Austin

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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Winter Weather
4:46 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Another Round of Wintry Weather for Central Texas; AISD, UT and Others Delay Start Times

National Weather Service

A winter weather advisory is in effect for Central Texas, including Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, until 6:00 p.m. Tuesday. A winter weather advisory means periods of freezing rain, sleet, or even snow could cause some travel difficulties. We have about a 40% chance of a light wintry mix of precipitation during the morning. Read more for a list of delayed start times.

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Turning the Corner
9:16 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Men on Parole Search For Fresh Start in Austin's Dove Springs

A man who declined to be identified returns to the transitional housing facility known as The Cave.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. 

KUT is documenting those efforts, the people trying to make a difference, the setbacks they face and how they work to overcome them. Listen to more stories here.

Dove Springs is the only neighborhood in Austin where you can find a parole office – one of the reasons more parolees end up in Southeast Austin than any other neighborhood.

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Winter Weather
12:37 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Weather Delays Have Austin Asking: Why Are We So Bad at Winter?

Students dressed warmly on the University of Texas campus today. UT, like most Austin-area schools and governments, started at 10 a.m. today due to inclement weather.
KUT News

Morning delays at Austin schools are receiving some ribbing online.

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, the City of Austin and dozens of other school districts and government agencies postponed start times until 10 a.m. this morning.

Some districts, like Round Rock ISD, also posted through explanations of their thinking in making the decision to issue late starts.

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Austin City Council
8:26 am
Thu February 6, 2014

City’s General Fund Ends Fiscal Year 2013 with $14 Million Surplus

Mayor Lee Leffingwell says a city budget surplus should go to "preserve … and potentially maintain the property tax rate, or even reduce it.”
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

This article is written by KUT's Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily). 

The City of Austin’s General Fund ended fiscal year 2013 with a $14.2 million surplus. That figure amounts to a roughly 1 percent variance from projections made by city staff.

Despite the positive figure, Austin’s Chief Financial Officer Elaine Hart told members of the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee Wednesday that management was not planning on coming forward with a mid-year budget adjustment.

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Austin
4:42 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

CVS Decision to Drop Cigarettes Reverberates in Austin

Today the CVS Pharmacy chain announced it would be dropping all tobacco sales from their retail locations. CVS has 25 locations in Austin.
flickr.com/blile59

On Wednesday, the CVS Pharmacy chain announced that on Oct. 1, all locations would cease selling cigarettes and tobacco products.

With nearly 13 percent of Austin adults calling themselves active smokers, the decision could have a lasting effect on the city.

The move was applauded by entities including the American Cancer Society and the White House. Dr. Philip Huang, medical director for Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, has similar praises for the pharmacy chain.

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Austin
2:13 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Why This Austin Professor's Living In a Dumpster For a Year

Jeff Wilson will be spending 2014 in a 33-square-foot dumpster in the name of sustainability.
Jeff Wilson

An Austin professor has survived the first night in his year-long plan to live in a dumpster.

Dr. Jeff Wilson – aka “Professor Dumpster” – is an environmental science professor at Huston-Tillotson University. He’s also the face of The Dumpster Project, an educational experiment that aims to transform a 33-square-foot trash dumpster into a fully sustainable space.

"There was no mint on the pillow," he says, "and it wasn't exactly the W, but I did stay warm."

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