Austin

Austin
10:22 am
Thu February 12, 2015

Property Tax Exemptions, Explained in Terms of Pie

How much pie (ok, it's cheesecake) equals a property tax exemption?
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Today the Austin City Council will talk about the possibility of implementing a twenty percent homestead property tax exemption. It's something many of the newly elected council members promised on the campaign trail last year.

So, what exactly does a twenty percent homestead exemption mean for homeowners?

Let's look at your property taxes as a whole, as though they were a pie.

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Austin
8:43 am
Thu February 12, 2015

Watch: Austin Unveils the World's Nosiest Lamp Posts

A text from a thing.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

Think of a time you’ve talked to an object that can’t talk back. Maybe you’ve yelled at your car when it wouldn’t start, or screamed at the leg of a table after stubbing your toe on it.

While Austinites have always had the option to talk to inanimate objects while walking down the street, now the objects will talk – or rather, text – back.

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Wayback Wednesday
3:43 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

How Chicken Salad Helped Bring Down a Texas Governor

A campaign poster from James "Pa" Ferguson's first run for governor. He was elected in the 1914 election and served one full term, but was impeached in the first year of his second.
Credit Texas State Library

Today’s Wayback Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the end of James “Pa” Ferguson’s tenure as governor of Texas. The unlikely harbinger of his premature departure from the Governor’s Mansion? Chicken salad.

One hundred years ago today, in Ferguson’s first month as governor, the legislature passed a bill to pay for the groceries of his predecessor, O.B. Colquitt, with services and sundries on Colquitt’s tab including butter, eggs, feed for horses, car repairs, stationary, punch and chicken salad, among others.

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Austin
10:48 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Zimmerman Struggles to Stop Subsidized Housing

District 6 council member Don Zimmerman.
Credit KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

There are only two subsidized housing developments in City Council Member Don Zimmerman’s District 6, as compared to 47 in Council Member Ora Houston’s District 1 and 46 in Council Member Pio Renteria’s District 3, according to data compiled by the group Housing Works Austin.

But Zimmerman would like to make sure there is not another one in District 6. He is particularly opposed to the Cardinal Point Apartments that are to be developed by Foundation Communities, Inc. at 11011 1/2 Four Points Drive.

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Austin
6:07 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

School for the Deaf Staff, Students React to Potential Downsizing

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

The Texas School for the Deaf sits on 67 acres in between South 1st and South Congress. It looks more like a small college campus than a traditional school building. But then again, says school superintendent Claire Bugen, this isn't a traditional school.

"We serve students from age zero, in our parent/infant program, through home visits. And then when the student is 18 months old, they start to come on campus for part-time services. Now these are local students. All the way through age 22. So our continuum of services is very broad," Bugen says.

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Austin
9:18 am
Tue February 10, 2015

What Does It Mean If Some City Council Districts Have Children and Some Don't?

Despite their close proximity, Districts 4 and 9 have a huge gap in the number of children in each, and some wonder how that will affect each district's budgets and policies going forward.
Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

Every one of Austin's 10 geographic districts is unique, but there's one fact they share: Each has roughly 80,000 people.

That allows for a relative population equality between the districts, but the differences in district-to-district demographics can be anything but equal.

One of the biggest differences is between Districts 4 and 9.

District 9 has about a fourth of the number of children in District 4 and some wonder if that disparity will affect how the Austin City Council prioritizes money for each district in future budgets.

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Austin City Council
11:09 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Aleshire Files Criminal Complaint Against Zimmerman

District 6 City Council member Don Zimmerman is accused of wrongly using campaign funds to pay his wife.
KUT News

From the Austin Monitor:

District 6 City Council Member Don Zimmerman may be headed back to court, but this time as a defendant in a criminal prosecution.

On Thursday, Aleshire LAW PC attorney Bill Aleshire filed a criminal complaint against Zimmerman with the Travis County Attorney and the Texas Ethics Commission.

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Austin
3:46 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Where Should Austin Build Affordable Housing?

Austin faces a challenge when it comes to building more affordable housing.
Credit Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Now that the new Austin City Council is in place, it faces a challenge: On the one hand, council members know just how necessary affordable housing is. Virtually all of them ran on an "affordability" platform.

Advocates will tell you Austin is short tens of thousands of housing units specifically for low-income residents. Non-profits have been working hard in recent years to building more affordable housing (below-market rate units for low- and middle-income residents, often subsidized through public and/or private funding).

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Technology
7:34 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Ross Ulbricht, Accused Of Operating Silk Road, Is Convicted Of Drug Charges

In this courtroom drawing, defendant Ross Ulbricht listens to proceedings from the defense table during opening arguments in his criminal trial in New York on Jan. 13. A jury convicted Ulbricht, the man linked to the underground marketplace Silk Road, of seven drug and conspiracy counts on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Williams AP

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 11:19 am

A New York jury took a little more than three hours today to convict Ross Ulbricht, the San Francisco man linked to the shadowy online marketplace Silk Road, of seven drug and conspiracy counts.

Prosecutors said the website, which had been labeled the eBay of the drug trade, allowed drug dealers and others to anonymously reach a broader base of customers. The Associated Press adds:

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Wayback Wednesday
1:56 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Wayback Wednesday: The Capitol Fire of 1983

On February 6, 1983, a fire caused damage to the east wing of the Texas Capitol.
Austin Fire Department Museum

Today’s Wayback Wednesday marks the 32nd anniversary of the 1983 fire at the Texas Capitol. The electrical fire started in the early morning hours of February 6, 1983, marring then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby’s apartment behind the Senate chambers and killing a guest, a horse trainer from New Caney named Matt Hansen, who was staying in the apartment.

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Austin
9:29 am
Wed February 4, 2015

Feds Allocate $21 Million for Onion Creek Buyout

Maria Isabel Fabian tries to save an heirloom tablecloth salvaged from her Dove Springs home which flooded when record rains hit the Austin area on Thursday October 31, 2013.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday another $21 million for the Onion Creek area of Southeast Austin.

Some of the money will be used to buy out more homes in the floodplain.

The buy-out program includes a total of almost 500 homes and it dates back to the 1990s.

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Austin
1:26 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Austin Ad Firms Scored Two Super Bowl Spots

Screenshot from Austin-based ad firm GSD&M's Superbowl ad.

Talk of the Super Bowl's "sad ads" has dominated post-game non-football-based discussions, but there were actually some commercials during yesterday's game that didn't intend to pull heartstrings or motivate consumerism via shame spirals and guilt trips.

Austin advertising firm GSD&M followed up on last year’s success with another TV commercial airing on Super Bowl Sunday.

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Austin
12:29 pm
Mon February 2, 2015

Two Years After His Death, Why Doesn't Chris Kyle Have a Gravestone?

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared today Chris Kyle Day, in honor of the U.S. military's deadliest sniper who was fatally shot in February 2013.
Marshall Tidrick/KUT

Today, while others are celebrating Groundhog Day and still others are celebrating Armadillo Day, Gov. Abbott is asking Texans to remember former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle on the second anniversary of his death. 

Kyle served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the deadliest sniper in United States military history and was recently played by Bradley Cooper in the Oscar-nominated film adaptation of Kyle’s autobiography “American Sniper,” which quickly became the highest-grossing war film of all time.

But still, nearly two years after his funeral and burial at the Texas State Cemetery, Kyle still doesn’t have a grave marker.

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Austin
2:00 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Austin's Hands-Free Fines to Start on Sunday

Though APD has been handing out warnings so far, enforcement of the hands-free driving law begins in earnest this Sunday.
Credit Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

This Sunday, the city of Austin will start ticketing drivers and cyclists who are texting or talking on their mobile phones without a hands-free device.

The Austin Police Department says they'll fine drivers up to $500, depending on several factors. For those who plead "no contest" and pay on time, the fine with court costs will total about $220.

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Austin City Council
9:31 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Council Pushes Affordability, Salary Flexibility in First Meeting

In their first meeting, members of the Austin City Council discussed a "Regional Affordability Committee" and the prospect of allowing members to forego salaries to better pay staff.
Courtesy of City of Austin

The Austin City Council met Thursday in what was its first official meeting under 10-1. The mood was like the first day of school after a long summer break.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he felt like back in his junior high school days when he won his first election for class president. He read from a copy of "Robert’s Rules of Order," a book his father gave him to conduct focused and effective meetings, citing an inscription written in the book by his deceased father.

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Drone Zone
3:02 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Federal Foot-Dragging Allows Some Drone Photographers to Take Flight, Grounds Others

Despite federal bans on commercial uses of drones, many are using the gadgets for aerial photography.
YouTube

Earlier this week, the Secret Service fetched a drone flown by a tipsy government employee off the White House Lawn, and yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked football fans to keep the Superbowl game a “No Drone Zone” in a PSA.

While drone popularity has soared among hobbyists, it hasn’t stopped there. Though it doesn't seem super legal for them to be flown by fans spying on the Patriots’ equipment staff on Sunday or toasted staffers looking to check in on the Obamas at 3 a.m., that staffer wasn’t charged

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Wayback Wednesday
1:51 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Meet Hyde Park's First Eccentric Artist

Elisabet Ney in her studio at Formosa in 1892, shortly after moving to Austin.
Austin History Center

Today's Wayback Wednesday marks the 182nd birthday of Elisabet Ney. The renowned sculptor was born in Munster, Germany on January 26, 1833, and was the first female sculpting student at the Munich Academy of Art and became a celebrated sculptor throughout Europe in the 1850s and 1860s, crafting busts of philosopher Arthur Schoepenhaur, Germany's first chancellor Otto von Bismarck and even Jacob Grimm, one of the two eponymous fairy tale-writing brothers.

In 1872, Ney and her husband Dr. Edmund Montgomery moved to Texas, buying land near in Waller County outside of Houston and later moving to Hyde Park in 1892. Her home and studio, originally called "Formosa," now houses a museum commemorating her art. Her sculptures adorn the Texas State Capitol, the United States Capitol and, perhaps most famously, the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art.

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Health Care
5:09 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Dell Family Foundation Makes Major Donation to UT Hospital

A rendering of the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, slated to open in 2017.
Seton Healthcare Family

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is donating $25 million in a challenge grant to pay for Seton Healthcare Family’s new teaching hospital in Austin.

Susan Dell, who announced the decision today, says they want the community to get involved in donating the remaining $25 million. The $50 million combined will go toward the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.

"We will have state-of-the-art treatments for our patients, we’ll be able to attract the best talent in the country to our team here in Central Texas," Dell said. "One of Michael and my biggest goals is always about elevating the level of care for the entire community here in Central Texas, and this project helps us do that."

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Austin
9:32 am
Tue January 27, 2015

How You Can Help Rewrite Austin's Confusing, Outdated Campaign Finance Rules

Some Austin City Council candidates before the city's ballot selection in August of 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The city's Ethics Review Commission (ERC) is looking for ways to update Austin’s campaign finance rules for two simple reasons.

One, the language is very complicated. And two, the limits that are in place haven't been updated in a long time. The ERC is meeting tonight to hear from Austinites about how to spruce up the rules.

Anyone with ideas as to how the ERC can make the language on campaign finance rules more understandable, can post those ideas at SpeakUpAustin.org or can attend the public meeting at City Hall at 7 p.m.

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Austin City Council
8:52 am
Tue January 27, 2015

What Happens If Steve Adler Forgoes His Salary?

Mayor Steve Adler.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

It's no secret that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is independently wealthy and that he doesn't need the $82,000 and change his position pays every year.

Adler has said he instead wants to use the money to boost the salaries of some of his staff, but the move may have some tricky implications for his successor.

Steve Adler is not the only Austin politician to forgo his salary. Recently, former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd got paid one dollar to complete Sarah Eckhart's term as Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 2.

Why did he do that?

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