In the Studio: KLRU & Texas Tribune host GOP Railroad Commission Candidate Forum

A drilling rig worker ascends the rig's tower.

Join us in studio to hear from six of the Republicans running for an open seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. The Texas Railroad Commission is the primary regulator of oil and gas production and drilling in the state. These candidates are seeking their party’s nomination in the March primary for the open seat on the three-member commission.

During this hourlong forum, the candidates and moderator Evan Smith of the The Texas Tribune will discuss their ideas about the industry, regulation, the state economy, and other issues that will confront the commission in the years ahead. This forum will air on KLRU Feb. 15th at 7 pm.

Monday, February 8th
6PM-7PM, doors at 5:30PM
KLRU’s Studio 6A (map)
Please RSVP

Lance Christian has worked as a geoscientist for the Texas Railroad Commission since 2013. Previously, he served as a geoscientist for the Texas Water Development Board.

Wayne Christian served in the Texas House, representing District 9, from 1997 to 2013. During his time in the Legislature, he served as vice chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee and president of the Texas Conservative Coalition. Christian is also a member of the SunAmerica President’s Club and owns his own financial consulting business, Wayne Christian Financial.

Gary Gates serves as CEO and owner of Gatesco, Inc., a real estate investment company in the Texas Gulf Coast region. He has also served as a delegate for the State Party Convention since 2002 and is a lifetime member of the Fort Bend County Fair Association. Previously, Gates served as board member for the Fort Bend Pregnancy Resource Center.

John Greytok is an attorney based in Austin and has worked as a briefing attorney to the chief justice of the Austin Court of Appeals. Previously, Greytok served as a special assistant attorney general for the State of Texas, and he has worked as a precinct chair, election judge, campaign treasurer, convention delegate and member of the county resolutions committee.

Ron Hale serves as CEO for Duboise Industries LLC and as director of operations for the private security company NZ Control Specialists, which specializes in anti-terrorism consulting for the oil and gas industry. Hale previously ran for the District 15 seat in the Texas Senate.

Doug Jeffrey manages his family’s cattle farm and ranch business in Vernon, Texas. He is also an investor in the oil and gas industry. Jeffrey was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weston Martinez is an oil and gas business development and government affairs strategist and works as a political commentator. He was appointed in 2011 by then-Gov. Rick Perry to serve as a public member of the Texas Real Estate Commission. Previously, Martinez worked in the regulated telecommunications industry.

This production is a partnership with The Texas Tribune and will be livestreamed on TexasTribune.orgSupport for the livestream is provided in part by the Texas Oil & Gas Association, CenterPoint Energy, and Texas Pipeline Association. Photo copyright Jerod Foster. 

 

News Briefs: AISD Looks at Affordable Housing Options for Teachers, Texas Tribune on Planned Parenthood Video Indictments

Austin ISD Looks for Housing Solutions to Stop Teacher Flight

Austin ISD is losing about 800 teachers each year. Many of those teachers are pushed out of Austin by rising housing costs, and opt to teach in the districts in which they live. The district is working collaborating with the City of Austin and Travis County to find ways to use the large amount of public land each taxing entity owns to create affordable housing options for those teachers and for AISD students and families.

“There’s a lot of land there, but I think that’s part of the task,” Vice President of the Austin School Board Paul Saldaña says. “We’ve all shared a list of inventory that we own and it’s just a matter of prioritizing. The longer we sit around and don’t have a plan of action we’re going to continue to be ranked as the most economically segregated city, and we’re going to continue to lose students and teachers as a result.”

Melissa Adams has been teaching in Austin ISD for 6 years. A few years ago she was tempted to leave the district because of rising rent. She decided to stay out of loyalty, but worries she’ll continue getting priced out.

“It’s kind of sad when you go to apartment hunters and tell them your price range and they laugh,” Adams says.

She calls the Austin ISD Board “very pro-teacher” and appreciates their efforts on this issue. But, she thinks the district-owned land could be better utilized by selling it, making a profit, and using that money to pay Austin teachers more.

“Let’s let teachers choose where they want to live,” she says. “I think all of us have the right to safe affordable places to live when we’re providing a service to our city.”

According to Saldaña, some Austin teachers are now able to qualify for subsidized housing. Adams says she finds that fact insulting.

“I’m college educated, I got my Masters so I could be a better teacher, I love what I do,” she says. “I don’t want to say ‘Oh , I’m totally opposed,’ or ‘It’s totally nice,’ it’s just, isn’t there a better solution than this? That professionalizes and humanizes teachers more?”

Texas Tribune Political Roundup: Harris County grand jury indicts the people behind undercover videos of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

In this week’s Texas Political Roundup from Alana Rocha of The Texas Tribune, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleidan, who secretly recorded video of the Houston clinic last summer, is accused of “unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly” offering to buy fetal tissue via email. Daleidan faces a class A misdemeanor charge.

Rocha also reports on Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s final push in Iowa before Monday’s Caucuses and a UT Austin professor who says it’s within his rights to ban guns in his classroom.

News Briefs: Final Days to Enroll in Obamacare, Supreme Court to Hear Immigration Case

Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace closes January 31st. A number of Austin-area nonprofit groups are busy signing up as many people as possible before the deadline, especially people who are not native English speakers or who are low income.

The Center for Healthy Communities is one of those groups. Isabel Lopez spends her days crisscrossing Austin, dropping off information at elementary schools and doing Spanish-language presentations and TV interviews. Her goal is to reach an often under-served, and therefore often misinformed, community.

“Misconceptions are that everybody will be fined if they don’t have health insurance,” Lopez says. “The other thing is that it’s really expensive and I don’t think they understand how big the subsidy can be.”

She says there is also a lot of fear, especially from documented immigrants who may have family members who are undocumented.

“There is a lot of fear of deportation and because of the immigration status, but a lot of these families do qualify,” Lopez explains. “I think we need to do way more outreach to the hard to reach populations. Not only Spanish speaking, but we have a big population of Arab-speaking, Vietnamese, Burmese.”

To qualify for Obamacare you must be a U.S. citizen, or have legal status, such as legal residents or registered aliens.

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In Washington this week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge from Texas, and 25 other states, to President Obama’s 2014 executive order on immigration. The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, has been on hold for nearly a year after a Texas-based federal judge blocked the measure.

DAPA would allow more than four million undocumented immigrants to apply for a renewable work permit and avoid deportation. The case is expected to go before the court in April, with its decision issued in June. Our weekly Texas Political Roundup comes from Alana Rocha with our reporting partner The Texas Tribune.

In the Studio: Civic Summit Examines First Year of Austin’s Single-Member District Council

Civic Summit Taping Announcement

January marks one year since Austin’s first 10-1 City Council was sworn into office. For the first time Austin voters elected a council member to represent each of the 10 new geographic districts, and elected new Mayor Steve Adler to represent the city as a whole. 

Many hoped the historic election would be a watershed moment, inspiring more people to get involved in city politics. More than 70 people ran for office and 8 of the 10 new council members have never held public office before. But, Austin’s voter turnout is still dismally low and very few residents engage regularly in city issues.

CIVIC SUMMIT, in partnership with Leadership Austin, will convene a community conversation to discuss this transformative time in Austin’s city government, and look ahead to Austin’s future.

Join host Judy Maggio and panelists Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Ora Houston, EngageATX’s Annie Dlugokecki, and AISD Trustee Paul Saldaña

Wednesday, January 13
6:30pm Doors | 7pm Start
KLRU Studio 6A
Map/Directions
RSVP
This event is free but an RSVP is required.

CIVIC SUMMIT airs on KLRU January 22 at 8:30pm, immediately following 10-WON, a documentary following the seismic shift in Austin’s political landscape, from the time the 78 candidates signed up to the swearing-in ceremony. The film will be screened prior to taping the Civic Summit.

News Briefs: Educating Students about Native American Culture

November is Native American Heritage Month, and to celebrate Great Promise for American Indians held its 24th annual Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival on November 7th. While the Powwow has wrapped up, the goal of it’s organizers is ongoing. Great Promise is working to educate youth both in and out of their culture on Native American heritage and traditions.

Self-Defense Class Fights for SAFE Austin

This is the fifth year that the Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy has offered self defense classes for women, but this year they’re doing something a little different.  The entry fee for the class is a donation to SAFE Austin, an organization dedicated to ending cycles of abuse and violence.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 6pm. 

 

In the Studio: Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley

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RSVP to be in our studio audience when KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith interviews Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley. RSVP now

Thursday, November 12 at 10:15am in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 9:45am.

O'MalleyMartin O’Malley is a Democratic candidate for president running against Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is a lifelong Democrat and the frontman of an Irish rockband. He served as Mayor of Baltimore for 7 years. As Governor, O’Malley tackled many of the hottest issues in the Democratic party. He signed one of the nation’s toughest gun bills, legislation repealing Maryland’s death penalty, a bill expanding pre-K, one that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, and one that increased the state’s minimum wage.

This taping is a co-production with The Texas Tribune.

Be there as Overheard with Evan Smith continues a 6th season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard!

The event is free but an RSVP is required. Admission is based upon capacity.

Ideas and Politics Exchanged at Texas Tribune Festival

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The fifth annual Texas Tribune Festival took place on the University of Texas campus last weekend, bringing with it hundreds of lawmakers, policy experts, and civically-minded Texans for in-depth conversations and panels about issues facing our state. KLRU’s Public Affairs team attended the Fest, and while we wish we could have cloned ourselves and seen even more, there are a few panels we keep thinking about almost a week later.

How to Turn a School Around

After spending January-August reporting on Eastside Memorial High School’s struggles to make state accountability, we knew we couldn’t miss this panel. Austin ISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz spoke, along with Donna Bahorich, Chairwoman of the SBOE, David Anthony of Raise Your Hand Texas, Superintendent Juan Cabrera of El Paso ISD, and Steven Tallant of Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

When asked how AISD turned Eastside around after more than a decade of failing scores, Dr. Cruz explained the process was complex because of the low-income community the school serves.

“It was a very methodical process,” Dr. Cruz said, explaining that TEA gave Eastside and AISD more time than usual in the reconstitution plan. Cruz stressed the importance of understanding the home lives of at-risk students, and the need for a “community schools approach.”

An audience member who serves on a school board in another Texas district asked Dr. Cruz if AISD would be releasing a white paper about the methods used at Eastside. Dr. Cruz said yes, a report will be compiled so other districts can see what worked.

One-on-One with Nancy Pelosi

Another high point for us during the Texas Tribune Festival was the National Keynote with U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi sat down with Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Abby Livingston in front of a packed audience in Hogg Memorial Auditorium.

Seemingly no topic was off limits – Pelosi discussed the House Speaker race, Hillary Clinton’s run for office, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iran nuclear deal, immigration reform, gun control, and even Ann Richards.

Pelosi said she is confident Democrats will regain control of the U.S. House by 2018, though she was noncommittal when asked if she would hold the Speaker’s gavel again. “I think the Democrats can have the gavel in 18 months,” she said.

When asked how to ensure more women run for office and are elected, Pelosi blamed campaign finance. Repeatedly during her keynote conversation she stressed the need to limit the amount of money that can be contributed to campaigns and Super PACs. She said if the money could be reigned in, more women and more minorities would run for office and be successful getting elected.

You can see video from Leader Pelosi’s conversation in the video below, courtesy of The Texas Tribune. All of the keynote events were recorded and can be seen here.  

Austin’s Eastern Frontier: A new digital reporting project

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Everyone knows Austin is growing, and we do a lot of reporting at KLRU about that growth – who is being impacted, how is the city prepared to handle new residents, where are the new residents coming from? For the last few months we partnered with KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR Station, and the Austin Monitor, to report on how Austin’s growth is seeping into a small, nearby city: Manor, Texas.

Today, we unveil a new digital reporting project called Austin’s Eastern Frontier. KLRU, KUT, and the Monitor sent reporters to Manor to find out how their population boom is changing life for the residents there.

The population of the city of Manor has grown more than 500% in the past decade. Like many suburbs in Central Texas, many of the newcomers moved from Austin — pushed out by rising housing costs. Some of them are very low income, some are middle income or former renters who are looking to trade a rent payment for a mortgage.

Mouths to Feed

KLRU’s first story is about The Bannockburn Baptist Church in Manor. They opened a food pantry a few years ago and in the last year and a half, have seen demand spike. Once a week they offer free vegetables, meats, cereal – you name it – free of charge to anyone. Clients get to stroll the aisles and pick out what they like. “All it takes is to have a hungry belly and come in and fill out a couple forms, and you’re good,” Pastor Luis Holguin says.

Longer Arm of the Law

As Manor grows, so does the city’s police force. In the past year Manor PD has added 8 new officers. Most of the calls come from one place: Walmart. But, as the once-small town deals with city problems like traffic and crime, Manorites say it’s not the “rough little town” it once was.

On the Market

Pete Dwyer has been buying up pieces of Manor since the 1990s. He’s watched the land become more valuable and has sold pieces of it to home developers and builders. In recent years he donated some of his land to Manor ISD, which has seen a 92% increase in students in the past decade. The first school built on his land, ShadowGlen Elementary, opened in August 2015. The second elementary school built on his land will open next summer.

We’ll be airing the KLRU stories during PBS NewsHour Weekend on Sunday October 11, Saturday October 17 and Sunday October 18. You can find the entire series by visiting austinseasternfrontier.org.

In the Studio: Overheard tapings during the Texas Book Festival

Overheard_Announcement

Please join KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith for four tapings during the Texas Book Festival! All tapings happen in KLRU’s Studio 6A (map). Doors open at 2:30pm. They are free to attend but an RSVP is required. Admission is based upon capacity.

MargaretAtwoodMargaret Atwood, Award-Winning Author
Friday, October 16, 2015
3pm (doors at 2:30pm)

Margaret Atwood is an award-winning author of more than 40 volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction. She’s best known for her novels The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin, which won the Booker Prize in 2000. Her newest novel, The Heart Goes Last, was published in September.

RSVP

WendellPierceWendell Pierce, Actor and Author
Sunday, October 18, 2015
12:15pm (doors at 11:45am)

Wendell Pierce is an actor, producer, and author, best known for playing Detective Bunk Moreland on HBO’s “The Wire.” He also starred as Antoine Batiste in Treme, the HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans, which is Pierce’s hometown. His memoir The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken was recently published.

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SununuFormer Governor John Sununu, New Hampshire
Sunday, October 18, 2015
1pm (doors at 12:45pm)

John H. Sununu is the former Governor of New Hampshire. He was also White House Chief of Staff for President George H.W. Bush. Most recently he was Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. His memoir, The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H.W. Bush, was published in June.

RSVP

The Texas Book Festival brings more than 300 authors to Downtown Austin and the State Capitol grounds October 17-18th. One of the premier literary events in the country, the Texas Book Festival includes author readings, panel discussions, book signings, themed tents with cooking and children’s entertainment, and much more. You can find more information, including the festival schedule, by visiting texasbookfestival.org.

We hope you’ll be there as Overheard with Evan Smith continues a 6th season of interviews featuring engaging conversations with fascinating people. The show airs on PBS stations nationally and presents a wide range of thoughtmakers and tastemakers from the fields of politics, journalism, business, arts, sports and more. Please join us and be part of the studio audience! And don’t forget you can watch past episodes anytime at klru.org/overheard.

Photo of Wendell Pierce is courtesy Sean Hagwell Photography. Photo of Margaret Atwood is by Jean Malek. 

Minors playing in E minor: Juvenile Justice Center Residents Learn the Art of Classical Guitar

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This story was written by KLRU and PBS NewsHour intern Kennedy Huff. Kennedy is an alumna of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program. Kennedy’s story aired during PBS NewsHour on Tuesday, September 8, 2015. You can see it in the video below.

Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center serves as a probation facility for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. While in detention, the residents continue working toward their high school diploma, get exposure to trades, and learn a variety of arts.

Five years ago, Gardner-Betts partnered with Austin Classical Guitar Society to teach classical guitar to residents, allowing them to earn a fine art credit necessary for graduation.

“It started with the recommendation from one of our members,” Director of Education and Outreach for Austin Classical Guitar, Travis Marcum, said. “He set up a meeting between us and Gardner-Betts. [He was] just thinking that these kids might have a specific need, that they’re not getting really any arts education while they’re incarcerated, so this might be a good fit for us.”

Guitar Instructor, Jeremy Osborne performs a concert piece with his students. Austin Classical Guitar works with Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center to teach classical guitar to residents. Photo by Kennedy Huff

Guitar Instructor, Jeremy Osborne performs a concert piece with his students. Austin Classical Guitar works with Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center to teach classical guitar to residents. Photo by Kennedy Huff

Last winter, Jeremy Osborne began teaching the guitar class at Gardner-Betts. Osborne held many fears about handling the program, but one stood above the rest.

“When I took over I knew what to expect but [I had] a lot of trepidation actually,” Osborne said. “You know there’s a lock on every door, you have to memorize a handful of codes to get through all the different security blocks and everything and it’s really disorienting. Starting with this project brought out a lot of personal anxieties and fear. It wasn’t about getting attacked by a student, or whatever, it was literally like ‘I’m not gonna do a good job for these kids.’”

However, Osborne’s assumptions proved to be wrong. The students in the program think highly of him and are grateful for the class. Demetrius, Israel, and Peter have all been at Gardner-Betts for over a year.

“I’m 18, never thought I’d see the light, never thought I’d see the day that I’d be graduating,” Demetrius said.  “I really like the feeling, because everybody in my family graduated high school, went to college at least one year, maybe two, and dropped out, got locked up, or died. It showed me a different path. Instead of going down the wrong road I can go down the right one.”

“I used to actually have a real bad anger problem,” Israel said. “So when I would get real angry, or I could be like sad, I guess you could say, or withdrawn I get on my guitar. It’s just really given me something to do when I’m bored or thinking about something, I guess, that’s not in my best interest.”

Gardner-Betts resident, Peter, receives assistance from guitar instructor, Jeremy Osborne. Peter will continue playing guitar when he begins college in the fall.

Gardner-Betts resident, Peter, receives assistance from guitar instructor, Jeremy Osborne. Peter will continue playing guitar when he begins college in the fall. Photo by Kennedy Huff

Prior to joining the program, Peter was a high school dropout. With the help of Osborne, he is set to attend San Jacinto College this fall, in the pursuit of a music production degree.

“My mom is excited,” Peter said. “Usually if she heard something about me it was always bad and it feels good to have something good like graduating high school, learning how to play the guitar, going to school. Now every time she sees me she just smiles. I’m sure her cheeks hurt by now.”

A recent study from the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University found that 75% of juveniles released from a juvenile probation facility in Texas are rearrested up to 5 years after their release. Jeremy Osborne hopes the skills students have learned in his class will keep them from reentering the criminal justice system.

“If you talk to a lot of the staff here they’ll say it’s pretty common that statistically a lot of these kids will re-offend and wind up back here,” Osborne said. “I would like to think that at least a handful of them can kinda keep [on a good] path when they get out of here. They always have a guitar there to come to when they’re stressed out. My ultimate hope for them is that they come out of here and don’t come back.”