MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Article credited to Texas Monthly: http://www.texasmonthly.com

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Real Talk

Former President George W. Bush delivered a harshly worded speech on ThursdayHe condemned the divisive actions of President Donald Trump, though he stopped short of actually calling out the president by name. “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said during a sixteen-minute address at “The Spirit of Liberty” event in New York, sponsored by his presidential center. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.” Bush said our political system has been corrupted by “conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,” and cautioned against the U.S. turning inward under Trump. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,” Bush said. “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.” He took aim at white supremacy too. “Our identity as a nation—unlike many other nations—is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood,” Bush said. “This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Leading the Pack

Austin appears to be the frontrunner to land Amazon’s new headquarters, at least according to one recent analysis. The financial-services division of Moody’s Analytics looked at 65 potential locations for Amazon’s new “HQ2” project, and Austin is at the top of the list, according to Business Insider. Moody’s measured a number of factors on Amazon’s wish list, including business environment (economic growth, the city’s history of corporate tax incentives, and the region’s credit ratings), a skilled workforce, costs (pertaining to real estate, taxes, energy prices, and labor), quality of life, and transportation. “Austin has a much lower cost of living than places such as Silicon Valley,” Moody’s analysts wrote. “Even though house prices have been rising and are high for Texas or the South, they are well below those in California or the Northeast. Anecdotally the quality of life is high, and many want to live in the ‘Silicon Hills.’ Further, being in Texas, Austin resides in a business-friendly state that seeks to attract and keep companies. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, which is headquartered in Austin, is another factor in the metro area’s favor.”

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Balloon Crash

Over a year after a hot air balloon crashed in Lockhart, leaving the pilot and all fifteen passengers dead, the National Transportation Safety Board finally completed its investigation into the incident. The board revealed its findings during a hearing in Washington on Tuesday, and found that poor regulatory oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration contributed to the deadly crash, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The safety board specifically recommended the FAA require medical checks for commercial balloon pilots, after revealing that the pilot, Skip Nichols, had been significantly impaired at the time of the crash by a cocktail of drugs, including Oxycodone, Valium, and enough Benadryl to have the same effect as drunk driving. Nichols also had prior convictions for drunk driving, but was still able to get his pilot’s license. After the hearing, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, and Senator Ted Cruz issued statements supporting the safety board’s recommendation.

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

ARTICLE CREDITED TO TEXAS MONTHLY: http://www.texasmonthly.com

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Guilty Plea

Three months after police found dozens of immigrants—eight already dead—trapped in a hot trailer in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot, the truck driver pleaded guilty to smuggling. James Bradley Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death on Monday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The 61-year-old faces up to life in prison, and will be sentenced by a federal judge in January. A total of 39 undocumented immigrants were found inside the trailer on July 23. In addition to the eight found dead at the scene, two more people later died from heat-related injuries. The deceased were from Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Immigrants later told investigators that anywhere from 70 to 200 people were crowded into the hot trailer, with only one small vent for air.

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Soaring ‘Stros

The Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees in the first two games of the American League Championship Series over the weekend, winning both games 2-1. Houston’s starting pitchers dominated the formidable Yankees batters, with Dallas Keuchel striking out ten in seven scoreless innings to lead the Astros to the win on Friday, and Justin Verlander following up on Saturday by scattering five hits and one run over nine innings while striking out a whopping thirteen Yankees (all while Verlander’s fiancée, supermodel Kate Upton, watched with glee). As expected, the Astros’ offense has been led by second baseman and AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve, who has gone 5-for-8 so far in the series. That includes scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday on a double by Carlos Correa. The Astros head to New York Monday night for game three of the best-of-seven series.

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Article credited to Texas Monthly: http://www.texasmonthy.com

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Big Money

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill giving $36.5 billion in aid to areas affected by recent disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, after some concern earlier this week about whether Texas’s delegation would not vote to approve the measure because it didn’t earmark enough funding for the state’s Harvey recovery. According to the Texas Tribune, some Texas congressional members felt the Lone Star State was neglected in the bill in favor of hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico and California, which is dealing with deadly wildfires right now. The delegation sent a letter to congressional leadership last week requesting $18.7 billion in aid for Harvey alone. The exclusion of those specific funds caused some tension, and Governor Greg Abbott even called out the Texas delegation for not fighting hard enough to secure the money. But the bill did take two big steps for aid in Texas: It set aside $18.7 billion for FEMA’s main relief fund, and cancelled $16 billion in debt owed by the National Flood Insurance Program, from which thousands of Texans are expecting payouts after Harvey. Every Democrat in the House voted for the bill, which passed 353-69 and will head to the Senate next. Six Texas Republicans voted against it: U.S. Representatives Joe Barton of Ennis, Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, John Ratcliffe of Heath, and Roger Williams of Austin.

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Article credited to Texas Monthly: http://www.texasmonthly.com

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Impeachment Papers

U.S. Representative Al Green, a Democrat from Houston, introduced formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on the House floor on Wednesday, according to the Texas Tribune. He didn’t get enough support from his own party after reading the impeachment papers, so he didn’t appear back on the House floor to call the resolution to a vote. Green later told reporters that he wanted to give his fellow members of Congress additional time to review the resolution before a vote, though some House Democrats told the Tribune that Green was actively pressured to stop his impeachment plans. As the Washington Post notes, some House Democrats want to let ongoing investigations into Trump’s campaign and administration resolve before moving to impeach. According to the Washington Post, the GOP was more than happy to schedule a vote—so they could kill it. Green apparently wants to impeach Trump as soon as possible, though. “[Trump] has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute onto the presidency, has betrayed his trust as president to the manifest injury of the people of the United States of America, and as a result is unfit to be president,” Green said, according to the Tribune. “He warrants impeachment, trial, and removal from office.”

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Article credited to Texas Monthly: http://www.texasmonthly.com

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Campus Shooting

More details have emerged after a campus police officer was fatally shot at Texas Tech on Monday night. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the officer has been identified as Floyd East Jr. Police said on Tuesdayafternoon that they were initially contacted because the suspect, nineteen-year-old freshman Hollis Alvin Daniels III, may have had a weapon. East took Daniels into custody for possession of a controlled substance following a student welfare check, and was shot in the head while he was completing the booking paperwork for the arrest. Daniels wasn’t handcuffed. “A .45-caliber RP shell casing was located near Officer East,” the report says. “[The secondary officer on scene] also advised Officer East’s police body camera was missing and Officer East’s pistol was in his holster.” Daniels apparently comes from a well-known family in his native Seguin. His father is a former city councilman and his mother is a travel writer, and they own the Palace Theatre in downtown Seguin, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

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Article from Texas Monthly :  http://www.texasmonthly.com

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Champagne ‘Stros

The Houston Astros are headed to the American League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history, according to the Houston Chronicle. In a come-from-behind 5-4 win, they defeated the Boston Red Sox on the road Monday afternoon. The franchise spent its first half-century in the National League before switching over to the AL in 2012, so this is the first time we’ve seen Houston advance so far in this half of the bracket. It’s also the first time the Astros have made it to the league championship round since 2005, when they eventually lost the World Series. In Boston, the Astros were down 3-2 entering the eighth inning when Alex Bregman smacked a solo home-run off of Chris Sale, the AL’s best pitcher. After two more Astros got on base, Josh Reddick singled in a run off of elite Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel to give Houston the lead, which they’d hold on to for the rest of the game. They’ll play the winners of Wednesday’s Game 5 American League Division Series matchup between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees.

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According to Texas Monthly

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 Witnessing Las Vegas

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MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Flesh-eating Bacteria

The Harris County Medical Office confirmed that a woman who fell ill after exposure to Harvey floodwater has died from flesh-eating bacteria, according to the Houston Chronicle. Nancy Reed, a 77-year-old Kingwood resident, died on September 15 of flood-related necrotizing fasciitis, which the Chronicle describes as “an infection that spreads quickly through muscle tissue and can cause organ failure.” “It’s tragic,” Dr. David Persse, director of the city’s emergency medical services, told the Chronicle. “This is one of the things we’d been worrying about once the flooding began, that something like this might occur. My heart goes out to the family.” Although Reed suffered the second confirmed case of the bacterial skin infection related to Harvey, she was the first fatality.

Hacks

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified Texas and 20 other states that they were targeted by hackers before the 2016 election, according to the San Antonio Express-News. As the paper points out, though, the hackers “who tried to mess with Texas didn’t get very far.” The Texas Secretary of State’s office told the Express-News on Monday that the hackers were attempting to break into the Secretary of State’s public site, which does not host any information on voters. Not that it matters—the hackers didn’t make it in. “If anyone was trying to get into the elections system, they were apparently targeting the wrong website,” agency spokesman Sam Taylor told the Express-News. This was the first time that Texas received official notification that it was a target of hacks in the lead up to the 2016 election.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Rainy Day

Governor Greg Abbott announced at a press conference on Tuesday that the state won’t tap into the Rainy Day Fund to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts until the next legislative session—if it uses any of the $10 billion at all. Abbott’s announcement comes just after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote to the governor asking him to tap into the state’s fund so the city could avoid a year-long hike on property taxes, the Texas Tribune reports. At the press conference on Tuesday, Abbott said that Turner has “all the money he needs” in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, and that all he has to do is “tap into it.” Abbott also pointed out that the state has already given $100 million to Houston to help clean up debris and created a “accelerated reimbursement program,” for which Abbott would sign off on any invoices submitted to him in the next ten days. “In times like these, it’s important to have fiscal responsibility as opposed to financial panic,” Abbott said, according to the Tribune. Abbott added later that “the mayor seems to be using [Harvey recovery] as hostage to raise taxes.”

Sanctuary Complaints

One day after a panel of three federal appeals judges allowed parts of Texas’ sanctuary city ban to go into effect, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he would begin fielding complaints against local law enforcement agencies violating Senate Bill 4, according to the Houston Chronicle. Now, citizens who suspect that officials are in violation of the so-called sanctuary cities bill can file with Paxton’s office, which the AG can then use to “seek the removal of an elected official, create civil penalties for the jurisdiction or seek court orders compelling them to follow the law,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said on Monday that local agencies must honor detention requests for people who are suspected to be in the U.S. illegally. “The 5th Circuit quickly confirmed what my office and I long maintained: Senate Bill 4 is a common sense measure that prevents governments in Texas from standing in the way of federal enforcement of immigration law,” Paxton said in a written statement. “By enforcing the key provisions of SB 4, we will prevent dangerous criminals from being released back into our Texas communities.”

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Political Play

The Cowboys beat the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, but the entire game seemed secondary to actions on the sidelines before anyone took the field. After President Trump spent the weekend tweeting his opinions about NFL protests, all eyes went to America’s team—which, going into Monday’s game, was one of only six left in the league that did not include any players who had publicly demonstrated on the field. Reports began to surface before the game about unnamed players who planned to take a knee during the anthem protest, which Cowboys owner Jerry Jones previously spoke out against. But Jones, along with his entire roster, took a knee before the anthem, then collectively rose and stood with interlocked arms as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played. Trump, who tweeted over the weekend that “standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable,” seemed to both condemn and praise the Cowboys in two consecutive tweets Monday morning (see above). It’s still unclear if Robert Jeffress, First Baptist Dallas pastor and member of Trump’s evangelical advisory group, has in any way softened his stance after his home team took a knee. Jeffress went on Fox & Friends earlier on Monday to say that players should be “thanking God” that they don’t have to worry about being “shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be in North Korea.”

Harvey Help

As officials squabbled at a Houston City Council meeting on Monday over who should pay for the city’s Hurricane Harvey recovery, Mayor Sylvester Turner turned to the Texas Tribune to offer clarity on his take. Turner has been criticized for proposing a year-long property tax hike to help pay for recovery efforts, but he said that if Governor Greg Abbott had decided to tap Texas’s $10 billion Rainy Day Fund, he wouldn’t be in this situation. “If he told me he was going to tap it, I wouldn’t propose [the property tax hike],” Turner said in an interview with the Texas Tribune. For his part, Abbott has previously said that the state will likely utilize the resource, but has offered no clarification on when or how much aid the state would offer. In a public hearing on Monday, city and state officials butted heads over the proposal, with Senator Paul Bettencourt standing up for residents who he says are already facing significant financial woes. “I don’t think we should be kicking Houstonians while they’re down,” Bettencourt said at the hearing, drawing applause. Houston’s city council will vote on the temporary tax increase next month, which would bring in an additional $50 million and cost the average Houston homeowner $48.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Arm in Arm

As NFL players around the league knelt during the national anthem on Sunday, the Houston Texans decided to stand and lock their arms during the pre-game national anthem at their road matchup against the New England Patriots, according to the Houston Chronicle. None of the Texans players took a knee, but the show of solidarity followed divisive comments from President Donald Trump late last week. At a speech in Alabama on Friday, Trump referred to any player who protests by kneeling for the anthem as a “son of a bitch,” and encouraged people to walk out of games if they see a player kneeling during the anthem. Before Sunday’s game, Texans owner Bob McNair released a statement criticizing the president for his comments. “The NFL specifically, and football in general, has always unified our communities and families,” McNair said in the statement, per the Chronicle. “The comments made by the President were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now. I hope the reaction from our players results in positive action for our league, our communities and our country as a whole to make a positive difference in our society.” McNair is a Republican and had previously donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. The Dallas Cowboys play Mondaynight, though it seems unlikely they’ll kneel, given the franchise’s general opposition to such protests.

Raucous Rally

Fighting broke out and arrests were made at the Capitol after a rally against Confederate monuments turned a little rowdy on Saturday. Protesters initially planned to counter the Dixie Freedom rally, which was called to celebrate Confederate heritage. That event was canceled, so the counter-protest evolved into a cry against white supremacy, with protestors also demanding the removal of Confederate monuments at the Capitol, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The protest was peaceful until the end, when a bystander grabbed a bullhorn from one of the protesters and used it to thank the police, who had made a barrier with their bicycles to keep protestors out of the street. Protesters tried to take back the bullhorn and a scuffle broke out, resulting in two arrests. One of the arrests left a protester bloodied and in handcuffs, which prompted some more altercations between protesters and police. One officer discharged his stun gun, though no one was hit. After everything calmed down, protesters told the Express-News that they felt police escalated the situation, while police maintained that their presence at the protest was to protect the protesters’ First Amendment rights.

Long Horns

Cowboy Tuff Chex was sold at an auction Friday night at the Fort Worth Stockyards, netting his previous owners $165,000, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Tuff Chex is a longhorn bull, but not just any bull. He boasts the world’s longest horns for a bull, measuring about 101 inches from tip to tip. “We’re going to bubble-wrap him when we get to the ranch,” Jeanne Filip—who purchased Tuff Chex along with her husband, Richard—told the Telegram. “Our guys will know: You do not make Tuff do anything he doesn’t want to do. He’s the VIP of the ranch.” Heading into the auction, the longhorn’s previous owner, Bob Loomis, estimated that the six-year-old longhorn from Oklahoma could have been sold for as much as $500,000, so apparently $165,000 is a steal. The Filips, who have over 100 longhorns on their ranch in Fayetteville, told the Telegram they were prepared to drop $1 million on Tuff Chex.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Diamond Rating

Ahead of next week’s scheduled ground-breaking, the Texas Rangers unveiled the latest renderings of the new Globe Life Park on Thursday, according to the Dallas Morning News. It looks pretty spectacular, a true mansion of Major League ballparks. The renderings depict a 41,000-seat behemoth complete with grand arched columns, clear views of the field from every part of the concourse, and—perhaps most importantly for a ballpark in Texas’s hot summer climate—a retractable roof. Notably, the roof actually slopes downward at certain points in a way that makes it appear somewhat understated to fans as they arrive at the ballpark. “Everybody still talks about Camden Yards, which was finished in 1992,” lead architect Bryan Trubey says, according to the Dallas Morning News (Camden Yards is the Baltimore Orioles’ ballpark). “With the exception of Globe Life Park, all the ballparks built since then have been more similar than they are different, and we think it’s time for another transformation.” All told, the stadium will take up 1.7 million-square feet and thirteen acres, at a cost of $1.1 billion. It’s set to open in time for the 2020 season.

Record Rain

The city of Liberty is laying claim to the unofficial rainfall record during Harvey, according to the Houston Chronicle. Although Houston received an astonishing 51 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey, setting the previous Harvey record, the new hour-by-hour rainfall data collected by the National Weather Service shows a gauge in Liberty that recorded 55 inches of rain during the storm. According to the Chronicle, that measurement passes the previous record of 52 inches of rain from a tropical storm recorded in Hawaii in 1950. As the Chronicle notes, the record could be broken again as meteorologists continue to analyze rainfall data from Harvey. “The flooding Harvey caused from the rainfall was a historic event,” Scott Overpeck, an NWS meteorologist, tells the Chronicle. “For that reason alone, we need to make sure we get the rainfall amounts correct and understand how much rain actually fell.”

RIP Oreo

The first dog of Texas has died, according to the Dallas Morning News. Governor Greg Abbott announced the death of Oreo, his thirteen-year-old border collie, in a tweet on Thursday. “Sad news at the Governor’s Mansion today. Our border collie @OreoAbbott passed away after 13 wonderful years,” Abbott writes in the tweet. Despite Oreo’s absence, the governor’s mansion will still be roamed by Pancake, the Abbott’s golden retriever that they added to the family in 2015. Abbott would sometimes share updates on his two dogs on his Twitter account. According to the Morning News, Oreo and Pancake were pictured hugging on National Pet Day.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Forked Tongue

The First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer is in hot water after CNN reported that he had once called transgender children evidence of “Satan’s plan.” In separate speeches in 2015, Mateer—President Donald Trump’s new nominee for a federal judgeship in Texas—also complained that states were banning conversion therapy and claimed that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality. Mateer was working at the time as general counsel for right-wing religious liberty group First Liberty Institute, according to CNN. In a May 2015 speech titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer talked about a lawsuit filed in Colorado over a school that was restricting a transgender girl’s bathroom choice. “Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity?” Mateer said. “I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.” In the same speech, Mateer questioned the limit after same-sex marriage. “Why couldn’t four people wanna get married? Why not one man and three women? Or three women and one man?” Mateer said. “I mean, it’s disgusting.” In a November 2015 speech, Mateer called conversion therapy “biblical counseling,” and complained that it was being outlawed by courts, saying “they’re invading that area.”

Bleak Future

State Representative Dawnna Dukes’s corruption trial is about a month away, and prosecutors are preparing to show evidence of nineteen “extraneous acts,” including her spending $51,000 on an online psychic, according to the Austin American-Statesman. It’s still unclear how these things relate to the misdemeanor corruption charges facing Dukes, who allegedly gave a taxpayer-funded raise to a legislative aide to pay for gas money for driving her daughter to school. According to court papers filed this week by Travis County prosecutors, Dukes paid an online psychic $51,348 from December 2014 to January 2016, an average of nearly $1,000 per week. The filing also alleges that the Austin Democrat showed up to work at the Capitol while “full of morphine,” hid a cellphone from investigators, and was late submitting a campaign finance report and a personal financial statement. Dukes pleaded not guilty in June to tampering with a governmental record and abuse of official capacity by a public servant. Her trial date is set for October 16.

Guten Tag

A German grocery chain is set to open a new store in San Antonio, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Supermarket chain Lidl will anchor a planned shopping center on the city’s far West Side with a 30,000-square-foot store, according to a Tuesday news release. According to the Express-News, Lidl is known for its “low-price generic items and bare-bones stores,” which sounds, uh, really fun. The company also claims its products cost half as much as its competitors. The San Antonio shopping center is set to open in late 2018, though it’s unclear when the Lidl store will open its doors. Lidl spokesman William Harwood wouldn’t talk to the Express-News about the San Antonio development, but he did say that the chain is “pursuing a number of sites in Texas.” Lidl’s U.S. headquarters is in Virginia, and the chain is a newcomer to the U.S. grocery market, opening twenty stores this summer along the East Coast with plans for 80 more by the summer of 2018. As the Express-News notes, Lidl has already dropped at least $83 million on fourteen stores in the Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas, according permits filed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Marriage Fight

The city of Houston is trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a same-sex marriage benefits fight, according to the Texas Tribune. Houston filed a petition on Friday requesting SCOTUS look at a decision by the Texas Supreme Court, made in June, that tossed a lower court’s ruling that said the same-sex spouses of public employees are entitled to government marriage benefits. The state Supreme Court ordered a trial court to reconsider the case, but Houston is trying to kick it to SCOTUS instead. According to the Tribune, the issue stems from a lawsuit by two taxpaying citizens represented by conservative gay marriage opponents, challenging Houston’s policy of granting marriage benefits to same-sex spouses, which was implemented after SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Lawyers for the taxpayers in the lawsuit against Houston argued that the interpretation of the Obergefell decision was too broad, and that granting same-sex couples the right to marry does not make them eligible for taxpayer-funded benefits. It’s unclear if SCOTUS will decide whether to take the case.

Lasting Effects

Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas coast almost four weeks ago, but refineries as far inland as Montana are still feeling the aftereffects of the storm. According to Bloomberg, at least thirteen refineries with a combined 3.27 million barrels a day have had to delay maintenance for weeks or months. Many are experiencing personnel shortages, because workers were dispatched to help fix and restart facilities along the Gulf of Mexico that were damaged by the storm. And there’s still plenty of work to do. According to Bloomberg, Valero, Citgo, and Flint Hills Resources were able to quickly restart their plants in the Corpus Christi area shortly after Harvey hit, but refineries owned by Motiva and Total SA in Port Arthur and Exxon in Beaumont are some of the refineries still trying to get back to normal operations. Exxon said it’s delaying turnarounds at facilities from Louisiana to Montana, as HollyFrontier Corp. moved a turnaround at a plant in Oklahoma planned for September to the first quarter of next year, and delayed work planned for October at its site in Salt Lake City. Citgo also pushed back maintenance scheduled for September at its plant near Chicago.

New Faces

Greg Abbott’s office will look a little different after the governor announced big staffing changes on Monday, according to the Texas Tribune. Daniel Hodge, Abbott’s chief of staff, is out after assuming the role when Abbott was elected in 2015. Hodge has worked for Abbott since his 2002 campaign for attorney general. Luis Saenz, Abbott’s former appointments director in the governor’s office, is now in as chief of staff. Other new faces include Tommy Williams, a former Republican state senator from The Woodlands, who is joining Abbott’s team as a senior adviser for fiscal affairs; Sarah Hicks, assistant vice chancellor for government relations at the Texas A&M System, who is now Abbott’s budget director; John Colyandro, who was convicted in 2012 of accepting illegal political contributions as executive director of a PAC during the 2002 state legislative elections, now returns to Abbott’s side as a senior adviser and policy director after serving as his adviser once before; ex-Senate Parliamentarian Walter Fisher, who will serve as Abbott’s legislative director; and Peggy Venable, a senior visiting fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who will be Abbott’s appointments director.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Division Champs

For the first time since 2001, the Houston Astros have won a division title, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Astros clinched the American League West with a 7-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night, the franchise’s seventh division title. They also became the first team to win titles in three different divisions, winning two in the National League West and four in the NL Central before moving to the AL in 2013. The title win is a major moment in the Astros’s painful rebuilding project, and it also shows the franchise is on the right track to win a World Series in 2017. Remember, Sports Illustratedran a cover story on the rebuilding Astros back in 2014, declaring Houston “your 2017 World Series champs.” Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow told the magazine, potentially prophetically, that “when you’re in 2017, you don’t really care that much about whether you lost 98 or 107 in 2012. You care about how close we are to winning a championship in 2017.” The division title shows that they’re pretty close to winning a championship now, as the Astros are guaranteed a playoff spot, and a bye past the one-game Wild Card playoff.

Rose Bowl Repeat

The University of Texas at Austin lost a much-hyped rematch against USC in Los Angeles on Saturday night, dropping a double-overtime thriller, 27-24. The game was the first time the teams played each other since the famous 2006 championship at the Rose Bowl—arguably among the greatest college football games ever played—when Longhorns quarterback Vince Young scored a 9-yard rushing touchdown on fourth down with nineteen seconds left to win the game. This one played out a little differently, as Texas was a big underdog coming in against No. 4 USC. But the Longhorns defied expectations in keeping it close, and although they’re 1-2 to start the season, the loss has some believing that the program is back where it should be after a stretch of disappointing seasons. Elsewhere in the Texas college football universe on SaturdayTCU drubbed SMU 56-36 on its way to rising to No. 16 in the AP’s rankings; Houston and Rice held a moment of silencefor Harvey victims before the Cougars ran over the Owls, 38-3; a Texas A&M player flipped off the home fans after a disappointing first half in a 45-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette; and Baylor fell to 0-3 after losing to Duke.

Fatal Decision

The Texas State Trooper who arrested Sandra Bland before she was found dead in her Waller County Jail cell said he feared for his life when he pulled over the African-American woman for a traffic violation in July 2015. Austin NBC affiliate KXANobtained over the weekend newly released audio recordings, in which Trooper Brian Encinia tells the DPS Inspector General that “My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time.” Bland died on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested; the first interview with Encinia occurred three months later.  The second interview happened in February 2016, after Encinia was indicted for perjury. Encinia was fired in March 2016 for his actions while arresting Bland, when he threatened her with a taser and dragged her out of her car. She had been pulled over near Prairie View A&M University for allegedly not using a signal to change lanes. Her death, which was later ruled a suicide, sparked national protests over police brutality and the mistreatment of mentally ill people in jails. According to KXAN, Encinia said in the audio recordings that he was concerned with how Bland was acting and with her movements inside in her car. “I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know if a crime was being committed, had been committed or whatnot,” he said. “I had a feeling that anything could’ve been either retrieved or hidden within her area of control. My primary concern was with that purse, with her console, as far as being any kinds of weapons or drugs or, it’s unknown to me. I don’t know what happened, but something did, and to me, that was the reasonable suspicion.”

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Governor Castro?

U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat representing San Antonio, is apparently mulling a run for governor of Texas in 2018. “He and others are considering it,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday. “It’s a very big decision for him. It would require him to leave his safe seat in the U.S. House, where he’s a rising star.” As it stands, Governor Greg Abbott has a pretty easy path to victory, as no major Democratic challenger has stepped up to the plate. That would change if Castro decided to run. The 42-year-old served ten years in the Texas House before making the leap to the U.S. House in 2013, and he and his twin brother, Julián—who served as HUD Secretary under Obama—have been discussed as possible candidates to run against Abbott before. Joaquin Castro had no comment in response to the Morning News‘s article, but should he decide to run, he’d have a tough road ahead. It’s been nearly 25 years since a Texas Democrat has won a statewide race.

Shaky Ground

Irving was hit by a 2.6 magnitude earthquake on Thursday morning, according to the Dallas Morning News. This was the second quake in Irving in less than a month. The region was rattled by a 3.1 magnitude quake in late August—the strongest quake since May 2015, when Irving and Dallas experienced dozens of earthquakes over a span of several months, according to the Morning News. Researchers were able to tie those quakes to wastewater disposal from gas operations in North Texas. Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said there was a strong possibility that earthquakes in North Texas were the result of oilfield wastewater disposal wells, but oil and gas companies have consistently rejected these claims, as has the Texas Railroad Commission, which is tasked with regulating the industry. The recent quakes came after a lengthy quiet period. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey didn’t record any earthquakes strong enough to be felt in the area in 2016.

No Water Beds

A plan to house hundreds of residents in Port Arthur who were displaced by Harvey on floating barges was nixed Thursday, according to the Port Arthur News. Mayor Derrick Freeman had announced in a Facebook post earlier this week that about 600 people would be housed on the barges, with the city prepared to provide them three meals a day and laundry services. Port Arthur was apparently just waiting for a thumbs-up from FEMA before they could get started moving people out of shelters and onto the barges, but the federal agency informed the city on Thursday that the barges would not be arriving in Port Arthur. “I was told by FEMA representatives that the barges did not pass Coast Guard inspection and they won’t be coming,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told the News. “They’re working on alternative arrangements.” Though they’d been used before to house people displaced by Hurricane Sandy, the Louisiana barges were apparently deemed unsafe. “They had guardrails down, and all kinds of safety violations,” Branick told the Beaumont Enterprise.

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Hard Time

Shannon Miles, the man who killed Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth in a gas station parking lot two years ago, pleaded guilty to capital murder on Wednesday and was sentenced to life without parole, according to the Houston Press. The sentencing seemingly puts a cap on the long legal saga that began when the 47-year-old Goforth was ambushed and shot to death while, in broad day light, he filled up his patrol car at a Chevron in November 2015. Miles suffers from schizophrenia, which played a large factor in his sentencing. According to the Press, Miles’s attorney said that Miles couldn’t remember the day he killed Goforth, but that he accepted responsibility for the shooting after looking at the evidence, which including video footage from the gas station. The special prosecutor in charge of the case, Brett Ligon, talked the deal over with Goforth’s family, who agreed life without parole was an adequate punishment. “When nobody gives a good goddamn about you and die in a pauper’s grave, that is the beat down that’s life without parole,” Ligon told the Press. “I’ve executed people, and I’ve put ’em on life without parole, and I will tell you, neither one of those are good options. Neither one of them. They both suck. And that’s what I want, is the ultimate suck—and he got the ultimate suck.”

Caught Juicing

The Houston Texans had a rough start to the 2017 NFL season when their home opener last week ended in a disappointing loss. Things got a little worse on Wednesday, when starting linebacker Brian Cushing was suspended for ten games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, according to ESPN. The suspension literally adds insult to injury—Cushing was already ruled out of this Sunday’s game after he was concussed last week. Cushing won’t appeal the suspension. “It is with the deepest remorse that he humbly apologizes to his fans, teammates, and coaches,” Cushing’s attorney said in a statement. He was suspended once before, losing four games in 2010 after testing positive for HCG, a fertility drug banned by the NFL. Cushing was a first-round draft pick by the Texans and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2009, though his career has tapered off a bit since then. Still, according to the Houston Chronicle, Texans coach Bill O’Brien has often called the 30-year-old veteran the “heart and soul” of the Texans’s defense, so his suspension is a big blow for the team.

Water Beds

Port Arthur was one of the cities hit hardest by flooding from Harvey, with thousands of homes destroyed. Now the city plans to house hundreds of displaced residents on two large floating barges, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. About 200 people are still living in a shelter at a middle school, as others brave moldy homes due to a shortage of available hotel rooms and apartments. Mayor Derrick Freeman announced in a Facebook post that about 600 people will be housed on the barges, and that the city will provide them three meals per day and laundry services. “Port Arthur has never had the capacity to shelter thousands of people within our city limits,” Freeman told the Enterprise. “But I felt we needed to keep our folks close to their home and property.” It remains unclear who will be eligible to stay on the barges, and a city spokesperson told the Enterprise that they’re still waiting for more information and the official “thumbs-up” from FEMA, though the federal agency has apparently made a verbal commitment to provide the barges.