaign
12:21 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

Taking Stock of Perry's Announcement Launching His Second Presidential Run

Perry made his official announcement this week.
Ben Philpott/KUT News

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has officially begun his second attempt at winning the Republican Presidential nomination. His long-awaited announcement came yesterday in North Texas. As his second White House bid begins, let’s take a look back at how yesterday’s announcement could impact his campaign going forward.

Number one: decor. It was absolutely the first thing you noticed when walking into the airplane hangar where Perry’s announcement was staged. Just behind the stage, taking up most of the hangar, was a C-130 transport plane – the same type of plane Perry flew in the Air Force. Standing in front of that plane, on stage with Perry, were military veterans from several different wars. Including Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the author and subject of the book and film “Lone Survivor.”

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Austin City Council
10:56 am
Fri June 5, 2015

Council Adopts 6 Percent Homestead Exemption

Last night, the Austin City Council passed a six percent homestead tax exemption on a vote of 7-4.
flickr.com/gjmj

Despite the fact that views among City Council members run the gamut as far as implementing a homestead tax exemption, they opted in a 7-4 vote to meet in the middle early Friday morning, approving a 6 percent exemption for this year and expressing an intent to increase it to 20 percent over the course of four years.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and Council Members Greg Casar, Delia Garza and Ora Houston cast the dissenting votes.

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Austin
9:32 am
Fri June 5, 2015

Ready to Hit the Pool? You May Have to Wait.

Barton Springs, along with several other pools, aren't quite recovered from the Memorial Day flooding.
Audrey McGlinchy/flickr

School’s letting out for summer, and swimming pool season’s getting underway. But some of Austin’s pools aren’t ready for swimmers, at least not yet.

During last week’s floods, images circulated of Barton Springs Pool looking like a raging river. The water’s receded since then, but now, small islands of drying mud float atop murky, green water.

But there aren’t any swimmers. “Just a few ducks and some divers,” said Andrei Mellin, who was in town visiting from Cincinatti. He and his family showed up to Barton Springs, towels in hand, only to find out that the pool isn’t open.

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Austin
2:37 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Early-Morning Running Group Helps Homeless Get Back on Their Feet

'Back on My Feet' provides running gear for homeless participants in their thrice-weekly early-morning runs.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Austin is a running- and jogging-friendly city. It also has a homeless population of about 2,000. An Austin non-profit group is combining the two to help people break the cycle of chronic homelessness.

Back on My Feet is a program that uses running as a starting point to help people who are homeless change the way they see themselves, as well as find jobs and housing. The program started in Philadelphia in 2007, and its Austin chapter began in 2013.

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Wayback Wednesday
2:04 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Looking Back at Aqua Fest, One of Austin's Early Festivals

A young skier during the Austin Aqua Festival in the 1970s.
Texas Archive of the Moving Image

In light of the descending extreme sports — or "action" sports, if you're partial to that label — festival coming into town this week, today's Wayback Wednesday looks back at Austin's first sports-music hybrid festival, the Austin Aqua Festival. 

Founded by the city's chamber of commerce, the annual festival, which ran from 1962 to 1998, aimed to boost tourism during the slower summer months. As the years went on, Aqua Fest drew huge crowds (more than 200,000 at its peak in the '80s) and drew national acts and local favorites, like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

But, it also enraged some communities along Lady Bird Lake, most notably Hispanic communities in East Austin, who protested noisy speedboat races near Festival Beach, and those in Bouldin Creek, who didn't like the idea of motorcycle races careening through their neighborhood. Ultimately, the fest ended in 1998 after years of declining attendance, but below is a look at the proto-X-Games, proto-ACL known as Aqua Fest.

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