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Top Morning Stories 12/08/11:Council Voting on Parks Smoking Ban, Water May be Cut Off for Farmers

Photo courtesy of Shannon Holman:

City Council to Vote on Permanent Parks Smoking Ban

The Austin City Council is scheduled to vote today on an ordinance to permanently ban smoking at all city parks. That includes athletic fields, nature preserves and swimming pools. Golf courses would be exempt from the ban. There could also be exemptions for some special events. The proposed ordinance includes several reasons for the ban including:

Tobacco related litter is the most common form of litter and over 40,000 cigarette butts have been collected from 39 Parks and Recreation Department sites this year. Cigarettes also pose a significant fire risk. According to the Austin Fire Department, 9 out of 10 fires along our roadways are caused by cigarettes and at least 25% of all wildfires have been caused by cigarettes. Tobacco use is the number one cause of death and disability in Austin and Travis County. By restricting smoking in City parks, the Department is protecting the health, safety and welfare of community members

Smoking in city parks is prohibited right now because of a city-issued burn ban still in effect. But if this ordinance is passed, smoking would not be allowed at parks even after the burn ban is lifted.

While we're talking about parks, KUT's Matt Largey reported during Morning Edition, on the struggle state parks officials are havingin funding state parks. Texas Parks & Wildlife says it needs more than $4 million to keep parks running.

TCEQ Approves Plan that Could Cut Off Water for Farmers

Rice farmers in southeast Texas may have their water supply cut back, or cut off, if drought conditions don't improve. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved a plan from the Lower Colorado River Authority to cut off or reduce water from the Highland Lakes to farmers downstream, if lake levels don't improve significantly by March.

The LCRA says it's trying to protect tight water supplies for its industrial and municipal customers such as the City of Austin.

FBI Investigating Austin Police Shooting

Update 12:50 p.m.:

An FBI spokesman told KUT he misreported the information below– and the agency is issuing a correction - it is NOT investigating the officer-involved shooting death of Byron Carter, Jr.


The Austin-American Statesman reports FBI agents are looking into an officer-involved shooting that happened in May. Police say Officer Nathan Wagner shot a passenger in a car that had charged toward another police officer, injuring him. The Statesman reports:

FBI agents alerted police about their interest in late October, shortly after the Travis County medical examiner's office released a report saying that 20-year-old Byron Carter Jr. had been shot four times, including once in the head. [Police Chief Art] Acevedo said FBI agents have said that they almost always do a preliminary review of fatal police shootings and then decide whether to open a more formal investigation.

A Travis County grand jury has not reviewed this case. Chief Acevedo has not announced whether Officer Wagner will face any disciplinary action.