Austin

courtesy flickr.com/hubgoat

Facing staunch public opposition, and mounting questions from City Council, Austin Energy is redrafting their proposed rate increases to customers' electricity bills.

A second public hearing was scheduled for this week’s City Council meeting, on Thursday, Feb. 2. But instead, representatives from the city-owned utility will be presenting “suggested changes” to their previously proposed increases at the meeting. 

The briefing is scheduled to start at 10:30am. Public comment is not allowed on briefings, and a new public hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet.

We noted earlier this week that council members were individually voicing concerns about the increases, specifically questioning the reserves Austin Energy needed to maintain, and the equity of proposed increases in energy delivery fees.

rogerho/flickr

How much sound mitigation can you buy for $40,000?

That a question the Austin City Council is poised to consider this week, as they consider a resolution that would enact a sound mitigation case study at a music venue downtown. It’s a signal of the importance of music to the city’s economic and cultural health, but also a symptom of the growing pains downtown is entering as more people move into the city’s urban core – and how the two can often be at odds.

The resolution before council this Thursday, Item 14, calls to change the name of the Downtown Venue Relocation Program to the Music Venue Assistance Program, and “initiate, fund, and oversee a sound mitigation case study of a relevant music venue in an amount up to $40,000 from the Downtown Development Fund.”

“What we really want to do is keep as many venues downtown as we can, because you want a concentration of music venues in a relatively small place so it’s walkable,” says council member Bill Spelman, sponsor of Item 14.  

Photo courtesy commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:LoneStarMike

It’s gotten so that you can hardly count to ten without hearing about Austin’s latest accolade. Between high profile cultural events, the economic insulation of vast state and university employment, and a relatively affordable quality of life (at least compared to coastal enclaves like Los Angeles and New York), it’s not surprising everything’s coming up Austin.

But who can keep this procession of plaudits straight?

To get a gauge of just how many Austin-happy rankings are floating around at any one time, we looked for “best cities” rankings including Austin over the last two months. And from that, we compiled this meta-masterlist, a Top 10 of the city’s most recent Top 10 rankings ranging from the apparent, to the arbitrary, to the really, really arbitrary. 

So without further ado, Austin’s Top 10 Top 10 Listings:

  1. Green Tech Go: While it doesn’t rank Austin along other cities, this love letter from Time Magazine declares Austin has become “America’s Clean-Tech Hub.” It links growth in Austin’s nascent green and clean technology to its past performance in the semiconductor industry, and gives a shout out to the Pecan Street Project energy distribution experiment.

Huma Munir, KUT News

A wealth of employment and salary data for the Austin region has just been released, and it confirms Austin has become a high-tech capital.

Photo by Huma Munir for KUT News

With rain blanketing much of Austin, and reports of hail in the area, the city is getting inundated in the wet stuff.  But is it enough to impact the Texas drought?

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

A wave of coordinated protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the companion PROTECT Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are “blacking out” popular sites across the Internet.

Wikipedia is the highest-profile site to completely darken their site in protest. Google has “censored” their logo, and created a page urging Congress to “End Piracy, Not Liberty.”

The SOPA strike is being felt in Austin, too, with local sites darkening in solidarity, and Twitter users voicing discontent with Representative Lamar Smith, the Central Texas legislator who introduced SOPA.

Image courtesy Yan Zhang, UT School of Information

Two University of Texas professors are developing a game that could affect the lives of children diagnosed with autism.

Yan Zhang, an assistant professor at UT-Austin's School of Information and engineering professor J.K. Aggarwal are working to create a free online game called "LifeIsGame" designed  to help autistic children communicate.

Zhang said the game may address a component of autistic children's lives that often gets overlooked: their emotions.

Image courtesy of Austin Energy

As record temperatures continue to bake Texas and air conditioning units run at full throttle across the state, Austin Energy is trying to reduce the potential impact of rolling blackouts.

Rotating power outages are preventive measures taken by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Austin’s utility will now spread the effect across 71 areas in Austin. On the above map, these areas are colored green. You can see a more detailed version of that map here.

The reason for this development: a flood of complaints when 20 percent of Austin Energy customers suffered extended (and repeated) power outages during rolling blackouts in February.

Photo by Nicogenin http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicogenin/

It looks like world number one Rafael Nadal will not be joining his racquet-wielding Spanish cohorts in Austin in a couple of weeks.  The 2011 Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinal between the United States and Spain will take place as scheduled at the Frank Erwin Center July 8-10, but will not feature Nadal, Spanish newspaper Marca reports. 

The news is a bummer for spectators, but should prove advantageous for the American squad.  U.S. Davis Cup stalwart (and Austinite) Andy Roddick will anchor a team that features up-and-comer John Isner the #9 ranked player in the world, Mardy Fish and doubles specialists Bob and Mike Bryan.  This is the first home tie for new captain (and former Davis Cup champion) Jim Courier.

Photo by Broken Piggy Bank http://www.flickr.com/photos/jremigio/

San Antonio tourism officials are hoping to attract the international travelers who could flood Austin during Formula One events. Casandra Matej, executive director of the San Antonio Visitors and Convention Bureau, says the ideal international visitor would stay a few evenings in Austin and then head to San Antonio.

“There will be San Antonio opportunities to kind of create synergy for that," she said. "We can provided that extended stay for the people that are going to enjoy the race.”

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Japan Continues to deal with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed whole towns, left more than ten thousand dead and crippled a nuclear facility in Fukushima.

Beth Cortez-Neavel

Austin City Council members will hear from Austinites this afternoon on the Imagine Austin Plan Framework. Imagine Austin is the city's comprehensive roadmap to what Austin's will grow up to look like by 2039. As SXSW crowds swamp Austin this weekend, take note; then imagine five SXSW conferences going on all at one time and you'll get a sense of the 750,000 additional people planners expect Austin to absorb by 2039.

Photo by KUT News

Hundreds gathered around the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue on the UT campus this morning for a ceremony before the community march to Huston-Tillotson University. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, some state lawmakers and Austin school officials were there.

Photo courtesy the City of Austin Website

The Trail of Lights has hit a wall...at least for this year and until the city's budget recovers.  But Austin’s Zilker Tree is lighting the Zilker hill side up, as it has since 1965. Each year, thousands of Austinites travel to the historic holiday display to take a spin, and then another, and another under its lights.

The city website says the Zilker tree is 155 feet tall and has 39 streamers. Each holds 81 multicolored, 25 watt bulbs, totaling 3,309 lights.

The Zilker Tree is lit every night through December 31. If you can’t make it there, take a spin here.

Mack Brown, Texas football
Photo by KUT News

Multiple sources have indicated to orangebloods.com as well as hookem.com that former University of Florida football defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, will take over the recently vacated defensive coordinator position at UT.  If hired, Austin would take over for Will Muschamp, who accepted the head coach position at the University of Florida on Saturday.

Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Heavy Travel Day

Today is another heavy travel day at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport. And travelers who didn't have to go through tough security screening on the way out of town, likely will have to go through a body scanner or enhanced pat down if they're flying home from a big city airport.

Urban Rail

http://www.flickr.com/photos/atmtx/4164741015/

The annual Chuy's Children Giving to Children Parade will tie up traffic downtown Saturday morning. The parade kicks off at 11 a.m.

Streets will close as early as 6 a.m. and will reopen around 2 p.m

San Jacinto Blvd. will close at 6 a.m., as will East 15th through East 10th and the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.

Congress Avenue between 11th Street and the River will close at 9 a.m.

Austin's Rally will take place at the Capitol.
Photo Courtesy of the Austin Rally to Restore Sanity

The Rally to Restore Sanity will is not only happening in the nation’s capital this Saturday, but it's also going down in Austin. The uncharacteristic move to rally behind political moderatism will happen at the State Capitol.

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