Daniel Guerra

News Intern

Daniel Guerra is an intern at KUT News

Photo by Daniel Guerra for KUT News

A re-election rally held today for City Council member Mike Martinez focused on the long debated Gentlemen’s Agreement.  For decades, that unwritten, unenforceable agreement among Austin’s political players has stipulated that two seats on the City Council be reserved for one black member and one Hispanic member.

Martinez is one of four council members up for re-election in May; although neither Martinez or his surrogates mentioned his opposition in Place 2 by name, the incumbent is being challenged by Laura Pressley, an Anglo woman. Place 2 incumbent Sheryl Cole, the council member serving in the African-American seat “reserved” under the Gentlemen’s Agreement, is also being challenged by an Anglo candidate, Shaun Ireland.

When we last checked in on fundraising by Austin City Council and mayoral candidates, the incumbents showed a huge fundraising advantage. And unsurprisingly,  recently filed "30 day out" campaign finance reports from the candidates show that's still the case.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell has about $104,000 cash on hand. Challenger Brigid Shea has about $53,000 remaining in her coffers. Mayoral candidate Clay Dafoe listed only $637 on hand.

Council member Mike Martinez holds a huge fundraising advantage over challenger Laura Pressley, with $92,000 remaining compared to her $4,100.

Image courtesy austintexas.gov

This weekend's your last chance to take the City of Austin’s online survey seeking input on how money in a possible November bond referendum should be spent.

The city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force received a list of projects city departments feel should be funded in a bond package. That list was released in February, totaling at a cost of nearly $1.5 billion. The proposed projects are being weighted by need and urgency, and compared against a set of designated values (cost-effectiveness, geographic balance, environmental protection, and more).

There are numerous projects for parks, libraries, community centers, and EMS center improvements. Among the items on the list include $78 million for a new Austin Police Department headquarters, $50 million for I-35 improvements, and $10 million for a Sabine Street “promenade” at Waller Creek.  

Photo courtesy flickr.com/youngandwithit

Austin goes to the dogs this weekend as the city attempts to break four canine-related Guinness World Records on Saturday at Auditorium Shores.

The 14th Annual Mighty Texas Dog Walk will try to break several records: the World’s Largest Dog Walk, the Biggest Hairball, the Most Dogs Wearing the Same Bandana, and the Most Dogs Sitting at Once.  The three-mile dog walk along Lady Bird Lake will include water stops for both pooches and people.  

11,256 dogs participated in the event in 2010, which was thought to be the record. According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the largest dog walk was held in Great Britain that same year.  That walk had 18,113 dogs with 178 types of breeds.  The organizers of the British event claim that record was broken yet again in 2011 with a tally of 22,742 dogs.  

Photo courtesy Randall Chancellor, bit.ly/HEYSXE

UT men's basketball player J’Covan Brown will forgo his senior season and enter the NBA draft.  Brown said in a statement that “the time has come for me to pursue a career in professional basketball and take care of my daughter, Jordyn.”

Brown’s average of 20.1 points a game led the Big 12 this past season. His move makes 10 Longhorns to leave school early for a shot at the big leagues since 2006. Brown was also an Academic All-Big 12 Team selection.

Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force, flickr.com/usairforce

Thousands of emergency responders from across the state are convening to San Antonio for the three-day Texas Emergency Management Conference.  The conference and its workshops will focus on the relief efforts from last year’s drought and wildfires.  

Dry conditions and high winds still threaten numerous Texas counties still at risk of wildfires. The conference’s topics will range from lessons learned from the Bastrop County fires to how to better use social media in disaster relief efforts.

Gov. Rick Perry will give the conference’s keynote address. In addition to wildfires, Perry will talk about the potential decision by the Air Force to transfer a squad of C-130 planes from Fort Worth to Montana.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

A panel in East Austin tonight will discuss how students can overcome racial stigmas through participating in athletics.

Moving Past Racial Stigmas to Help Students Succeed” features Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and CBS Sports Network’s Brian “BJ” Jones as moderators. Speakers include AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, City of Austin Police Monitor Margo Frasier, and UT professor Michael Lauderdale. 

Lauderdale hopes tonight’s discussion will address an important topic: “And that is how we can use athletics as a means to keep kids involved in school and give the models of success. And hopefully increase the likelihood that youngsters finish high school and that youngsters go trade schools or colleges to achieve high levels of education.”

Photo by KUT News

The Austin-American Statesman writes about the City of Austin’s continuing efforts to improve highway traffic through its I-35 Corridor Development Program.

City of Austin voters approved funds in November 2010 for studying high traffic corridors in the city. Those studies would address short- and medium-term transportation improvements, including several intersections with I-35.

There’s a new construction project starting on Oltorf Street next week.  The drainage improvement construction will reduce traffic flow near South Congress Avenue from two lanes to one lane each way beginning on March 19.

It’s part a project to install storm drains, water lines, and curbside inlets in the neighborhood bordered by Oltorf Street, South Congress Avenue, Cumberland Avenue and South First Street.

Construction will begin just east of Durwood Street and end shortly before Congress Avenue. The lane reduction will run through the end of May.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

The Texas Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Human Trafficking took testimony today from various state agencies on their efforts to combat human trafficking and to discuss what state lawmakers can do about it. 

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A heath care services and research consulting firm will receive $500,000 in incentives through the Texas Enterprise Fund to expand its Austin office. The Washington, D.C.-based Advisory Board Company is the latest business awarded money from the fund created by Gov. Rick Perry to lure out-of-state companies to expand operations in Texas.

According to the agreement, the funds will create an additional 239 jobs in Austin and expand the company’s local division, focused on software development and technical support services.

The Legislature created the Texas Enterprise Fund in 2003 at Perry’s request.  Businesses that have received Texas Enterprise Fund incentives - totaling $441.7 million - include 3M, Caterpillar and Facebook.  According to the governor’s office, the fund has generated $15 billion in capital investment in the state.