Austin

Developing
9:07 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Winter Storm Delays Schools, Primary Voting in Central Texas

Ice on a garbage can outside of the KUT studios.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

UPDATE: The National Weather Service curtailed the winter storm warning issued Monday. It is now in effect until 9 a.m. for Bastrop, Burnet, Travis, and Williamson Counties. 

K-12 SCHOOL DELAYS:

School districts in the Austin area are announcing delayed starts for Tuesday morning, due to the winter weather. 

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Weather
7:12 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Winter Storm Warning for Monday Evening, Tuesday Morning

While the National Weather Service is forecasting sleet and freezing rain, accumulation is not expected.
National Weather Service

The Austin area could see freezing rain and sleet tonight and tomorrow. There’s a Winter Storm Warning in effect from 8 p.m. on Monday until noon on Tuesday.

Many Texans may be cranking up their thermostats to fight the cold. But the operator of the state’s electric grid hopes people won’t turn the heat up higher than 68 degrees.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas – or ERCOT – is asking Texans to conserve so that there’s enough energy to meet the increased demand.

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Austin
4:54 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Zilker Kite Festival Postponed Due to Weather

The Zilker Park Kite Festival has been postponed to March 9 due to weather
http://www.flickr.com/bill78704/

The 86th annual Zilker Kite Festival is postponed until next Sunday, March 9, due to weather.

City officials made the decision Saturday afternoon, as the National Weather Service predicts isolated thunderstorms Sunday could get severe.

Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing Sunday night.

Same-Sex Marriage
1:50 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Travis County's Clerk is Confident Gay Couples Will Marry Soon in Texas

"My office would be thrilled if we could offer marriage licenses equally to all couples," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says.

The ruling this week calling Texas' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional prompted plenty of reaction from politicos.

One of the lesser-known politicians to sound off: Dana DeBeauvoir. As Travis County Clerk, she's decidedly downballot of the state's top races. But DeBeauvoir is also uniquely affected by the decision, since the county clerk's office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Austin and Travis County.

When the ruling was announced, DeBeauvoir offered a ringing endorsement:

“Because of the stay order in the ruling, the County Clerk cannot issue marriage licenses to gay couples at this time. This is a joyous day, but we will have to wait a little longer to actually deliver the justice and equal rights gay couples so deserve.” 

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Austin
12:16 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

The Smartphone App Connecting Austin to Protests in Venezuela

Protestors in Venezuela use smartphone app Zello to communicate
flickr.com/aandres

According to published reports, for the first time in four years Venezuela is set to send an ambassador to the US. This comes despite the fact that Venezuela's president is accusing Washington of fomenting violent anti-government protests – protests that have left more than a dozen people dead. 

Just last week, Venezuela expelled three US diplomats accused of conspiring with student protesters, a charge rejected by the Obama Administration. But that's not to say there's been no Texas role – albeit an unofficial one.  

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Austin Fire Dept.
8:47 am
Wed February 26, 2014

City, Firefighters Union Headed for Mediation in Hiring Dispute

Austin firefighters respond to a fire at the Dobie Mall in this archival photo. Mediation between the firefighters' union and the Dept. of Justice – focusing on minority hiring issues – is set to begin soon.
Credit flickr.com/musingminds

This article is written by KUT's City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

The Austin Firefighters Association (AFA) – the union for City of Austin’s firefighters – and city management are headed to federal mediation over lingering accusations of hiring discrimination. Asked how long the mediation process might take AFA head Bob Nicks Tuesday declined to speculate.

Also, at Tuesday’s work session Council Member Mike Martinez, former head of the firefighters union, announced from the dais that city staff had requested a week’s postponement for council ratification of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Austin City Council
1:06 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Live Blog: Mayor Leffingwell's 2014 State of the City Address

Update: Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell  delivered his final "State of the City" address today at noon.

Leffingwell's office billed the 40-minute speech as an overview of the mayor's two terms in office. Leffingwell was elected mayor in 2009 and 2012; Austin will elect a new mayor this November. Read below for a real-time report on the mayor's remarks. Video of the mayor's speech will be included in this post once it is available. 

That's a wrap: Leffingwell ends his speech with a call for interconnectedness going forward into single-member districts. On to a Q&A session with the crowd.

Not many major proclamations coming out of the mayor's address: calls for a medical school innovation district and urban rail were big moments from the mayor's speech last year. Still, the address can be viewed as doubling down on initiatives Leffingwell wants to accomplish before leaving office; as soon as his speech ended, his office issued a statement titled "Mayor defines focus for
 final 10 months in office."

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Austin
5:43 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

What's a Bitcoin ATM Doing in a Downtown Austin Bar?

Handlebar on East 5th is the home of Austin's, and the United States', first Bitcoin ATM.
Kelly Krupa/KUT

The first cash-dispensing Bitcoin ATM machine in the U.S. launched today, and it’s right here in Austin.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that was first developed in 2009; it is a peer-to-peer payment system that operates outside of a central authority or bank. As previously reported by KUT, Bitcoin was created for and traditionally used as a web-based currency, but some are attempting to move the currency offline.

The new Bitcoin ATM represents a big step in the process of trying to brand Bitcoin as a more “mainstream” form of currency.

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Austin City Council
4:54 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Austin OKs Economic Incentives for Dropbox, Websense (Update)

Websense is a San Diego-based Internet security firm. It's looking to relocate to Austin, contingent on city and state economic incentives.
websense.com

Update: Dropbox and Websense will receive economic incentives to expand in Austin.

The Austin City Council voted 5-2 today to offer the two tech companies approximately $700,000 in incentives. The money comes on top of $6 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. 

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Travis County
1:41 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Travis County Employees Could Lose Individually Reserved Parking

Travis County employees could lose indvidually reserved parking under a new propsal.
flickr.com/spike55151

This story has been corrected. See below.

The Travis County Commissioners Court discussed a proposal Tuesday that could cut individual permit parking for some downtown employees, replacing it with open, or "zoned," parking lot parking. 

The county aims to eliminate a three year-long waitlist for parking that has 320 employees still angling for a spot.

Travis County auditor Nikki Riley told the commissioners the county pays $120,000 a year for additional spaces so certain employees can have reserved spots. "We are firmly convinced that if we go to zoned parking, we would be able to eliminate the waiting list," she said.

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Keeping It Weird
1:01 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Rundberg's 'Running Man' Looks to Take His Message Beyond Austin

Broderick James says there he wants to take his "Power of Hope" message to all of the "Rundbergs in every city" in Texas.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

He's everyone's favorite cardio-loving community activist — a relatively new emissary of Austin weird.

His name is Broderick James, but he's better known as the Rundberg Running Man, a local fixture you can find dancing, running and freestyle rapping on the corner of Lamar and Rundberg on a daily basis. While many Austinites know him for his daily exploits, most people outside the city would simply peg him as a typical fitness freak.

James wants to change that, only there's a problem: money. 

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Homelessness
4:58 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Austin's Homeless Population is Shrinking. Is It Permanent?

Bruce Klein has been homeless for years. Klein says he owes his survival to the goodness of strangers. He believes it's only a matter of time before number of people living on the streets of Austin spikes back up.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News.

This year’s count of people who are homeless shows a decline in numbers for the Austin area. It’s the fourth consecutive year of decline. So, what’s behind the shrinking numbers of people who live on the streets?

Ann Howard leads an organization called ECHO -- the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. She hopes the day will come when there are no more people who are homeless and then she’ll move to a different line of work. And, if her predictions are right, that day may come soon for Austin.

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Austin
8:20 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Presidents to Gather in Austin this Spring for Civil Rights Summit

President Lyndon Johnson meets with Martin Luther King in the White House Cabinet Room in 1966. April's summit will highlight the changes that the civil rights movement brought to America.
Yoichi R. Okamoto Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

The history and the current state of the civil rights struggle will be examined at a three-day summit in Austin this spring. The conference will focus on President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights legacy.

The Civil Rights Summit will be held April 8-10 at the LBJ Presidential Library – and will mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Johnson.

Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, says two former presidents have confirmed their attendance: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush has not yet confirmed, and there is the possibility of President Barack Obama attending.

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Austin
1:18 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Weekend Closures for the Austin Marathon, Presidents Day

The Austin Marathon will close streets throughout Austin starting tomorrow afternoon
flickr.com/pedxing

City of Austin offices and some other city-run facilities will be closed Monday, Feb. 17 for Presidents' Day. The Austin Marathon will also cause street closures from Saturday afternoon to Sunday after the marathon ends. You can find a full list of closures on the city's website

Trash, recycling and yard trimmings collection for City Austin Resource Recovery customers will remain the same. Below you can find a full list of closures. 

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Austin City Council
10:13 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Austin City Council Votes to Lower Occupancy Limits

The Austin City Council passed regulations to limit occupants in single-family homes from six to four last night on first reading.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The Austin City Council had a long day at the dais yesterday, with a meeting that sputtered along for the better part of 15 hours.

"Stealth dorms," fee waivers, economic incentives, an officer-involved shooting, the MoPac sound wall and  even a proclamation for KUT's own Cactus Cafe. 

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the council action, and inaction, from yesterday.

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Austin
10:18 am
Thu February 13, 2014

City Council Poised to Decide on 'Stealth Dorm' Regulations

The Dove Springs neighborhood has many homes that could be considered "stealth dorms" under a new occupancy reduction ordinance.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The city of Austin limits the number of unrelated adults who can live in a single-family home. Right now, that limit is six.

But there’s a push before the Austin City Council to lower that number to four.  The Austin City Council meets today to decide whether to impose new rules that would lower occupancy limits – and do away with what some call “stealth dorms.”

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Opinion
3:16 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Op-Ed: Reducing Occupancy Limits Hurts Affordability Without Solving Problems

The Austin City Council will discuss occupancy limits for so-called "stealth dorms" tomorrow. Opponents say laws limiting housing occupancy could affect affordable housing in Austin.

Tomorrow, the Austin City Council takes up an ordinance that would lower occupancy limits on single-family zoned property. If approved, the maximum number of unrelated adults allowed to live together would fall from six to four. 

Supporters of the change is needed to stop the spread of so-called "stealth dorms" – neighborhood homes built or remodeled to hold as many renters as possible. Opponents say the change will hurt Austin's declining stock of affordable housing. 

Julie Montgomery is a Program Coordinator & Research Associate, Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at her alma mater UT Austin.

An occupancy limit reduction would make housing more expensive for all of us. It wouldn’t really solve the unfortunate quality of life problems experienced by some neighborhoods. And it is a costly distraction from the challenging work that policymakers, staff, and advocates need to do to address Austin’s housing shortage.

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Opinion
3:06 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Op-Ed: Austin Should Lower Occupancy Limits to Stop 'Stealth Dorms'

A city council resolution would lower occupancy limits at residences zoned for single-family use from six to four unrelated adults.
Credit Stop Stealth Dorms

This Thursday, the Austin City Council takes up an ordinance that would lower occupancy limits on single-family zoned property. If approved, the maximum number of unrelated adults allowed to live together would fall from six to four. 

Supporters of the change is needed to stop the spread of so-called "stealth dorms" – neighborhood homes built or remodeled to hold as many renters as possible. Opponents say the change will hurt Austin's declining stock of affordable housing.

For over 30 years, Mary Sanger has had a professional career in community organizing and electoral politics with a focus on environmental issues, and growth and development issues. 

What is before the City Council? In November, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution instructing the city manager to initiate a code amendment to reduce occupancy limits for structures on single-family zoned properties from six to four unrelated persons over the age of 18. The resolution covers both duplexes and houses. It does not apply to apartments or buildings not in single-family zoned areas.

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Halloween Floods
1:27 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Halloween Flooding Caused More than $30 Million in Damage to Insured Properties

Halloween floods caused $30M in damages to insured properties, but the Insurance Council of Texas say that may not include a lot of the damages in this particular flood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

A statewide insurance association says the Halloween flooding in Austin caused more than $30 million in insured damages to residential and commercial properties.

More than 580 insured homes and commercial properties in Hays, Travis and Caldwell counties were damaged by the floodwater, according to the figures released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Insurance Council of Texas

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SXSW 2014
10:15 am
Tue February 11, 2014

SXSW is Due $755K Worth of City Waivers & Payments - Here's a Breakdown

A street scene from SXSW 2013.

This year, the City of Austin is planning to cover over $750,000 worth of fees and services for South by Southwest . 

The proposal, which the Austin City Council is set to vote on Thursday, includes up to $274,320 worth of fee waivers – ranging from $30 sound permit fees to $89,000 worth of litter control services. Any fees already paid by SXSW would be reimbursed to the company. The city would also authorize payments for $481,324 worth of city services – the bulk of which is $340,000 in additional police costs.

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