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Our Top 5 News Stories Of 2010

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KUT News filed more than 2,000 reports in 2010.  Here are five stories we think were significant.  Let us know where we were right or wrong in the comments below.

Don't like reading? That's why Reginald Fessenden invented radio! Listen to an audio version of this post by clicking the player.

5. The Cactus Café

University of Texas administrators announced in January that they were closing the Cactus Cafe because of budget constrictions. The news prompted a public outcry and even attracted national attention because of the number of high profile musicians who either started their careers at the Cactus or performed in the intimate venue, located in the Texas Union building on the UT Austin campus.

A group of concerned Cactus supporters formed a non-profit, the Friends of the Cactus Cafe, to raise money and support in the struggle to preserve the historic music venue. A decision by the university in May to allow KUT to manage the Cactus Cafe was met with skepticism by the group, which was concerned KUT could abandon the Cactus Cafe if it failed to turn a substantial profit. KUT is raising money to pay for its $11 million share of a new $50 million building that will house the radio station and part of UT’s College of Communication.

KUT hired music industry veteran Matt Munoz to manage the Cactus Café. You can read an interview with Matt here. Supporters of the Cactus Café are still mixed about the change. Some are optimistic. Others are not.

4. Colton Tooley Shooting

On Tuesday, September 28th Colton Tooley, a university of Texas undergrad, came to campus dressed in black and carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. People saw him. Alarms sounded. Emergency text messages went out. At least four shots were fired.

Police chased Tooley into the Perry-Castaneda Library where the young man shot himself.  Later that evening, a presentation sponsored by UT students in support of concealed weapons on campus went ahead as planned.

Subsequent reporting revealed that Tooley was a 2009 graduate of Crocket High School. Everyone we spoke to about Tooley described him as quiet and respectful.

3. Joe Stack's Suicide Attack

On Thursday, February 18th, Austin resident Joe Stack set fire to his home and then flew a single engine plane into an office building in northwest Austin.  Stack left a rambling suicide note online that said his attack was motivated by a hatred for the IRS.

The crash and subsequent explosion killed IRS manager Vernon Hunter and injured more than a dozen people.  Hundreds of people attended Hunter's memorial.

A report on the crash by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed Stack's final recorded words were, "Have a great day."  At least two employees filed lawsuits against Stack's estate.

Crews are still conducting repairs to the Echelon-1 building. The IRS says it is not moving back in.

2. November 2nd Election

The most overused metaphor of the cycle was tidal wave, as in a GOP tsunami at the polls. And that's pretty much what happened, with credit going largely to energy whipped by Tea Party supporters over a general dissatisfaction with the Obama administration.

Republicans in Texas grabbed a supermajority in the State House. Governor Perry won a historic third four-year term in office, securing him a megaphone with which to rail against the federal government.

"Our citizens are tired of big government raising their taxes and cooking up new ways to micromanage their lives. Our citizens are tired of big government killing jobs with their do-gooder policies," Perry said during his election night victory speech in Buda.

The hot here race in Austin was House District 48, where incumbent Democrat Donna Howard edged Republican Dan Neil by 15 votes. (A recount later narrowed that margin to 12 votes.)  That race still isn't over. Speaker Joe Straus has appointed a special Master of Discovery to oversee a House investigation to that election.

1. BP Oil Leak

The number one story of the year for KUT News was the BP oil leak. It seemed to last forever. We produced more stories on the BP spill this year than any other single event.

The tar balls hit our beaches and the spill scared off tourists from Galveston to Brownsville, even if they were nowhere near the oil slick.

Some Austin food merchants felt the pain of public concern over seafood safety, even though most shrimp were safe to eat.

Texas Congressman Joe Barton infamously apologized to BP for the treatment the company had received from the White House. Barton later retracted his apology.

The leak was finally stopped in July after four months of oil gushing into the Gulf at an estimated rate of 50,000 barrels per day. But the long term consequences of the spill may not be known for years.

The White House called it the worst environmental disaster the US has ever faced.

Honorable Mentions

Let's not forget other huge stories from 2010. They include the following.

Water Treatment Plant 4. It's a highly controversial water processing facility, set to be constructed in northwest Austin.

The earthquake in Haiti motivated Austinites to donate their time and money in hugely substantial ways.

City council voted down a settlement for the family of Nathaniel Sanders, an 18-year-old who was killed by police.

The long process of choosing a new director for the Town Lake Animal Center

President Obama came to town in August.

Former Republican majority leader Tom Delay was convicted by a Travis County jury on money laundering and conspiracy charges.

And the 5-7 Texas Longhorns missed a berth in a bowl game for the first time in 13 years. Then they lost five coaches after the season ended.

The many stories we did on the economy and a looming state budget gap that could surpass $25 billion.

BONUS: Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts      

KUT launched a news blog on November 2nd election night. Hey, you're reading it right now! Here are the top ten most visited posts since the launch, not including election night stuff.

1.     Crazy UT Kids Celebrate Last Day of Class
2.     Walkout and Protest at University of Texas Over Budget Cuts
3.     LBJ School Internet Policy Expert Gary Chapman Dies Suddenly At 58
4.     University of Texas Students React to Four Loko Ban [VIDEO]
5.     Former Texas Solicitor General Greg Coleman Dies in Plane Crash
6.     City Names Sole Finalist For Shelter Director
7.     Austin Poet Susan Bright Dies
8.     What Are Those Dinosaur Bone Things on I-35?
9.     Will Austin's Missing Moontowers Return?
10. "Groin Checks" and Long Security Lines at Austin Airport

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.