Ranking: Austin is No. 1 ‘super cool’ city, thanks to SXSW and food


Austin is weird. Austin is the best capital city to live in, according to U.S. News and World Report. Austin’s restaurants land on many year-end “best-of” lists. Austin is one of America’s most generous cities, according to GoFundMe.


And now, a new list from Expedia ranks Austin as the “coolest U.S. city.”

The travel company ranked 21 cities, giving points based on attributes like the availability of a Lyft ride, the amount of farmer’s markets in the city, low crime rating, music/arts/food/drink festivals and population age.

Austin was the only Texas city to make the cut. It scored a 26 out of a possible 28 points by Expedia’s scale, and the company found plenty to like about the Lone Star State’s capital city.

More: Spring break destinations? New York Times recommends Austin

“The only uncool thing about Austin can be the weather, and it takes care of that with awesome watering holes (ahem, Barton Springs), cool places to crash (hotels like Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt), and killer cold treats (Lick Ice Cream, anyone?),” Austin’s description on the list reads.

Other highlights of living in Austin, according to Expedia:

  • A crime rating of 35 out of 100, according to Sperling’s Best Places
  • A great restaurant scene
  • South By Southwest Festival, Art City Austin and the Mexican Experience
  • South Congress’ shopping district (which is growing smaller by the day)

However, some parts of Austin aren’t that “cool” to the people who live here. A recent New York Times article says that “the coolness factor” that drives many startups and hip bars to build in East Austin is what’s leading to the rapid gentrification of the city’s east side.

Plus, there’s always the traffic, which any longtime Austinite will blame on the rapid influx of Californian transplants.



The University of Texas is great, but is it safe?


Sure, the University of Texas at Austin is currently ranked by some online lists as one of the best universities in Texas, but is it safe for students?

Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duran Residence Hall Friday morning on the UT-Austin campus. The University of Texas at Austin Campus welcomes more than 7,400 new students as they begin the arduous task of moving into campus houses Friday morning August 19, 2016 as part of Mooov-In, a 23 year old tradition. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duren Residence Hall Friday morning August 19, 2016 on the UT-Austin campus.

A new study by education data site Niche compiled a ranking of the state’s 60 safest college campuses using the most recent data available from students and the U.S. Department of Education. The study ranked the universities based on reported campus and local crime rates and reported alcohol, drug and sexual assault arrest rates.

More: Austin ranked among best college destinations in the country

UT Austin’s campus is ranked 49th out of 60, but that ranking is a bit misleading. According to the findings, there are no reported crimes per 1,000 students; no reported residence hall date violence incidents per 1,000 students; no reported residence hall rapes per 1,000 students; and only one instance each of drug and alcohol-related arrests per 1,000 students. And these studies only take into account reported events and can’t calculate how students feel currently (just yesterday a town hall was held on the school’s supposed toleration of racism and discrimination.)

Texas Southern University, in last place, only had one crime reported, one alcohol-related arrest and two drug-related arrests.

More: 9 Texas colleges on ‘shame list’ are ‘absolute worst’ for LGBTQ students

Compare those rankings to Baylor University, at No. 35, with a student-reported safety ranking of 4/5, a local crime rate grade of C+, and no reported instances of residence hall date violence incidents or reported residence hall rapes. Baylor has been embroiled in sexual assault scandals, and recent court filings say head football coach Art Briles and his staff cast a blind eye toward players’ misbehavior and allegedly tried to sweep sexual assaults and other criminal deeds under the rug.

It’s also worth noting that 90 percent of all sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault, and 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Also, the University of Houston-Victoria landed at No. 31, but as a former Victoria resident, I wouldn’t feel safe walking alone at night on some of those streets where those residential areas are located. So the rankings are all relative, it seems. The best bet for everyone is to always keep an eye out for your safety at all times.

Ranking: For students seeking a sugar daddy, UT is No. 3 among colleges

Other University of Texas campuses landed on the lists, including the medical branch in Galveston (No. 12), UT-Dallas (No. 16), UT-El Paso (No. 21), UT-Rio Grande Valley (No. 27), UT-Permian Basin (No. 29), UT-San Antonio (No. 44), and UT-Arlington (No. 53).

Read the full ranking and methodology here.

Austin is the nation’s best capital city to live in, according to online list


Shortly after Austin was named the “best place to live in America” by U.S. News and World Report, the city has landed atop another list of best places to live.

The Austin skyline as seen looking northwest from the Lakeshore area showing the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake August 31, 2016. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Austin skyline as seen looking northwest from the Lakeshore area showing the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake August 31, 2016.

Austin is the nation’s best state capital to live in, according to WalletHub. Their online study compared all 50 capital cities in America and graded them based off of 42 key indicators of affordability, economic strength, quality of education and health, and overall living standards.

More: Why you see so many moving trucks in Austin, according to new report

Those key indicators included things like cost of living, K–12 school-system quality and the number of attractions in the city.

Austin ranked 1st in two categories, the highest number of millennial newcomers (guilty) and lowest premature death rate; and ranked fourth for highest median household income (adjusted for cost of living) and ranked third for “most attractions.” The only two capitals to beat Austin in that last category were Honolulu and Boston, which…OK, that’s fair. One has the beach and the other’s got Fenway Park.

More: Why do readers think Austin is the best place to live – or not?

Austin also ranked 6th in the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher. (It’s also a great place for single ladies to find a man with a Bachelor’s degree that’s marriage material, according to one study.)

Funnily enough, Austin didn’t even make the highlights on the “most affordable housing” category. Apparently, it costs a little bit of money to afford a house here, and housing becomes even less affordable when you’re single, according to a new study.



We may be getting a Texas flag emoji soon, but it might not be because of the Legislature


Last week, state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress submitted a resolution to the Texas Legislature that called for “Texans not to use the flag emoji of the Republic of Chile when referring to the Texas flag.” HCR 75 would “hereby reject the notion that the Chilean flag, although it is a nice flag, can in any way compare to or be substituted for the official state flag of Texas and urge all Texans not to use the Republic of Chile flag emoji in digital forums when referring to the Lone Star Flag of the great State of Texas.”

The Texan flag.

The two flags do look a lot alike (hence the inevitable substitution of one for the other). But according to a Dec. 9, 2016 blog post from Emojipedia, Emoji 5.0 is now available for public review, and a Texas flag emoji is on its list of upcoming features. A release date for the update has not been set, but it will most likely be in the first half of 2017.

A third-party developer has created a pack for all 50 flags and Washington, D.C. which will be available to vendors to see if they want to support those features on iOs or Android. Flags from Scotland, Wales and England are on the list, too.

So, basically, even if that resolution goes through, it might be worthless by the time you update your phone with the latest operating system.

And if you really want a Texas emoji that bad, you can download that third-party emoji pack mentioned above through the App Store here.


A Texas representative wants you to stop using the Chilean flag emoji

When Texans text, we sometimes need to express our love of our state. One of the best ways to do that is through emojis. They say so much with so little. Who among us hasn’t substituted the taco, sunset, horse, cow, cactus, avocado or beer emojis for the real thing when we’re trying to make our text messages pop out a little bit more?

Perhaps the biggest expression of Texan pride is invoking the Texas state flag, the old Lone Star. But there is no Lone Star Flag emoji for any platform, according to emojipedia.com. So the solution for many has been to simply use a flag that looks like the Texas state flag.

The flag of the republic of Chile.
The Texas flag.

The Chilean flag, shown above, looks a lot like the Texan flag, and there’s even an emoji for it on various mobile platforms. So, many people have been using that as a Texan flag substitute. And at least one Texas legislator doesn’t like that.

HCR 75, filed and introduced in the Texas Legislature Thursday, “urg[es] Texans not to use the flag emoji of the Republic of Chile when referring to the Texas flag.”

The resolution was written by state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress. He previously designed SB 978, a bill aimed at protecting patients from a loophole in Texas Medical Board regulation of physicians performing anesthesia in office-based settings.

Notably, the resolution doesn’t call for a Texas flag emoji to be created; it just wants people to know that Chile’s flag isn’t Texas’ flag.

Texas ranks 15th in online list for immigrants’ economic impact


Texas ranks 15th on a recent online list measuring the impact of immigrants on state economies.

Protesters marched from Austin City Hall to the Texas State Capitol protesting Trump immigration policies on Sunday morning, Nov. 13, 2016. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Protesters marched from Austin City Hall to the Texas State Capitol protesting Trump immigration policies on Sunday morning, Nov. 13, 2016.

California ranked first overall on the list, compiled by WalletHub and based off of qualities such as  “median household income of foreign-born population” and “jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses as a share of total jobs.”

More: What are sanctuary cities? Here’s a list of sanctuary cities, counties, states

Texas ranked high in several categories, like the percentage of foreign-born STEM workers out of the entire state’s population (6th) and in the share of foreign-born population and the share of foreign-born members of the workforce (both ranked 7th).

More: Abbott makes ending ‘sanctuary cities’ emergency item for state lawmakers

Mississippi ranked last in the study.

Here are Texas’ full rankings:

Immigrants’ Economic Impact on Texas (1=Biggest Impact; 25=Avg.):

  • 18th – Percentage of Jobs Generated by Immigrant-Owned Businesses Out of Total Jobs
  • 6th – Percentage of Foreign-Born STEM Workers Out of Total STEM Workers
  • 29th – Percentage of Fortune 500 Companies Founded by Immigrants or Their Children
  • 24th – Percentage of Jobs Created by Presence of International Students Out of Total Jobs
  • 28th – Economic Contribution of International Students per Capita
  • 7th – Share of Foreign-Born Workforce
  • 7th – Share of Foreign-Born Population

View the full list and its methodology here.

Why you see so many moving trucks in Austin, according to new report

If you’re stuck in traffic on MoPac, honk and say hello to your new neighbors coming from all across the country.

The Austin skyline as seen looking northwest from the Lakeshore area showing the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake August 31, 2016. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin is ranked as the No. 2 growth city in the U.S. for populations over 50,000, according to a new survey of migration trends by U-Haul. These rankings are calculated by the “net gain of one-way U-Haul truck rentals entering a state versus leaving a state during a calendar year.”

As companies such as Toyota, Apple and Amazon create more jobs in Texas, the state has attracted many transplants from around the country, the moving company said.

“Everything in Texas is growing exponentially,” said Zane Rowland, U-Haul Co. of North East Dallas president. “Our market is strong. Lots of major companies are moving to Texas because of the tax breaks. Between the low cost of living, the abundance of job opportunities and the ability to start a business, many people want to move to Texas.”

RELATED: Austin has second-largest growing economy in nation, according to federal data

The good news about Austin dovetails nicely with the state-by-state U-Haul survey, which shows that Texas is the top destination for movers in 2016. Arrivals outpaced departures 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent in the Lone Star state. This was quite a change from 2015, U-Haul says, when Texas was a net-loss state and ranked No. 39 on its list.

The survey results are also surprising in light of other surveys that show Austin is one of the most expensive cities to move to. Online moving company Movinga placed the first month’s moving costs at $1,533.39 in Austin, more than the cost for cities like Berlin, Germany and Vienna, Austria. Also, another report said that people are leaving Austin in droves, although it did note that people are moving into Austin at a fast clip as well. So don’t count on getting out of that traffic jam anytime soon. Just smile and wave.

RELATED: See Austin, then and now

What do you remember about school lunch?

Man, school lunches have come a long way from the square pizza slices and tiny milk cartons of our youth. Now, at least in AISD, kids have a vast array of healthy food to choose from. They can even build their own fajita like they were eating at a Chipotle or something.

And that’s all thanks to  Anneliese Tanner, the district’s food services director. She makes it her mission to get kids eating healthy breakfasts and lunches every day. A sample menu from the week of January 4-6 includes lettuce, tomatoes, frittata, choice of tortilla, barbacoa & egg tacos, choice of noodle to go with pasta, and a healthy choice of meats.

Elementary school students in Austin can select which ingredients they’d like while a staff member assembles their salad. All 80 elementary schools in Austin will have salad bars like this by the end of the school year. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
Elementary school students in Austin can select which ingredients they’d like while a staff member assembles their salad. All 80 elementary schools in Austin will have salad bars like this by the end of the school year. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

“We’re teaching them that salads don’t have to be a side and that vegetables should be the center of the plate,” Tanner told the Statesman.

What do you remember from your school lunch days? We polled our newsroom, and while everyone remembers the square pizza slices (Seriously, they were everywhere. I was a military brat, and I remember eating those for lunch in Alaska), here’s a sampling of some of our recollections of the culinary delights from the cafeterias of our youth:

  • “That burrito they made with the refried beans and government cheese… I’ve never quite been able to replicate it, even with the cheapest Velveeta knockoff. It’s the government cheese…we loved burrito day at my San Antonio high school.” — Debbie Hiott, editor
  • “The only cafeteria food I remember ordering: mini Blue Bell cups in elementary school and pizza day in junior high, the plastic-like, yellowish cheese trapping the sausage beneath its surface. I loved it, and can still taste it.” — Matthew Odam, dining writer
  • “In middle school, I would either bring a peanut butter sandwich or buy pizza in the cafeteria. But on Fridays, I would treat myself to a chocolate milk and a Snickers ice cream bar. And that’s it.” — Eric Webb, social media and engagement editor
  • “The wonder that was tater tots. Tater tot day was the big day at my Catholic grade school, and I was always sad that my mom packed my lunch most days. I wanted the tots.” — Sharon Chapman, features editor
  • “I grew up in Dallas where the school districts served ‘Fiesta Salad’ a couple a times a month – or so. That was my absolute favorite item on the menu. What exact is a Fiesta Salad? A plate of pure yumminess made of a bed of Frito corn chips; white rice; seasoned ground beef; lettuce; tomatoes; shredded cheddar cheese – and if you wanted – a dash of Pace picante sauce to top it off.” — Gissela SantaCruz, Viewpoints digital editor
  • “Pizza always came with a side of corn, and it was perfect for some reason. Not real perfect, but I’m-a-little-kid-this-is-great perfect.” — Cat Vasquez, agate page editor
  • “Chimichanga day: the sweet, sweet processed cheese. Salisbury steak day- double portions available in 6th grade.” — Mark Wilson, breaking news reporter
  • “The worst lunch meal had to be the Salisbury steak, which was always smothered in some sort of gelatin-like sauce and rubbery mushrooms.  On those days I’d most likely have an order of french fries instead.” — Mike Parker, editor for the Round Rock Leader and Pflugerville Pflag
  • “Steak fingers with a roll and gravy.” — Gabrielle Munoz, assistant online editor
  • “Graham crackers and chocolate milk mid-morning snack. To die for.” — Kirk Bohls, sports columnist
  • “If it was chicken nuggets day, I’d get a double order. And in middle school they had this weird rectangular pizza that for some reason was both disgusting and amazing at the same time. I’d definitely get a double order — we called it ‘double lunch’ — if that was being served that day. Chocolate milk was the only choice, and I’d usually get two cartons. Crinkle fries.” — Philip Jankowski, public safety reporter
  • “Every once in a while they served chicken fried steak, but barely passable as that — basically just a leathery cutlet with soggy ‘breading.’ It was not good. (This was 1970s AISD public elementary school.)” — Peter Blackstock, music and entertainment writer
  • “I was the only person (possibly in the history of mankind) who liked chipped beef on toast.” — Emily Quigley, assistant features editor
  • “Lunchroom yeast rolls … mmm. Putting French fries on a hamburger.” — Christian McDonald, online projects and data editor
  • “Once we got to high school, they served taquitos with cheese sauce – but that also meant you could really get them to put queso on everything from fries and burgers to chicken fingers.” — Jackie Stone, audience engagement manager
  • “Sporks. And not being ‘cool’ if you didn’t have the pizza Lunchables or Gushers. Also, meal tickets. And the only fruit-like item was a medley of small chunks of apples, pears and peaches from a can. Bleh.” — Alyssa Vidales, multimedia producer

What about you? Got any fond (or not so fond) memories of your school lunch? Let us know in the comments.

How much time did the Austin City Council spend in late-night meetings last year?

Mayor Steve Adler wants to institute a hard and fast rule for City Council meetings: they have to be done by 11 p.m.


That’s because, according to an American-Statesman review, more than half of Austin’s regular voting City Council meetings, which start at 10 a.m., ran past 7 p.m. last year and six ran past midnight. That’s longer than San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.

And once the Council went past 10 p.m., they spent a grand total of 14 hours and 51 minutes of time in City Council meetings past 10 p.m. in 2016.

That got us thinking: What else could you do in 15 hours?

Here are some possibilities:

The council is expected to consider Mayor Adler’s meeting suggestions Tuesday.

Bridget Grumet and Elizabeth Findell contributed to this blog post.

Keep Austin City Council Weird: The 5 strangest things from City Hall in 2016

At this point, “Keep Austin Weird” has become more of a callback to a bygone era than an actual lifestyle tip. But every now and then, something happens here that truly couldn’t happen anywhere else. And in 2016, a year that has proven to keep getting weirder by the day, Austin City Council provided us with some truly odd moments.

Whether it involved zombies, Satanists or salamander DNA testing, this year’s top 5 strangest moments from Austin City Council proved that if nothing else, we have some unique legislative matters in Austin.

5. With others away, Austin council’s conservative trio prevails for a day


In June, while Mayor Steve Alder and Council Members Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen were in Washington, D.C., campaigning for a $40 million federal transportation grant in the Smart City Challenge, the three conservative members left on the council (Don Zimmerman, Ellen Troxclair and Sheri Gallo) tried to block several items on that meeting’s agenda from passing. One of those items was a $210,000 grant to the Salvation Army to expand social services at the Austin Shelter for Women and Children (already included in the budget).

4. Austin Council Member Leslie Pool’s mistaken and loaded tweet

Twitter fingers turned to butter fingers for Council Member Leslie Pool back in January after she accidentally tweeted about Council Member Sheri Gallo in what was supposed to be a direct message.


Pool posted the tweet after she and Gallo split on a rule change for certain kinds of planned unit developments – including one known as The Grove at Shoal Creek, a controversial development that Pool opposed at the time while Gallo supported it.

“It was intended to be a private message, but I should never speak badly about my colleagues,” Pool told the Statesman at the time.

3. Zimmerman slams salamander DNA testing while Austin has rape kit backlog


In September, amid a DNA rape kit backlog at Austin’s police crime lab (which would go on to create more problems for the department), a representative from the Watershed Protection Department went before the council to request $13,000 to do DNA sequencing on Barton Springs salamanders. Council Member Don Zimmerman asked why the funding wasn’t going to be used to test the rape kit backlog, despite the two departments drawing funds from different sources. The salamander funding passed 9-1-1, with Zimmerman opposed and Council Member Ellen Troxclair not present.

2. Austin leaders debate blocking zombies from city cemeteries


Yeah, you read that right. During a September council meeting, the council members went down a rabbit hole that started with a question about a $1.2 million construction contract to rehabilitate an Oakwood cemetery chapel and ended with speculation about skeletons, zombies, parties and weddings at area burial grounds. The discussion arose after a cemetery advocate complained about people visiting cemeteries in zombie attire or taking selfies with prop skeletons.

“I’m not sure who the zombies are who come through there… but I’m not sure how we would manage keeping zombies out,” Council Member Ora Houston said.

1. Austin council member offers Satanic amendment to compassion measure


Coming in at first place is another “How did we get here?” moment. In April, Council Member Ann Kitchen offered a resolution involving support for the Charter for Compassion, a 2009 document crafted by religious leaders worldwide that calls for compassion to be a “clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.”

Council Member Don Zimemrman objected, according to our report:  “Zimmerman [said] the language urged ‘idolatry’ of Earth rather than its creator and talked about compassion breaking down ideological boundaries when Jesus did that better than anyone. He also said the resolution was ‘marrying religion with politics.'”

Zimmerman eventually went on to add wording from the Satanic Temple website to Kitchen’s resolution in an effort to prove the resolution was a mix of religion with politics. “The three sentences that came from a religious, Satanist website were included without objection because they’re so very nearly the same as what the Charter for Compassion already has,” Zimmerman said. “So those are accepted under the excuse that they’re not religious, but they are religious. I think you would insult my Satanist constituents. They say their religion is a religion.”

Later, in November, a Satanist almost gave the invocation at a city council meeting, but had to back out because of a scheduling conflict.