City of Austin

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The City of Austin is doing a survey through the first week in September called the Asian-American Quality of Life Initiative. The idea is to find ways to improve the experience of Asian-Americans, the city's fastest growing ethnic group. While the City of Austin is not new to quality of life initiatives, the results and recommendations of the studies traditionally take a long time to come to fruition.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

*This post has been updated since Wednesday.

Two years after the city of Austin banned single-use plastic bags, a new report estimates Austinites have used nearly 200 million fewer plastic bags annually — a 75 percent reduction.

That report was presented Wednesday evening to Austin’s Zero Waste Advisory Commission.

While the estimated reduction in plastic bag use has gotten a lot of attention, another finding of the report has received much less: Single-use bags have been replaced in Austin recycling streams by another type of bag — the reusable plastic bag.

Joy Diaz/KUT

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has a lot on his plate: housing affordability, traffic, and water resources to name a few.

But he wants to tackle another issue: education.

Photo by Philip Rogers / philiprogersphotography.com

If you are a visual artist or know of any who want to get paid for their work, the City of Austin is looking for people to add to a pool of artists they call upon to create works of public art. We were curious about this, so we called the city's Art in Public Places program administrator Meghan Wells to ask some questions about it.

KUT: What kind of artists are you looking for exactly?

Meghan Wells: We're looking for qualifications from artists who are interested in being commissioned for public art projects through the program in a streamlined way. In essence, we're looking for a way to create a pool of artists we can pull from to expedite the selection project for various public art projects that are coming along.

KUT: How much money could an artist expect to earn? 

via flickr.com/wiredfornoise

As the holidays come to an end, it's likely that old tannenbaum might be looking a little tired. But there are plenty of options to help put that old evergreen to use.

This year, Austinites can drop off their Christmas tree between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the new location, 2304 Rollingwood Dr., Austin, TX, on the following days:

flickr.com/chiotsrun

If you've ever taken a look around your neighborhood and had an idea for a project, this might be your chance to make it happen.

Right now, the City of Austin has a little over $300,000 for projects – and it wants to stretch this money even further by partnering with neighborhoods.

Jon Shapley for KUTX

The City of Austin's special event office Wednesday night presented the results of a feedback survey on this year’s South by Southwest music festival.

Bill Manno, Corporate Special Events Program Manger for the City of Austin, hinted at possible changes they're discussing, but some meeting attendees say they still aren't sure of the point of the survey and felt it was vague and the questions were ambiguous.

“What are perceived as the problems that we’re addressing here?" asked Jimmy Stewart, owner of Do 512, an event listing and RSVP site in Austin. "That’s where I’m unclear. This questionnaire is passed, we went over the results, but what are the problems? What are the objectives?”

When Stewart asked that question to the panel, they didn’t have a specific answer.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Bill Spelman, who both sit on the Council’s Audit and Finance Committee, as well as a local attorney with expertise in employment law, have expressed concern over the city’s handling of an employee who received more than $200,000 in salary overpayments but was only required to repay $6,000 of it.

Cole, chair of the audit committee, told the Austin Monitor, "It is unacceptable for this error to have occurred in 2004 and not be discovered until 2011. The fact that it took two additional years to address the matter adds to my deep frustration upon being made aware of this issue. The employee should be required to repay these public funds to the extent legally pursuable."

An aide in Cole’s office told the Austin Monitor Thursday that she plans to put the matter on next Wednesday’s Audit and Finance Committee agenda.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

The City of Austin has overpaid a former Austin/Travis County paramedic by perhaps as much as $200,000 over an eight-year period that began in 2004. Though the problem was first discovered in 2011, it took until 2013 for the city to correct it.

According to a memo from Assistant City Attorney Lee Crawford, the city is legally entitled to “recover the amount of overpaid wages that (the employee) received for the last two years,” as of 2013. Crawford puts that figure at $68,014.55. However, under an agreement between the city and the overpaid employee, the employee was only required to return $6,240.00 of the total.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: Austin City Council member and mayoral candidate Mike Martinez is asking the city’s Public Safety Commission to consider recommending an independent review of city response to the deadly Halloween flooding.

A report done by city staff highlighted more than 100 response problems, including communication issues between agencies and with the general public. Read more about the findings in the original story below.

In emails to the commission, Martinez requests the group consider calling for an independent review. Martinez also finds fault with the framing of the city's report, writing "My general impression is that the failures and opportunities are large, and the successes are relatively small. Giving them equal weight with a tally of successes, opportunities, and failures seems to undermine the seriousness of any analysis." 

The Public Safety Commission will also hear reports from Austin Fire, Police and EMS about the response to last October’s flooding.

Original story (April 15): In Austin, it’s almost certain a flood will hit in the future. What we don’t know is when.

flickr.com/gjmj

If you live or work in the City of Austin, have you asked yourself why you chose to work or live where you do? Well, the City of Austin wants to know the answers to those questions to help plan for the future.

The city is conducting a “housing choice survey.” But with the current shortage of housing, do Austinites have any real choice in where they live?

Word on the street is that Austinites have very few housing choices. At least, that’s what rapper “Blind Man” says as he finds his way with his cane to a bench on East 11th Street.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It’s taken the City of Austin and Travis County almost six months to finalize a report detailing emergency response to the 2013 Halloween floods: what worked, what needs improvement and what – flat out – did not work.

See the full report here [PDF].

The report repeatedly highlights communication problems: between agencies, then between first responders, then with the general public. There was no clear channel of communication. There was no awareness about the kind of people who lived in the affected area either: a majority-minority community that does not primarily communicate using English.

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.

Jon Shapley for KUT News

The mostly uninhabited neighborhood of Onion Creek in southeast Austin has experienced some growth. But it’s growth the few neighbors who are back do not welcome.

Mold and mildew is growing in many of the homes that were left uninhabited after last year’s floods, which could create health problems for those living in Onion Creek.

Joy Diaz/KUT

The flood-stricken neighborhood of Onion Creek honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today by cleaning a community park that’s been covered with debris since last year’s Halloween flood.

Metallic doors, glass from broken windows, gas tanks were among the many items strewn about the park. Mary-Lee Plumb-Mentjes filled an entire bucket with broken glass. “I’ve always picked up trash,” Plumb-Mentjes said. “We’ve been given two hands [and] I feel we should use [them] when we see something,”

http://www.mlkcelebration.com/

Austin’s Annual Community Celebration:

The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march from the University of Texas at Austin campus to Huston-Tillotson University starts at 9 a.m. Marchers will meet at the MLK statue near Speedway and West 23rd Street at UT.

An MLK Day festival begins at Huston-Tillotson after the march. It runs until 3 p.m.

There will be some road and lane closures for the march and festival – affected roadways include the I-35 frontage roads, North Congress Avenue and 11th Street.

Click here to see the full parade route.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The city of Austin has made offers to buy at least two dozen homes damaged by the Halloween flood. Why then, are some homeowners refusing to sell?

Floods are nothing new in South East Austin’s Onion Creek neighborhood. And neither is the city’s buyout program. It began back in 1998. The idea has always been to buy homes in the floodplain using taxpayer money to avoid future loss of life and property damages.

Terry Morris, a contractor and a real estate agent in Austin, owns a duplex in Onion Creek that’s been on the city’s buyout list for years. He recently opted out of the program.

Update: Austin’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted unanimously last night to certify the district maps for future city council elections.

The group split the city into ten districts. Starting next November, voters in each district will elect a single city council member. Previously, all council members were elected at-large.

Check out this interactive version of the district map:

View Larger Map

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

The City of Austin will soon name a leader for its newly created Innovation Office.

So what exactly will this person do – and does Austin need one?

Innovation – like sustainability, transparency, and social responsibility – are buzzwords the public sector is appropriating from the business world. Austin established its own Office of Sustainability in 2010.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Austin’s the fastest-growing large city in the country.

All of the city’s socio-economic groups are growing – from the very affluent to people with lower incomes. It’s those low-income Austinites who struggle to find housing as prices climb higher.

Starting next week, Austin voters will decide whether to approve $65 million in bonds to pay for affordable housing initiatives. But regardless of the election results, the need is not likely to go away soon.

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