Austin, Texas

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Austin, Texas
Image:Us-tx-au.gif
Image:Seal of Austin, Texas.gif
Flag Seal
Nickname: "Live Music Capital of the World"
Location in the state of Texas
Coordinates: 30°18′01″N, 97°44′50″W
Country United States
State Texas
County Travis County
Mayor Will Wynn
Area  
 - City 669.3 km²  (258.4 sq mi)
 - Land 651.4 km²  (251.5 sq mi)
 - Water 17.9 km² (6.91 sq mi)
Population  
 - City (2005) 690,252
 - Density 1,007.9 persons/km²
 - Metro 1,412,271
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Website: www.cityofaustin.org

Austin is the capital of the U.S. state of Texas and the county seat of Travis County. Situated in the region of Central Texas, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 16th-largest in the United States. As of the 2005 U.S. Census estimate, Austin had a population of 690,252.<ref name="2005census">2005 U.S. Census Estimate (Excel Spreadsheet format)</ref> The city is the core cultural and economic center of the Austin–Round Rock metropolitan area with a population of 1.4 million.

The first documented settlement of current-day Austin occurred in 1835, and the site was named Waterloo in 1837. In 1839, Mirabeau B. Lamar renamed the city in honor of Stephen F. Austin. Its original name is honored by local businesses such as Waterloo Ice House and Waterloo Records. Austin is situated on the Colorado River and on the Balcones Fault, which in much of Austin runs roughly the same route as the MoPac expressway.

Residents of Austin are known as Austinites and include a mix of university professors, students, politicians, lobbyists, musicians, state employees and high-tech workers. The city is home to enough large sites of major technology corporations to have earned the nickname "Silicon Hills". Austin's official slogan is The Live Music Capital of the World, and many try to follow one of its unofficial mottoes of "Keep Austin Weird". ATX is a popular abbreviation for the city of Austin.

Contents

[edit] History

Before the arrival of settlers from the United States, the area that later became Austin was inhabited by a variety of nomadic Native American tribes, including the Tonkawa tribe, the Comanches, and the Lipan Apaches. The first permanent settlement of the area occurred in 1835, with the founding of the village of Waterloo in 1837, and the renaming of the town to "Austin" in 1839. In the late 19th century, the establishment of several universities in the city made Austin a center of education. In the 20th century, Austin also became known for its music (now known as "the Live Music Capital of the World"), as well as its technology industry. Austin's history has also been largely tied to government and politics; at one time it was the capital of the Republic of Texas, and it is currently the capital of the state of Texas in the United States.

[edit] Geography

Austin is located at 30°18′01″N, 97°44′50″W (30.300474, -97.747247)GR1 and is approximately 165m (541 ft) above sea level. According to the 2000 census, the city has a total area of 669.3 km² (258.4 mi²). 651.4 km² (251.5 mi²) of it is land and 17.9 km² (6.9 mi²) of it (2.67%) is water.

Austin is situated on the Colorado River, with three man-made (artificial) lakes wholly within the city limits: Town Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Walter E. Long. Additionally, the foot of Lake Travis, including Mansfield Dam, is located within the city's limits. Town Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Travis are all on the Colorado River. The city is also situated on the Balcones Fault, which, in much of Austin, runs roughly the same route as the MoPac Expressway. The eastern part of the city is relatively flat, whereas the western part and western suburbs consist of scenic rolling hills on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Because the hills to the west are primarily limestone rock with a thin covering of topsoil, the city is subjected to frequent flash flooding from the excessive runoff caused by thunderstorms. To help control this runoff and to generate hydroelectric power, the Lower Colorado River Authority operates a series of dams that form the Texas Highland Lakes. The lakes also provide venues for boating, swimming, and other forms of recreation within several parks located on the lake shores.

Image:Mount-Bonnell.jpg
The view from Mount Bonnell

A popular point of prominence in Austin is Mount Bonnell. At about 780 feet above sea level, it is a natural limestone formation overlooking Lake Austin on the Colorado River, approximately 200 feet below its summit. From the observation deck, many newly built homes are visible.

The soils of Austin range from shallow gravelly clay loams over limestone in the western outskirts to deep fine sandy loams, silty clay loams, silty clays or clays in the city's eastern part. Some of the clays have pronounced shrink-swell properties and are difficult to work under most moisture conditions. Many of Austin's soils, especially the clay-rich types, are slightly to moderately alkaline and have free calcium carbonate.

[edit] Climate

Austin has a humid subtropical climate, characterised by hot summers and mild winters.<ref name="aboutweather">Austin Weather Facts from About.com, accessed July 13, 2006</ref> On average, Austin receives 33.6 inches (853.4 mm) of rain per year, with most of the precipitation coming in the spring, and a secondary maximum in the fall.<ref name="noaaweather">Austin Climate Summary from NOAA, accessed July 13, 2006</ref>

Summer in Austin is hot and typically humid, with average temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) from June until September. Temperatures above 100°F (38°C) are not uncommon, and the highest recorded temperature at Camp Mabry was 112°F in 2000.<ref name="weatherdotcom">Monthly Averages from Weather.com, includes table format as well, accessed July 13, 2006</ref> For the entire year there is an average of 111 days above 90°F (32°C) and 198 days above 80°F (27°C). <ref name="aboutweather" />

Winter in Austin is mild and dry relative to the rest of the year. For the entire year, Austin averages 88 days where the temperature drops below 45°F (7°C) and only 24 days where the minimum temperature falls below freezing. Snowfall is rare in Austin, but once every year or two Austin is typically hit with an ice storm, freezing over roads and shutting down much of the city for typically about a day. <ref name="aboutweather" />

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Avg high °FC) 60 (16) 65 (18) 73 (23) 79 (26) 85 (29) 91 (33) 95 (35) 96 (36) 90 (32) 81 (27) 70 (21) 62 (17) 79 (26)
Rec high °FC) (year) 90 (32) (1971) 99 (37) (1996) 98 (37) (1971) 99 (37) (1939) 104 (40) (1925) 108 (42) (1998) 108 (42) (1925) 110 (43) (2003) 112 (44) (2000) 100 (38) (1938) 91 (33) (1947) 90 (32) (1955) 112 (44) (2000)
Avg low °F (°C) 40 (4) 44 (7) 51 (11) 58 (14) 65 (18) 71 (22) 73 (23) 73 (23) 69 (21) 60 (16) 49 (10) 42 (6) 58 (14)
Rec low °F (°C) (year) -2 (-19) (1949) -1 (-18) (1899) 18 (-8) (1948) 30 (-1) (1926) 40 (4) (1925) 51 (11) (1926) 57 (14) (1924) 58 (14) (1915) 41 (5) (1942) 30 (-1) (1993) 20 (-7) (1976) 4 (-16) (1989) -2 (-19) (1949)
Rainfall in (mm) 1.89 (48) 1.99 (51) 2.14 (54) 2.51 (64) 5.03 (128) 3.81 (97) 1.97 (50) 2.31 (59) 2.91 (74) 3.97 (101) 2.68 (68) 2.44 (62) 33.6 (853)
Averages are from the 30 year average from 1971–2000 at Camp Mabry, and records are from Camp Mabry and from previous climate sites, spanning from 1897 to present.<ref name="noaaweather"/> <ref name="weatherdotcom"/>

[edit] Government and politics

[edit] Law and government

Image:Austin downtown.jpg
Downtown Austin and the State Capitol as seen from the Congress Avenue Bridge over Town Lake.

Austin is administered by a city council of seven members, each of them elected by the entire city, and by an elected mayor under the mayor-council government system of municipal governance. Council and mayoral elections are non-partisan (although most Austin mayors and council members are Democrats), with a runoff in case there is no majority winner. Austin remains an anomaly among large Texas cities in that the council is not elected by districts, though there has been a strong effort to change the election system to one of single districts.

The current mayor of Austin is Will Wynn (second term ends in 2009).


Austin is located in Travis County, Texas.

See also: List of current and former capital cities in the United States

[edit] Politics

The main political actors within Austin city politics are interest groups such as the pro-environmental Save Our Springs Alliance, the Austin Police Association, Austin Toll Party, and the Austin Business Council. Additionally, the Travis County Democratic Party is an active, well-established organization whose get out the vote operations generally make the difference in close elections.

The political controversy that dominated the 1990s was the conflict between environmentalists, strong in the city center, and advocates of urban growth, who tend to live in the outlying areas. The city council has in the past tried to mitigate the controversy by advocating smart growth, but growth and environmental protection are still the main hot-button issues in city politics. Today conservatives in Austin argue that the city's various highway traffic problems are rooted in the denial of past highway/infrastructure development by political action committees who do not support highway expansion. Progressives counter that environmentalists' efforts contributed to the large green spaces in the city that are enjoyed by many Austinites.

Austin is well known as a center for liberal politics in a generally conservative state, leading some Texas conservatives to deride the city as "The People's Republic of Austin." Austin's suburbs, especially to the west and north, and several satellite municipalities, however, tend toward political conservatism.

As a result of the major party realignment that began in the 1970s, central Austin became a stronghold of the Democratic Party while the suburbs tend to vote Republican. One consequence of this is that in the most recent redistricting plan, formulated by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and enacted by the Republican-majority legislature, the central city has been split among multiple, sprawling districts. Opponents characterized the resulting districting layout as being overly partisan gerrymandering, and the plan was challenged on this basis in court by Democratic and minority activists; of note, the U.S. Supreme Court has never struck down a redistricting plan for being excessively partisan. The plan was subsequently upheld by a three-judge federal panel in late 2003, and on June 28, 2006, the matter was largely settled when the United States Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision upheld the entire congressional redistricting plan with the exception of a Hispanic-majority district in southwest Texas. This may later affect Austin's districting, as U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's district was found not to be sufficiently compact to compensate for the reduced minority influence in the southwest district.[1]

Overall, the city is almost solidly Democratic; in the 2004 presidential election, Senator John Kerry won a substantial majority of the votes in Travis County as illustrated in this pictorial of votes by-county. Of Austin's six state legislative districts, three are strongly Democratic, and three are swing districts, all of which will be held by Democrats when Valinda Bolton assumes control of District 47 this January. However, two of its three congressional districts are presently held by Republicans; this is largely due to the 2003 redistricting, which left Austin with no congressional seat of its own. Travis County was also the only county in Texas to reject Texas Constitutional Amendment Proposition 2 — effectively outlawing gay marriage and status equal or similar to it — and did so by a wide margin (40% for, 60% against).

Austin is also an active area for the Libertarian Party. Although the Libertarians remain a third party, they occasionally garner substantial votes when running against an otherwise unopposed Republican, and one of the past Libertarian presidential candidates, Michael Badnarik, comes from Austin. Republican congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian, is from the Texas Gulf Coast and used to represent counties surrounding Travis County.

Two of the candidates for President in the 2004 race call Austin home. Michael Badnarik, mentioned above as the Libertarian Party candidate, and David Cobb of the Green Party both have lived in Austin. During the runup to the election in November, a presidential debate was held at the University of Texas student union involving the two minor party candidates. While the Commission on Presidential Debates only invites Democrats and Republicans to participate in televised debates, the debate at UT was open to all presidential candidates.

[edit] Sister Cities

List of sister cities of Austin, Texas, designated by Sister Cities International.

[edit] Economy

Thousands of graduates each year from the engineering and computer science programs at The University of Texas at Austin provide a steady source of young, talented, and driven employees that help to fuel Austin's technology and defense industry sectors. The metro Austin area has much lower housing costs than Silicon Valley, but much higher housing costs than many parts of rural Texas. As a result of the relatively high concentration of high-tech companies in the region, Austin was strongly affected by the dot-com boom in the late 1990s and subsequent bust. The general consensus is that high-tech recovery is proceeding rapidly. Austin's biggest employers include the State of Texas, The University of Texas, the SETON Healthcare Network, Dell, IBM and Freescale Semiconductor (spun off from Motorola in 2004). Other high-tech companies in Austin include Apple Computer, Vignette, AMD, Applied Materials, Intel, Motive Inc, Cirrus Logic, Samsung, National Instruments, Silicon Laboratories, United Devices, Sun Microsystems, and Motion Computing. The proliferation of technology companies has led to the region's nickname, "the Silicon Hills," (Austin was originally "Silicon Gulch", but San Jose, California already had that distinction) and has spurred rapid development that has greatly expanded the city to the north, south, east, and west. Other notable companies, such as Hoover's, Inc., a business research and publishing group which is a subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet, are headquartered in the city. Ambion, Inc was started by Matt Winkler, a professor at the University of Texas, and began operations in July 1989 in Austin, Texas. The company's primary focus has been the development of products for RNA-related research applications and employs approximately 300 Austinites. Ambion was acquired by Applied Biosystems (AB) on March 1, 2006. Many global corporations have an economic presence in the local economy.

In addition to global companies, Austin features a strong network of independent, locally-owned firms and organizations such as the Austin Independent Business Alliance. The success of these businesses reflects the high level of commitment by the citizens of Austin to preserving the unique spirit of the city, and has been tied to the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign. Small businesses in Austin enjoy a lively existence gained by direct competition with large national and global rivals.

[edit] Demographics

City of Austin
Population by decade
1840 850
1870 4,400
1880 11,000
1890 14,500
1910 29,700
1920 34,800
1930 53,000
1940 88,000
1950 132,459
1960 186,545
1970 251,808
1980 345,496
1990 465,622
2000 656,562

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 656,562 people, 265,649 households, and 141,590 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,007.9/km² (2,610.4/mi²). There were 276,842 housing units at an average density of 425.0/km² (1,100.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 65.36% White, 10.05% Black or African American, 0.59% Native American, 4.72% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 16.23% from other races, and 2.99% from two or more races. 30.55% of the population were Hispanic American or Latino of any race.

There were 265,649 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.7% were non-families. 32.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.14.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 16.6% from 18 to 24, 37.1% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 105.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $42,689, and the median income for a family was $54,091. Males had a median income of $35,545 vs. $30,046 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,163. About 9.1% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over. From the year 2000 to 2005, the median house price in Austin grew 34%.

[edit] Culture

Image:Sixth Street Austin.jpg
The sights of Austin's nightlife on 6th Street.

Austin's official slogan is The Live Music Capital of the World. Austin has a vibrant live music scene boasting more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city. Austin's music revolves around the many nightclubs on 6th Street and an annual film/music/multimedia festival known as South by Southwest. The longest-running concert music program on American television, Austin City Limits, is videotaped on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Austin City Limits and Capital Sports & Entertainment run the Austin City Limits Music Festival, an annual music and art festival held at Zilker Park in Austin. Other annual events include Eeyore's Birthday Party and the Austin Reggae Festival in April and Carnaval in February. Halloween, St Patrick's Day, Mardi Gras, July 4th, and Juneteenth (Emancipation Day) are all celebrated with enthusiasm, as many Austinites seem to be eager for any excuse for a public party.

Austinites take great pride in being eccentric and celebrate the differences between themselves and other U.S. cities. "Keep Austin Weird" has become a local motto in recent years, featured on innumerable bumper stickers and t-shirts. This motto has not only been used in promoting Austin's eccentricity and diversity, but is also meant to bolster support of local and independent businesses. This motto has been parodied on bumper stickers making fun of a conservative suburb, "Keep Round Rock mildly unusual."

Austin takes its cultural cues from many sources. Television, Radio, Movies, Books, and Periodicals are very popular with the citizens.

Nationally known Austinites include Willie Nelson, Lance Armstrong, and Michael Dell. Other well-known Austinites can be found in the List of Austinites.

[edit] Media

Image:ACL-2004.jpg
Austin City Limits Music Festival with view of stages and Austin skyline.

Austin has been the location for a number of motion pictures, partly due to the influence of The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Radio-Television-Film. Films produced in Austin include Man of the House, Secondhand Lions, Waking Life, Spy Kids, Dazed and Confused, Office Space, The Life of David Gale, Miss Congeniality, Doubting Thomas, Slacker, and most recently A Scanner Darkly. In order to draw future film projects to the area, the Austin Film Society has converted several airplane hangars from the former Mueller Airport into filmmaking center Austin Studios. Projects that have used facilities at Austin Studios include music videos by The Flaming Lips and feature films such as 25th Hour and Sin City. Austin also hosted the MTV series, The Real World: Austin in 2005.

Austin hosts the annual Austin Film Festival, as well as South by Southwest, which draw films of many different types from all over the world. In 2004 the city was first in Moviemaker Magazine's annual top ten cities to live and make movies.

Austin also hosts the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, which attracts musical artists from around the world. The 2006 festival included Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, The Flaming Lips and Van Morrison.

Austin also has a strong theater culture, with dozens of itinerant and resident companies producing a wide variety of work. From Esther's Follies on E. 6th Street to Zachary Scott on S. Lamar, live entertainment can be found around the city.

[edit] Sports

Austin is, as of 2006, the largest U.S. city by population not to have a team in one of the big four professional leagues (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB). [citation needed]

Among the professional sports teams in Austin are the Austin Ice Bats of the Central Hockey League, the Austin Wranglers of the Arena Football League, and the Austin Toros of the NBDL. The Round Rock Express, affiliated with the Houston Astros, are located in nearby Round Rock, Texas and play Triple-A baseball in the Pacific Coast League. Austin is also home to the University of Texas Longhorns, who recently won the 2005 College World Series (baseball) and 2005 National Championship in Football in the Rose Bowl (football).

In addition to team sports, the combined draws of the bicycle-friendly Texas Hill Country that begins in Northwest Austin, the centrally-located Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail, and local pools like Barton Springs make Austin the home of several endurance and multisport races and communities. The venerable Capitol 10,000 is the largest 10 K race in Texas, and approximately fifth largest in the nation. The Austin Marathon has been run in the city every year since 1992. The Austin-founded American Swimming Association hosts the open water swimming event, the Academy Capital 2K, and other closed-course, open water, and cable swim races around town. Austin is also the hometown of several cycling groups and the champion cyclist Lance Armstrong. Combining these three disciplines is a growing crop of triathlons, including the Capital of Texas Triathlon held every Memorial Day on and around Town Lake, Auditorium Shores, and downtown Austin, even crossing 6th Street on several legs of the race.

The city has greatly benefitted from the presence of the University of Texas in the way of swimming, as Texas Longhorn Aquatics, the swimming club associated with the university has been named the number 1 swim program in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

[edit] Tourist Attractions

Other attractions in Austin include the Blanton Museum of Art, opened in 2006, and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum across the street, opened in 2000. The capitol building itself is also a major tourist attraction. Sixth Street is a musical hub for the city but also includes annual festivals such as the Pecan Street Festival and Halloween night. Tourists frequently gather on the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset during the summer months to witness Austin's Mexican free-tailed bat population emerge from under the bridge for the night.

[edit] Architectural landmarks

Image:Moonlight tower.jpg
A moonlight tower.

Buildings that comprise Austin's skyline are modest in height and somewhat spread out. The latter characteristic is due to a restriction that preserves the view of the Texas Capitol building from various locations around Austin. Austin's current tallest building, the Frost Bank Tower, opened in 2004 and stands at 515 feet and is located at the corner of Congress Avenue and 4th Street.

The Congress Avenue Bridge houses the world's largest urban population of Mexican Free-tailed Bats. Starting in late February, up to 1.5 million bats take up residence inside the bridge's expansion and contraction zones, an environment ideally suited for raising their young. Every evening around sunset, the bats emerge in search of insects, an exit visible on weather radar. Watching the bat emergence is an event that is popular with locals and tourists, with more than 100,000 viewers per year. The bats migrate to Mexico each winter.

The iconic Pennybacker Bridge, also known as the "360 Bridge," crosses Lake Austin to connect north and south Loop 360.

At night, parts of Austin are lit with "artificial moonlight." Several moonlight towers, built in the late 19th century and recognized as historic landmarks, illuminate the central part of the city. The towers were prominently featured in the film Dazed and Confused. The "Zilker Tree" is a Christmas "tree" made of large lights strung from the top of the Moonlight Tower that stands in Zilker Park. The Zilker Tree is lit in early December along with the "Trail of Lights," an Austin Christmas tradition.

[edit] Transportation

Central Austin is bracketed by Interstate 35 to the east and the Mopac Expressway to the west. U.S. Highway 183 runs from northwest to southeast, and State Highway 71 crosses south of the city from east to west, completing a rough "box" around the central and north-central city.

U.S. Highway 290 enters Austin from the east and dead-ends into I-35. Its highway designation continues south on I-35 and then becomes part of Highway 71, continuing on to the west. Highway 290 becomes its own road again southwest of the city, when it splits from highway 71 in a busy interchange in Oak Hill known as "The Y."

In the mid-1980s, Austin completed construction on State Highway Loop 360, a scenic highway that curves through the hill country from near the 71/Mopac interchange in the south to near the 183/Mopac interchange in the north.

In November 2006, Austin opened the first segments of its first-ever tollway system, including State Highway 130, a tollway that, once all segments are completed, will loop around Austin to the east from north of Georgetown to south of Creedmor. The system also includes State Highway 45, which runs east-west from 183 to 130 just south of Round Rock, as well as a tolled extension to Mopac that allows direct access between Mopac and I-35. Remaining segments of 45 and 130 are scheduled for completion in 2007. A segment of 45 still under development will eventually connect 183 to I-35, south of Austin. U.S. Highway 183A is scheduled to open in March 2007, providing a tolled alternative to 183 through the congested cities of Leander and Cedar Park.

Austin's airport is Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, located 5 miles (8 km) southeast of the city.

Image:CapitolMetroUTBus.JPG
A Capitol Metro bus designated as a shuttle bus for University of Texas at Austin students and staff.

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) provides public transportation to the city, primarily by bus. Capital Metro is building a commuter rail system that is scheduled for completion in 2008. The system will be built on pre-existing freight rail lines and will serve downtown Austin, East Austin, Northwest Austin, and Leander in its first phase. An Amtrak Texas Eagle station is located west of downtown. Segments of the Amtrak route between Austin and San Antonio are being evaluated for a future passenger rail corridor as an alternative to the traffic congestion of Interstate 35.

[edit] Education

Austin is home to The University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest universities in the country. It is also the flagship institution of The University of Texas System — the largest state system of higher education in Texas. Other institutions of higher learning include Austin Community College, Concordia University, Huston-Tillotson University, St. Edward's University, and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Most of the city is covered by the Austin Independent School District. Parts of Austin are served by other districts, including Round Rock Independent School District, Pflugerville Independent School District, Leander Independent School District, Manor Independent School District, Del Valle Independent School District, and Eanes Independent School District.

Researchers at Central Connecticut State University ranked Austin the 16th most literate city in America for 2005.<ref name="ccsu">Central Connecticut State University study, accessed August 1, 2006</ref>

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<references/>

[edit] External links

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[edit] Media and entertainment

[edit] Nature and environment

[edit] Resources


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