Austin

Austin
11:58 am
Mon May 18, 2015

Yup, It's Still Illegal to Swim in Lady Bird Lake. Here's Why.

Don't even think about it.
Bryan Winter for KUT

After this weekend's rain, the city imposed a temporary ban on boating and recreational use of Lady Bird Lake. But even with that ban lifted, there's still one thing you definitely can't do in the lake: Go swimming. 

It may be well-known to longtime residents (who probably still call it Town Lake), but swimming in Austin’s “crown jewel” is illegal. Seems it has been for 50 years. 

Still, when contacted, public information staff at several city departments seemed surprised to hear such a ban exists.

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Austin
11:16 am
Mon May 18, 2015

El Niño Brings May Showers, But Will It Bring Drought Relief?

Austin’s received 8.97 inches through May 17, compared to 7.09 inches of rainfall in the entire month of May last year.
Dean Terry/flickr

For the past year, forecasters have been watching the Pacific Ocean with bated breath, waiting for the weather pattern known as El Niño to arrive.

Well, it’s here, but it’s not like anything we’ve seen before.

When you hear or read reports about the oft-elusive weather system, you can’t help but think of Chris Farley’s classic skit from “Saturday Night Live.”

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Flash Flooding
8:00 am
Sun May 17, 2015

Heavy Rains Pound Central Texas; Flash Flood Watch in Effect

UPDATE 11:05 a.m: The flash flood warnings for the Austin area have expired. Heavy rain has moved out of the area for the time being. A flash flood watch remains in effect until 3 p.m.

145 low water crossings in the Austin area are closed. The latest conditions are here.

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Austin
12:41 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

A Look Back at B.B. King's Legacy in Austin's Blues Scene

B.B. King and Clifford Antone with Lucille, King's famous Gibson guitar.
YouTube

Last night marked the end of an era in music with the passing of B.B. King. The quintessential bluesman and last of the blues’ “Three Kings” died at the age of 89 last night. From his earliest days. King was perennially on the road. Some of his earliest shows were in East Austin at the Victory Grill, back when the city was still segregated, and he continued to be a fixture in the Austin music scene throughout his prolific career.

Take a look back at Austin’s history with the King below.

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Austin
6:08 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Assistant City Manager on Paid Leave, Following Controversial Training Session

Credit KUT News

From our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor:

The Austin Monitor has learned that Austin City Manager Marc Ott has placed Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes on paid administrative leave. The move comes after news broke that Snipes had organized a controversial training designed to help staff cope with a female-majority City Council.

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Wayback Wednesday
1:46 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

The Union-Bustin' Origins of the Texas State Capitol

A look at the construction site of what would become the Texas State Capitol.
Austin History Center, via Portal to Texas History

This week marks the 127th anniversary of the Texas State Capitol’s dedication. Well, not necessarily. May 14 marked the completion of the Capitol, along with a week-long celebration to dedicate it, but the state didn’t accept Pomeranian builder Gustav Wilke’s granite-domed monument to Texas because of structural issues — chiefly, the copper roof leaked.

The building was officially dedicated seven months later, but Wilke’s architectural prowess wasn’t blamed for the building’s initial shoddiness — he would later go on to build some of the world’s first skyscrapers. Ultimately, the capitol building’s inconsistencies, exacerbated by a Chicago-based syndicate bankrolling Wilke’s operation, a years-long labor strike and a handful Texas convicts and Scottish strike-busters, contributed to the project’s hamstringing.

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Austin
1:39 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Vicious v. Dangerous: Why the City Will Reconsider How It Tracks Troublesome Dogs

There are some slight discrepancies between the state and city laws regarding 'dangerous' or 'vicious' dogs. Pictured here: a dog that's not on either list.
Nikasucha/pixabay

Texas law requires that a dog who’s attacked a human be placed on a “dangerous dog list.” These lists are updated by municipalities and counties, and many publish the dog owners’ names and where they live.

Austin has its own dangerous dog ordinance, but instead of "dangerous," the city uses the word “vicious.” The ordinance was passed more than two decades ago and is less forgiving than state law. But after an increasing number of complaints about recourse for those dogs who violate the city law, members of the Animal Advisory Commission say they’ll reconsider what it means to be a vicious dog in Austin.

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Austin
1:16 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

City Officials React to 'How to Work with Women' Training Session

A screenshot of Jonathan Allen's now-controversial presentation to city staffers.
Credit City of Austin

Austin city officials gathered for a press conference today to respond publicly to news, first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, about a training that city staff attended in March on how to work and interact with women. The training session, called "The Changing Dynamics in Governance: Women Leading in Local Government," apparently attempted to address "techniques" for working with the city's new majority-female city council.

City staffers attended the session, led by Jonathan Allen, now-former City Manager of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, in which he taught that "if you attempt to use the same communication techniques, management techniques, that you use or attempted to use in a predominantly male environment, you will be making a serious error in your professional development. Because they don't process things in the same way."

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Austin
10:16 am
Wed May 13, 2015

3 Reasons Why Decker Lake Golf May Not Be the Best Economic Driver for East Austin

A rendering of the club house for the proposed golf course on Walter E. Long Lake, also known as Decker Lake, from architects Norr.
Norr, via City of Austin

It's far from a done deal, but a golf course may be coming to Distict 1 in East Austin.

The Austin City Council is not ready to make a final decision on the course at Walter E. Long Lake proposed by Decker Lake Golf LLC, so in the meantime, several city committees are considering the proposal.

This week, the city's Economic Development Committee showed some support for the golf course, precisely because District 1 is in dire need of economic development.

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Austin
11:14 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Committee Votes No on Barbecue Smoke Ordinance

Renteria’s original proposal would have required barbecue restaurants to put expensive scrubbers on their stacks to prevent smoke from bothering neighborhood residents.
flickr.com/lidocaineus

From the Austin Monitor: After hearing from several opponents of the proposed ordinance to require scrubbers on the smokestacks of restaurants that smoke meat, the City Council Committee on Economic Development voted unanimously Monday against supporting the ordinance.

Council Member Ora Houston made the motion not to pursue an ordinance initially proposed by Council Member Pio Renteria. Houston moved that individual complaints be referred to Code Compliance or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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Austin City Council
9:45 am
Tue May 12, 2015

How One Austin City Council Member is Shaking Up the Dais

Zimmerman at the Ballot Boxing District 6 forum last year.
Credit Mengwen Cao/KUT

The Austin City Council’s switch to geographic representation was aimed at electing a council that’s more in touch with their constituents’ concerns. The change has also brought voices to the council representing viewpoints that weren’t heard on the old at-large council.

One of those voices belongs to District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman. The council member’s controversial board and commission nominations prompted two hours of debate at the dais last week. Typically, approval for nominations takes minutes of the council’s time. KUT’s Jennifer Stayton spoke with the Austin Monitor’s Michael Kanin about the move, which is the latest in a series that has put Zimmerman at odds with the council at large. It’s also demonstrated his effectiveness as the council’s chief dissenter.

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Austin
10:55 am
Mon May 11, 2015

Learning Fair Housing Laws is 'Due Diligence' for Austin's New Landlords

As the demand for housing increases in Austin, some property owners are taking on the role of landlord.
Jon Shapley/KUT News

It’s no secret that there's not enough housing in Austin. The city has few homes with more than three bedrooms, and it doesn't have enough affordable housing.

There’s even a scarcity of upscale homes. Rents have risen as that market has gotten tighter, too. Has the housing demand led more landlords to engage in unfair housing practices?

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Austin
12:40 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Why This Austin-based DIY Gun Group is Suing the U.S. State Department

A 3D printed gun part at Defense Distributed.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Two years ago today, Cody Wilson received a letter from the State Department asking him to take something off the internet.

In short, the letter asked Wilson to take some design files offline and suggested he may be aiding and abetting enemies of the United States. He complied, agreeing to take down the computer-aided design (CAD) files. Still, being the ex-law student he is, he held out hope for his day in court.

But like most things on the internet, the files in question — Wilson's designs for the world's first 3D-printed readymade pistol — weren't easily deleted. And two years later, Wilson's expanded his enterprise, known as Defense Distributed, creating a gun-manufacturing machine known as the Ghost Gunner — so called because the machine aids in the production of untraceable firearms that don't bear serial numbers. This week, his hope for a day in court got one step closer to reality: He filed a lawsuit against the State Department.

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Austin
8:43 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Council Again Questions Zimmerman Appointments

District 6 council member Don Zimmerman again has drawn controversy with his commission appointees.
Callie Hernandez/KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

Facebook posts did them in.

As City Council members nixed two of Council Member Don Zimmerman’s appointees — some citing comments made on social media pages — they debated Zimmerman’s judgment following what they said has been a string of controversial nominees to city boards and commissions.

Council Member Greg Casar said he felt the time that has been taken discussing Zimmerman’s appointees, and their various merits, could be better spent. “Our time on Council is very precious, and I don’t want to spend my time having these discussions,” he said. “There are people that could have diverse viewpoints that would not cause us to take so much of our time that we really need to dedicate to greater policy issues.”

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Austin
8:00 am
Thu May 7, 2015

In Legal Limbo, Mobile Home Residents Organize to Take on Landlords

Gloria Cordova, president of the newly created homeowners association at Stonegate Mobile Home Park, speaks with an APD officer. Officer Jason Murray told residents that even though they were peaceful he still needed to file a report.
Joy Diaz/KUT News

Something new is happening in several mobile home communities in Austin. Over the last month, at least two such communities have established new neighborhood associations. And this week, one of them filed a lawsuit against the company that owns the land where their mobile homes are.

Residents at Stonegate Mobile Home Park in North Central Austin say they can't stand their living conditions anymore.

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Wayback Wednesday
2:50 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

A Look Back at the Dicey Days of Beef, Before Brisket Was King

Brisket's hot now, but it wasn't always the hip, award-winning cut of beef it is today.
KUT News

Pitmasters across Texas may have mixed feelings about Aaron Franklin winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest this week, but it does mark the first time the prestigious culinary award’s honored a barbecue pitmaster.

But brisket, for which Franklin is well known, was not always so revered. This Wayback Wednesday looks back on the days before beef became haute cuisine, when you used the whole cow because you had to, not because you wanted to — back when beef was used for everything from "beef tea" to bread pudding.

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Austin
10:42 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Travis County Commissioners Ponder Drunk-Tank Proposal

Perhaps better known colloquially as a drunk tank, a proposed sobriety center in Austin would serve as an alternative to Travis County Jail or local emergency rooms as destinations for people detained for public intoxication.
AlexVan/pixabay

From the Austin Monitor:

The Travis County Commissioners Court took another tentative step toward establishing a sobriety center in partnership with the City of Austin at its regular voting session. Perhaps better known colloquially as a drunk tank, the proposed sobriety center would serve as an alternative to Travis County Jail or local emergency rooms as destinations for people detained for public intoxication.

On Tuesday, the commissioners voted 4-0 to direct the brain trust behind the effort to come up with specific proposals for the center’s governance that the county and city can then consider. Commissioner Ron Davis abstained from the vote, citing unanswered questions about the exact role the city would play in the center’s establishment and operation.

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Austin
12:53 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

As Austinites Move to City's Outskirts, Support Services Follow

As people move outside of Austin proper, some social services and non-profits are moving with them.
KUT News

Central Austin is experiencing what some have called an exodus of sorts: Higher housing prices and other factors have pushed entire communities out.

Over the last decade, some have migrated to northern suburbs like Round Rock and Pflugerville or south to Kyle, Buda and San Marcos. But up until now, the services many of those people rely on have stayed put in downtown Austin.

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Austin
11:59 am
Mon May 4, 2015

City Urged to 'Proceed Cautiously' When it Comes to Police Body Cameras

The city's Public Safety Commission, which advises the city council on police policies, is expected to tell the city to proceed with caution when it comes to police body cameras.
Nathan Bernier/KUT News

In the wake of high profile police shootings across the country, a lot of cities are considering equipping their police officers with body cameras

Today, Austin’s Public Safety Commission will vote on recommendations for Austin Police.

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Austin
2:15 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

City Seeks to Improve Demolition Permit System

Jumpolin Rentals store owner Monica Lejarazul (right) and neighbor Diane Ontiberos (left) look on as a fence is erected around the remains of the storefront in February.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

A City Council committee is directing staff to look at adding requirements to the demolition permit system that would ensure tenants are notified of planned tear-downs.

During a review of the city’s demolition permits, the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee heard from Sergio Lejarazu, the former owner of Jumpolin, the East Austin piñata store that was torn down in February with the merchandise still inside. 

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