Austin

Wayback Wednesday
1:56 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Wayback Wednesday: The Capitol Fire of 1983

On February 6, 1983, a fire caused damage to the east wing of the Texas Capitol.
Austin Fire Department Museum

Today’s Wayback Wednesday marks the 32nd anniversary of the 1983 fire at the Texas Capitol. The electrical fire started in the early morning hours of February 6, 1983, marring then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby’s apartment behind the Senate chambers and killing a guest, a horse trainer from New Caney named Matt Hansen, who was staying in the apartment.

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Austin
9:29 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Feds Allocate $21 Million for Onion Creek Buyout

Maria Isabel Fabian tries to save an heirloom tablecloth salvaged from her Dove Springs home which flooded when record rains hit the Austin area on Thursday October 31, 2013.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday another $21 million for the Onion Creek area of Southeast Austin.

Some of the money will be used to buy out more homes in the floodplain.

The buy-out program includes a total of almost 500 homes and it dates back to the 1990s.

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Austin
1:26 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Austin Ad Firms Scored Two Super Bowl Spots

Screenshot from Austin-based ad firm GSD&M's Superbowl ad.

Talk of the Super Bowl's "sad ads" has dominated post-game non-football-based discussions, but there were actually some commercials during yesterday's game that didn't intend to pull heartstrings or motivate consumerism via shame spirals and guilt trips.

Austin advertising firm GSD&M followed up on last year’s success with another TV commercial airing on Super Bowl Sunday.

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Austin
12:29 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Two Years After His Death, Why Doesn't Chris Kyle Have a Gravestone?

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared today Chris Kyle Day, in honor of the U.S. military's deadliest sniper who was fatally shot in February 2013.
Marshall Tidrick/KUT

Today, while others are celebrating Groundhog Day and still others are celebrating Armadillo Day, Gov. Abbott is asking Texans to remember former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle on the second anniversary of his death. 

Kyle served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the deadliest sniper in United States military history and was recently played by Bradley Cooper in the Oscar-nominated film adaptation of Kyle’s autobiography “American Sniper,” which quickly became the highest-grossing war film of all time.

But still, nearly two years after his funeral and burial at the Texas State Cemetery, Kyle still doesn’t have a grave marker.

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Austin
2:00 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Austin's Hands-Free Fines to Start on Sunday

Though APD has been handing out warnings so far, enforcement of the hands-free driving law begins in earnest this Sunday.
Credit Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

This Sunday, the city of Austin will start ticketing drivers and cyclists who are texting or talking on their mobile phones without a hands-free device.

The Austin Police Department says they'll fine drivers up to $500, depending on several factors. For those who plead "no contest" and pay on time, the fine with court costs will total about $220.

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Austin City Council
9:31 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Council Pushes Affordability, Salary Flexibility in First Meeting

In their first meeting, members of the Austin City Council discussed a "Regional Affordability Committee" and the prospect of allowing members to forego salaries to better pay staff.
Courtesy of City of Austin

The Austin City Council met Thursday in what was its first official meeting under 10-1. The mood was like the first day of school after a long summer break.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he felt like back in his junior high school days when he won his first election for class president. He read from a copy of "Robert’s Rules of Order," a book his father gave him to conduct focused and effective meetings, citing an inscription written in the book by his deceased father.

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Drone Zone
3:02 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Federal Foot-Dragging Allows Some Drone Photographers to Take Flight, Grounds Others

Despite federal bans on commercial uses of drones, many are using the gadgets for aerial photography.
YouTube

Earlier this week, the Secret Service fetched a drone flown by a tipsy government employee off the White House Lawn, and yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked football fans to keep the Superbowl game a “No Drone Zone” in a PSA.

While drone popularity has soared among hobbyists, it hasn’t stopped there. Though it doesn't seem super legal for them to be flown by fans spying on the Patriots’ equipment staff on Sunday or toasted staffers looking to check in on the Obamas at 3 a.m., that staffer wasn’t charged

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Wayback Wednesday
1:51 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Meet Hyde Park's First Eccentric Artist

Elisabet Ney in her studio at Formosa in 1892, shortly after moving to Austin.
Austin History Center

Today's Wayback Wednesday marks the 182nd birthday of Elisabet Ney. The renowned sculptor was born in Munster, Germany on January 26, 1833, and was the first female sculpting student at the Munich Academy of Art and became a celebrated sculptor throughout Europe in the 1850s and 1860s, crafting busts of philosopher Arthur Schoepenhaur, Germany's first chancellor Otto von Bismarck and even Jacob Grimm, one of the two eponymous fairy tale-writing brothers.

In 1872, Ney and her husband Dr. Edmund Montgomery moved to Texas, buying land near in Waller County outside of Houston and later moving to Hyde Park in 1892. Her home and studio, originally called "Formosa," now houses a museum commemorating her art. Her sculptures adorn the Texas State Capitol, the United States Capitol and, perhaps most famously, the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art.

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Health Care
5:09 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Dell Family Foundation Makes Major Donation to UT Hospital

A rendering of the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, slated to open in 2017.
Seton Healthcare Family

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is donating $25 million in a challenge grant to pay for Seton Healthcare Family’s new teaching hospital in Austin.

Susan Dell, who announced the decision today, says they want the community to get involved in donating the remaining $25 million. The $50 million combined will go toward the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.

"We will have state-of-the-art treatments for our patients, we’ll be able to attract the best talent in the country to our team here in Central Texas," Dell said. "One of Michael and my biggest goals is always about elevating the level of care for the entire community here in Central Texas, and this project helps us do that."

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Austin
9:32 am
Tue January 27, 2015

How You Can Help Rewrite Austin's Confusing, Outdated Campaign Finance Rules

Some Austin City Council candidates before the city's ballot selection in August of 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The city's Ethics Review Commission (ERC) is looking for ways to update Austin’s campaign finance rules for two simple reasons.

One, the language is very complicated. And two, the limits that are in place haven't been updated in a long time. The ERC is meeting tonight to hear from Austinites about how to spruce up the rules.

Anyone with ideas as to how the ERC can make the language on campaign finance rules more understandable, can post those ideas at SpeakUpAustin.org or can attend the public meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m.

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Austin City Council
8:52 am
Tue January 27, 2015

What Happens If Steve Adler Forgoes His Salary?

Mayor Steve Adler.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

It's no secret that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is independently wealthy and that he doesn't need the $82,000 and change his position pays every year.

Adler has said he instead wants to use the money to boost the salaries of some of his staff, but the move may have some tricky implications for his successor.

Steve Adler is not the only Austin politician to forgo his salary. Recently, former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd got paid one dollar to complete Sarah Eckhart's term as Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Why did he do that?

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Austin City Council
7:12 am
Mon January 26, 2015

As 10-1 Council Steps Forward, Meet the New Committees

Austin's City Council holds a rare work session today before tomorrow's scheduled council meeting.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The new 10-1 Austin City Council will gavel in for its first regular meeting this week, and one of their ambitions is to be a more open, efficient council. To that end, they've indicated they want to move much of the nuts and bolts of policy-making to council committees, much in the way the state legislature works. The number of committees proposed is a big jump, from eight to at least 14 so far.

Here's what we know so far about the different committees:

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Austin
7:00 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Does the Future of Austin's 'No Kill' Animal Policy Lie in Creating a 'No Birth' Policy?

Two of the hundreds of cats Del Goss, of Montopolis, feeds every night. Goss' neighborhood is one of the poorest in Austin's District 3.
Credit Joy Diaz/KUT News

Among the many politically contentious issues the new Austin City Council will need to grapple with is the issue of “No Kill.” This February will mark the fourth consecutive year that Austin's shelters have achieved a no kill status, meaning that ten percent or fewer animals in shelter care are euthanized.

But, even with several measures including "no kill," Austin is still dealing with a large number of homeless animals.

Del Goss lives in Montopolis, one of Austin's poorest neighborhoods in City Council District 3. Every evening, he hops on his old white pick-up truck and heads to his friend Florence's. On the truck's bed sits a five-gallon plastic bucket full of cat food.

Goss feeds Florence's cats. And then he makes seven other stops to feed colonies of homeless animals.

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City Hall
11:06 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Council Postpones Salary Debate Until Next Week

Credit Callie Hernandez/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

On Thursday, City Council temporarily backed away from a plan that could have members voting to reduce their own salaries.

Council members voted 11-0 to postpone action on the resolution until their Jan. 29 meeting. The resolution directs the city manager to change the current office budgeting structure to allow Council members to decrease their individual compensation and shift funds within their offices. Mayor Steve Adler explained that the postponement will give Council members the opportunity to take a closer look at the proposition, then address it further at next week’s Tuesday work session.

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Austin
9:36 am
Fri January 23, 2015

City Leaders Join Obamacare Enrollment Push As Deadline Nears

Austin city leaders joined Get Cover America in a press conference on Jan. 22, 2015, to remind people about the upcoming deadline to sign up for health insurance through healthcare.gov.
Credit Callie Hernandez/KUT News

The end of the open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act is less than a month away. In Austin, city leaders are pushing hard to get the word out.

At City Hall Thursday, some Austin City Council members reminded people they have until Feb. 15 to sign up.

"I just want to join my colleagues in this great group in getting the message out to folks that now is the time to do it," Austin Mayor Steve Adler says. "It’s easier than you think, and there’s more assistance available than you might think."

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Austin Police
7:32 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Man Killed in Officer-Involved Shooting Near Slaughter Lane

Austin Police have said an officer-involved shooting shortly before 3 a.m. involved a man in his 60s who brandished a weapon at responding officers before he was shot by a two-year veteran officer.
Credit Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Update 11:26 a.m.: Austin police have identified the suspect who was killed: 61-year-old Robert Francis Mesch. Mesch was armed and suicidal, police say. Two-year police department veteran Daniel Hannah was the officer involved in the shooting, and he has since been placed on leave as a routine procedure. Police Chief Art Acevedo calls the shooting a "tragedy for everyone involved."

The Austin Police Department says an officer shot and killed a man in his early 60s. The shooting happened just before 4 a.m. near Bill Miller Bar-B-Q on West Slaughter.

Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo says a woman called police around 3:30 a.m. to say that her husband was threatening to kill himself and threatened her life as well. Two officers pursued the man in his tan pickup. Police say when he got out of the car near West Slaughter, the suspect was carrying a gun. The officer fired several rounds at the man. He was pronounced dead soon after.

Below, you can listen to the full audio of Acevedo's press conference from earlier this morning.

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Parks
3:48 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

City Plans to Repair Cyclocross Damage at Zilker

An aerial map of the affected portion of Zilker Park.

From the Austin Monitor:

City staff has revealed a one-year plan that they hope will remediate tree and turf damage related to a national Cyclocross championship held in Zilker Park earlier this month.

Watershed Protection Department Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak told the Environmental Board Wednesday that Parks and Recreation Department staff and City Arborist Michael Embesi have “a pretty robust restoration plan in place to address any damage to root zones and trees.”

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Austin
10:46 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Who Are the Powerful People in Your Neighborhood?

Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But are powerful neighborhood groups preventing it from becoming denser and more affordable?
Credit Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

As you might have heard, and most probably have felt, Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But how it should handle that growth is an ongoing debate. As a new city council steps forward, it might help to take a look at some of the people who are likely to be a vocal part of that debate: your neighbors.

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Austin City Council
10:42 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Can't Make a City Council Meeting? Austin Now Offers Input Options Online

Austin City Council is offering online options for public input. The council's historically long meetings that stretch into the early morning have often hampered public input.
Credit KUT News

The new Austin City Council knows everyone has an opinion about what things it should be doing, what things it should change and how those changes could come about. A recurring theme along the current council’s campaign trail was that many Austinites felt unheard and sometimes outright disregarded by city politicians.

At the beginning of the year, council proposed altering its meeting and committee format to pare down their traditionally long meetings.  So, starting tonight, there will be new ways to communicate with council and the mayor.

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Austin
9:25 am
Thu January 22, 2015

What Do the US-Cuba Talks Mean for Refugee-Friendly Austin?

With the opening of U.S.-Cuban relations, some wonder how the diplomatic thaw will affect Austin, which has a history of harboring Cuban refugees.
Indrani via Flickr

For decades, Austin has been a host to thousands of refugees arriving from Cuba. In fact, up until around 2010, Cubans were the largest single group of refugees in the city.

Now that diplomatic talks have started between the United States and Cuba, some in Austin wonder what role will our city play in this new relationship.

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