Austin

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Austin live oaks have benefited from recent rains, but that rain could also put them at risk for oak wilt, a fungus that spreads quickly through trees’ root systems and can kill them in as little as six weeks. 

Chris Dolan, head of oak wilt prevention for the City of Austin Arborist’s office, said oak wilt enters a tree through open wounds from pruning and forms “fungal mats,” which infect trees and make them susceptible to parasites.

Andrew Weber for KUT News

The City of Austin investigates about a hundred claims every year of so-called “unfair housing.” That’s when people are denied a place to live based on their race, disability or other factors.

The City of Austin and the Texas Workforce Commission held a conference yesterday in an effort to prevent that.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The City of Austin is holding the first of three public meetings today over what to do with the Seaholm Intake Facility.

The city wants the community’s ideas for how to incorporate part of the old power plant along Lady Bird Lake into the park and trail system.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

There’s a little-known program run through the City of Austin that provides down payment money to low-income people free of charge. Of course, there's a catch: homeowners must live in the property for 10 years, or pay the city back.

Those who bought in when interest rates were almost twice what they are today, now wonder how can they refinance their mortgage without having to repay the city.

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If you asked the Internet, it might tell you that Austin's a hipster-loving, small business-starting, traffic-riddled, undiscovered yet overrated place that keeps it weird. The web's traffic-baiting list-makers rank Austin as a leader in categories from fitness friendliness to porn consumption per capita.

But you're not asking the Internet, you're asking KUT News. And, as has been done a couple times now, KUT News has compiled a list of lists honoring, tweaking and trashing Austin over the past few months. Here's the third installment of The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists:

  • Big time for small business: Business website Thumbtack.com saluted Austin for business-friendly regulations and low licensing fees, ranking the city tops in the U.S. for small businesses. But the crowning stems partially from the state’s spartan regulation, as the survey also named Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio in its top 10.

Andrew Weber for KUT News

Austin Police say they will step up security this weekend as the city gets ready to host a major international sporting event.

Moto GP comes to the Circuit of the Americas for three days, and organizers say they expect tens of thousands of people to show up. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says the explosions at the Boston Marathon will lead to more awareness this weekend as the motorcycle racing fans roll in.

Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

The Austin City Council took the first step last night towards moving the governance of Austin Energy from the council to an independent board.

The council unanimously approved the transition on first reading – with council member Kathie Tovo absent. The ordinance will have to be approved on three readings.

Council members did make several changes to the original proposal last night – weakening the power of the independent board and giving more oversight back to council.

Tamir Kalifa for KUT News

Has the afterglow worn off?

The doting South by Southwest masses have slinked back to Williamsburg and Echo Park, doubtless telling tales about this “locals only” barbecue joint called The Salt Lick. But as they stumble out of their Austin-induced atrophy, some might ask the harsh question: Is Austin really that great?

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News.

Mirabelle Garret works in economic development in the Rio Grande Valley. In 1983, she takes a business trip to Austin and is the victim of a brutal attack in her hotel room. How brutal? Mirabelle is stabbed twelve times; a plastic garbage bag is stuffed down her throat; and she is hit in the face and temporarily blinded. Mirabelle thought she was going to die. But she lived. And worked hard to heal.

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Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission is considering a recommendation at its meeting tonight that would ban the use of so-called “painful devices” – such as whips and electric prods – on elephants. The policy would mostly affect animals in town for the circus.

The idea was brought forward by a group called Action for Animals. Last year, commission chair David Lundstedt says the same group approached the commission about banning circuses with animals from coming to Austin altogether.

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Update: The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is holding a meeting this afternoon to present and outline key goals and objectives of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).  The action-oriented plan is designed to improve the health of Austin and Travis County residents. It will highlight community health issues like obesity and access to primary care.

The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. at City Hall.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

UPDATE: The Texas Department of Public safety has arrested the man responsible for breaking into a DPS license office last night.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger says 40-year-old Kenneth James Vanlue was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and burglary of a building.

“Both charges are felonies. No evidence that sensitive information was compromised. However, there was extensive property damage inside the building," Vinger said.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Police Department is recommending the city hire as many as 250 more officers by 2017 to meet population growth. The suggested number came from a study by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Austin follows a rough ratio of two officers per thousand residents as a staffing guideline. Currently there’s just over 1,700 APD officers meeting the staffing guideline. 

Funky Chicken Coop Tour

Mar 29, 2013
Flickr, Todd Dwyer http://www.flickr.com/photos/ret0dd/5656222910/sizes/m/in/photostream/

How about farm fresh eggs without leaving your yard?

Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s the Funky Chicken Coop Tour, the fifth annual tour of local neighborhood chicken dwellings in Austin.

KUT News

The Austin metro area’s unemployment rate is down almost one percentage point from a year ago, according to numbers released Friday. The jobless rate in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area was 5.4 percent in February. That compares with 6.2 percent from a year ago.

The industry sector with the largest percentage gain was construction. For real estate analyst Mark Sprague with Independence Title, it comes as no surprise.

Update: With Austin in North Korea' s sights, now’s as good a time as ever to revisit Cactus Pryor's 1960 civil defense classic "Target … Austin, Texas." Its depiction of the “usual mid-morning traffic” on Congress Avenue is just as funny than anything to be found under the hashtag #whyaustin.

Original Post (July 13, 2012): Here’s some Friday the 13th viewing: “Target … Austin, Texas,” a civil defense film from 1960. Produced by the storied KTBC TV station, the 20-minute film is a fevered remnant of the cold war-era.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

In Austin, a group of architects and ecologists have created a house and landscape design that celebrates the unique climate, living species, and cultural traditions of Central Texas.

It’s perched on an east Austin bluff overlooking the Colorado River, on a reclaimed industrial site. KUT’s Cathy Byrd toured the home, called Edgeland House, with architect Thomas Bercy, of Bercy Chen Studio, and ecologist Mark Simmons, director of the Ecosystem Design Group for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Liang Shi for KUT

UPDATE (4/4/13): Senate Bill 507 by State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) passed the Senate unanimously today.

The bill would limit public private partnerships, or P3’s, in the area around the Capitol grounds.  The bill is closely related to SB 894 by State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston).

Last month Watson even likened his bill to a failsafe for Whitmire’s initial bill in a committee hearing last month. 

Jillian Schantz Patrick/KUT News

Travis County Commissioners met today and spent a lengthy amount of time discussing a bill that may not see legislative light of day.

HB 3348 from Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would amend the Texas Constitution to give cities and counties flexibility in setting property tax rates – allowing them to set a tax rate of a specific dollar amount instead of the 20 percent traditionally used for property tax exemptions.  

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The cost of groceries in Texas has gone up as a result of drought conditions in Texas and across the country.

A survey from the Texas Farmers Bureau finds that the price of a uniform basket of goods for an average Texas shopper is $46.40, a five and a half percent rise over last fiscal quarter.

KUT News

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously said the repairs to the bypass tunnel and dam at Barton Springs Pool was part of the Master Plan process.

Barton Springs Pool is scheduled to reopen this Saturday.

The swimming hole has been closed since December, as the city made repairs to the pool's bypass tunnel and the dam on the downstream side of the pool.

Flickr/Chelsea Gomez http://www.flickr.com/photos/pyxopotamus/3385869861/in/photostream/

This Monday, March 25, has a date with a dark recent history here in the Austin area. The last three major hail storms we’ve had all have been on March 25, in 1993, 2005 and 2009.

“It is kind of unusual that three of the costliest storms have occurred on that individual date,” says Mark Hanna of the Insurance Council of Texas

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

City officials say they're making progress on the Waller Creek Tunnel Project.

Construction crews at Waterloo Park have wrapped up excavating the tunnel and are moving on to building a treatment plant that will help filter floodwaters.

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The “Lamar Street Art Gallery” – a collection of street art painted and pasted up on a wall by the Lamar Boulevard underpass just north of Town Lake – is no more.

For now, at least.

This morning, a poster on the Austin page of social sharing website Reddit posted a photo of the wall being painted over.

Louisa Hall left the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia for Texas. And it was this move that prompted her to set her first novel back in those environs - both the good and bad of them.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Another South by Southwest has come and gone – and in its wake comes the inevitable cry from some local natives: “Don’t move here.”

Pulling up the drawbridge on SXSW visitors isn’t anything new: back in 1997, one local band minted t-shirts telling folks they could go back home when the music’s over. But as SXSW Interactive continues its explosive growth – with a 25 percent surge this year and over 30,000 attendees – it attracts a different set of attendees than music-loving spring breakers. And some of those attendees may not be going back.

Art Alliance Austin/Creative Action and TBG/Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney

When you think about downtown Austin, do you ever think about the spaces between the buildings?

Probably not, and you're not alone. That’s may be because alleyways – in movies, and sometimes in real life – are usually shady, dirty and even dangerous places. But some local leaders want to bring the city’s alleys back into the light.

In an alley downtown, I met with Meredith Powell and Dan Cheetham. Powell is with the Art Alliance Austin. The alley, she says “was laid out in the original 1839 map by Edwin Waller and it is on Ninth Street between Brazos and Congress.”

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Good morning this post-spring break Monday. Austin’s expecting record high temperatures approaching 90 degrees today. The National Weather Service says those high temperature make for elevated fire conditions, so be careful.

Lead Story: It’s one of the busiest days of the year at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, as many visitors in town for South by Southwest head home.

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Hopefully you're wearing green tomorrow – and not planning to drive along 4th Street.

All day on Sunday, West Fourth Street from Colorado to Lavaca is fully closed to car traffic for a St. Patrick's Day Festival. Fado's Irish Pub is hosting the festival, and attendees will enjoy music, food, some liquor and a lot of beer.

Booming production of oil and gas is just one of the reasons for the rapid population growth in Texas.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports Andrews County, near oil-rich Midland, is the state’s fastest growing county. But in second place, Travis County has attracted more than 71,000 people within two years.

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