City of Austin

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."

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

Photo courtesy of William J. Serson via Flickr,

The City of Austin is facing a lawsuit from a pregnancy resource center. The lawsuit is over a city ordinance passed in April. It requires pregnancy resource centers that don’t offer or refer women to abortion or birth control services to post notices saying that they don’t.

The city was concerned that some pregnancy centers were representing themselves as medical or therapeutic counseling centers when they were religious organizations. The lawsuit from these groups claims that the city ordinance is violating their constitutional rights.

Photo by Austin Energy

The City of Austin says it will become the largest local government in the United States to be powered entirely by renewable electricity when it flicks the switch on Saturday. The move is estimated to cost taxpayers $6 million over ten years.

“It’s a commitment you make to further the goal of reducing carbon emissions,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told KUT News. “That’s a value to everybody that lives in the city.”

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Almost two weeks after Austin implemented Stage II water restrictions, water usage has dropped across the city. Since the new rules took effect on September 6, Austin has been using about 179 million gallons of water a day. Before Stage II restrictions, our water usage was averaging closer to 203 million gallons a day. That’s a decrease of about 12 percent.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

The City of Austin has launched a redesigned website that contains an interactive project map where users can see progress on projects.

Last year, Austin voters passed a $90 million transportation bond to pay for more bike paths, sidewalks, streets and trails with hopes of reducing commuters' reliance on cars. Visitors of the site can view status reports, photos of projects and project updates.

Photo by Liang Shi/KUT News

Austin City Council got some surprises at a budget meeting today, both pleasant ones for the city’s fiscal outlook.

City budget officers told the Council it underestimated how high the city’s property tax rate could be under the rollback rate. That means the city will be able to raise taxes higher then once believed without having to get voter approval.

If City Council chooses to raise property taxes to the new rollback rate, it would generate an additional $1.6 million in revenue.

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Austin city manager Marc Ott unveiled a proposed $2.8 billion budget to council members today. It includes an increase in property taxes, energy and water fees, pay raises for city staff, and $6.9 million in spending cuts and new revenues.

City council members will evaluate the plan, make any changes they think are necessary, and move to adopt it in September. Expect public hearings between now and then.

The first volume of the budget document alone is 665 pages. Do you have time to read that? We didn’t think so.  Here are some of the highlights:

Photo by City of Austin

People who meet the income requirements can apply to purchase one of twelve newly constructed homes in a southeast Austin subdivision. The three-bedroom/two-bathroom homes were built with federal money and offer these features:

  • $110,000 price (homes are valued at $120,000)
  • Zero percent interest
  • No money down
  • 10-year home warranty
  • High energy efficiency

The income requirements are calculated as a multiple of federal poverty guidelines.  A single individual making $25,850 would qualify for the zero percent interest program. A family of six with combined income of $42,850 would also qualify. People who make more than that could possibly apply for down payment assistance.

The new homes, announced today, have already attracted a lot of attention. "The phones have literally been ringing off the hook," City of Austin spokesperson Jill Goodman told KUT News.

Photo by KUT News

"I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as a tree," wrote Joyce Kilmer almost a century ago. The City of Austin is taking nominations for the loveliest of trees to honor as the 2011 "Tree of the Year."

Today's the last day to nominate a tree to be this year's honoree. The tree can be in any part of Austin. It can be any species of tree, but there are some eligibility requirements.

View Austin Street Closures- ROT Rally in a larger map

Fire up your choppers! The annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally is underway. The four day event is the largest motorcycle rally in Texas and brings over 200,000 bikers and spectators to downtown Austin.

The main event - the ROT Motorcycle Parade and Downtown Bash - is set to begin at 7:30 this evening. The 11 mile parade was named in 2006 as the "Longest Parade of Motorcycles Known to Mankind” by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Photo by Chris Jackson

A move by the City of Austin to cancel a free outdoor screening of Napoleon Dynamite earlier this month has incensed Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League. The Drafthouse sponsored the free screenings in Republic Square Park and used its equipment to display the movies.

“That kind of stuff drives me bananas,” League told KUT News. "I was furious about this."

Photo by Liang Shi/KUT News

The Austin City Council got its first look at budget projections for the next fiscal year today.

Budget managers told council members that falling property values and sales tax collections mean revenue is not keeping up with the cost of maintaining city services at current levels. The projections showed homeowners could face higher property taxes next year.

Screen shot by Mose Buchele for KUT News.

Visitors to the City of Austin's website were surprised to be re-directed this afternoon to a page saying the "US Locality domain you are searching for has been given back to Neustar Registry to manage." The City's Public Information Office quickly followed up on a phone call to their office with this Tweet:

If you're experiencing difficulties viewing our website, try Thank you for your patience as we work on this!

Photo by Callie Hernandez/KUT.

By a vote of 6-1, the Austin City Council today approved charging fees for street parking downtown on evenings and weekends.

The vote extended paid meter downtown until midnight weekdays and all day Saturdays.  Parking meters elsewhere in the city will be enforced from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

The extended meter hours will take effect sometime after August.