Sarah Eckhardt

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County is in the home stretch in its yearslong effort to establish a public defender office for low-income adult defendants. The Texas Indigent Defense Commission on Thursday OK'd a four-year grant to establish the office in the county – the largest jurisdiction in the country without such an office.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

A new group that aims to improve the response to sexual assaults in Austin and Travis County was announced yesterday. Its formation comes after public concern over how investigations have been handled. But that concern isn't new: There has been a group in place for nearly three decades tackling these issues, and the work hasn't been easy. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and former state Sen. Wendy Davis announced the creation of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Healing Work Group today in response to concerns about how sexual assaults are handled in Travis County.

The group will focus on collecting data about sexual assaults to better advocate for survivors.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will deliver the annual State of the County address tonight. The speech is expected to touch on several topics, including infrastructure and criminal justice.

Morning Edition host Jennifer Stayton spoke with Eckhardt about the address. She began the interview by asking a more basic question: What’s the job description for a county judge?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Travis County Sheriff's Office will honor all federal immigration detainer requests following a federal court ruling that held parts of Texas' "sanctuary cities" law can go into effect.

Austin Monitor

Black inmates in the Travis County Jail were locked up for longer periods of time in 2015 than white inmates charged with same-level offenses, according to a new study from the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Demonstrators gathered outside the Governor's Mansion this morning to protest the so-called sanctuary cities ban, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Sunday night.

Stephanie Tacy for KUT News

Austin and Travis County do not meet the definition of "sanctuary city" in the eyes of the federal government, Mayor Steve Adler said today after a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, D.C.

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Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

"Our community is violating no federal laws," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' remarks today that the Justice Department would go after "sanctuary" jurisdictions that don't cooperate with immigration authorities.

During surprise remarks at the White House, Sessions urged these jurisdictions to reconsider their policies.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

A new report suggests Travis County refused more federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants than any other law enforcement agency. The report from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is the first of what are promised to be weekly publications. 


Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Travis County raised nearly $90,000 as of Monday afternoon through an online initiative set up after Gov. Greg Abbott cut $1.5 million in grant funding over the sheriff’s new immigration policy. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) launched the fundraising site Friday in partnership with the Austin Community Foundation.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

The Travis County sheriff’s new immigration policy goes into effect today. The policy limits what information local law enforcement share with the federal immigration agency, and it's already stirred up a lot of controversy.

This morning, Gov. Greg Abbott came through on a pledge to cancel $1.5 million in criminal justice grants from his office to Travis County over the policy.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

The governor’s office has asked state agencies to send a list of funds, including federal money, directed to Travis County last year. In a letter sent Thursday, Budget Director Steven Albright said the list “should be complete with the amount of funds and the purpose of the agreement” and be submitted by Feb. 3.

From the Austin Monitor: Travis County’s renewed search for a suitable site for a new civil courthouse is facing stiff headwinds from a state law aimed at stifling development in downtown Austin.

Last Wednesday, the Civil and Family Courthouse Community Advisory Committee showed little interest in taking on the Texas Legislature and the Capitol View Corridors that the body established back in the early 1980s.

The Austin Monitor

From the Austin Monitor: The cost of a large expansion of U.S. Highway 183 in Northwest Austin officially nearly tripled on Monday night.

At its monthly meeting, the Transportation Policy Board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to amend its long-range plan to increase the price of the 183 North Mobility Project from $225.7 million to $650 million.

From the Austin Monitor

From the Austin Monitor: Travis County has seen an astonishing rise in the number of inmates dealing with mental health issues in the past decade.

That message was the thrust of a lengthy briefing delivered to the Commissioners Court on Tuesday by a broad coalition of county officials and community stakeholders, including Austin Travis County Integral Care and the Capital Area Private Defender Service.

flickr/jstephenconn

Veterans Day is a week away. And, as they have for more than a decade, veterans will take part in a parade around the Texas State Capitol. It also looks like the Confederate flag will be there, as it has been in the past, but this time the flag's appearance comes despite efforts from Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt to ban it from the parade.


Travis County is working towards using a federal system that verifies the immigration status of those applying to work for the county. But County Commissioners have a few reservations.


Jillian Schantz Patrick/KUT News

Travis County Commissioners took up the issues of deportation and prescription medication donation at its voting session Tuesday.

Travis County Commissioner's Court

From the Austin Monitor:

Travis County’s largest bond proposition in recent memory has officially graduated from the Commissioners Court to the much more challenging court of public opinion.

In a historic moment that capped off years of planning, the commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to send the $287.3 million Civil & Family Courts Complex bond question to voters this November.

If approved, the new facility would bring badly needed relief to the overcrowded Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse.

Travis County Commissioners Ponder Drunk-Tank Proposal

May 6, 2015
AlexVan/pixabay

From the Austin Monitor:

The Travis County Commissioners Court took another tentative step toward establishing a sobriety center in partnership with the City of Austin at its regular voting session. Perhaps better known colloquially as a drunk tank, the proposed sobriety center would serve as an alternative to Travis County Jail or local emergency rooms as destinations for people detained for public intoxication.

On Tuesday, the commissioners voted 4-0 to direct the brain trust behind the effort to come up with specific proposals for the center’s governance that the county and city can then consider. Commissioner Ron Davis abstained from the vote, citing unanswered questions about the exact role the city would play in the center’s establishment and operation.

Mengwen Cao/KUT

Election Day totals are in.

Republicans swept the statewide elections, with Greg Abbott winning the gubernatorial race and Dan Patrick besting San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor in the top two races.

Citywide races weren't so clear-cut. There will be nine run-offs in races for Austin City Council and for Mayor of Austin. Council Member Mike Martinez trails Austin attorney Steve Adler 29.63 percent to his nearly 37 percent. Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen were the only two Austin City Council candidates to win their districts with more than 50 percent of the vote in Districts 2 and 5, respectively. The rest of the races will be decided in run-off elections in December. 

Additionally, three Austin School Board elections went to run-offs; Sarah Eckhardt became the first female Travis County Judge; and Texas passed a statewide road improvement bond.

While Austinites couldn't forge consensus on council candidates, they did vote down by a wide margin a billion-dollar proposition to build a light rail system and accompanying road improvements, with 57 percent of Austinites voting against and nearly 43 percent voting for it.

Laura Buckman, Texas Tribune

Update: The Results Are In

Election results are now in with between 99.95 and 100 percent of precincts counted statewide. Click Here for KUT's rundown of election night winners. Click Here to check out how Republicans voted across the state. Click Here to see results from the Democrats. 

One hundred percent of Travis County precincts have also reported results. But the final tallies might change just a tad because votes cast after 7 p.m. have not yet been included. The polls in Travis County were open late on Tuesday because of bad weather. Click Here for the latest from Travis County.

Overall, the night turned out to be a good one for many Tea Party candidates. KUT's Ben Philpott takes a look at that:

David Martin Davies, TPR

The results are in for the 2014 Texas Primary Elections. We now know who most of the candidates will be in the November general election, but several statewide races are headed to a runoff on May 27.

We've compiled a list of the top vote earners for the major statewide and Travis County races. The percentage of votes received (as of this writing) is shown next to each candidate's name. Races with an asterisk are heading to a runoff.

KUT News

Update: It's worth noting that ballots accepted from 7 to 9 p.m. will be provisional ballots. A press release from Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has more: 

Pursuant to Texas election laws, ballots cast by individuals who arrive at a polling place after 7 p.m. but before the polls close, will be voted as provisional ballots.  Ballots cast provisionally are reviewed by a ballot board and will be accepted as long as the voter is otherwise qualified.  Votes casts by eligible voters during extended hours will be counted and included in the final tally, however, results from these ballots will not be included in this evening’s unofficial vote totals. 

“We appreciate the dedication and stamina of our election workers who will be working long into the night.” said DeBeauvoir.  “Elections wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of these steadfast and faithful citizens who conduct elections under extraordinary circumstances.” DeBeauvoir added.

Some observers are already discussing what effect those ballots could make – especially in one Travis County race. Jim Henson, director of UT-Austin's Texas Politics project, tweets "That ringing sound you hear? Calls from[Andy] Brown, [Sarah] Eckhardt to election lawyers." 

Update (2:40 p.m.): A judge has granted a request to keep Travis County polling places open an extra two hours tonight - until 9 p.m. - after icy weather caused voting officials to delay opening polls until 11am this morning.

facebook.com/saraheckhardtaustin, facebook.com/andybrowntx

The retirement of longtime Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe has led to a spirited battle in the Democratic primary to pick his replacement. 

One way to view the race is as a battle between connections and experience. Andy Brown has the connections as leader of the Travis County Democratic Party for the last few years. He's participated in multiple campaigns and raised a bunch of money for local Democratic candidates – so maybe it's no surprise that he's backed by a slew of elected officials.

"I've been endorsed by Congressman [Lloyd] Doggett, by Jim Hightower, by every single Democratic elected official who's endorsed in this race," Brown says. "I've been endorsed by the labor union that represents county employees, the one that represents teachers."

On the other side is former Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who's running on her experience.

facebook.com/saraheckhardtaustin and facebook.com/andybrowntx

Travis County will pick a new county judge this year. The county judge is like the mayor of a county, presiding over and votes in meetings of the county commissioners, where county policies and budgets are set.

With longtime County Judge Sam Biscoe retiring, Democratic candidates Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt will face off in the March primary to replace him on the Democratic ticket.

When you see the candidates for Travis County Judge in action – that is – debating each other – one thing is clear – both Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown realize each is facing a strong contender.

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This is an excerpt from an article written by our Austin City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily).

Travis County Judge candidate Sarah Eckhardt continued her verbal campaign against billionaire businessman Red McCombs Thursday, taking him to task for asking taxpayers to contribute millions of dollars to build the Circuit of the Americas race track but going to court to get his property tax bill on the facility lowered.

Eckhardt, a former Pct. 2 Commissioner who is running for the top job in Travis County, issued a statement criticizing McCombs – one of the developers of the Formula 1 race track – for throwing his political and financial weight around to get what he wants.

Event: KUT News 90.5, Austin's NPR news affiliate, and In Fact Daily, Austin's daily electronic newswire covering city hall and local politics, present a candidate forum for the contested primaries in the races for the Democratic nominations for Travis County Judge and Travis County Commissioner Precinct 2.

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