Austin

SXSW 2014
7:07 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

SXSW Crash Raises Concerns About Barricade Safety

A car plowed through barricades like these early Thursday morning, killing two and injuring 23. Now, some are questioning whether the city of Austin should use stronger barriers to increase pedestrian safety.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Every year during South by Southwest, police use barricades to create pedestrian-only streets. They’re meant to protect the large crowds that descend on the city.

But early Thursday morning, a driver plowed through one of those barricades, killing two people and injuring 23 others.

Now, some people, like pedestrian safety expert Rob Reiter, are questioning if the city should put more protective barriers in place. He says crashes like the one last night are preventable if the right types of barricades are used.

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Austin
6:44 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

How You Can Help SXSW Crash Victims

People offered prayers for the victims at a vigil Thursday at St. David’s Episcopal Church. You can also help by donating blood, offering money or providing evidence to police.
Mary Elizabeth Ashton

After an early morning crash on Red River Street claimed two lives and hospitalized almost two dozen people, some are understandably asking, "What can I do to help?" Here are some ideas.

Give Money:  SXSW, the City of Austin and Transmission Events set up a relief fund for the victims and their families. You can make a donation at SXSWCares.com. Other ways to contribute are at sxswrelief.org.  

Albert Smith, who operates the Unofficial SXSW Guide, is also raising money at this GoFundMe page

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SXSW 2014
4:52 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Two Dead After Driver Plows Into SXSW Crowd; Suspect in Custody

The incident took place outside The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue.
Ashley Park for KUT

This post is no longer being updated. See more from KUT:

Summary: An Austin woman and a male visitor from the Netherlands are dead after a car plowed through South by Southwest crowds in Downtown Austin early this morning. The collisions took place along Red River Street near The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue. Nearly two dozen were injured.  

Austin Police have a suspect in custody, 21 year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens. He's been charged with two counts of capital murder.

The Austin victim is 27-year-old Jamie Ranae West, according to several news reports, including one from the Austin American-Statesman.  

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Thursday morning that the incident started as a traffic stop (part of police efforts to crack down on drunk drivers) at the Shell Gas station at Ninth Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road. Chief Acevedo says the driver drove into the gas station parking lot, but then sped off and started driving the wrong way down Ninth Street.

APD pursued the driver, who then tried to strike one officer working barricade duty, and continued speeding onto Red River. Acevedo says the driver hit multiple pedestrians on the street, killing two on vehicles: an Austin female that was a passenger on a moped, and  a male visitor from the Netherlands who was killed on his bicycle. (Initial police reports said both passengers on the moped were killed.)

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Austin
4:07 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Mayor Leffingwell Hosts Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' Thread

Mayor Lee Leffingwell is fielding questions on Reddit right now.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Mayor Leffingwell just finished fielding questions in his Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session. Here's a sampling of his answers.

A robust defense of South by Southwest:

In response to a question describing the "burden" of hosting SXSW, he wrote:

"SXSW brought $218 million of economic impact in 2013. Austin benefits incredibly from being on the international stage due to the festival. I believe it's well worth a week's worth of minor inconvenience for all of the positive impacts it brings. It is also a tourism festival. People come here, spend all of their money and then go home. Not too shabby."

A dig at Austin's wage floor:
In October, the Austin City Council approved a $11/hour wage floor for companies receiving city incentives. Leffingwell used his IAmA to take a swipe at the requirement, in answer to what can be done about Austin's growing economic divide:

"We collaborate with educational organizations, such as UT, ACC, etc. I believe increased training and education will help create more opportunities and a better quality of life. I support bringing manufacturing level jobs to our city, but this is challenging because of wage restrictions recently passed by council. I realize that this is an important issue."

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Austin
5:00 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Vulcan Gas Company Returns As An Electronic Music Club

Original Vulcan Gas Company Poster advertising a show with Shiva's Headband, The Conqueroo and Georgetown Medical Band
Credit The Vulcan Gas Company

Austin’s Vulcan Gas Company was only open for a few years in the 1960s.

But in that brief time the music venue showcased legendary acts like the Velvet Underground, Janis Joplin and Moby Grape.
It’s been revered as one of the early homes of psychedelic rock and helped pave the way for legendary Austin music establishment- the Armadillo World Headquarters.

Tonight, as the South By Southwest Music festival gets underway, the Vulcan Gas Company name has been revived – in a new location. 
Here’s a look back at its past and what the owners of its new incarnation hope to offer.

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SXSW 2014
5:49 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

How Driverless Cars Could Change the Way We Travel

Google is one company leading the creation of self-driving cars. While the technology itself is revolutionary, Chandra Bhat says it also has big implications for how people may travel in the future.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Self-driving cars are coming. It’s just a matter of when. Last year, four states passed laws allowing driverless cars on the road.  But for Chandra Bhat, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas, the question is how driverless cars will affect other consumer choices people make: where they live, what types of cars they own, when they travel?

Listen to Bhat talk about some of those ways below.

Bhat spoke at SXSW Interactive on Monday about the implications of driverless cars.

SXSW 2014
10:59 pm
Sun March 9, 2014

Watch This Mural in Downtown Austin Come Alive on Your Smartphone

Two artists have created a mural in downtown Austin that becomes interactive when you hold up your smartphone to the mural.
Kate McGee, KUT News

The side of the Recess Arcade Bar on the corner of San Jacinto and East Sixth Street looks a little different.

Artists Jordan Seiler and BC Biermann spent the entire weekend pasting an 84 foot long mural on the side of the building.

Sieler, based in New York, says the mural deals with ideas of production and consumption.

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Austin
8:05 am
Sun March 9, 2014

Zilker Kite Festival Canceled Due to Rain

flickr.com/sonicpenguin

The 86th annual Zilker Kite Festival has been canceled, after last night's storm drenched Zilker Park. More rain is in the forecast today.

In a statement, festival organizers said they had planned to go forward, until the weather turned even worse last night.

"We want to be especially respectful of our home – Zilker Park – and with this type of weather, we risk doing too much damage to the park under these wet conditions," said a statement on the festival's website.

SXSW 2014
7:58 am
Sat March 8, 2014

Are Massive Open Online Courses Worth It?

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are free, online courses hosted by universities, but open to anyone with Internet access. Universities and colleges are increasingly offering them, but some question the MOOC model.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are free, online courses hosted by universities, but open to anyone with Internet access. They’re a recent development in higher education.

This year, the University of Texas at Austin offered nine MOOCs through the nonprofit, edX.

Many praise MOOCs as a way to provide more educational opportunity, but some are questioning whether MOOCs are really a successful education model.

Jeff Meadows is one of those people.

He’s a teacher development coordinator with the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada and he’s hosting a core conversation at SXSW called, “If MOOCs Are So Great, Why Aren’t We All Doing it?" He came to KUT to talk more about it.

Listen below.

Austin
3:45 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

In Time for SXSW, a Brief History of Austin's 'Don't Move Here' T-Shirts

An artist's rendering of the back of the Wannabes' 1997 t-shirt.

The story of Austin's various "Don’t Move Here" t-shirts is, in many ways, the story of Austin itself: the transformation of an undiscovered secret into something much bigger. 

While the "Don’t Move Here" meme certainly predates its first recorded t-shirt printing – not to mention the concept of a "meme" itself – modern history posits spring 1997 as the time it was first put to cotton.

It was then that Austin pop-rockers The Wannabes minted a batch of merch bearing the slogan.

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SXSW 2014
11:10 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Austin: Here's the App You Need to Ditch the SXSW Crowds

An Austin-based advertising company created a web app to avoid crowds at SXSW. It uses Foursquare technology to let you know which bars, restaurants and coffee shops people haven't checked in at.
avoidhumans.com

Yogi Berra's famous quote – "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded" – has never really applied to Austin's South by Southwest festival.

Yes, there are crowds galore. But people keep coming: in 2012, the number of registrants increased by 15 percent over the previous year.

But now an Austin-based ad agency has developed an app for locals who might be looking to avoid the SXSW masses. It lets you know where people aren’t.

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Turning the Corner
7:45 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Dove Springs Residents Hope New City Council Elections Give Neighborhood a Voice

Edward Reyes, center, is the president of the Dove Springs neighborhood association. He's planning to run for city council in District Two, as the city transitions to single-member district elections.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Since August of last year, KUT has been looking at the Dove Springs neighborhood in Southeast Austin in its Turning the Corner series. It’s a neighborhood trying to rise above the challenges of poverty – and one common theme that’s been repeated by residents is that they feel ignored.

Cynthia Valadez used to live in the Dove Springs neighborhood.

“That was the one area of Travis County and the City of Austin that failed to get the clinics, the offices, the grocery stores, the doctor’s offices," Valadez says. "Anything that’s health related didn’t go there. You couldn’t do anything in that community."

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SXSW 2014
7:23 am
Fri March 7, 2014

SXSW Relies on Volunteers. Is That Legal?

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It takes a lot of manpower to put on a festival, especially as one as big as South by Southwest.

"One thing that I don't think a lot of people realize is that there's like 200 people that have full time jobs at South by Southwest," says SXSW cofounder and managing director Roland Swenson. "During the event there are hundreds of more temporary workers that we hire."

When it comes to volunteers, Swenson knows there's a lot – even if he's not quite sure of the number.

"You know I think there's going to be over 3,000," he says. "I don't have a precise count, but that's for 15 days of South by Southwest." 

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Halloween Floods
2:41 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Austin to Receive Federal Funds to Buyout Homes in Onion Creek

The city of Austin has been awarded $11.8 million to buy out homes in the flood-prone Onion Creek neighborhood.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The federal government is sending $11.8 million to Travis County to help buy out homes in the flood-prone Onion Creek neighborhood.

More than 600 homes in the area were damaged or destroyed in last October’s flooding, but Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s office says the effort to buy out homes and restore the area to its natural habitat goes back to another flash flood there in 1998.

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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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