City of Austin

Technology
1:08 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Google Poses Challenge to the Austin Tech Community

Google is hosting a challenge for Austin techies that can help better the community.
flickr.com/grahamsblog

The City of Austin has agreed to participate in the first ever Google Place API Developer Challenge.

If you’re a developer, designer or generally tech-savvy, you’re officially invited to the challenge. But there’s something quite different about this event. It is specifically designed to help communities and governments run more efficiently through the use of technology. The idea is to make public information more accessible and useful, so developers will have access to Google’s database to make it easier to build applications on services like Google Maps.

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Austin Energy
4:34 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Push for Independent Board to Run Austin Energy

Not everyone believes the Austin City Council should be at the wheel for Austin Energy.
Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin’s Electric Utility Commission voted last night to recommend the City Council put a measure on the November ballot that would allow voters to choose whether to have Austin Energy governed by an independent board, rather than the council.

Phillip Schmandt is the chair for the Electric Utility Commission. He says the change was recommended back in 1996 and is back in the spotlight since the recent vote to increase Austin Energy rates.

Schmandt says many people believe the time and energy required to run Austin Energy is just too much for city council. He also says another advantage of having a five-person board is that representation could include people who live outside of the city limits.

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Arts and Culture
12:40 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Austin Studios Receives $75,000 Grant

An overview of the proposed Austin Film Studios expansion.

The Austin Film Society is using a $75,000 grant to come up with a plan for incorporating another building into the Austin Studios campus at the former Mueller Airport.

The National Endowment for the Arts grant will go towards redeveloping the old National Guard building at Mueller into a space for the community and filmmakers to come together.

AFS Deputy Director Sarah Ann Mockbee says Austin has a vibrant film scene but, right now, it’s not that accessible to everyone.

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Police
1:34 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Police React to Staffing Study

A study says Austin needs to hire 257 more officers and staff in the next five years.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

A new study commissioned by the city shows the Austin Police Department is very busy and “struggling somewhat” to keep up with calls for service.

The study was done by the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-profit law enforcement think tank. And it says the city’s current model of two officers per 1,000 people isn’t working. The study says APD needs more than 250 new officers and staff by 2017.

Wayne Vincent is the president Austin Police Association. He says the effect of short staffing is already having an effect on the city.

“There’s very little uncommitted time for police officers," Vincent says. "They’re going from call to call. There’s no chance to get to know people in the neighborhood, visit with business owners, individuals in the community. So the target is to have that uncommitted time so the officer can be proactive instead of reactive.”

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AM Update 7/4/12
7:24 am
Wed July 4, 2012

AM Update: Fourth of July 'Need to Know' Edition

Travis County is allowing fireworks this Fourth but not recommending their use.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Pack Your Picnic: Info on Tonight’s Fireworks Show

Thousands are expected to flock to Auditorium Shores for the Austin Symphony July 4th Concert and Fireworks.

The symphony will start its performance at 8:30 p.m. The fireworks show will run from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If you’re planning to attend, leave behind all alcohol, glass and Styrofoam. Smoking is not allowed and neither is grilling – because of the number of people expected to be at Auditorium Shores.

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Austin
1:29 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Burn Ban Dampens Fourth Fireworks Sales

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Travis County is under a burn ban but fireworks are still on sale. The county is allowing fireworks but not recommending their use.

Keith Cooper sells fireworks for an “American Fireworks” stand. He thinks the burn ban is keeping some customers away.

“Sales have started off a little slow this year. People are a little leery of fire. But they’ve been fairly well,” said Cooper. “Of course it always picks up during the holiday. The third and the fourth are always our best days.”

Vendors met with the Fire Marshal’s office yesterday and agreed not to sell winged fireworks, rockets and missiles – that’s because they pose the biggest fire risk.

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Austin
2:59 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

After Long Wait, City Panel Moves to Sell East 12th Street Properties

View E. 12th Street Properties in a larger map

Two tracts of land on East 12th Street were the focus of a special meeting today by the Urban Renewal Board, a panel whose responsibility is to "eliminate slum and blighting influence" in parts of the city.  The board took possession of the properties years ago in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood. Critics have accused the board and other agencies of taking too long to turn over the properties, and have questioned their role in the face of Eastside gentrification.

The  board voted to sell two tracts of property on East 12th Street two completely different ways. The stretch of land on the 1100 hundred block will be sold to the highest bidder.

The lot on the 1300 hundred block will be opened for a request of proposals. That means the board will take into consideration not only the how much money is being offered for the land, but also what the developer plans on doing with it and how that could affect the neighborhood. The board could take a lower bid if they think the development plan is a better fit for the area.

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Health
12:22 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Don't Know CPR? You Can 'TAKE10' to Learn It

Would you know what to do if someone collapsed in your office?
Photo courtesy flickr.com/redcrosspdx

The City of Austin wants everyone to take 10 minutes to learn hands-only CPR.

Each year, about 600 people in Austin and Travis County experience cardiac arrest and are treated by EMS. When bystanders perform CPR, survival rates can double or even triple.

Hillary Funk is the Community Integration Coordinator with Austin-Travis County EMS. She says some people are hesitant to perform mouth-to-mouth.

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Environment
2:37 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Burn Ban Lifted in City Parks

Two people grilling in Zilker Park before the burn ban enacted last April
Photo by ramk13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/ramk13/

The City of Austin has lifted a burn ban for all city parks. You can grill in designated areas, but campfires are only allowed at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

Victor Ovalle is with Austin Parks and Recreation. He says recent rainfall has improved drought conditions in the area, but s park-goers should still be careful.

“We’re asking the public to be very careful when they’re out," Ovalle said. "There’s still a lot of timber in the area, in our parks, and so we ask them not to leave their fires unattended, to keep a source of water nearby, and before leaving the site, making sure the fire is completely extinguished."

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Transportation
1:53 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

The $2.2 Million Question: Expand Cap Metro Rail Service?

Capital Metro's rail service may be expanded to weekends, if a funding agreement can be reached with the city.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Plans to expand Capital Metro’s rail service haven’t enjoyed a smooth roll-out.

The transit authority told KXAN yesterday its plans on launching weekend service on its MetroRail commuter line during this spring’s South by Southwest festival.

However, a report from Austin American-Statesman‘s Ben Wear notes there’s still no agreement between Cap Metro and the City of Austin, which is expected to fund the extra rail service. He quotes Austin City Council member and Cap Metro board chair Mike Martinez as saying, “The bottom line is, there’s no deal.”

The soonest any formal action could occur on the proposal is next week. At their Feb. 9 meeting, city council is slated to take up an item providing for the extra funding. The cost of expanding Friday rail service into the evening and running the service on Saturday is tallied at $2.2 million annually, with two optional year-long contract extensions.

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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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public transit
10:52 am
Wed November 23, 2011

Commuter Rail on Friday and Saturday Nights? City Closer To Footing Bill

Photo by KUT News

Austin’s public transit agency has known for a while that its fledgling commuter rail service could see a lot more riders if they let people take the train on Friday and Saturday nights. Back in May, we reported on how Capital Metro broke ridership records when they did that during the Pecan Street Festival.

But the problem was always money. Six months ago, the cost estimates were around $1 million annually for Friday and Saturday night service.

“That’s arguably a million dollars we don’t have,” Cap Metro Board Chair and Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez told us in May. The head of Cap Metro, Linda Watson, said the agency was in talks with the city to secure funding.

Fast forward to the present, and costs estimates are now closer to $2.7 million per year, but it appears the city is willing to pay for it.

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Austin
12:30 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Lawsuit Filed Over City "Banning" Protesters

Occupy Austin protesters at City Hall on October 28, 2011.
Photo by KUT News

Two members of the Occupy Austin protest have filed a lawsuit against the city, after they were banned from returning to City Hall Plaza. 

Rudy Sanchez and Kris Sleeman were arrested at City Hall in October and told they could not return.

They filed a lawsuit in federal court this morning, alleging the city's "ban" infringes on their First Amendment rights.

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Austin
12:48 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Water Main Leak Could Affect North Austin Residents

Fixing the water main will take about three weeks. Meanwhile, a small detour route has been set up near the repair site on MLK.
Photo by KUT News

Reduced water pressure in North Austin is a concern for Austin Water Utility as they begin repairing a leak in a 6-foot water main on Martin Luther King Dr. They reassured us today that so far, the pressure drops are virtually unnoticeable.

"We had to shut that main off and reroute water through some different transmission mains, so there could be some reduction in pressure on weekends," Austin Water Utility spokesperson Jill Mayfield said. "But last weekend there was no noticeable drop when we shut it off. We expect this will be the case throughout the repair."

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Austin
11:32 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Take 30 Seconds To Organize City of Austin Priorities

Photo of City of Austin website

The City of Austin has been working on a long range blue print for years that it calls “Imagine Austin.” Now, city staffers are extending a deadline until November 14 for you to use this online tool that lets you rank eight city priorities by dragging color blocks from the “idea farm” onto a list.

These are the eight issues you get to prioritize:

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parks and recreation
1:33 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Limestone Boulders Could Save The Banks Of Shoal Creek

The City of Austin is still in the early design stages of a project to fix the eroding banks along Shoal Creek. KUT took a tour of the creek erosion in Pease Park this week with one of the city’s civil engineers.

“Probably 30 or 40 years ago, they used a lot of concrete or rock filled wire baskets, which also break down over time,” Morgan Byars with the City of Austin's Watershed Protection Department said. “We’re trying to use more sustainable solutions that can last centuries.”

Check out the video above for an example of what he’s talking about.

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Politics
3:57 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Mayor Leffingwell: Five Ways To Increase Voter Turnout

Austin: a pretty awesome city, but one with ruefully low voter turnout.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The last Austin City Council elections in May drew a meager 7 percent of voters to the polls, the lowest turnout in decades.  Mayor Lee Leffingwell thinks that’s pretty bad, and he’s been spending the last few months trying to sell people on making five changes to the city charter.

He talked about them again today at a luncheon hosted by the Real Estate Council of Austin.

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Politics
4:41 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

New Petition Drive For Single Member Districts in Austin

Austin City Hall
Photo by KUT

A local group is starting a petition drive to put the issue of single-member districts before Austin voters next May. Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR) wants the city to change the way people are represented on the city council. 

Currently, Austin City Council members represent the city as a whole. Single member districts, or geographic representation, would create a council elected to represent  specific parts of town.

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Austin
1:20 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Austin Gets Help Making City Government More Open

Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News

Open government advocates have been hounding the city for years over its not so easy to access reservoirs of public data – everything from public safety information to 3-1-1 calls to public transit usage. New data processing and visualization tools make examining the information easier, which can help to increase government transparency.

Austin was selected last week as a partner city with Code for America, a non-profit organization that connects developers with people who deliver city services. Code for America receives funding from the Knight Foundation and Microsoft among many others.  

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News Brief
6:52 am
Wed October 19, 2011

Top Morning Stories October 19, 2011

As the drought lowers Lake Travis, The Lower Colorado River Authority's Board is voting on changes to its water managment plan Wednesday.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

LCRA to Vote on Key Water Policy Changes

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s trying to rework how it manages water in the face of this persistent drought. The LCRA Board is meeting this morning to vote on key changes to its water management plan.

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