Austin

News, events, and entertainment happening in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

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 of the City of Austin.

Funeral Services Pending for Emma Long

Image by Erik Reyna for KUT News

People at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless are handing out more than 200 blankets at 1 p.m. today. The cold weather has created a huge demand for blankets among homeless people, and Austinites have donated generously, ARCH interim executive director Mike Abkowitz told KUT News.

"We've been distributing blankets throughout the cold weather season, but we know there's just more and more need," Abkowitz said.

Image courtesy City of Austin

No a huge surprise here; Abigail Smith was already named the lone finalist for the job. But now it's official. City Manager Marc Ott just announced he has selected the director of a no kill animal shelter in Ithaca, New York to run the Town Lake Animal Center in Austin.

Photo by KUT News

Heightened Security for Top State Office Holders

In the wake of the Arizona shootings last weekend, eyes have turned to state legislatures, many which have convened in the past week, to see how lawmakers would react. Here in Texas, state police appear to have beefed up their presence at the Capitol building. As Ross Ramsey reports in today's Texas Tribune, "of course, this being Texas, if you present a concealed-handgun license, you can come into the Capitol with or without your weapon and skip security entirely. There are other checkpoints inside the Capitol if you want to enter the House and Senate galleries, where the public can sit and watch government in action. Firearms aren’t allowed there."

Photo by KUT News

The state comptroller's office reports that Austin will see a 13% increase in sales tax revenue for January.

Texas took in over $1.81 billion for December, a 9% jump over December 2009.  In a news release, Comptroller Susan Combs noted that this is the ninth straight month of year-to-year gains.  In her budget estimate released earlier this week, Combs predicted sales tax revenue to continue rising this year and through the next biennium.

Photo by Dave Bernstein for KUT News

Senate Rules Vote

The Texas Senate will vote on the rules it will use for the 82nd Legislature today.  Key among the votes is the so-called "2/3rds Vote."  State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) is expected to lead a charge that eliminates the requirement that 2/3rds of senators voting can bring legislation to the floor.  Other Republican senators may try to exempt specific legislation, such as Voter ID, immigration, and some other legislation, exempt from the rule. 

AISD Facilities Input

UPDATE at 10:50am--Travis County Sheriff's deputies report that the person involved in this morning's standoff on SH-130 has been taken into custody.  No reports of any injuries.  The 130 toll road between SH 71 and FM 812 has been reopened.

An armed driver is reportedly inside his car on the 130 toll toad this morning. The driver is not believed to be a threat to the public. He has told law enforcement officials he only intends to harm himself and not others.  Highway 130 is closed right now between 71 and FM 812 because of the incident.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Watch the 2011 Legislative Session from Home

DeLay's Sentencing Hearing Starts Today

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be back in an Austin courtroom.  His sentencing hearing starts this morning.  DeLay was convicted in November on money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges.  Those charges were in connection to the 2002 Texas elections.  DeLay faces up to life in prison but his attorneys are asking for probation.

Texas Comptroller Announcing Revenue Estimate

Image courtesy Gabrielle Giffords' Congressional website.

All the papers lead today with the biggest national story of the weekend, a shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that killed six people, including a federal judge, and critically wounded US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Some of the most comprehensive coverage can be found from news organizations with the biggest newsrooms such as the New York Times (including their slideshow of images from the scene), NPR, the Washington Post, CNN, and the LA Times.  But it’s also worth browsing coverage from local news outlets that often have more contacts within the city and state than national media. Check out coverage from the Tuscon Citizen, the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Republic, and Arizona TV stations KMSB,  KOLD,  KVOA, KGUN, KNXV and KPHO.

KUT News sought local reaction from Texas lawmakers last night, and spoke on the phone with US Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) and US Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin). We also talked to a friend of Giffords’, Austin philanthropist Marc Winkelman, who told us Giffords “loves Austin" and has visited the city half-a-dozen times over the past five years.

Image courtesy Austin Police Department

We don't often hear about heroin busts from the Austin Police Department. But today APD tells about the arrest of 72-year-old Robert Ramos Perez. He was taken into custody around 1:30 this afternoon on the 5600 block of Westgate Boulevard.

APD say Perez was carrying 244 balloons or 91 grams of heroin. The estimated street value, according to police, is $5,000.

Perez is charged with Delivery of a Controlled Substance, a First Degree Felony in Texas.  Click on the image above to see pictures of the alleged heroin.

Image courtesy bloomsberries http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabliaux/

A Travis County lesbian couple who were married in Massachusetts cannot have their divorce blocked by Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texas' 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled today.  (Read the decision here.)

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beall/via Flickr

Willingham Case Back in the Spotlight

A state panel in Austin today will hear from fire experts on the high-profile Cameron Todd Willingham arson case.  Willingham was convicted and put to death for an arson-ruled fire that killed his three daughters in 1991.  Some experts say the conviction was based on bad science.  The Texas Forensic Science Commission is examining the fire science used in the case, and how scientific practices have changed since the 90s. 

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The City of Austin is holding a public forum next Tuesday evening in the hopes of finding out what you think about extending parking meter hours. But if you can't make that public forum, you should register your opinion on the city's online survey.

ity Council is considering extending the hours you must pay for street parking downtown from 8 a.m. until midnight. Currently, meters are active between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The proposal would also extend meter hours city-wide from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Image by KUT News

Austin's Parks and Recreation Department will close Barton Springs Pool January 24, to remove gravel and debris that has built up at the deep end of the popular swimming hole since 1991

The Austin City Council approved the contract for the project last fall.  Officials say special precautions will be taken to safeguard the protected Barton Springs Salamander during the clean-up process, which is expected to last until March 12. 

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT.

Here's your chance.  Texas is about to face one of its toughest legislative sessions ever.  What issues, concerns, opinions, or questions do you have? 

Send an email to news@kut.org and let us know.  Or leave us a voicemail at (512) 475-8079.  Be sure to leave us your name and phone number in case we need to contact you.

The 2011 Texas legislative session kicks off on January 11th.  We will air your "Letters to the Lege" later this month during Morning Edition on KUT 90.5.

This is your bullhorn!

Logo courtesy of the TLLRWDCC

Radioactive Waste Expansion Plan OK'd

A Texas commission has voted to allow up to 36 more states to dump their low-level radioactive waste in West Texas.  The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission approved the plan 5-2 Tuesday.  Initially, Texas and Vermont were the only states that were going to be allowed to dump at the site still under construction in Andrews County.  Some environmentalists are opposed to the expansion and may challenge it.  Here's what Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club Conservation Director Cyrus Reed said in a press release:

Image by KUT News

Does a day go by without Austin ranking high on some cool list? Yesterday it was third place in a ranking for entrepreneurs, today we are number one on a list of top spending cities.
Bundle.com's list doesn't account for boring expenses like mortgage and rent. That's probably why New York City ranked number 53, and it's why relatively affluent towns with low housing costs fared better.

Photo courtesy of J. Stephen Conn/via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstephenconn/4163967885/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Judge Allows Radioactive Waste Vote Today

A Commission is scheduled to vote today on whether to allow up to 36 more states to dump their low-level radioactive waste in Andrews County in West Texas.  A federal judge yesterday lifted a restraining order that would have stopped today’s vote. 

Leona Wagoner Owen
Image courtesy APD

The body of an 81-year-old woman who went missing in South Austin last night has been found in the Greenbelt, according to the Austin Police Department.  KUT News reported earlier today that APD were trying to find Leona Wagoner Owen.

10th street and Brazos
Image by Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Live Music Capitol of the World has topped another list of awesome cities. This time, it's the Under30CEO.com list of Top 10 Cities for Young Entrepreneurs in 2010.

Coming in third place right behind New York City and San Francisco, Austin is praised for all the familiar reasons:

Photo courtesy of the Austin Police Department.

APD Searching for Missing Woman

Update at 3:30 pm: 81 year-old Leona Wagoner Owen has been found dead in South Austin.

Image courtesy Austin Fire Department

2011 has already started as a busy one for Austin firefighters.

Statesman.com reports six people have been hospitalized after two separate fires early this morning.  Two elderly men are in critical condition after a fire on Mt. Barker Dr., after being rescued by firefighters.  Four other men are being treated after an apparent fire at a Shell gas station at E. 10th and I-35.

Dogs at Town Lake Animal Center
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

To some people, New Year's Eve fireworks displays like this one are an awe-inspiring form of entertainment.

But to many cats and dogs, it sounds more like the end of the world.

Image by Erika Aguilar/KUT

New Year’s Eve 2011 will look a little different in downtown Austin tonight. The bar and club scene will be about the same. But there won’t be a “First Night Austin” celebration, as there has been in years past.

In fact, this will be the first New Year’s Eve in six years where there has been no “First Night Austin” celebration. Organizers announced at the end of September that they didn’t have the money to stage the family-friendly downtown party this year. They’re hoping to be back to ring in 2012.

Image courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Department

Travis County Sheriff's investigators say 63-year-old John Joseph Debrecht died this morning at University Medical Center Brackenridge.  He and musician Bill Maddox were both found by deputies after a shooting early Monday morning.  Maddox, a drummer for the Eric Johnson Band in the '70s and for several other acts through the years, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pages