Wells Dunbar

Social Media Host & Producer, Texas Standard

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.

Before joining KUT, Wells served as staff writer and news blog editor at The Austin Chronicle, and covered the Texas Legislature for Gallery Watch. Hailing from El Paso, Wells is a longtime Austin resident whose interests include technology and social media, film and music, and spending quality time with his wife, child and cat.

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From Texas Standard:

"South Texas ... that's where I stay." Those words from the late rapper Pimp C – edited, fans will note – exemplify the fierce regional pride artists and fans alike have in the Houston-area rap scene.

Mengwen Cao/KUT

Updated throughout with Final Totals.

Republicans swept statewide offices on Election Day, with Attorney General Greg Abbott assuming the Governorship over Fort Worth State Sen. Wendy Davis. The final total was 59.28 percent for Abbott and 38.88 percent for Davis.

The Governor's Office was up for grabs after Gov. Rick Perry decided not to seek re-election last July. Lieutenant Governor was also for the taking this year; Houston State Senator Dan Patrick defeated Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte by a healthy margin – 58.16 percent to 38.68 percent. 

Denton Passes Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

In the final tally, 58.64 percent of voters in the north Texas town approved a measure to make it the first municipality in Texas to ban fracking within city limits. However, experts suggest the ban won't be that simple. Up next: litigation.

Flickr user Patrick Breitenbach, https://flic.kr/ps/rNSVJ

A courtroom in Marshall, Texas – population 25,000 – is deciding patent cases with implications for some of entertainment's biggest names.

Marshall was the setting for a court case against CBS this week. A small company, Personal Audio, has sued media giants including Apple, Sirius XM, and CBS for damages related to alleged infringement of their podcast patent. (Podcasts are digital files on the Internet that can be downloaded to a computer or media player.)

A jury found CBS did infringe the patent – awarding Personal Audio $1.3 million.

Flickr user Marco Manna, https://flic.kr/ps/mRKBS

It's being called Celebgate: private photos of some of entertainment's most famous women, ricocheting around the web.

Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Lea Michele are among the female entertainers targeted. And the anonymous hacker claims to have private images of dozens more celebrities.

Fernando Alfonso III is a reporter with the Austin-based website The Daily Dot. He tells Texas Standard most photos appear to be gleaned from the performers' cloud storage accounts online. The photos were then posted to what the Dot describes as "the seediest corners of the Web," including the infamous, unmoderated image board called 4chan.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters /Landov

By now, you've probably seen the photo from President Barack Obama's recent Austin visit: the president smiling and extending a fist bump to a cashier at Franklin Barbecue.

If you've followed the story further, then you may be familiar with what prompted the exchange: the cashier, comedian and performer Daniel Webb, exclaimed "Equal rights for gay people!" when the president approached the counter. When Obama asked Webb if he was gay, he answered, "Only when I have sex."

Originally reported by The Austin Chronicle, the story has been written up everywhere online.

Caleb Bryant Miller/KUT

Normally the "Thanks Obama" meme is reserved for things beyond the president's control: paper cuts and infomercial disasters, to name a few.

But Pres. Obama's visit to Austin today – and its effect on morning traffic ­– has more than a few Twitter users directing their gridlocked ire at the president. To the surprise of no one stuck in traffic, #ThanksObama is trending in Austin this morning.

Here's a roundup of what's out there:

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

June 25 marks the one-year anniversary of Sen. Wendy Davis' historic filibuster on the Texas Senate floor.

It was one year ago that Democratic Sen. Davis began an 11-hour filibuster intended to derail Senate Bill 5, a bill containing several new restrictions on abortion. While Davis' filibuster ended before the legislature adjourned, a supportive crowd in the Senate gallery erupted in cheers and screams minutes before the midnight deadline to pass SB 5 – squashing Republican efforts to pass it that night.

Endeavor Real Estate/Columbus Realty Partners/Capital Metro

Update: Capital Metro has chosen a developer for its Plaza Saltillo project, spanning 11-acres that used to be a downtown rail yard.

The team led by Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate and Dallas’s Columbus Realty was awarded the project at the Capital Metro Board of Directors meeting yesterday. Capital Metro will have the final say on the design. Read below for more.

Original story (May 21): What does the future hold for East Austin's Plaza Saltillo? This week, the city came a few steps closer to finding out. 

For years, Austin's Capital Metro has held 11 acres of land in central east Austin. The Plaza Saltillo region – bound by Interstate 35 on the west, Comal Street on the east, and between E. Fourth and E. Fifth Streets – sits adjacent to Cap Metro's commuter MetroRail line.

Flickr user David Ingram, flickr.com/dingatx

Mount Bonnell and Barton Springs are two of Austin's eternal treasures –unblemished reminders of Austin's natural beauty.

But to a handful of reviewers on Yelp, they're totally overrated.

Mount Bonnell's scenic overlook rates a solid four stars on Yelp; Austin's crown jewel, Barton Springs Pool, clocks in at four-and-a-half.  But proving you can't please everyone, a collection of contrary reviews offer an antithetical take on these two Austin institutions.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

What do you think of when you think of Austin?

Live music, hot summers, breakfast tacos and the people come to mind for starters. But spend a little time here, and another thing jumps out at you – the "Austin correct" pronunciation of local streets and landmarks.

Take Guadalupe Street across from the UT Campus ­– pronounced Gwad-a-loop by generations of students and residents.

You may have seen them on your morning commute: handmade signs, around Lamar and Barton Springs, offering services and sentiments that seem more than a little bit off.

Public Notice: That Rash Won't Just Go Away

R.I.P. Weird, 1969 – 2014. We Will Miss You!

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Homeless By Now

Some even have a phone number attached:

I Buy Broken Dreams: 512-333-1984

They're the work of one person – a homeless man in his 30s named David. Not that he refers to himself by that name. "I go by the name of Liar, which has nothing to do with the instrument," he says.

flickr.com/keoni101

Austin is the country's 24th most dangerous metro area for pedestrians, according to a new report.

"Dangerous by Design 2014" [PDF], a study from the National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America, examines pedestrian deaths in the country's 51 biggest metro areas.

The study factors five years of data on pedestrian deaths (2008-2012) with the percentage of area commuters that walk to work to create a Pedestrian Danger Index. The Austin-Round Rock index is 78.6, well above the national average of 52.2. The area averages 1.44 pedestrian deaths for every 100,000 residents, which is actually somewhat below the national average of 1.56. Overall, the Austin-Round Rock area had 251 pedestrian deaths from 2003 to 2012.

youtube.com/NMAWorldEdition

Attempts to lure the makers of Sriracha to Texas aren’t going unnoticed – although this latest round of attention may not be what the popular hot sauce is after.

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Texas politicians, business people and agricultural representatives visited Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, California – the company that makes Sriracha sauce.

The company is staying in California for now, despite complaints from neighbors. But it may open a second plant in the Lone Star State.

KUT News

A Travis County grand jury is indicting a now-retired Austin Police detective in the shooting death of Larry Eugene Jackson Jr.

Detective Charles Kleinert is reported to have said that his gun discharged accidently in a struggle with Jackson in July 2013. As KUT reported at the time:

Brian Manley, assistant chief at APD, says the incident began as a detective was inside the Benchmark Bank at 1508 W. 35th Street, investigating a robbery that occurred at 8:19 A.M. Friday. The subject came to the front door and tried to open it, but the door was locked, Manley said.

"The subject walked away for a minute and then came back to the front door and attempted to open the door again … At this point, he got the attention of the bank management staff that was inside."

Reddit user TheKnitro, http://redd.it/252o03

Here's a reason to avoid the Seaholm area near Cesar Chavez Street tonight: over 1,000 concrete trucks from Austin and surrounding cities constantly rotating through the area for over 24 hours.

The City of Austin is building a new central library at 701 W. Cesar Chavez, near the former Seaholm power plant. Tonight, construction crews are putting in a five-foot deep concrete slab to create the building’s foundation. That’s a big project – requiring a total of 1,020 concrete trucks.

Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Austin is inching its way towards the creation of a possible new rail line.

Later today, Project Connect, a group of regional transportation officials including the City of Austin and Capital Metro, is widely expected to unveil a proposed route for urban rail.

The announcement is a further refinement of preliminary findings tapping the East Riverside and Highland Mall regions as prime corridors for investment – a finding many Austin transit advocates found fault with. Once set for the ballot by the Austin City Council, citizens will vote on whether to approve rail funding in an election this November. 

Marissa Barnett for KUT News

Update: See some photos from Eeyore's 2014 bash below.

Original story (April 25):  It doesn’t get much more Austin weird than Eeyore’s Birthday Party – the annual Pease Park bacchanal known for outrageous costumes and booming drum circles.

This Saturday, April 26 is the 50th anniversary of the party. To mark the occasion, KUT News puts down the turkey leg to bring you five things you may not have known about the long-running festival.

  • It started as a UT thing.

Scott Sexton is the president of the Friends of the Forest foundation, the Austin nonprofit that puts on Eeyore’s birthday. He notes that the first celebration was dreamt up by UT English major Lloyd Birdwell Jr. and his fellow students.

Deborah Cannon, American-Statesman

Former President Bill Clinton spoke Wednesday night at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. The summit, gathering four U.S Presidents and dozens of other speakers, marks the 50th anniversary of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act.

Clinton lamented last year’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to weaken another part of the LBJ legacy, the Voting Rights Act. Clinton singled out the Texas law requiring voters to show photo ID.

menoutdoors.com via imgur

With spring in full swing, it's time for wildflower pictures – including photos among Texas' iconic state flower, the bluebonnet.

But something's taking the bloom off this wildflower season: images of snakes among the flowers.

facebook.com/KilleenPD

Update: Device an 'Intentional Fake'

KWTX-TV News in Waco reports that what appeared to be an improvised explosive device was an "intentional fake:"

The device, a piece of pipe with wires attached, was intentionally made to look like a pipe bomb but was, in fact, inert and contained no explosive hazard, Carroll Smith, Killeen police spokeswoman said.

Original story (1:38 p.m.): The town of Killeen, Texas – on high-alert after yesterday's shooting at nearby Fort Hood left four dead – evacuated an area north of downtown after police found what they say "appears to be an Improvised Explosive Device." On Facebook, Killeen Police shared initial details. Police say "there is no known connection between this incident and the recent tragedy on Fort Hood."

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUTX

Questions raised by this year's South by Southwest festival and conference aren't restricted to think pieces: The Austin City Council is now asking for "a full post-event evaluation" of the ever-growing event. The findings could result in changes to the way Austin deals with safety, crowds, permits, and even alcohol during SXSW and other events. 

Coming off its 27th year, the SXSW event itself generated as many headlines as its performers and conference breakouts. 

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Update: Austin Police made clear Thursday that the weapon in the hand of man who was shot this week by an APD sergeant was a pistol that fires BBs or pellets. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke about that pistol in the hours after Tuesday’s shooting.

“When the sergeant sees it, he sees the suspect put it behind his back, allegedly, and then puts it back forward. The suspect at one point yells, ‘it’s a bb gun,’ or says, ‘it’s a bb gun, it’s a bb gun.’”

Andrew Huygen for KUT News

Update: Curtisha Davis has been released from University Medical Center Brackenridge, a hospital spokesperson says. According to Fort Worth media, she has returned home. Her boyfriend, DeAndre Tatum, remains in critical condition.

Two other Brackenridge patients (Gracie Nguyen, Evan West) remain in fair condition; at St. David's hospital, Mason Endres also remains in fair condition.

Another Brackenridge patient (Joseph McCraney) remains in good condition. 

Original story (1: 56 p.m.): KERA News in Dallas has details on two of the victims in last week's fatal South by Southwest crash.

Two of the victims still hospitalized – 17-year-old Curtisha Davis and 18-year-old DeAndre Tatum – are current and former students at Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth. "Cheerleader Curtisha Davis is expected to leave the hospital in the next few days," KERA reports."But DeAndre Tatum is still in a medically induced coma." The two are girlfriend and boyfriend. 

Andrew Huygen for KUT News

A patient injured in last week's car collision with South by Southwest crowds has died. 

Sandy Thuy Le, 26, died this morning at University Medical Center Brackenridge. She was an Austin resident, according to social media.

Le is the third to die from injuries incurred in the Thursday morning crash; 27 year-old Austinite Jamie Ranae West and 35 year-old Dutch visitor Steven Craenmehr were pronounced dead at the crash scene. 

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

Summary: 21 year-old Rashad Owens has been formally charged in this week’s crash that killed two people and injured 23 on Red River Street during South by Southwest. As of Saturday, he remains in custody.

Court documents show Owens had a blood alcohol content of 0.114, above the legal limit of .08. Read the entire charging affidavit here.

Owens was charged with one count of capital murder. His bail was set at $3 million. More charges could follow.

South by Southwest concluded Sunday with a handful of events. A charity fund created for the crash victims and their families, SXSW Cares, has already netted tens of thousands of dollars. 

Ashley Park for KUT

This post is no longer being updated. See more from KUT:

Summary: An Austin woman and a male visitor from the Netherlands are dead after a car plowed through South by Southwest crowds in Downtown Austin early this morning. The collisions took place along Red River Street near The Mohawk, a popular SXSW venue. Nearly two dozen were injured.  

Austin Police have a suspect in custody, 21 year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens. He's been charged with two counts of capital murder.

The Austin victim is 27-year-old Jamie Ranae West, according to several news reports, including one from the Austin American-Statesman.  

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters Thursday morning that the incident started as a traffic stop (part of police efforts to crack down on drunk drivers) at the Shell Gas station at Ninth Street and the Interstate 35 frontage road. Chief Acevedo says the driver drove into the gas station parking lot, but then sped off and started driving the wrong way down Ninth Street.

APD pursued the driver, who then tried to strike one officer working barricade duty, and continued speeding onto Red River. Acevedo says the driver hit multiple pedestrians on the street, killing two on vehicles: an Austin female that was a passenger on a moped, and  a male visitor from the Netherlands who was killed on his bicycle. (Initial police reports said both passengers on the moped were killed.)

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Mayor Leffingwell just finished fielding questions in his Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session. Here's a sampling of his answers.

A robust defense of South by Southwest:

In response to a question describing the "burden" of hosting SXSW, he wrote:

"SXSW brought $218 million of economic impact in 2013. Austin benefits incredibly from being on the international stage due to the festival. I believe it's well worth a week's worth of minor inconvenience for all of the positive impacts it brings. It is also a tourism festival. People come here, spend all of their money and then go home. Not too shabby."

A dig at Austin's wage floor:
In October, the Austin City Council approved a $11/hour wage floor for companies receiving city incentives. Leffingwell used his IAmA to take a swipe at the requirement, in answer to what can be done about Austin's growing economic divide:

"We collaborate with educational organizations, such as UT, ACC, etc. I believe increased training and education will help create more opportunities and a better quality of life. I support bringing manufacturing level jobs to our city, but this is challenging because of wage restrictions recently passed by council. I realize that this is an important issue."

The story of Austin's various "Don’t Move Here" t-shirts is, in many ways, the story of Austin itself: the transformation of an undiscovered secret into something much bigger. 

While the "Don’t Move Here" meme certainly predates its first recorded t-shirt printing – not to mention the concept of a "meme" itself – modern history posits spring 1997 as the time it was first put to cotton.

It was then that Austin pop-rockers The Wannabes minted a batch of merch bearing the slogan.

The ruling this week calling Texas' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional prompted plenty of reaction from politicos.

One of the lesser-known politicians to sound off: Dana DeBeauvoir. As Travis County Clerk, she's decidedly downballot of the state's top races. But DeBeauvoir is also uniquely affected by the decision, since the county clerk's office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Austin and Travis County.

When the ruling was announced, DeBeauvoir offered a ringing endorsement:

“Because of the stay order in the ruling, the County Clerk cannot issue marriage licenses to gay couples at this time. This is a joyous day, but we will have to wait a little longer to actually deliver the justice and equal rights gay couples so deserve.” 

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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