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Michael Barnes

Well Aware at Vuka, Saltillo Tract Project, Hays County Flood Plain, Texas Textbooks

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Kelsey Janisch and Greg DeTomaso at "Journey of Clean Water for Life" from Well Aware.

Kelsey Janisch and Greg DeTomaso at “Journey of Clean Water for Life” from Well Aware.

CHARITY: Well Aware is in expansion mode. The Austin-based water-system nonprofit, founded by Sarah Evans, touts a 100 percent success rate providing clean water in Kenya. According to one board member whom I met during a reception at Vuka in South Austin, proposals are in the air for Zambia and Uganda. Meanwhile, Evans and an engineer were invited consult on water systems in Haiti. The Vuka do presented the high-definition photography of Greg Davis, who is associated with National Geographic and documented Well Aware’s work in Africa. On another bright note, first couple that I encountered included Kelsey Janisch, who is looking for a career in African sustainability. Besides Well Aware, other Austin-based nonprofit working in that field include A Glimmer of Hope Foundation and the Nobility Project. Good places to start.

CITY: Why hasn’t work started on Saltillo Tract? Sample taken from Ben Wear‘s informative story in the American-Statesman: “Endeavor Real Estate, by the narrowest of margins, won permission from the Capital Metro board in 2014 to build a mixture of housing, retail and a park on 10 acres in East Austin owned by the transit agency. But more than 14 months later, Capital Metro and the Domain developer have yet to complete negotiations on a master development agreement for the long-planned project on the former rail yard just east of Interstate 35. Capital Metro had spent almost $190,000 through June on outside legal help in hammering out the still incomplete agreement.And the required relocation of a MetroRail track running through the center of the seven-block parcel, which agency officials had said would happen by the end of 2014, hasn’t begun.”

NATURE: Facing up to the flood lines in Hays County. Sample taken from Sean Collins Walsh‘s alert story in the American-Statesman: “Hundreds of Hays County residents could be forced to buy flood insurance or could see their properties fall under new construction standards under advisory flood plain maps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency began releasing Friday. The advisory maps, which will go through a yearlong review process, would dramatically expand the flood plains along the banks of the Blanco River and tributary creeks through southern Hays County, the hardest-hit area during the deadly Memorial Day weekend flooding. FEMA’s flood plain maps determine which property owners must buy flood insurance and how high they must build new construction in communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, as Wimberley, San Marcos and Hays County do.”

SCHOOL: Texas textbooks not as ahistorical as expected. Sample taken from Julie Chang‘s surprising story in the American-Statesman: “Long before their debut in Texas classrooms Monday, the state’s new history textbooks have been criticized and mocked nationwide for downplaying slavery and whitewashing the country’s racial history. Critics, fueled by curriculum guidelines approved by the Republican-dominated State Board of Education, have been warning about bias and revisionist history for five years. But it turns out most of the textbook publishers did a better job than expected, even by the standards of the loudest critic of the state’s guidelines. Texas students will indeed learn that slavery was a primary cause of the Civil War. And they’ll learn that Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan existed to disfranchise African-Americans, two things that the state’s guidelines don’t explicitly require students to learn.”