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The Lead: Texas Utility Funding, Cyclists Ride for Safer Streets

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for highs in the 70s after this morning’s fog burns off. Here’s some of KUT News’ top overnight stories.

“Fiscal transparency and cost cutting are buzzwords to watch for as state lawmakers gather in Austin next January. But with all that talk, you might be surprised to learn that there’s a pile of money — nearly a billion dollars — that’s been growing in a state fund for years, not being used for its intended purpose. KUT’s Mose Buchele reports for StateImpact Texas on the $850 million System Benefit Fund.”

“The Austin City Council Wednesday reviewed its plan to offer incentives to the credit card company Visa to establish an information technology center in the city. The incentives total $250 per job per year, for 10 years. To earn the money, Visa has to create 794 full-time jobs. Those jobs average $113,000 annual salary plus benefits. The council heard comments from the public, including Paul Robbins, who said Austin’s already high housing and utility costs are a reason to oppose incentives for ventures like Visa and Formula One.”

“Austin usually ranks against cosmopolitan destinations in the numerous lists it’s named in. But try this one on for size: Provo, Utah. The metro areas of Austin and Provo lead the nation in expected household growth, according to a new study based on U.S. Census data. The projection is for Austin to grow by 7.4 percent, adding 50,000 households over the next five years.”

“Republicans in Congress continue to wrestle with whether or not to abide by a strict no-tax-increase pledge many of them signed. In a conference call today, Texas Sen. John Cornyn would not say whether or not he feels bound by the pledge pushed by lobbyist Grover Norquist. He did say Republicans have offered a way to increase revenues without raising taxes.”

And here’s more news from around the web:

  • Car Thieves Arrested at Mall, On SoCo (KXAN)
“Police say five men worked as a team to steal cars at the Round Rock Outlet Mall on Black Friday. Investigators say the men drove around in a tan Yukon looking for cars to break in to. After the cops were called the suspects led them on a car chase through the parking lot. Finally all suspects jumped out and ran through the outlet mall but were quickly arrested…. On South Congress Avenue, another man was caught and arrested for breaking into eight different cars.”

  • Cyclists to Pedal For Safer Roads (KVUE)
“Hundreds of cyclists will ride together for the Pedaling for Safer Roads rally. Thursday's event in downtown Austin marks the city's second ride of its kind this year. In May several hundred cyclists road out from Austin City Hall to the State Capitol. The group will make the same journey Thursday evening.”

  • Writer Let Go From CultureMap After Blasting Sister Site’s Article on Alleged Rape (Austinist)
“Dan Solomon, a freelance columnist and journalist, has written for a long list of local and national publications (including Austinist). Until recently, that list included CultureMap Austin, part of the CultureMap network of websites, and a fairly large player in state media - in addition to Austin, the network has sites based in Dallas and Houston. But not long after posting a highly critical denunciation of CultureMap Dallas article, Solomon says he was fired when he refused to remove the post from his personal Tumblr.”

  • UT Engineering Group Withdraws Logo Based on Esme Barrera Memorial (Austin Chronicle)
“It's hard to design an iconic logo, but the ‘For Esme’ design – created to commemorate the life and tragic death of Esme Barrera – has achieved that in Austin. Now the University of Texas branch of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers is apologizing for printing T-shirts that clearly mimic the tribute.”

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.
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