Archive for: February 2016

Flood Insurance: Students in West Campus prepare for spring

 

 

By: Lauren Florence, Marina Chairez and Anthony Green

Flood Plain


The flood plain in West Campus shown highlighted in purple follows along the Shoal Creek Greenbelt. Image courtesy of ATXfloods and the City of Austin.

AUSTIN—Location, location, location is always the main catch phrase when looking for the perfect place to call home. Whether looking to rent a place for a year or much longer, everyone seeks a lifestyle of comfort and safety.

Students attending the University of Texas at Austin tend to try and live as close to campus as possible—especially those who may not have their own means of transportation. Students must hunt for the perfect living space and sift through the endless possibilities of apartments, condos and homes.

One of the most populated areas around UT is West Campus, but many residents don’t realize this area is in fact a high-risk floodplain, according to the online resource ATX Floods.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Travis County is “among the fastest growing areas in the nation and in the top 10 percent of flood-damage prone communities.”

In the past year, there have been multiple incidents of flood damage in the West Campus area. Those individuals affected who were uninsured not only had their expensive and potentially irreplaceable possessions ruined, but all expenses to replace those items had to be paid out of pocket.

For some cases, renters affected by flooding might be reimbursed for the cost of a temporary living space, but those who are uninsured, or who only have minimal coverage, may question how renter’s insurance is handled and how to better safeguard their carefully chosen living space and possessions.

Journalism senior Sameer Assanie had his apartment flooded in October of 2015 at The Quarters Montgomery House located near 27th Street and Nueces Street in West Campus.

“We ended up having to find a new place to stay at … We stayed at a hotel that was another couple miles up north on I-35, which meant it would take that much longer to get to campus in the morning,” Assanie said. “We had to book for just short periods at a time because we never got a formal update.”

This temporary period ended up being a month and a half endeavor for both Sameer and his roommate.

“We got updates just about every day, but it was always ‘The contracting team is working on your apartment and will get you a better time table soon,’ and that went on for quite some time and we never got a real ballpark date,” Assanie said. “We would always be back at the apartment to grab stuff because we were never able to take everything and it was always a struggle.”

Flooding Spotlight: West Campus resident deals with damage

Flooding Spotlight from Lauren Florence on Vimeo.

Assanie was fortunate enough to have minimal renter’s insurance coverage, as required by the management of his apartment complex. However, Assanie said a better policy with more liability coverage probably would have helped the expense of his damaged possessions.

Lorie Roeckers, office manager at Uptown Realty in West Campus, said her company also requires minimal renter’s insurance for all lease applicants.

“If your folks have homeowners insurance there could be an extension to you to have renters insurance so therefore you’d be covered,” Roeckers said. “If they don’t, then the people who aren’t going to have a guarantor or co-applicant [either]—I just recommend they go online. It’s so easy to get renter’s insurance.”

Jynelle Merch, insurance agent for Geico, said the cost of renter’s insurance varies depending on the policy and how much liability coverage the renter wants for their possessions, but generally the monthly cost of renter’s insurance averages from $20 to $25.

“I think [renter’s insurance is] more important than people think it is to have,” Merch said. “You know when you see on the news or something where there’s a fire and the whole apartment complex is burnt down—all of those people when you look at it, if they don’t have coverage they don’t have anything.”

Renter's Insurance

A New Stage For Hidden Talent: TILT Performance Group

By Jack Vrtis, Anahita Pardiwalla, and Jacob Martella

TILT Cast Members

The cast of TILT’s second production, Free To Be … You And Me.
Courtesy TILT Performance Group

Gail Dalrymple needed to find a place for her son, Peter Richter, to reach his potential.

Richter, who has Autism and is legally blind, found his niche on stage performing theater at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. However, upon graduation, landing a spot in a professional group would be a difficult task.

In response, his mother created one — the TILT Performance Group.

“There weren’t opportunities for people with disabilities,” Dalrymple said. “And after school, his world began to close in.”

Since it’s founding in September 2013, TILT has grown to a cast of 15 members. Each brings their own unique talent to the stage. With five productions under their belt, the troupe is set to hit the stage in a few months in a collaboration with the Austin Jewish Repertory Theater.

Even with all of the accolades, Dalrymple’s original goal for starting TILT has been a success. Richter has been in four of the five productions, his favorite being “Free Patterns,” which the group performed in January. He found a place to be himself.

“It’s fun to do,” Richter said. “I want to keep doing it … It’s a good stress.”

TILT is home for many more than just Richter.

Toby Al-Trabulsi became involved theater in high school, participating in UIL One-Act Play competitions. Being blind made it difficult for him to continue performing. TILT fostered his growth on and off stage.

“[I’ve had] a lot of new experiences,” Al-Trabulsi said.

Similarly, despite being in a wheelchair, Kristin Gooch said the best part of TILT has been gaining self confidence.

“I love performing and I love interacting with the audience,” Gooch said.

Each actor had their own share of difficulties. Al-Trabulsi said the hardest thing for him on stage is his placement.

“It’s easy to think about, ‘Oh, I should be here,’ but in actuality it doesn’t align with what’s in the script sometimes, especially if I don’t practice it beforehand,” Al-Trabulsi said.

The group will perform “As Butterflies,” a musical based off of Jewish experience during the Holocaust. The first performance is set for May 6, one day after Yom Hashoah, the Jewish Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust.

Dalrymple sees a much brighter and broader future for TILT. She hopes the group will be able to take their shows on the road around the Austin area, something that could happen sooner rather than later.

“I’ve would have never dreamed we could have gone as far as we have in this short period of time,” Dalrymple said.

The group is one of many for people with disabilities in the country. In addition, Dalrymlpe is planning to visit the Phamaly Theater Company in Denver to see how TILT can continue to grow.

“I just would love to see TILT something that became very established in the Austin theater community was known for the work that we do as well as the great courage and inspiration of the actors,” Dalrymple said.

Bikes Across Borders: Transcending the invisible line

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A group of bikers from the social organization Bikes Across Borders. Photo courtesy of Bikes Across Borders.
Multimedia package by Caroline Hall, Isabella Bejar and Fatima Puri
AUSTIN—“It’s not about charity, it’s about solidarity,” Joshua Collier said.

Collier, a veteran rider for the organization Bikes Across Borders, is referring to the organization’s yearly bike ride from Texas to Mexico, at the end of which the ride participants donate their bikes to local Mexican citizens. Bikes Across Borders does this to fulfill their mission of annual migration to Mexico for the purpose of developing relationships of solidarity and donating recycled bikes.

“In charity, a person is in a place of power, whereas we are donating to equals and also learning so much in the process from our neighbors in Mexico,” Collier said.

This May, Bikes Across Borders will make their 16th annual trip to Mexico since the organization’s establishment in 2000. Starting in Austin, the group of riders, which has traditionally ranged from as few as eight people to as many as 35, travel on recycled bikes through Texas and across the Mexican border, camping along the way.

“I don’t want us to look like we’re locust descending on a place; I want it to look like we’re butterflies migrating through.” Katie Jo Dixon, an original member of Bikes Across Borders, said. “Our intention is to make an impact with our presence in the communities we are passing through.”

Stopping and camping in various Texas communities, which includes the cities of Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Hunt, Leakey and Del Rio, gives Bikes Across Borders the opportunity to spread word of their mission.

“We talk with the communities we stay in about the movement and establish a community connection,” Dixon said.

Another aspect of the ride important to the organization is that all bikes that are used for the ride are donated and are made from recycled bikes and bike parts.

“Bikes are refurbished or made form scratch by the frame at Yellow Bike Project,” Collier said.

Located in East Austin, Yellow Bike Project is a shop open free to the public, in which anyone can come and fix up or rebuild a bike from recycled bike parts.

“We have a lot of charities that come in and fix bikes to donate,” Pete Wall, a Yellow Bike Project employee, said. “Bikes Across Borders is one of the organizations that regularly uses our facilities and parts to fix bikes for donation.”

A Bikes Across Borders member working on her bicycle for the upcoming bike ride from Texas to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Bikes Across Borders.

A Bikes Across Borders member working on her bicycle for the upcoming bike ride from Texas to Mexico.
Photo courtesy of Bikes Across Borders.

Since 2000, Bikes Across Borders has donated over 700 of these recycled bikes to various communities in Mexico and Latin America, through the annual rides as well as bike delivery caravans. The bikes have a large impact on their recipients as they provide free transportation that is usually unavailable in these areas of Mexico, said the organization.

“The bikes are given to Mexican factory workers for transportation to and from work,” Collier said. “Without the bikes, these workers are largely forced to use a huge percentage of their paycheck to pay for the high bus fare required to get to their factory jobs.”

Bikes Across Borders is currently gearing up for its sixteenth ride to Mexico this May and will donate even more bikes to workers in need. The organization said it is always accepting new participants, regardless of cycling experience.

“If anyone wants to join the ride, they should do it,” Dixon said. “We’re all about do it yourself, keep it simple and have a good time.”

 

“I don’t want us to look like we’re locust descending on a place; I want it to look like we’re butterflies migrating through.”

 

Social Media

Bikes Across Borders Facebook
Yellow Bike Project Facebook

 

Photo Gallery

Photos courtesy of BXB


Interactive map of the Bikes Across Borders route from Texas to the Mexican border

View route map for Bikes Across Borders Route on plotaroute.com

 

BXB: The Who and The Why


Learn about two people who will be taking the yearly ride with Bikes Across Borders. Juan Belman heard about the trip through a friend and will start training soon for the long trek to Mexico. Joshua Collier is a veteran rider who recently got back from a cycling trip through South America and looks forward to meeting the new cyclists in the coming weeks.
Please watch video in HD for better quality.

The Road to SXSW: Wande Isola

Photo: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2016/events/event_MS35416

Photo: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2016/events/event_MS35416

By: Kate Bartick, Selena Depaz, Shannon Smith

Create a Powerpoint, write an essay or make a rap.

These were three options Wande Isola’s biology teacher gave her to explain the process of cellular transport. Isola had never pictured herself as a musician—never mind a rapper, but she saw an easy A in the third option. And so she wrote her first rap, an educational A+.

Three years later, 19-year-old Isola has graduated from rapping about biology and switched her musical focus to her faith, society and political unrest. She has performed at talent shows, church conventions and showcases.

To say the least, she’s grateful she didn’t choose the Powerpoint option. Today, that decision translates into an opportunity to perform at South By Southwest (SXSW).

Isola had long dreamed of being a featured act in SXSW. So much, that it was in fact her deciding factor in choosing to stay local and attend the University of Texas in Austin.

“I was like I’m gonna use this opportunity, I’m gonna figure it out, and I’m gonna be in that showcase,” said Isola.

Applications for artists open a year in advance. Aware of this, Isola took time last March to prepare her tape, write a biography and answer the supplementary questions. However, one day past the deadline, she realized she forgot to submit her package.

Taking a chance, she emailed her late application to a SXSW contact. Ten minutes later, she received a call.

“Okay we’re gonna give you a chance; I don’t know why, but we’re gonna give you a chance,” said the SXSW organizer.

In Isola’s words:

 

Within the hour, she was enthusiastically placed as an artist into The Kingdom Experience the premiere Christian Gospel music showcase.

But her work isn’t over yet. Unlike many other performers, Isola won’t be recycling her old work. She is working on an original five-song project that will be released at her show.

While Isola struggles with the balance of show preparation and life as a student, she remains excited to be part of such a diverse music festival and expand her network. She hopes to gain respect as an artist, while also connecting with a new fan base.

As for her already loyal fans… they seem just as excited as Isola.

“I can’t wait to see Wande’s music reach that next level. I really believe in her talent and her as a person. South By is gonna be a great platform for her,” said fan, Darien Younce, who was quick to add that “of course [she’s] gonna be right there supporting her.”

Isola is scheduled to perform on Friday, March 18, at 7:40 p.m. and chances are—you won’t hear her rapping about cellular transport.

UT Microfarm: Sustainable Vegetables by Students for Students

By: Julia Bernstein, J.D. Harris, and Jessica Jones

The UT Microfarm table located in the West Mall plaza on campus last Monday afternoon.

The UT Microfarm table located in the West Mall plaza on campus last Monday afternoon.

Fast food restaurants dominate the University of Texas area. Whether it’s on campus itself or right across Guadalupe, it’s not difficult to eat poorly while in college. A healthy alternative is now available every Monday afternoon on the West Mall plaza right in the heart of campus.

This Microfarm is the first of its kind on the University of Texas. They rotate crops throughout the year so there is always something fresh and in season to try. In the current season of winter, greens and root vegetables are most easily grown and available. As spring and summer approaches, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables will be up for sale.

This practice of sustainable farming is not information solely kept by the farm’s staff. The farm hosts open workdays every Thursday and Sunday. With no RSVP or experience required, this allows anyone to work as a volunteer and learn about the farming practices used at the UT Mircrofarm.

Candice Lu, a UT student, spent a Thursday afternoon at the farm with her Greek life leadership class giving back to the community. The Microfarm staff focuses on educating volunteers on the practices that takes place on the farm in order to grow sustainable crops.

“I think it’s important that we came out here today because living in a big city where we sometimes don’t even have an easy way to recycle, it’s very informative to find out about all these different processes especially composting,” Lu said.

The UT microfarm has a goal to “grow food for our local community, while creating and facilitating a number of opportunities pursuing innovation, education, sustainable systems, and interdisciplinary collaboration,” as stated by their website. This is what gives the farm its unique mission- not only to grow organic and sustainable crops, but to educate the surrounding community about these processes as well.

“We hope to connect the community to their food by emphasizing what is in season, including giving out recipe cards using in season produce,” Mircrofarm co-director Stephanie Hamborsky said. “This really draws people in and shows them that it is not difficult to eat seasonally and to buy local.”

Hamborsky also mentions water conversation and healthy soil structure through composting as key factors when it comes to sustainable farming. These are the two processes that are usually taught to volunteers in hopes that they will take this knowledge and make it better known amongst the community.

The UT Microfarm also works closely with the University Food & Housing Services (UFHS). According to Hamborsky, when the farm produces large quantities of vegetables, they sell them to UFHS. This partnership not only benefits the Microfarm, but also allows locally grown produce to be made more widely available to students on campus.

Kinsolving Food Service General Manager, Christine Jenner, believes that this partnership is one of the things that makes UT’s food service an educational experience. Locally grown produce is not only used in food preparation for the Kinsolving Dining Hall, but it’s also available in a fresh produce section within Kin’s Market, a small store right inside the doors of the residence hall.

“At a University as big as ours, attempting to feed tens of thousands of people a day, the fact that we can have locally grown options really sets us apart,” Jenner said. “My goal for Kinsolving is to move toward all of our produce being locally grown, and we are helping the cause with our own mini garden on the patio outside the dining hall.”

The Microfarm doesn’t seek to be profitable. As a grant-based program through the university, the goal is not to make money. Community outreach and education prevail as the number one goal for the Mircrofarm.

“I would encourage everyone to come out to volunteer on work days and gain a deeper connection with the food you eat,” Hamborsky said.

**NOTE: To learn more about the UT Microfarm, visit their website at: https://utmicrofarm.wordpress.com/


Map of Organic Grocery Stores & Farmers Markets in Austin, Texas

UT Microfarm

The Changing Room: Stories of Gender Transitions

By Brian Lee, Felicia Rodriguez and Amanda Voeller

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The number of transgender people in the U.S. increases yearly, and in this story, two transgender students in Austin discuss their journeys. One student prepares for medical school while transitioning from male to female, and the other prepares to transfer to UT-Austin while transitioning from female to male. Additionally, Nancy Daley, an educational psychology assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at UT-Austin, explains why society often reacts negatively to transgender people and how women’s and men’s gender roles differ.

Click here for the story.

It’s a Ruff Life

By: Faria Akram, Stephanie Rothman, Amayeli Arnal-Reveles

Two puppy siblings look wary of their new home at The Lockhart Animal Shelter.

Two puppy siblings look wary of their new home at The Lockhart Animal Shelter.

Tiny puppies, dressed up as players and cheerleaders, wiggle or sleep in their pens. They’re carefully held, petted and soothed by a variety of people, who coo as they struggle to contain their excitement. The possibility of being able to take a little one home fuels their hours of standing in a long line.

“I grew up with dogs, and I haven’t had anything since I left home,” potential adopter Phillip Christy said. “So I’m looking for a forever friend.”

Christy was one of dozens of Austinites who showed up to the annual Puppy Bowl on Feb. 6. Put on by the Austin Humane Society, the event was held the day before the Super Bowl and allowed community members to engage with and even adopt puppies.

Though the Humane Society strives to get all the puppies adopted, the goal is not a matter of life or death. Austin has been a no-kill city since 2011, according to the Austin Department of Animal Services. Animal shelters in Austin do not euthanize healthy or treatable dogs, even when there is no room to hold them.

Though Austin is also the largest no-kill city in the nation, according to the Huffington Post, the fate of dogs is different just less than an hour drive away. The city of Lockhart, Texas resides outside the no-kill limitations, both geographically and in policy. If any animal is sick, injured or aggressive, it may be euthanized depending on the situation.

“Any animal that bites a person and is captured…if it’s not a “claimed animal” it’s euthanized automatically,” Lockhart animal control officer Cheryl Bertram said “Because there’s not anybody that’s going to pay for their quarantine fee.”

An estimated 700,000 animals are euthanized in Texas shelters every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Reasons behind euthanizing include illness, aggression, and overpopulation.

According to Bertram, the animal shelter is the least funded program in the city and the city’s financial breakdown of funds towards the animal shelter could be managed in a better fashion. What the city sees as “quality spending money” she finds as “ridiculous,” she said.

“I pick up things that get hit by cars all the time, the city is not going to pay for everything to go to the vet and see if its fixable,” Bertram said. “And then it might never get adopted. And all that money the considered spending is for nothing.”

UT government major and dog owner Kristen Gundermann also believes that money can be a prominent concern in making decisions regarding euthanasia.

“A lot of times it’s probably an owner surrender or a dog that has been in and out of homes and or ill and no one can afford to pay for it’s vet care,” Gundermann said. “But unfortunately, in a lot of areas, that’s just a reality because not everyone can afford to be a no-kill shelter.” Gundermann said.

The size of the county that Lockhart resides in, Caldwell County, is also an issue. According to the Animal Shelter Act, shelters must properly house and humanely treat animals in their custody. However, this law does not apply to counties with populations of 75,000 or less. Caldwell County has approximately 40,000 people.

For this reason, the Lockhart shelter is unable to have a veterinarian on staff, instead taking animals to an animal health professional in only the most dire of circumstances, according to Bertram.

“[The animal shelter] is the least attended to, it takes a long time to get something going as progress,” Bertram said.

However, Austin Humane Society shelter manager Sarah Hammel is hopeful that counties like Lockhart can make strides toward becoming named no-kill as well.

“I think especially cities and counties that are right around Austin are able to use what we’ve learned, the victories and defeats that we’ve had here to sort of implement it in their own county and I think really we’ll see sort of like a ripple effect from Austin to the surrounding counties hopefully in the future, to where maybe one day Texas everyone could be no kill,” Hammel said.

 

 

 

 

 

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Neighborhoods Forever Young – Youthification in Austin

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By Charlotte Carpenter, Dahlia Dandashi and Johana Guerra

With the largest concentration of millennials in the nation, Austin is on the front lines of the latest demographic phenomenon known as “youthification.” Neighborhoods such as Hyde Park, North Loop and South Austin are home to young adults between ages 18 and 34.  We spoke to the leading expert on the topic, Markus Moos, to learn how youthification is impacting the city. For the full story, click here.

 

 

Soireé: Yay or Nay?

Racial Tensions

by Zara Mirza, Megan Mikaelian, Stacy Rickard

www.stacyrickard.wix.com/racialtensions

Big League Rivalry: Longhorn majors come home to face off with current players

Current Texas baseball Head Coach Augie Garrido talks with his predecessor Cliff Gustafson at the 2015
Texas baseball alumni game on February 6 2015. (Photo courtesy of Sean Clynch, KVUE Austin)

On his 77th birthday, Texas head baseball coach Augie Garrido stands in front of the first base dugout at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. He smiles as he sees a familiar face walking toward him.

The man Garrido sees gets about 10 yards away and blurts out, “Happy birthday old man!”

Ironically, the man happens to be six days away from his 85th birthday. The voice belongs to former University of Texas head baseball coach Cliff Gustafson.

A half-hour before the University of Texas baseball’s annual alumni game on February 6th, the two living legends share an embrace and a laugh.

The encounter encompasses just how rich the tradition of Texas baseball is.

Both coaches rank in the top 10 in all-time coaching wins (Garrido first, Gustafson tenth) and have over 3,375 career wins between them. A combined all-time win total higher than 296 of the 298 Division I programs (Texas and Fordham being the only two to have more).

“I don’t know how it is at other universities,” Gustafson said, “but I think this alumni game displays the loyalty [to The University of Texas] probably better than anything.”

The game, started by Gustafson when he coached at Texas from 1968-1996, features the current Texas baseball team against former Longhorns who are now somewhere in professional baseball.

Some players, like outfielder Drew Stubbs, pitcher Huston Street, and catcher Cameron Rupp, are already in the MLB. Others are in various locations throughout minor league baseball.

Rupp, a catcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, has come back for the game six years in a row and likes to keep it fun.

During his first at bat Rupp has two strikes on him and current Texas pitcher Josh Sawyer throws a fastball on the outside corner. Catcher Tres Barrera attempts to frame it for a strike, to no avail.

When Rupp sees this, he turns and laughs at Barrera shaking his head saying, “No no no. Not gonna happen Tres.”

Barrera laughs along with Rupp and the crowd. It’s a lighthearted moment that signifies what makes the game unique and fun for both teams.

It is also a time where the former players come together to reminisce on past seasons and play together again. For former Texas outfielder Kevin Keyes, it’s a special event.

“To be able to come back here and play is just amazing,” Keyes, who is now in AAA (one league below the MLB) with the Washington Nationals organization said. “This game has always been a great time to come back and see old friends. I love it.”

In the end, the current Longhorns beat the Alumni 4-0, but the result of the game is almost unimportant to most involved.

What brings fans and players back for this game each year is the camaraderie and ability to reconnect with former players and old teammates.

One of the main reasons for the pure entertainment of the game is because Texas doesn’t shy away from big name guys and the talent pool Texas has to pick from for this game is very rich. Texas is third all-time in producing players to the MLB behind only Arizona State and USC.

Because of this rich talent, the game is viewed as one for both sides to not only come together and have fun, but also get better.

“We goof off and have a good time, but once the first pitch is thrown all of that kind of goes away,” former Longhorn second baseman Brooks Marlow said. “It’s just like any other game where you want to beat the other guy after that.”

The mix of competition and fun makes the game enticing for fans and gets them ready for the regular season, which often starts two weeks after the alumni game.

According to Rupp, the fans are the real reason the game is so fun.

“If it weren’t for the fans this game would be meaningless,” Rupp said. “They meant so much to us when we were here so we make sure we give the love back to them every year. We come back for them, because they were there for us first.”