Wells Dunbar, Texas Standard

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.

Ways to Connect

Brigitte Woosley

Update: The trial of Major Nidal Hasan is expected to resume at 9 a.m. after an abrupt recess yesterday. Nidal's council filed a motion to clarify their role in the trial. Listen above to hear what  happened yesterday. 

Update: (12:53 p.m.)  When Maj. Nidal Hasan was wheeled into the courtroom Wednesday morning, the press expected to hear continued testimony in the trial. But it quickly became apparent today would present another twist in an already unprecedented case.

Late Tuesday night, Hasan’s standby council, led by Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, filed a motion to clarify the council’s role in the trial. The council believes Hasan wants the death penalty, and they do not want to provide legal assistance to him if that’s his goal.

Reconnect Austin

Austin traffic can be awful. And Austin drivers know that a great part of that congestion comes from stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 35.

Big problems demand big solutions – and the "cut and cap" proposal to bury I-35 is gaining momentum. The plan, developed by Austin architect Sinclair Black would “cut” I-35 from Cesar Chavez to 12th Street. Those lanes would then be built underground, and “capped” by something. The Austin City Council OK’d a closer look at the plan back in June.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

It looks like a denial of federal aid to West, Texas will be overturned.

This morning, Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement saying West – the site of a devastating fertilizer plant explosion that claimed 15 lives and flattened entire city blocks – would benefit from a Major Disaster Declaration.

flickr.com/dingatx

A proposed budget for the City of Austin has the cost of living on the rise – again.

The proposed city budget for 2014, unveiled today, would mean about a $4 monthly increase for owners of a $185,000 home. And that doesn’t include additional rate and fee changes.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Wildfire season is in full swing. And due to Texas’ ongoing drought, the state remains at exceptional risk for wildfires.

Wildfires spring up quickly and spread unexpectedly – making real-time information important. Twitter is an important resource for wildfire updates. And Facebook is an information clearinghouse for area residents in times of disaster.

Rachel Adams-Heard

It’s an exciting time for Capital Metro. The transportation authority is launching its MetroRapid bus service next year, and is looking to play a role in urban rail if and when rail launches.

But there’s one large constituency that’s dependent on Cap Metro right now: the disabled. For Austinites seeking independence while living with a disability, public transportation makes perfect sense. But some people are saying that Cap Metro is making it unfairly difficult for some disabled individuals to get around.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

An Amber Alert issued late yesterday evening was a wake-up call to many iPhone users in Texas.

An alert was issued close to 10:45 last night for abducted children in San Angelo, Texas, 200 miles northwest of Austin. An Amber Alert was then sent to iPhone users in Austin – which was announced with a loud, jarring tone. 

Texas Dept. of Public Safety

Update: (6:43 p.m.) U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech Thursday mark the beginning of a new fight over the Voting Rights Act.

“It’s clear that Texas is the big test case for what may be a potentially broader effort to use the bail in mechanism to patch some of the damage caused by Supreme Court in Shelby v Holder into our voting rights regime," UT Law Professor Joseph Fishkin says.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. It’s the formula that determines which states need federal approval to change their voting laws or practices. Without the formula, there are no guidelines to determine which jurisdictions need their voting laws and practices pre-approved. Now the federal government is arguing Texas requires pre approval under another provision—section three. 

Gov. Rick Perry’s radio and TV ads seeking to lure out-of-state jobs to Texas are beginning to get some serious pushback: Not from California Gov. Jerry Brown this time, or editorial pages in Connecticut or Illinois, but instead The Daily Show’s Lewis Black.

On last night’s Daily Show, comedian Black excoriated Gov. Perry’s latest round of business-poaching ads. Targeting employers in New York State, Perry says his state offers a reprieve to the Empire State’s atmosphere of “over-taxation, over-regulation and frivolous litigation.”

flickr.com/jasonunbound

Update: The Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met Monday to discuss an investigation that could lead to impeachment proceedings against a University of Texas System Regent.

The committee is tasked with deciding which articles for impeachment it could possibly bring against Wallace Hall. But at a committee hearing, lawmakers found there's little historic precedent to guide the process. According to Jeff Archer with the Texas Legislative Counsel, there have been few attempts to impeach a public official in Texas and there’s no definition or standard for what’s considered an impeachable offense. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

If you're heading to 7-Eleven today for a free Slurpee, raise your glass to the city of Austin and her Texas Longhorns: After all, it was here in Austin the convenience store giant first went 24/7.

In its corporate history, the Dallas-based chain writes that in 1963 “one 7-Eleven store in Austin, Texas, located close to the University of Texas, stayed so busy after a football game, it couldn’t close. The store just remained open.” That night’s success kept the store open 24 hours from there on out - inspiring other locations to do the same.

There's been countless explosive moments in Texas' ongoing legislative battle over abortion — but few moments like this posted to YouTube. 

Yesterday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 1, which would restrict abortions across Texas. Some 13 hours of testimony later, committee chair Sen. Jane Nelson called on abortion rights advocate Sarah Slamen, whose two minutes included pointed descriptors of the committee members themselves – language that got her ejected.

flickr.com/luna715

After influencing state policy at the Capitol, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) – a non-profit conservative think tank – is now turning its attention to local municipal governments.

TPPF officials say its new Center for Local Governance will work on the local level to tackle issues including spending, funding, local control and government transparency.

Tyler Pratt, KUT News

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on two same-sex marriage cases today means those unions will now be recognized by the federal government. In separate cases, the court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and the state of California can now resume efforts to legalize same sex marriage.

But neither of these rulings will directly affect Texas residents. 

“The ruling today was limited in the sense it didn’t extend to strike down defense of marriage acts that exist on state level," says Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.

Texas’ own Defense Against Marriage Act will remain on the books. Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2003.  In 2005, the state legislature also passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. If that amendment were repealed, it would need two-thirds approval by the state House and Senate. It would then go to voters for final approval. 

Same sex marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. 

flickr.com/tabor-roeder

The Supreme Court has overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says this morning’s decision means a Texas voter ID law "will take effect immediately." Scroll down for updates. 

The high court struck down Section 4 of the act, which establishes a formula to identify portions of the county (primarily the South) where changes to elections must be approved by the Department of Justice. That was to ensure minority voting rights weren’t infringed upon.

From the court's opinion:

"Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in covered States have risen dramatically."

The court didn’t do away with Section 5 of the act – the portion that allows the Department of Justice to reject state laws it sees as discriminatory. Instead, the court says the new standards should be created, instead of the expanded coverage called for under Section 4.  

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Another Republic of Texas Biker Rally has come and gone.

In contrast to years past, this year’s ROT Rally was marred by fewer deaths and injuries. Only one death was reported – on Thursday, when a woman fell off a motorcycle into a guardrail on Interstate 35. Austin/Travis County EMS have listed all its motorcycle incident responses over ROT Rally weekend. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to provide money to help rebuild the town of West after April’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion.

FEMA has approved more than $7 million in aid and loans to West residents impacted by the blast, but has denied assistance for things like crisis counseling, legal services, and unemployment assistance.  

flickr.com/kevinliuzzo

Update: Dennis Mick with the Mueller Neighborhood Association says 119 Mueller and East Austin residents dined at Kerbey Lane last night "to encourage management to consider a location in the Mueller community."

Original post (June 11): How’s this for a chant: What do we want? Migas! When do we want ‘em? Now!

Dozens of residents of the Mueller neighborhood will stage an “eat-in” at the original Kerbey Lane Cafe tonight. Except the purpose isn’t to protest – instead, it’s designed to show residents’ hopes for a Kerbey Lane in their burgeoning Austin neighborhood.

It's time to play everyone's favorite game!

The city's Budget in a Box gives folks outside city hall a chance to learn about the city's budgeting process, then try on the shoes of a city budgeter, cutting, padding and managing programs and agencies that keep the city humming along.

KUT News acquired a copy of the game and we gave a two reporters and a few interns the chance to give the budgeting process the old college try. Click the video below to see how we fared.

Courtesy of The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

The first graduating class at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders receives their diplomas this Saturday.

Among the graduates is 17-year-old Ana González, who was the subject of an Austin American-Statesman story profiling the school’s first grads.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

There’s a UT Longhorn in space right now.

This week, Karen Nyberg blasted off to the International Space Station. She was the sole NASA astronaut aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket that left May 28. She was joined by Fyodor Yurchikhin with the Russian Federal Space Agency, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

Marisssa Bartnett for KUT News

Starting tomorrow, you’ll need to dial ten or dial again. Austin is getting a new area code, 737, and from now on, everyone needs to dial all 10 digits of a local number, area code included.

For many, Austin’s 512 area code is so much more than a prefix.

flickr.com/atmtx

Update: The legislative session adjourns Monday – and Austin City Council members can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

All of the bills below disappeared into the legislative black hole – that is, they either never made it out of committee, or were never cleared for a vote.

Update (March 26): Here’s some additional bills that meet the Austin City Council’s definition of “Austin bashing” – legislation that would defang local policies.

  • HB 1858, Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin)

The bill would ban cities from restricting the removal of trees if a developer or land owner deems the tree to be a fire hazard. Opponents worry the bill provides a work-around the city’s Heritage Tree Ordinance, and point to an additional piece of Workman legislation, HB 3087, as creating additional development loopholes for removing trees.

A City of Austin employee is suspected of taking bribes to expedite permit requests.

The Austin American-Statesman reports a city employee, Edward D. Vigil, is suspected of taking $200 payments from parties seeking to have their construction permits approved, in the midst of a months-long backlog at the city. The backlog was finally cleared in April of this year.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

For many, Election Night 2012 was a great night.

At the Driskill Hotel, Travis County Democrats toasted President Obama’s victory. But Walter Moreau with Foundation Communities, one of Austin’s largest affordable-housing providers, wasn’t celebrating.

“All the other bonds passed, so it’s hard to say why …” Moreau began.

National Weather Service

Cleanup is underway in North Texas after devastating tornadoes claimed six lives and multiple injuries.

The National Weather Service’s preliminary count says 10 tornadoes stuck North Texas last night. The Fort Worth suburb of Granbury, Texas took some of the worst damage, with damage showing signs of wind gusts up to 260 MPH.

Severe weather in North Texas has left confirmed fatalities it its wake. 

CNN cites a spokesperson from the Hood County sheriff's office saying "multiple fatalities" occured in Granbury, 35 miles outside of Fort Worth. Other news outlets report the Rancho Brazos subdivision and nearby areas along Lake Granbury took the brunt of the storm. Smaller tornados were reported in multiple North Texas counties.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: The “destructive device” Bryce Reed was said to possess was a pipe bomb.

U.S. District Court charging documents for Bryce Reed state that on May 7, an unnamed person called the Sheriff’s Office regarding components Reed had left with them – components an ATF agent says form a pipe bomb.  You can read the documents here.

Update (11:56 a.m.): StateImpact Texas notes there are now two investigations into the West plant explosion: one existing investigation into the origin and cause of the fire, lead by the State Fire Marshall’s Office office and the ATF; and the new, DPS-helmed investigation into any potential criminal activity, spurred by the arrest of West paramedic Bryce Reed. 

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Update: President Obama's remarks have concluded. You can see KUT News' continuing coverage of Obama in Austin here

Original post: President Barack Obama is schedueld to speak momentarily at Applied Materials in northeast Austin. It's part of his first stop on his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.” The White House says Austin was picked as the place to start the tour because it leads the country in manufacturing and tech job growth.

flickr.com/kylegarrity

Here’s news that may strike fear into the hearts of local employers: Austin users of Reddit – the news and entertainment website where anyone can create a “subreddit” on a topic of their choosing – rack up the most pageviews per capita of any city in the world.  

And in an unweighted, raw count of total visits by city worldwide, Austin comes in tenth. 

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