Sid Miller, Susan Combs to meet with Donald Trump’s team today for Ag post

Update 11:45 a.m.: According to pool reports, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is scheduled to meet with incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump strategist Steve Bannon but apparently not President-elect Donald Trump. Susan Combs is scheduled to meet with the President-elect or his team at 1 p.m.

Earlier: Two Texans are set to meet with President-elect Donald Trump or his team Friday about possibly joining his cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced Wednesday that he will meet with Trump’s transition team to discuss a Cabinet position as secretary of agriculture.

The meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., will include Trump’s choice for White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and Trump strategist Steve Bannon, according to Mark Loeffler, spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture news site DTN reports that former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs is also expected to meet with the Trump team on Friday.Susan Combs Headshot

Combs, long involved in Texas politics, most recently as state comptroller, previously met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence about the post.

Austin’s top stories of 2016: No. 3: Voters say no to Uber, Lyft and yes to road bonds

YEAR IN REVIEW

COUNTING DOWN AUSTIN’S 10 BIGGEST STORIES

We’re counting down Austin’s 10 biggest stories of the year as chosen by American-Statesman reporters and editors. We’ll unveil one story each day through Jan. 1. 

Today: We announce No. 3 | Previously in our countdown: No. 4

Caption for 5/14 Leader: Both Lyft and Uber stated it would continue service outside of Austin city limits following the failed Proposition 1 vote. But both ridesharing companies prohibit their drivers from dropping off anyone in Austin. A vehicle displays both Uber and Lyft on 4th Street Friday, May 6, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American Statesman)
The Uber and Lyft icons are no longer visible in Austin after the companies decided to end service here after failing to overturn a city ordinance mandating security standards for ride-hailing companies. STEPHEN SPILLMAN / FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

When ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft objected to a new Austin ordinance requiring fingerprinting of drivers, a petition drive sent the matter to voters in a May election.

uberfrontThe bitter campaign that followed was the most expensive in the city’s history — more than $10 million spent in support of the ride-hailing companies. Fifty-seven percent of voters sided with the city and its requirements for ride companies.

Two days after the vote, Uber and Lyft carried out their campaign threat by deactivating their apps in Austin. Seven months later, they haven’t come back.

Austin voters were back at the polls in November with another transportation question, and 59 percent approved borrowing $720 million for local transportation projects. The bond will provide an unprecedented amount of money for roads all over the city, as well as trail and transit improvements.

Our coverage

Feb. 17: Sparring over Uber, Lyft rules in Austin extends to ballot language

April 8: Wear: Don’t mess up your vote: Here’s what Uber, Lyft ballot question means

May 8: Prop. 1 goes down as activist proclaims: ‘Austin made Uber an example’

May 9: Uber joins Lyft in suspending Austin service

July 18: Final Prop 1 tab for Uber, Lyft tops $10 million

July 22: We tested 7 post-Uber/Lyft ride-hailing apps

Aug. 18: Divided Austin City Council puts $720 million bond on November ballot

Oct. 7: How officials, opponents came up with tax impact of Austin road bond

Nov. 20: Deja Uber: Legislators look to override local ride-hailing rules

Nov. 9: Austin transportation bond passes with 59.1 percent of the vote

Austin’s top stories of 2016: No. 4: Slaying on UT campus

YEAR IN REVIEW

COUNTING DOWN AUSTIN’S 10 BIGGEST STORIES

We’re counting down Austin’s 10 biggest stories of the year as chosen by American-Statesman reporters and editors. We’ll unveil one story each day through Jan. 1. 

Today: We announce No. 4 | Previously in our countdown: No. 5

April 07, 2016 - L B Flett, 19, a dance major, left, is hugged by John Peyton Pou, 18, center, and Jackie Roth, 20, right, following a vigil in honor of Texas student, Haruka J. Weiser, held at the University of Texas at Austin, on Thursday, April 7, 2016. Weiser, is the18-year-old dance major who was identified as the homicide victim found at Waller Creek two days ago. RODOLFO GONZALEZ /AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
University of Texas students console each other after a vigil in honor of slain student Haruka Weiser on April 7. RODOLFO GONZALEZ /AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The University of Texas was shaken in April when the body of 18-year-old freshman dance student Haruka Weiser was found in a creek that runs through campus  — slain on a Sunday night while walking back to her dorm. It was the first homicide on the UT campus since the 1966 Tower shooting.harukaweiserfront

After several nervous and emotional days on campus, police arrested an 18-year-old runaway, Meechaiel Criner, and charged him with capital murder.

The case prompted an internal review at Texas Child Protective Services, which had custody of Criner. He had been living in a therapeutic foster home in Killeen but disappeared 10 days before the UT slaying.

It also prompted a safety review by the University of Texas, which called for hiring more police and security guards, improving lighting on campus, tightening access to buildings and developing policies aimed at reducing the presence of homeless people on campus.

Our coverage

April 7: Woman found dead is UT freshman Haruka Weiser; police seek man in case

April 8: Surveillance video shows suspect following slain UT student

April 13: UT murder suspect Meechaiel Criner called chronic foster care runaway

April 21: New details emerge in 70-mile trek of 17-year-old UT murder suspect

May 19: Unsealed search warrants provide details about Haruka Weiser killing

Aug. 31: UT security review calls for more police, fewer homeless on campus

Map and timeline: Details of the UT slaying

Too warm out for your favorite winter activities? Try these instead

Welcome to Austin, where it’s 80+ degrees on Dec. 28. If today’s possibly record-setting heat is cramping your winter style, fear not: Here are five warm-weather alternatives to keep you busy until temperatures cool down enough to pull the sweaters back out.

Siena Remingler, 10, enjoys an afternoon in Barton Springs Pool with her family. (Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman)
Siena Remingler, 10, enjoys an afternoon in Barton Springs Pool with her family. (Photo by Reshma Kirpalani/American-Statesman)

Too warm to lace up some skates and glide across the ice? Try a dip in Barton Springs Pool or head out to Lady Bird Lake instead.

Instead of showing off your cute new boots, think summer style and treat yourself to a pedicure.

Frozen and on the rocks margaritas from El Mercado. (Photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman)
Frozen and on the rocks margaritas from El Mercado. (Photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman)

Wish you could be sipping hot cocoa? How about some ice cream or a frosty margarita?

If you just can’t help but wear your favorite sweater, head indoors to a cool movie theater and check out one of these films generating Oscar buzz.

Longing for a cozy meal by the fire? Leave your jacket at home and grab a meal outside instead (maybe wait until the sun goes down).

Any more suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

Maps reveal TV shows Austinites ‘like’ more, less than rest of U.S.

Kit Harington in season 5, episode 9 of HBO's "Game of Thrones." "Game of Thrones" is nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama Series. (Helen Sloan/Courtesy HBO/TNS)
Kit Harington in season 5, episode 9 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” (Helen Sloan/Courtesy HBO/TNS)

Between local watch parties for new episodes and all of your Facebook friends changing their profile picture to them sitting in the “Iron Throne” during SXSW, it’s pretty clear Austinites really love “Game of Thrones.” Now there’s data to back it up and even reveal what other TV shows locals are (or aren’t) “liking.”

The New York Times took the top 50 most-“liked” TV shows on Facebook and mapped their popularity by ZIP code. Less popular shows in a particular area are colored in white and those that were more popular are shaded in a deep purple, with the spectrum including shades of cream, soft pink and light purple. Beyond presenting which shows are “liked” where, the maps also display how TV preferences can correlate with political ones.

Austin residents are “above average” fans of the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” ABC sitcom “Modern Family” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” In fact, all three of those shows being more popular here follows the national trend of their favorability in urban, liberal-leaning cities.

The Times even singled out Austin on one of its maps, highlighting the Texas capital’s appreciation for the FX show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” The map notes the show’s popularity is higher in college towns.

Austin follows some other interesting trends, such as shows like “Duck Dynasty” being less popular in urban areas than the rest rural Texas. The A&E show is one of the three examples listed in the results for the city’s “below average” fans. The others include “NCIS” on CBS and NBC’s “The Voice,” all of which are most common to watch in rural areas.

Other shows which perform in the “less popular” end of the spectrum in Austin include CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and MTV’s “Teen Mom.” On the flipside, “Saturday Night Live,” and Comedy Central’s “Tosh.o” point Central Texas toward the “more popular” extreme.

Check out the whole collection of maps at the Times website.

Austin’s top stories of 2016: No. 5: Racial tensions over police

YEAR IN REVIEW

COUNTING DOWN AUSTIN’S 10 BIGGEST STORIES

We’re counting down Austin’s 10 biggest stories of the year as chosen by American-Statesman reporters and editors. We’ll unveil one story each day through Jan. 1. 

Today: We announce No. 5 | Previously in our countdown: No. 6

People listen to a speaker at a rally held outside the Travis county courthouse on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, to protest a grand jury's decision not to indict APD officer Geoffrey Freeman in the death of teenager David Joseph. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN
Protesters rally outside the Travis County Courthouse after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Geoffrey Freeman in the death of teenager David Joseph. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

Two years of growing headlines over police shootings and a burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement boiled over in the summer of 2016 with a spate of deaths of black men and the slaying of five Dallas police officers.

In Austin, two cases of police use of force dominated the news.davidjosephfront

First, a police officer responding to a disturbance call encountered 17-year-old David Joseph, who was naked and unarmed. Dashcam video showed Joseph ignoring officer Geoffrey Freeman’s commands and then running toward the officer. Freeman shot and killed Joseph in the middle of a street  — a shooting that led to an immediate firestorm over Freeman’s use of lethal force. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, saying the officer’s conduct was not warranted, fired Freeman, a 10-year veteran of the department. A grand jury chose not to indict the officer.

In June, an American-Statesman investigation revealed the violent arrest of teacher Breaion King by an Austin police officer. Videotape of the arrest, which went unreported when it occurred in June 2015, showed officer Bryan Richter removing King from her car and twice throwing her to the ground because she refused to close her car door. In the patrol car after her arrest, a second officer, Patrick Spradlin, told King that police are sometimes wary of blacks because of their “violent tendencies.”

Our coverage

Feb. 9: Teen killed by officer identified as David Joseph, 17

March 11: Activists, family of teen shot by officer rally outside City Hall

March 21: Austin police fire officer who fatally shot naked teen David Joseph

May 17: Jury declines to charge Austin cop who shot unarmed teen David Joseph

June 30: Police report sheds light on teen’s mental state

July 21: Violent arrest of teacher caught on video; officers face investigation

Aug. 30: Breaion King sues officer, city of Austin over violent arrest

Sept. 24: Art Acevedo defends firing of Austin officer in David Joseph shooting

Oct. 20: Forceful talk: Acevedo vents to commanders over minority policing failures

Nov. 2: Officer who shot naked, unarmed teen David Joseph: ‘I defended myself’

Don’t leave your tree decorations hanging along Loop 360

(USE THIS PHOTO SECONDARY) Volunteer Michele Hewlett-Gomez, of the Sierra Club, removes holiday decorations from the cedar trees along the Highway 360 roadway. Keep Austin Beautiful, a non-profit organization, hosted their 4th Annual Highway 360 Cleanup Saturday January 9, 2016 to restore the highway back to its unadorned and natural state prior to the holidays. Volunteers nearing 100 spread out from U.S. 183 south to Bee Caves Rd. to un-decorate the many cedar trees of holiday ornaments, etc. What can be saved will be donated to area charities and the trash picked up by the Austin Resource Recovery. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Volunteer Michele Hewlett-Gomez removes decorations from the cedar trees along the Highway 360 roadway during the 4th Annual Highway 360 Cleanup Saturday January 9, 2016 to restore the highway back to its unadorned and natural state prior to the holidays. 
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Now that Christmas has passed, here’s a friendly reminder to revisit those festive trees along Loop 360 for a cleanup.

Locals have helped make decorating a tree alongside the Hill Country highway one of Austin’s spirited traditions during the holidays.

While some trees stick to more traditional decor like garland and bows, others get more creative with themes and larger adornments.

The practice makes for a merry view while driving, but also causes litter to build up when Christmas comes and goes but the decorations aren’t removed. There’s an easy solution: If you decorate a tree or know someone who did, remember to go back and “undecorate” it. It’s the Earth-friendly thing to do.

Here’s 10 pics that’ll help you preserve the holiday spirit:

1. This wine-lovers tree inspired by the gift we all wanted for Christmas

 

2. A tree inspired by ole Saint Nick

 

3. A nature-inspired tree that’s anything but crunchy

 

4. This tree topped with a golden bow

 

5. This simple tree that gets the job done

 

6. This fiesta-inspired tree complete with maracas

 

7. This tree with all the fixins

 

8. This tree that glistens like gold

 

9. This tree with a Hill Country view

 

10. And this set of trees that complete with ducks, snow flakes and Pac-Man characters

Austin’s top stories of 2016: No. 6: Rock throwing on I-35

YEAR IN REVIEW

COUNTING DOWN AUSTIN’S 10 BIGGEST STORIES

We’re counting down Austin’s 10 biggest stories of the year as chosen by American-Statesman reporters and editors. We’ll unveil one story each day through Jan. 1. 

Today: We announce No. 6 | Previously in our countdown: No. 7

A sign on I-35 in downtown Austin on Thursday June 9, 2016, warns drivers to stay alert for rock throwing. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A sign on I-35 in downtown Austin on June 9 warns drivers to stay alert for rock throwing. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

rockthrowfrontFor two years, the case bedeviled Austin police. Reports of rocks being thrown through windshields on Interstate 35 would arrive sporadically. Over the years, 94 incidents were reported as the mystery of rock throwing continued.

In May 2016, the rock throwing began to spike  — nearly 30 reported incidents that month  —  and police doubled their efforts. In the end, a bit of luck resulted in the arrest of rock-throwing suspect Patrick Eugene Johnson.

The break in the case came when a University of Texas police officer driving on I-35 saw a rock being thrown and activated his patrol car’s videotape system, allowing police to identify the rock thrower’s model of car.

The 59-year-old Johnson already had lengthy criminal record and was well known to police and others for his interest in the enforcement of the towing industry; he occasionally even appeared before the Austin City Council to rail about abusive towing. He was also known for making serial reports to police, calling 911 more than 1,000 times. Johnson was also charged in an unrelated sexual assault of a child. He was later convicted and received a 99-year sentence for that crime.

In a letter to the Statesman, Johnson said he was willing to confess to throwing the rocks to avoid another trial.

Our coverage

May 31: 5 things to know about rock-throwing incidents

June 16: Rock-throwing suspect is towing activist, fixture at City Hall

June 17: How a step back and fresh eyes cracked Austin rock-throwing case

Interactive: Map of rock-throwing incidents

June 24: Rock-throwing suspect called 911 over 1,100 times

Sept. 22: I-35 rock-throwing suspect guilty in sexual assault

Oct. 5: Austin rock-throwing suspect says he wants to confess

Austin’s biggest stories of 2016: No. 9: Coaching change for the Longhorns

YEAR IN REVIEW

COUNTING DOWN AUSTIN’S 10 BIGGEST STORIES

We’re counting down Austin’s 10 biggest stories of the year as chosen by American-Statesman reporters and editors. We’ll unveil one story each day through Jan. 1. 

Today: We announce No. 9 | Previously in our countdown: No. 10

UT defensive end Breckyn Hager consoles Head Coach Charlie Strong after their loss to TCU at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Friday November 25, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT defensive end Breckyn Hager consoles Head Coach Charlie Strong after their loss to TCU at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Nov. 25. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Charlie Strong’s  third season as coach of the Texas Longhorns was seen as make-or-break even before it began. And it began with a thrilling Texas overtime victory over 11th-ranked Notre Dame — a season-opening bright spot that would belie what lay ahead.

tom-herman-frontWhen the Longhorns suffered an embarrassing overtime loss at Kansas, UT officials began to engineer the exit of one coach and the quick entrance of another.

Just hours after Texas lost its final game to TCU, sealing a third straight losing season under Strong, UT was offering the top job to Tom Herman, who was just wrapping up a second 10-win season at the University of Houston.

Herman, whose coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Texas under Mack Brown, agreed to a five-year contract worth more than $5 million annually that will rise to more than $6 million.

Our coverage

Nov. 20: Source: Texas officials have decided to fire Charlie Strong

Nov. 26: Three and out: Texas fires Charlie Strong

Nov. 27: Tom Herman welcomes the pressure of winning at Texas

Nov. 28: How much is it costing to get Tom Herman? About $19 million

A Festivus for the rest of us: Our Austin grievances of 2016

American-Statesman photos
American-Statesman photos

It’s Dec. 23, and in the time-honored tradition of Festivus, we’ve polled the Statesman newsroom to air some 2016 grievances (we’ll get to the feats of strength later).

We’ve got a lot of problems with you, Austin, and now you’re gonna hear about it.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments. And hey, remember that it wasn’t all bad: Here are 12 feel-good stories that prove some positivity came out of 2016.

festivus