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The Lead: Timing Debate on Drawing Council Districts, Christmas Charity Shuttered

Good morning. The National Weather Service says once this morning’s dense fog burns off, Austin can expect another mild day with highs in the 70s. Here’s KUT News’ top stories this Thursday morning:

“In 2014, Austinites will have their first chance to elect City Council members in single-member districts. But there’s lots of work to do designing the new council districts between now and then. And each step of the process needs to be timed just right for everything to be ready on time. It’s the city auditor’s job to set that all-important timeline. According to the proposition schedule, the redistricting commission that will draw the maps has until next December to present a final plan. The auditor wants to extend that deadline until April 2014, and that makes Prop 3 proponent Roger Borgelt, a campaign and election lawyer, nervous.”

“A Travis County judge has ordered the Austin and Travis County Christmas Bureau to shut down. The Christmas Bureau helped Austin police raise money for the needy for 25 years, but last week it became the subject of a criminal investigation.”

“Thousands of athletes will descend on Pyeongchang, South Korea for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in January. Among them are two Austinites: Cory Gentry and Alex Miller. These two athletes will compete in individual figure skating along with some 3,000 participants from 110 countries.”

“These days, ‘talking Texan’ sounds a whole lot different than it did just a few decades ago. ‘What's changed over the past few decades is that you don't automatically have a twang because you're from here,’ says Lars Hinrichs, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas who leads the Texas English Project.”

And here’s more top overnight stories from the region.

  • Round Rock First Texas City To Build French-Designed Highway Interchange System (Community Impact)
“Traffic at the University Boulevard overpass of I-35 is among the worst in Williamson County, according to a Texas Department of Transportation study of the state’s most congested roadways. In order to alleviate the congestion, TxDOT and the Round Rock Transportation Department are planning the construction of an unorthodox highway interchange model they believe will speed up the flow of vehicles while also saving the state millions of dollars in construction.”

“Student survivors of sexual assault may find themselves wrapped in red tape if they choose to seek justice by reporting their assault to the University. Because of UT’s interpretation of state and federal statutes on the privacy of student records, UT will not inform students sexually assaulted by another student if their alleged perpetrator has been reported for other instances of assault on campus and will not provide records on the status of a UT investigation to either party until its completion.”

  • City Permitting Backlog Frustrates Homeowners (KXAN)
“The City of Austin's planning and review department has had 75-percent of its staff turnover in the last year.  Now inexperienced employees are dealing with a mounting workload. ‘I've been in the business 35 years,’ said Planning and Review Department assistant director Don Birkner.  ‘I've never seen anything exactly like this.’”

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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