Austin

Austin
1:21 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Where Does Occupy Austin Go From Here?

This photo, taken the night of the Occupy Austin removal, shows the makeshift encampment that sprang up at City Hall.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/mikecogh

The removal of Occupy Austin’s semi-permanent encampment from City Hall on Friday night caught many off guard – most of all, the Occupiers themselves.

The Occupy Austin Twitter account stated they received the city's “Notice of Change to City Hall Building Use Policy," at approximately  10 p.m.  – the new cut-off time for assembly at the City Hall plaza.

“We have made these revisions in an effort to balance the interests of City residents in having access to the City Hall property for legitimate purposes with our need to manage the increasing problems at City Hall related to criminal activity, damage to City property, and health concerns,” City Manager Marc Ott wrote in a memo outlining the changes.

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Austin
10:54 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

Occupy Austin Being Evicted

A detail of a photo sent out by Occupy Austin, declaring its encampment prohibited under new city rules.
Photo courtesy twitter.com/OccupyAustin

Word broke at approximately 10:20 this evening that Occupy Austin was being evicted by police from City Hall, where protesters have stayed since October. 

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Austin
2:53 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

What Does Last Night’s Charter Revision Vote Mean?

Supporters of the "10-1" district plan for future City Council elections, at the Charter Revision Committee meeting last night.
Photo by Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Last night, the 2012 Charter Revision Committee narrowly voted to recommend a new form of government for the City of Austin – a city council comprised of members representing 10 individual districts, with only the mayor running city-wide.

So what’s next?

For starters, the committee isn’t completely finished yet. In a sign of the contentious nature of the 8-7 vote to recommend the “10-1” plan, the committee called for another meeting, to go over the language in the final recommendation it makes to council.

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Austin
8:33 am
Fri February 3, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/3/12: Single Member Districts Endorsed, Millions for Gulf Coast

Last night, the 2012 Charter Revision Committee approved a recommendation to expand the size of the City Council and endorse district representation.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Committee Supports Expanding City Council, District Representation

Yesterday, a city committee recommended a major change to the Austin City Council: That it expand from seven members to 11, and members move from city-wide (at-large) representation to district representation.  The recommendation was far from unanimous, passing on an 8-7 vote.

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Austin
5:33 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

What’s Changed in Austin Energy’s New Rate Proposals?

Austin Energy presented revised rate increase proposals to the City Council today.
Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News

Austin Energy (AE) has faced a live wire of criticism regarding new proposed electric rates. This afternoon, AE manager Larry Weiss presented changes to rate proposals to the City Council. How do they stack up against what the utility previously proposed? We’ve tallied four major changes.

1. The first 200 killowatt hours (kWh) are built into the flat charge: AE demurred on changing its proposal for $22 in flat monthly fees ($12 customer charge plus a $10 electric delivery charge). However, the first 200 kWh are included in that $12 customer charge.

2. The increases will be phased in over “two steps:” The first phase would begin this fiscal year, in September. It would carry an 8.7 percent overall increase. The second phase would kick in October 2014, comprising an additional 3.8  percent. Taken together, they would create $126 million in new revenue for the utility, but rebuild its reserves at a slower rate.

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Austin
3:43 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

KUT Roundup: DIY Divorce, Historic Clarksville, Weekend Music Picks, and a Belo Center Preview

An architectural rendering of the Belo Center for New Media, opening this year.
Image courtesy University of Texas College of Communication

Divorce may become easier to do without the help of a lawyer. A photo exhibit documenting Clarksville’s African-American history is launched. An Austin suburb’s water supply has gone dry. And you can take a virtual tour of KUT’s new home in the under-construction Belo Center. KUT creates great amounts of content, so here’s a roundup of what you might have missed, along with work from StateImpact Texas, our joint reporting project with NPR.

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Austin
11:50 am
Thu February 2, 2012

Council Update: Rate Update Happening This Afternoon

The City Council waived fees associated with a parade in celebration of the Tejano Monument, which will be unveiled at the Texas Capitol this spring.
Photo courtesy tejanomonument.com

The news this morning out of Austin City Council is no news: A presentation from Austin Energy on its revised rate proposals won’t happen until approximately 3 p.m. The council breezed through its agenda this morning, but Mayor Lee Leffingwell said it was unlikely the presentation would be completed in time for council’s noon break.

In other news:

  • A $1 surcharge per taxi passenger passed unanimously. The charge would only appear during “peak hours” of 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. The charge was decreased from an earlier amount of $2.50, which would have stayed the same regardless of the number of passengers; action on a semi-related measure revisiting the number of passengers per cab was postponed.
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Austin
9:01 am
Thu February 2, 2012

City Council Preview: Soundproofing, Single Member Districts, and Electric Rate Reset

Not all the action in City Hall today centers on City Council: the Charter Revision Committee is set to recommend a scheme for future elections.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes today, taking up a 35 item agenda. For y’all following along at home, that’s actually pretty short by council standards. Still, there’s a few items that should inspire spirited discussion on the dais:

  • Austin Energy’s Rate Revision: The duration of today’s meeting was undoubtedly shortened by the postponement of a second round of public comment on Austin Energy’s proposed rate increases. (Comment on the proposals lasted five hours last time.) Instead, heeding the feedback they’ve received on the rates, representatives from the city owned utility will be presenting “suggested changes” to their initial rate-raising proposals. Council members will be certain to pepper the AE presenters with plenty of questions.
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Austin
12:14 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Will Austin Move to Single Member Districts?

Changes may be coming to City Hall, should voters approve a revision to the City Charter altering Austin's form of elections.
Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

The Austin City Council meets tomorrow, but the real action may not be in council chambers.

The 2012 Charter Revision Committee is meeting tomorrow at City Hall. It’s being billed as the group's final meeting, and the committee’s expected to issue a recommendation on the most controversial topic it's discussed: changes to Austin’s form of elections.

The committee was created by the City Council to recommend changes to the City Charter, the city’s governing document. Its recommendations, if approved by the council, will then be put before voters this November in an election to change the charter.

As we’ve previously discussed, Austin council elections are currently at-large, meaning council members run in and represent the entire city. Critics charge this makes council candidacies prohibitively expensive, and doesn’t create equitable representation for all parts of Austin.

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Austin
11:03 am
Wed February 1, 2012

A Record-Setting Year for Austin’s Airport

Austin Begstrom had a record travel year in 2011, handling over nine million passengers.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/ajanhelendam

If Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) seemed crowded last time you flew, there’s a reason for that: ABIA announced a record travel year for 2011, with over nine million total travelers. That’s a five percent bump over last year’s takeoffs and departures.

Southwest Airlines leads the pack, with 3,325,925 passengers served out of ABIA. American Airlines came in second at 1,867,087.

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Austin
8:53 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/1/2012: Brigid Shea Running for Mayor, National Signing Day, VFW Goes Virtual

Former council member Brigid Shea (L) has decided she'll run against incumbent Mayor Lee Leffingwell this May.
Shea photo courtesy carbonshrinks.com; Leffingwell photo courtesy his campaign

Brigid Shea Running for Mayor

Incumbent Mayor Lee Leffingwell may have earned endorsements from Willie Nelson and Lance Armstrong, but that doesn't mean he's going unchallenged: Yesterday, ex-City Council member Brigid Shea announced her own mayoral bid.

The co-founder of both environmental consulting firm Carbon Shrinks and the Save Our Springs Alliance, Shea told the Austin American Statesman that she senses a growing dissatisfaction among Austinites with their local government.  "The overwhelming response I've gotten (while considering a run) is that people are not happy with the direction at City Hall," Shea told the Statesman.  "They feel that City Hall is tone deaf about the effect their choices are having on people's household budgets."

She cited several other points of concern in her Statesman interview, such as the city's new electric rate hikes, the council's approval of the Formula One race proposal, and school issues at the state and local level.

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Austin
4:48 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Austin Energy Rewriting Rate Hikes

Austin Energy is resetting the meter, announcing it will present "suggested changes" to proposed rate increases this Thursday.
courtesy flickr.com/hubgoat

Facing staunch public opposition, and mounting questions from City Council, Austin Energy is redrafting their proposed rate increases to customers' electricity bills.

A second public hearing was scheduled for this week’s City Council meeting, on Thursday, Feb. 2. But instead, representatives from the city-owned utility will be presenting “suggested changes” to their previously proposed increases at the meeting. 

The briefing is scheduled to start at 10:30am. Public comment is not allowed on briefings, and a new public hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet.

We noted earlier this week that council members were individually voicing concerns about the increases, specifically questioning the reserves Austin Energy needed to maintain, and the equity of proposed increases in energy delivery fees.

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Austin
3:44 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

What Will Austin’s Soundproofing Program Do For Downtown Clubs?

A band plays the Mohawk last year. Venues like the Mohawk may be eligible to participate in a soundproofing program for Downtown clubs.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/rogerho

How much sound mitigation can you buy for $40,000?

That a question the Austin City Council is poised to consider this week, as they consider a resolution that would enact a sound mitigation case study at a music venue downtown. It’s a signal of the importance of music to the city’s economic and cultural health, but also a symptom of the growing pains downtown is entering as more people move into the city’s urban core – and how the two can often be at odds.

The resolution before council this Thursday, Item 14, calls to change the name of the Downtown Venue Relocation Program to the Music Venue Assistance Program, and “initiate, fund, and oversee a sound mitigation case study of a relevant music venue in an amount up to $40,000 from the Downtown Development Fund.”

“What we really want to do is keep as many venues downtown as we can, because you want a concentration of music venues in a relatively small place so it’s walkable,” says council member Bill Spelman, sponsor of Item 14.  

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Austin
1:41 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

ATX Index: Austin on the Cheap (For Out-of-Towners, at Least)

Food trailer eats rank understandably high in a guide to an affordable weekend in Austin.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

We've got cheap dates, displaced pizzerias, and grim history in today's rundown of Austin links.

Austin on $100 a Weekend: The New York TimesFrugal Traveler blog shares some recommendations for a semi-affordable weekend in the City of the Violet Crown. Declaring that “Austin has a worldly heft all its own,” the itinerary hues closely to affordable eats and entertainment: Heavy on the food carts, Capital Metro rides, and even a stop at campus mainstay Ken’s Donuts (for a samosa, naturally).

Red House on Hold: One place traveling Yankees won’t be visiting anytime soon is popular Manor Road food and drink purveyor Red House Pizzeria. Eater Austin laments that the establishment has gone ‘on hiatus’ after losing their lease.

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Austin
11:24 am
Tue January 31, 2012

Burn Ban Lifted Again

A ban on outdoor burning was lifted this morning by the Travis County Commissioners Court.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/compasspoint

It seems like just weeks ago that a burn ban was put back into place for Travis County. (In fact, it was.) But citing the amount of rain the county’s recently received, the ban was lifted this morning by the Travis County Commissioners Court.

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Austin
8:58 am
Tue January 31, 2012

Top Morning Stories 1/31/12: Redistricting Closing Arguments, AISD, Texas Science Gets a C

A federal court will hear closing arguments today in the Texas redistricting trial.
Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News

Closing Arguments in Texas Redistricting Trial

A federal court in Washington will hear closing arguments today in the Texas redistricting trial, the Associated Press reports. 

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Austin
1:35 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

How is City Council Responding to Austin Energy’s Proposed Rate Hikes?

The Austin City Council will hold another public hearing on Austin Energy’s proposed rate increases this Thursday. If it’s anything like the last hearing, expect dozens and dozens of citizens to speak in protest of the proposal.

But with opinion divided on how best to proceed, and the policy debate arguably mutating into a political issue as campaign season begins, it’s uncertain exactly when the increases will be settled. And as council members are inching toward a solution, so far it’s been on separate paths.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell was the first to prominently, publicly address electricity rate hikes outside of council chambers. In a blog post, he gave five reasons he opposed the increase as drafted. He also offered some suggestions on how to improve the proposal. He suggested phasing in the increases -- including a base amount of power in the controversial based changes the utility’s proposed (which would increase from $6 to $22) -- and applauding “time-of-use’ billing that would charge more during peak system times.

Council member Bill Spelman went further late last week, releasing a thorough “starting point” for discussion of rate increases. One of Spelman’s most notable proposals is to reduce the $22 in base fees to $15, and have that amount include 250 kilowatt hours of electricity. He also wants to waive those base fees for low income customers.

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City Council Elections
12:00 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Austin Election Update: Willie and Lance Endorse, Place 2 Challenge, and a Hallucinatory Candidacy

Willie Nelson (L) and Lance Armstorng (R) have announced their endorsement of Lee Leffingwell.
Nelson photo courtesy Larry Philpot, soundstagephotography.com; Leffingwell photo courtesy his campaign; Armstrong photo courtesy http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Haggisnl

Mayor Lee Leffingwell is taking nothing for granted in his re-election bid.

Despite a lack of formidable opposition, Austin’s incumbent mayor announced two high profile, if unorthodox, endorsements this weekend. His campaign shares the details:

AUSTIN, TX – Mayor Lee Leffingwell is excited to announce today that he has been endorsed by two of Austin’s favorite adopted sons – country music legend Willie Nelson and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

 “I love Austin and I think Mayor Leffingwell has done a real good job of helping keep it a special place,” said Nelson.  “I’m proud to give him my endorsement.”

 “Mayor Leffingwell has been a strong leader and I think he deserves another term,” said Armstrong.  “I hope my fellow Austinites will join me in supporting him for re-election.”

Austin’s municipal election is set for May 12.

Race Shaping Up in Place 2?

A vocal critic of City Hall has settled on a place in which to run.

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Austin
8:45 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Top Morning Stories 1/30/12: AISD Out of Financial Emergency?

Austin ISD is expected to lift a declaration of financial exigency at a board meeting tonight.
Photo by KUT News

School Board to Withdraw Financial Exigency

The Austin ISD board is expected to withdraw the district's declaration of financial exigency at a board meeting tonight. AISD declared itself to be in a state of fiscal emergency last February, which allowed the district to cut more than 1,000 positions. The district says they now have enough money in reserve to cover an anticipated deficit year. 

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Austin
4:33 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Storms Bring Deluge of Lost Pets to Shelter

Do you know me? This female cocker spaniel at the Austin Animal Center is thought to be someone's pet.
Photo courtesy City of Austin

It was raining cats and dogs this week. And as a result of those storms, the Austin Animal Center is overflowing with lost pets.

Pets often respond poorly to extreme weather, and after heavy rainstorms blew through the Austin area, dozens of dogs and cats were taken to the Austin Animal Center. The City of Austin has taken note, stating:

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