Austin

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The Austin City Council returns to the dais as 10 a.m. this morning to finalize the city's Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Yesterday, council members voted unanimously to hold the line of property tax rates. They also spent most of the day funding initiatives that weren't in City Manager Marc Ott's initial budget proposal.

Photos: Austin Pride Parade 2013

Sep 9, 2013
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: Austin Pride festivities paraded through down Austin Saturday night. KUT was there to document it all; take a look at our slideshow below, powered by the KUT Flickr page.  

Original post (Sept. 6): Austin’s annual Pride celebration, which kicked off Sept. 1, builds to a close this weekend. The theme of this year’s events, held by the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation? “Love Unites.”

Natalie Krebs for KUT News

Out of a small room in the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin, a company called Open Arms makes women’s clothing. It was started about three years ago, with idea of paying refugee women a living wage. More than 4,000 refugees have resettled in Austin since 2001 with many coming from Vietnam, Burma and Iraq with the newest group, which is expected at the beginning of next year from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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After construction violations from the city's code compliance office last month and a recent guilty plea to animal trafficking charges from one of the owners of the new Austin Aquarium, the University of Texas' Texas Advanced Computing Center has put a potential partnership with the effort to bring an aquarium to North Austin on hold. 

Brothers Vince and Ammon Covino have been embroiled in legal squabbles since opening up aquariums in Portland, Oregon and Boise, Idaho in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

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Austin is now in the top 20 of the country’s most popular convention destinations. That’s according to event management company Cvent. It its 2013 rankings of the top U.S. cities for meeting and events, Austin ranks 20th out of the 50 top ranked U.S. cities.

Austin’s current position is four spots up from the company's 2012 rankings. And in its current location, Austin ranks right under major convention cities like Houston (19th) and Boston (18th).

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The white-hot Austin real estate market just broke another record.

The Austin Board of Realtors says home sales were up 35 percent last month in the Austin area compared to last July. Some 3,135 homes were sold last month – the most homes sales ever recorded in Austin. And homes are selling faster – spending an average of 41 days on the market. A year ago, homes spent an average of 64 days on the market. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Perception means different things to different people. The perception of Austin as a place that embraces the weird and wild is something the city – and its listicle writers – have embraced throughout the years.

Yet if you don’t pay close attention, these perceptions can change just as quickly as the declining reservoir in Lake Travis. Now in its fourth edition, KUT News presents The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists, a compilations of the accolades and slights – some rigorously methodical, some seemingly made up – that Austin’s received in the last few months.

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The City of Austin is looking to create a pedestrian advisory council.

The pedestrian group would look at safety and walkability issues, making recommendations to city staff and the City Council. The proposal comes as city policy prioritizes denser, more walkable development – and also at a time when pedestrian deaths are on people’s minds: There were 78 traffic deaths (including pedestrians) in Austin last year.

Natalie Krebs for KUT News

The City of Austin is drafting its first comprehensive Urban Forest Plan.

The city hopes to work with Austinites to pinpoint areas of problem tree conditions and to look at possible solutions to transform the drought-stricken city into a truly green one.

BOKA Powell + Design Workshop/City of Austin

Update: The city has named three finalists in its design contest reimagining the Seaholm Intake Structures. The three finalists are:

  • “Link,” Gumbully
  • “The Lakehouse,” BOKA Powell + Design Workshop
  • “Intake,” Gensler

Take a look at the three winning entries in the slideshow above, which are expected to inform the redevelopment of the structures. The Parks and Recreation Department says it will issue a proposal for public-private partnerships for the intake structures in the near future.  

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Austin’s seen its share of boom-and-bust food cycles: Think the explosion of cupcake places, or proliferation of upscale burger joints. One of the newest beneficiaries of Austin’s irrational culinary exuberance is the pizza place. The last few years has seen a marked increase in the number of posh pie purveyors: Umami Mia, backspace and Winflo, to name a few.

Austin’s pizza scene garners some shine in controversial rankings from TripAdvisor – controversial, as Austin’s sixth place ranking puts it just two spots behind behind pizza mecca New York City. 

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In 2008, the City of Austin's demographer Ryan Robinson compiled a list of the Top 10 trends in Austin’s dynamic demographic makeup. Five years later, he says each of those trends has continued to play out.

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Five months ago, Austin cashiers stopped asking, “Paper or plastic?”  And since then, Austin retailers and customers have adjusted to the city ordinance banning single-use paper and plastic bags.

However, the Texas Retailers Association argues banning plastic bags does more harm than good.

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Austin's already welcomed the Burmese, the Iraqis and the Bhutanese. But starting at end of this year, Austin will begin to welcome its newest round of refugees – the Congolese.

Over the next few years, the U.S. expects to resettle approximately 50,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the U.S. 10 percent of those refugees may end up in Texas, according to Erica Schmidt, the Austin-area director for Refugee Services of Texas.

Trey Shaar, KUT News

Update: Over the weekend, Austin Police identified the man killed as 32-year-old Larry Eugene Jackson Jr. The Austin Police officer who shot him was Detective Charles Kleinert. Kleinert has been an officer for almost 20 years.

APD is looking for a witness who might have seen what happened between Jackson and Kleinert.

Original Story (July 26, 7:58 p.m.): A man is dead after he was shot by an Austin police detective Friday afternoon near the intersection of 34th Street and Shoal Creek Boulevard. Police describe the man only as African American. Police had not yet established his identity. No officer was injured in the incident.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Austin’s new MetroRapid buses don’t just hold more passengers – they hold traffic lights. 

"As the [buses] approach intersections – and if they are behind schedule – the traffic signal will remain green for up to seven seconds to give these buses additional time to cross the intersection," Capital Metro’s Joe Iannello said today. The group held a press conference to show off the new vehicles.

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Ever feel like you’re working harder than everybody else? It might be because you are. According to recent rankings from real estate site Movoto, Austin is the fourth hardest-working U.S. city.

Basing results off six separate categories, including hours worked per week and lack of sleep, Motovo lists Seattle as the hardest working city in the states, followed by three Texas cities: Arlington, Fort Worth, and Austin.

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Talking or texting at any movie theater is frowned upon, but at the Alamo Drafthouse it’s an actionable offense.

For years, the Austin-based theater chain has kept audiences tight-lipped with its pre-show “Don’t Talk/Don’t Text” PSAs and ejection policies – often resulting in viral success.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

This August, the World Dwarf Games celebrates its 20th anniversary. Every four years, athletes from around the world compete for international recognition at the games.

Sam Bremen is representing Austin.

Hequals2henry/48 Hour Film Project, Inc/Tyler Pratt

In what is being called the first-of-its-kind alliance worldwide, Austin and Toronto, Canada have established what they are calling the Music City Alliance.

While Toronto is roughly four times the size of Austin, the city has been publicly looking at Austin’s model of success to promote Toronto’s music scene. Officials from both cities met during this year’s South By Southwest to begin talks about forming a partnership to promote economic growth.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

What's Austin's most important export: its music, its technology ... or its breakfast tacos? 

The way author and Latino marketing consultant Mando Rayo sees it, the Austin breakfast taco is on par with the city itself in terms of significance. He should know – he’s eaten over 500 different breakfast tacos.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Buzzfeed this week rounded up a list of "34 Things Austinites Love." While no list, no matter how long, will include all the things every Austin-dweller enjoys, Buzzfeed's list left off more than a few local favorites.

1)   All Animal Shelters

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Sure, art can be “heady” in the metaphorical sense. But few projects both metaphorically and literally embody that adjective like the Psychokinetic Child: a 20 foot tall, three-dimensional baby head.

Currently under construction, the exterior of the head will feature a fully mechanized mouth and eyes. But it's on the inside where things  get interesting: the curious may walk inside the baby’s head to contemplate five shrines to objects familiar to modern life – homes, clothes, cars, chairs and phones.

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It’s official. Austin will host the Summer X Games starting next year.

This morning ESPN announced a four-year agreement to bring the games to the Circuit of the Americas starting in May of next year, beating out Chicago, Charlotte and Detroit.

Google

Sometimes, what people are searching for on Google is as revealing as the results themselves. 

If you’ve used Google, you’re familiar with its autocomplete function – suggestions the search engine makes when you begin entering a search term. According to Google, the autocomplete suggestions reflect the search activity of its users – the terms and questions they are Googling – plus the content of web pages themselves. And what people are searching for often times says a lot about the subject.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Update: Capital Metro’s MetroRail Service is back up and running this morning. But trains are running behind schedule because of a technology problem earlier this morning.

Capital Metro says the first train will depart from Leander at about 6:50 a.m.

A Capital Metro spokesperson says crews will work hard this morning to get back on schedule.

Original Story (6:22 a.m.): Capital Metro’s MetroRail Service is down this morning because of a technology problem.

This summer, NPR's Cities Project has been looking at how cities around the world are solving problems using new technologies. And though there's great promise in many of these "smart" city programs, New York University's Anthony Townsend remains skeptical.

Townsend, whose book Smart Cities is due out in October, tells NPR's David Greene about the causes, benefits and potential dangers of the smart city boom.


Interview Highlights

On what caused the smart city boom

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A family of four needs to bring in around $67,000 a year to get by modestly in the Austin area.

That’s according to the recently-updated budget calculator put together by the Economic Policy Institute. The calculator takes into consideration things like housing, food, childcare and transportation.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Rundberg Lane is one of Austin’s  highest-crime areas.

From 2007 to 2011, the Rundberg area accounted for 11 percent of violent crime, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

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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.

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