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

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

The City of Austin filed a lawsuit Monday against the Travis Central Appraisal District, arguing that the agency significantly undervalued Austin’s commercial and vacant properties in its assessments for the past several years. Mayor Steve Adler announced the suit today at a press conference, where he appeared along with Travis Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler of TCAD. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Austin has seen a staggering rise in traffic fatalities this year. There have already been more road deaths so far in 2015 than there were during all of last year, and about half of these fatal crashes involve alcohol or intoxication.

To understand more about how the Austin Police Department is going after drunk drivers, I spent a night following an officer on his DWI enforcement unit during his patrol.

It was a long night. 

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Attorney General Ken Paxton has been in the headlines a lot as of recent. Not in the way his predecessor and current boss Greg Abbott used to (typically, by announcing that he was suing the federal government), but rather by vowing to fight against indictments on three securities fraud felonies for actions he took during his time as a state senator.

City of Austin

One of the city's former landfills in South East Austin is about to get a facelift. The city will soon transform the area into an industrial hub focused exclusively on the recycling and reuse industries.

The goal is to attract companies like Mexico-based Grupo Simplex.

This afternoon, two of Austin's City Council committees decided to drop the issue of fluoridated water.

The Public Utilities Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee met this afternoon to discuss the possibility of discontinuing the practice of adding fluoride to the city’s water supply, an issue raised in a resolution by District 6 Councilmember Don Zimmerman. 

The Wilson Quarterly

This afternoon, the Austin City Council’s Public Utilities Committee and Health and Human Services Committee are both taking on an issue that’s trickled through, and sometimes flooded, City Hall: fluoridation of water.

The issue’s prevalence has ebbed and flowed over the years in city politics, but two Austinites, both with the surname Taylor, at opposite ends of the spectrum helped water fluoridation boil over into the national spotlight.

Travis County Commissioner's Court

From the Austin Monitor:

Travis County’s largest bond proposition in recent memory has officially graduated from the Commissioners Court to the much more challenging court of public opinion.

In a historic moment that capped off years of planning, the commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to send the $287.3 million Civil & Family Courts Complex bond question to voters this November.

If approved, the new facility would bring badly needed relief to the overcrowded Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse.

Joy Diaz/KUT News

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice said criminalizing people who are homeless for sleeping in public places is unconstitutional. However, Austin’s had a “no sit/no lie” ordinance since the early ‘90s that bans homeless people from lying down on city sidewalks and sleeping in public.

While sleeping on public benches is legal, in the past few years the city’s cut back on the number of benches.

From Texas Standard:

Thursday, the University of Texas at Austin made headlines when it decided to relocate the statue of confederate leader Jefferson Davis from the university’s main mall to the Briscoe Center for American History. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans blocked this action by filing a request for a temporary restraining order.

As a result, the removal of the statue planned for this past Saturday has been delayed to allow a court to review the request.

Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, says he agrees with the decision.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The City of Austin is doing a survey through the first week in September called the Asian-American Quality of Life Initiative. The idea is to find ways to improve the experience of Asian-Americans, the city's fastest growing ethnic group. While the City of Austin is not new to quality of life initiatives, the results and recommendations of the studies traditionally take a long time to come to fruition.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

From our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor:

The city of Austin handles public information requests on the honor system – without oversight to ensure those who are inquiring receive all the information they request.

An investigation into how the honor system works found that public information requests to City Council offices and departments under the city manager are handled differently and that there is no standard training for Council offices.

Currently, when a public information request is entered into the city’s system, the Public Information Request Team sends the request to a designated point of contact in each respective office, according to the law department. The point of contact processes the department’s search and uploads responses back into the tracking system, without oversight.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson/Texas Tribune

The University of Texas at Austin is postponing plans to begin the removal of statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and President Woodrow Wilson from the school's Main Mall.

UT confirms the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a request Friday for a temporary restraining order to block the statues' removal, which had been planned for Saturday. 

The request was drafted by Kirk Lyons, an attorney representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Starting today, all of Austin's P. Terry's Hamburgers drive-thru only locations will allow walk-up access, according to owner Patrick Terry. 

After Austinite (and transit advocate) Jace Deloney pointed out on Twitter that a friend of his on foot had been turned away from the P. Terry's drive-thru on South Congress and Ben White, the company said Thursday it wouldn't be safe to allow walk-up access at their drive-thru only locations. Deloney pointed out a section of the city's municipal code that says drive-thru only businesses "must provide safe and convenient access for pedestrians to the drive-through facility."

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In football, there are positions, like quarterback, that get you a lot of attention. They get the glory, the endorsements, and the scrutiny when things go wrong. Take, for example, the heap of blame Russell Wilson took for that last-minute interception in the Super Bowl.

However, one of the most anonymous positions in football, if not in all of sport, is the long snapper. But an ex-Longhorn who's battled the odds throughout his career in football — from learning to long snap on YouTube to joining the Special Forces to becoming a walk-on at UT — is raising the profile of the position in his quest to become the NFL's oldest rookie.

UT Austin's Briscoe Center

After months of controversy swirling around the statues memorializing Confederate leaders on UT’s campus, the group tasked with helping President Greg Fenves decide their ultimate fate handed up their recommendations on Monday.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

The Austin Animal Center is finally fully staffed: Tawny Hammond, who just moved to Austin from Fairfax, Virginia, has taken over as the city's new Chief Animal Services Officer. 

Hammond's new job involves getting to know her bosses on the Austin City Council, like East Austin representative Ora Houston. Recently, after meeting some of the staff, Hammond sat with Houston to learn about the specific animal needs of the council member's East Austin district. Hammond says she's learned some districts in Austin have a large number of homeless animals. 

Hammond says there are three things she wants to do in her new role.

The City of Austin has its own department dedicated to auditing the police force – it’s called the Office of the Police Monitor. It’s supposed to issue an annual report summarizing all the year’s officer-involved shootings, complaints against police and investigations into the department.

But if you go to the Police Monitor’s website, the latest report is from 2012

The backlog is real.

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

The city of Austin has released a report on health gaps throughout Travis County. It touches on high rates of teenage pregnancy, infant mortality and HIV among African-American and Hispanic communities.

But this report is just the first step toward helping the city and local non-profits find a way to use the city budget to bridge gaps between different communities.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The group tasked with providing solutions to the controversy surrounding statues of Confederate figures on the University of Texas at Austin campus has submitted its suggestions to the school’s president, Gregory Fenves.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Mary Blackstock has no idea when she learned how to swim. In fact, the Louisiana native says she doesn't remember "ever not knowing how to swim."

Blackstock, 88, was born in between the great wars. Her father was a dentist, her mother, a stay-at-home mom. She says her mother couldn't swim and was afraid of the water. But her father's family owned a paddle-boat. They transported sugar cane and cattle to New Orleans. The family home was on a hill at Babylon Bayou, and that's where Mary Blackstock and her siblings would swim every evening — but only when her father was home from work. He was the one who would throw the kids in the water.

Swimming, Blackstock says, changed her life.