Take Backs

Mexico is no longer offering a helping hand to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, because our neighbors to the south have their own disaster to worry about. Two disasters, actually: a powerful earthquake on September 7 left at least ninety people dead, followed by Hurricane Katia. “Faced with emergencies caused by the September 7 earthquake and Hurricane Katia, Mexico is no longer in any condition to provide aid to the state of Texas,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to the Dallas Morning News. Mexico extended the offer not long after Harvey made landfall along the Texas coast, offering to send civil servants, troops, boats, helicopters, medical teams, nurses, a vessel, and rescue dogs. Governor Greg Abbott accepted the offer, though the aid package finalized last week was ultimately limited to mobile field kitchens. But now, even that aid package seems unlikely. “Unfortunately on this occasion it will not be possible to provide the original assistance to Texas,” the statement from Mexico said. In a statement from Governor Abbott’s office, spokesman John Wittman said that they are “grateful” for Mexico’s offer to help and “fully understand” that they’ve got their own problems to prioritize.

Hard Fall

Dallas just can’t seem to tear down a statue of Robert E. Lee. The city has had the Confederate monument in its cross hairs for some time now, and after a contentious city council vote last week to get the ball rolling on the removal was temporarily halted by a federal judge—thanks, in part, to some untimely work delays—the statue appeared to be on its way down yet again once the judge ruled that the city could continue with the removal. But that’s proven to be a more difficult task than anticipated, according to the Dallas Morning News. Apparently Dallas can’t hire a replacement crane crew after the crane they originally bought was damaged in a car accident Sunday night. City Manager T.C. Broadnax indicated to the Morning News that heavy construction in the area means that many crane crews are simply booked up with those less-controversial jobs. Broadnax also said some crane owners don’t want to get involved because of the controversy surrounding the removal of a Confederate monument. “I’ve heard only anecdotally that there are those kinds of threats making their rounds in the crane rental, owner, and rigging business—threats to people’s families, their companies,” Broadnax told the Morning News. It’s unclear when the statue will come down.

Top Dogs

The U.S. News and World Report released its newest ranking of the best colleges and universities in the country, and a bunch of Texas schools made the list, according to the Texas Tribune. Rice University is ranked as the fourteenth-best school in the nation, and though the Owls were the only ones from Texas to make the top 50, the Lone Star State was repped by plenty of schools in the top 100. The University of Texas at Austin came in at fifty-sixth overall, followed by Southern Methodist University at 61. Texas A&M University jumped from number 74 in the nation last year to 69 this year. A&M leapfrogged Baylor University, which dropped from 79 last year to 75. Texas Christian University climbed four spots from last year to 78. Lower in the rankings were the the University of Texas at Dallas at 146, Texas Tech at 176, the University of Houston at 194, and Dallas Baptist University at 214.



Football’s Back

The NFL had its first full slate of games this Sunday to kick off the new season, and the season openers for Texas’s two teams went in very different directions. The Houston Texans played the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, in what looked like a relatively soft matchup. But Houston lost 29-7 with a weak performance. Starting quarterback Tom Savage was benched after completing just seven of thirteen passes for 62 yards and getting sacked six times, forcing the Texans to insert 2017 first-round draft pick Deshaun Watson, who played a little better but was sacked four times himself. The Cowboys, meanwhile, had a primetime matchup against the New York Giants on Sunday night, and with a federal judge ruling on Friday to halt the six-game suspension facing star running back Ezekiel Elliott, things were already looking up before kick off. Elliott ran for 104 yards in a solid 19-3 win, while quarterback Dak Prescott impressed in the first game of his second season, throwing for 268 yards and a touchdown without any interceptions. Veteran Cowboys tight end Jason Witten also made seven catches for 59 yards, breaking Michael Irvin’s franchise record for all-time receiving yards.

Tragic Shooting

At least seven people are dead and two wounded after a mass shooting inside a Plano home on Sunday night. Police haven’t released many details as of early Monday morning, but here’s what we know so far, according to the Dallas Morning News: Police were called to the home at about 8 p.m. after reports of gunshots, and a responding officer heard more gunfire as he was arriving. When the officer got inside the house, he saw several victims and “engaged the suspect,” fatally shooting the gunman, Plano Police Department spokesman David Tilley told the Morning News.”I’ve been here all my life,” Tilley added, “I’ve never heard of anything like this.” The victims were apparently watching the Dallas Cowboys game when the shooting happened. Police have not released their identities but the victims were all adults. The two wounded victims were hospitalized, but their conditions were unclear.

Ted’s in Town

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz visited over the weekend some of the cities in Southeast Texas and along the Coastal Bend that were hit hardest by Harvey, stopping by Beaumont, Refugio, Port Aransas, and Victoria, prompting the New York Times to declare the evolution of Ted Cruz. As the Times writes, Cruz’s presidential election defeat “has spawned a kinder, gentler ‘Cruz 2.0,’” and that was apparently on full display as he visited storm victims and volunteers. Cruz seemed impressed with what he saw, and the Times was likewise pretty impressed with Cruz: “He has toured flood zones with local officials (‘We saw an alligator swimming across Clay Road’), removed drywall from a damaged home with his family (‘Caroline, the nine-year-old, we discovered, can wield a mean hammer’), greeted Coast Guard heroes with dazzling torsos. ‘Almost every one of them ripped,’ he marveled on the Senate floor, holding for dramatic pauses pregnant enough to require bed rest. ‘These are guys that know their way around a weight room.’ He has served chili to the suddenly homeless inside a Houston convention center, wearing a hairnet that aides quickly insisted he cover with a baseball cap. He has embraced congregants at a black church in Port Arthur. He has hugged liberally.” It remains to be seen if Cruz will continue with the liberal hugging after his return to Washington.



Monument Men

A day after issuing a temporary injunction, favoring a group suing to save a Robert E. Lee monument from being torn down in Dallas, a federal judge has given the city the green light to remove the Confederate monument, according to the Dallas Morning News. After Dallas City Council voted nearly unanimously on Wednesday to remove the statue, work crews had the 14-foot, 81-year-old sculpture of Lee and an unnamed soldier wrapped in a harness, trying to figure out the best way to get rid of it, when U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater issued a temporary restraining order blocking its removal. But Dallas resident Hiram Patterson and the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans—the group who filed the initial complaint to stop the removal—didn’t have long to savor their legal victory. Fitzwater dissolved the temporary restraining order the next day. City officials told the Morning News the statue will be removed sometime soon, probably within the next few days.

Bad Blood

Arkema is facing a lawsuit from seven first responders who allege the company owes them $1 million in damages after they were injured following exposure to chemicals in the company’s flooded chemical plant in Crosby. The suit, filed on Thursday in Harris County, accuses Arkema of gross negligence after parts of the plant ignited and spewed toxic fumes on August 31, following fooding from Harvey. According to the Houston Chronicle, the suit alleges that, despite having knowledge of what flooding does to the plant and knowing that Harvey was coming, Arkema “ignored the foreseeable consequences of failing to prepare,” leaving trailers of volatile chemicals vulnerable to explosion after flooding took out the plant’s electricity and ability to cool the heat-sensitive chemicals. “Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosions, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road,” the lawsuit claims. “The scene was nothing less than chaos. Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe.” According to the New York Times, a total of 21 first responders have been treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation and nausea.

Hometown Homeland

U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin, is the leading candidate to take over as the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to Politico. This isn’t the first time a Texan has been floated as a candidate for that role—Rick Perry was thought to be in the running after the job was vacated following John Kelly’s role shift from DHS head to White House chief of staff—and McCaul himself was in the mix when President Donald Trump initially searched for someone to fill the role. The job’s been vacant since July, but according to Politico, Hurricane Harvey and the upcoming Hurricane Irma have given the White House increased urgency in filling the opening. McCaul worked closely with the White House as it responded to Harvey, and was on the ground in Texas to greet the president on the tarmac when he touched down here last week. “People familiar with his thinking” told Politico that McCaul is “eager to serve” in the Trump administration.



Helping Hand

The U.S. House voted nearly unanimously in favor of a $7.8 billion aid package for Hurricane Harvey, according to the Houston Chronicle. “The message is very simple,” U.S. Representative John Culberson, a Republican representing Houston, said after the package passed. “Help is on the way.” The House passed the measure on its own with a 419-3 vote, but now it heads to the Senate, which is expected to bundle the funding into a vote to raise the debt ceiling, according to CNBC. There’s been some disagreement between Democrat and Republican leaders on how long the debt limit should be extended, with some Democrats supporting a short-term debt ceiling extension, a plan also backed by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But House Speaker Paul Ryan said a three-month debt limit increase was “ridiculous” and “unworkable.” If the aid package passes the Senate, it’ll head back to the House later this week for a final vote.

All in the Family

Angela Paxton is throwing her hat in the ring for a state Senate race, according to the Texas Tribune. Paxton, of course, is married to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A former guidance counselor at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, she’s gunning for the seat in Senate District 8, soon to be vacated by Plano Republican Van Taylor, who is running for Congress. Her main obstacle in the race is Phillip Huffines, chairman of the Dallas County GOP and the twin brother of Republican state Senator Don Huffines. “After much prayer I’m excited to step forward with overwhelming support and encouragement from my family, long-time friends, district, regional and statewide buy flagyl 250 mg conservative leaders, elected officials, precinct chairs and citizens from all across Senate District 8,” Paxton said on a campaign website that launched on Wednesday. In the announcement of her campaign, Paxton claimed she has been endorsed by more than a thousand people, and she has the support of a dozen state representatives from the area, including Representatives Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen and state Senator Donna Campbell.

Ready to Rebuild

Governor Greg Abbott has named Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp as the leader of the effort to rebuild in communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey, according to the Wall Street Journal. Abbott will announce Sharp’s appointment as chairman of the newly-founded Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas at a news conference news conference Thursday at the state Capitol. As the Journal notes, this is a bipartisan move by Abbott. Sharp, who Texas Monthly‘s Michael Hardy profiled in July, has served as chancellor of the A&M system since 2011, and before that he was a longtime Democratic elected official, serving as the comptroller, in both houses of the state Legislature and on the Railroad Commission, according to the Texas Tribune. In the 1980s, he served in the state Senate representing a district including Victoria, one of the areas Harvey hit hardest when it made landfall. Sharp will be tasked with expediting the response and making sure local mayors and county officials get what they need quickly and effectively. “We are very cognizant of the fact that this money will come from taxes paid by hardworking Americans and we will treat it with the kind of respect and accountability that they deserve and expect,” Sharp said in a statement to the Journal.



Water Logged

As Houston and southeast Texas slowly recovers from the damage caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, one group of Houston homeowners and businesses is already looking to hold someone accountable for their flood-damaged properties. According to the Houston Chronicle, the group sued the federal government on Tuesday, alleging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knowingly condemned their properties when it released water from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs in West Houston. Civil attorney Bryant Banes, whose home flooded even after the waters from Harvey started to recede, is looking for billions of dollars in compensation in what he hopes will turn into a massive class-action lawsuit for homeowners, building managers, and business owners in the area affected by the controlled release from the reservoirs. Banes told the Chronicle that he’s not accusing the government of doing anything wrong when it opened up the dams as a flood control measure, but he said he does believe the government should reimburse residents for the damage it caused by flooding their previously dry homes and businesses. “When they make a choice to flood one area to save another, it’s their responsibility to pay for the consequences,” Banes told the Chronicle.

Long Absence

The NFL upheld its original six-game suspension for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott on Tuesday. Last month, the NFL announced it had suspended Elliott for six games, stemming from domestic abuse allegations made against the star running back. The NFL said it had “persuasive” evidence that Elliott committed physical abuse against his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson at least three times in July 2016, violating the league’s personal conduct policy, according to ESPN. No criminal charges have been filed against Elliott. The second-year pro appealed the decision immediately. A hearing in New York last week went on for three days, with lengthy testimony from Elliott and multiple experts and witnesses, not including Thompson. Despite the decision to uphold Elliott’s suspension, he’ll still be eligible to play in the team’s season opener this Sunday. Elliott led the league in rushing last season with 1,631 yards.


A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Texas can keep its voter ID law in place for the upcoming November elections, Politico first reported Tuesdaynight. Last month, a different federal judge scrapped Senate Bill 5—the Texas Legislature’s attempt to soften the original voter ID law—writing that the state still failed to fix what the judge said was an intentionally discriminatory ID law. But the U.S. Department of Justice appealed that ruling, and while the appellate court’s three-judge panel split in the 2-1 ruling, it decided to at least let the state use the revised ID law until the courts can completely sort out the appeals process. Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod wrote that Texas “has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits,” adding that Texas also “made a strong showing that this reasonable-impediment procedure remedies plaintiffs’ alleged harm and thus forecloses plaintiffs’ injunctive relief.” According to Politico, this could prompt civil rights groups involved in the lawsuit to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the revised voter ID law through November’s elections.



Rest in Peace

Even as the floodwaters recede, the death toll from Harvey is rising. Houston Chronicle reported on Monday that the number of deaths has reached sixty, and the number is expected to rise. Medical examiners are still working to confirm which deaths are related to the storm as authorities continue to search for people who went missing during Harvey. So far, Harris County has confirmed thirty storm-related deaths, all but one of them accidental drownings. At least six people have died in Galveston County as a result of flooding, officials said Tuesday, with one more death that could be storm-related. That total includes two confirmed deaths in Dickinson and one in League City. Montgomery, Aransas, Jefferson, Orange, Jasper, San Jacinto, and Walker Counties also reported deaths.

Water, Water Everywhere

The city of Beaumont is still struggling to provide its residents with running water after the city’s pumps were wiped out by flooding on Thursday. According to PBS News Hour, the latest update from Beaumont is that most of the people now have running water, though it’s only a trickle in some places, and a citywide boil notice remains in effect. The city was able to rig up a temporary pump from the Neches River to the city’s water system over the weekend, and that’s expected to last long enough to fix the permanent pumps, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. Exxon Mobil engineers volunteered to work with two engineering companies, Echo and Tiger Industrial, to help get the temporary pumps working. As of Saturday, the city’s main water pump remained underwater after the Neches flooded. That pump provides about 70 percent of the city’s supply, with the other 30 percent coming from wells in Hardin County, which was also hammered by torrential rain from Harvey. According to the Austin American-Statesman, it could take up to two more weeks to fix the pumps.

Hot Seat

It was a wild (and pretty disappointing) opening weekend for some of Texas’s biggest college football teams, with University of Texas at Austin losing to Maryland, Baylor losing to Liberty, and Texas A&M dropping a thriller to UCLA. A&M coach Kevin Sumlin entered the season with his job in jeopardy, so the road loss to the Bruins didn’t help his cause, especially considering the Aggies blew a 34-point lead by allowing 35 unanswered points beginning late in the third quarter on Sunday. The frustrating loss prompted Tony Buzbee, a prominent Houston attorney who sits on the board of regents at A&M, to post a public rant about Sumlin to Facebook. “Our players were better tonight,” Buzbee wrote in the Facebook post, according to the Bryan Eagle. “Our players were more talented tonight. But coaches were dominated on national TV, yet again. I’m only one vote on the Board of Regents but when the time comes my vote will be that Kevin Sumlin needs to GO. In my view he should go now. We owe it to our school and our players. We can do better.” Literally adding injury to insult, the Aggies also lost two starters during Sunday’s loss: quarterback Nick Starkel and defensive back Donovan Wilson. Both are expected to undergo surgeries, and Sumlin told reporters the pair will “be out for a long time,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.



Ban Blocked

A federal judge based out of Austin temporarily blocked an abortion ban set to go into effect on September 1. Judge Lee Yeakel granted a temporary restraining order on Thursday that delays enforcement of a law banning the most common type of second-trimester abortions until September 14, according to the Texas Tribune.

Running on Empty

Despite snaking lines at gas pumps across the state in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton assured that there was no gas shortage in Texas, instead pinning the problems on logistics. “There’s plenty of gasoline,” he said. “This will subside.” Still, that hasn’t stopped lines popping up in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.

Law of the Land

Over 650 new laws went into effect in Texas on September 1, spanning the gamut from a ban on texting while driving to legalizing open sword carry. You can check out the Houston Chronicle‘s breakdown of some of the bigger laws going into effect Friday, but it’s worth noting that two of Governor Greg Abbott’s marquee issues—a ban on sanctuary cities and the aforementioned abortion ban—are currently tied up in the courts. Both were set to go into effect on Friday.




A federal district judge in Texas temporarily halted the implementation of the so-called sanctuary city bill late Wednesday, according to the Texas Tribune. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled against the state of Texas and granted a preliminary injunction against Senate Bill 4, which was set to go into effect on September 1. The law would punish municipalities and officials that do not cooperate with federal requests for immigration detainers and allow law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people that they stop. Garcia blocked the part of the law that would require jails to honor all detainer requests, which he said violated the Fourth Amendment. Governor Greg Abbott, who championed the bill, promised an immediate appeal. “Today’s decision makes Texas’ communities less safe,” he said in a statement. “Because of this ruling, gang members and dangerous criminals, like those who have been released by the Travis County Sheriff, will be set free to prey upon our communities. U.S. Supreme Court precedent for laws similar to Texas’ law are firmly on our side. This decision will be appealed immediately and I am confident Texas’ law will be found constitutional and ultimately be upheld.”

Wet But Dry

City officials announced early Thursday that Beaumont lost both its main and secondary water supply due to flooding and could be without water for days, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. Floodwaters crippled the cities main pump near the Neches River early Thursday morning. “Seriously bad news. The City of Beaumont will be without water for the next several days,” councilman Mike Getz posted on Facebook at 1 a.m., according to the Enterprise. “Fill your bathtubs with water now.” The city must wait for waters to recede before it can begin work on the pump, so the timeline for repair is unclear. “We will have to wait until the water levels from this historical flood recede before we can determine the extent of damage and make any needed repairs,” the city said in a press release. “There is no way to determine how long this will take at this time.”

Houston Looting

The Houston Chronicle reported that at least 40 people as of Wednesdayafternoon have been arrested for looting in Harris County. A Walgreens near Brays Bayou and a Fiesta Mart were both hit, with money, liquor, and cell phones taken in the process. The reports come amid a city-wide curfew in Houston, which is designed to curb crime in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. “It was effective,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said of the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew. “It’s going to remain in effect until we kind of get past the situations we’re in.” As the Chronicle reports, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is working with local law enforcement to put in place enhanced punishments for people caught looting, including possible life sentences for people for those arrested breaking into homes.



Texans Step Up

In the wake of ongoing tragedy, the people of Texas continue to show bravery, care, and selflessness towards strangers in need. In Harris County, 30 percent of which is underwater—an area roughly the size of Austin—thousands of trapped residents have been rescued and transported to shelter: 3,500 people saved by the Houston Police Department, 2,200 by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and many more by citizens. After 911 lines were flooded with calls, hundreds of residents, trapped by rising flood levels across the region, have posted on social media for rescue. And their fellow Texans have shown up with boats and supplies and full hearts, providing shelters in local businesses, forming human chains to help those in need reach safety, and opening their homes  to families displaced by the storm.

Rising Death Toll

As Houston and Southeast Texas continue to reach record levels of rainfall—in five days, 51.88 inches have fallen over Cedar Bayou, more than many U.S. cities receive in a year—the death toll continues to climb, as residents drown in flooded houses and cars. So far, there have been 31 confirmed and suspected deaths from flooding across Texas, including a Houston police officer who drowned on his way to work, and a family of six whose van was swept into Greens Bayou on Sunday.

The Cats and Dogs of Texas

For many evacuees awaiting rescue, their most prized possession is a Texan canine or feline. But some have no choice but to leave their beloved pets behind and hope for their survival. Rescuers have saved hundreds of animals so far, including Betty Walter, a Houstonian who rescued 21 dogs from her neighborhood, spending 14 hours with them in her attic before two men with a boat brought her and the dogs to safety. As flooding continues, more displaced animals are anticipated: shelters, like the Animal Care Services Department in San Antonio, are flying animals to New Jersey and Washington to make room for more canine and feline evacuees.



Rising Toll

As flood waters continue to rise in Houston, so does Hurricane Harvey’s death toll, but it’s unclear exactly how many have perished. Texas officials told the Washington Post on Monday that nine people have died. Meanwhile, the Austin American-Statesman and Fox News put the total at fourteen, and ABC news reports that seven have died. Although the official count remains unclear, there is consensus that the single deadliest incident occurred on Sunday afternoon, when a family of six drowned after their van hit high water in Houston. The driver of the van, Samuel Saldivar, was able to escape after the van was swept into the current of the rising Greens Bayou, but four children and their great-grandparents were still in the van when it sank. As of Mondaynight, the bodies of the elderly couple, aged 84 and 81, and the four children, ranging between six- and sixteen-years old, have not been recovered.

Shelter From the Storm

KHOU’s Mia Gradney reported early Tuesday that Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center is sheltering nearly 9,000 people displaced by Hurricane Harvey, taking in nearly 1,600 people in a matter of two hours. KHOU reported that the convention center’s original capacity for evacuees was set at 5,000, but with 9,000 people and counting, no one was being turned away. The Red Cross told the station that though they were still accepting evacuees, there is no guarantee that everyone will be have a cot to sleep on, and incoming supplies were delayed by flooding. After registering at the center, evacuees receive towels, dry clothes, blankets, and meals. The Red Cross is still seeking volunteers and donations, and encourages bringing any donations—cots, blankets, and towels, specifically—directly to the convention center if conditions are safe.

Home Team

As their home field sits amid flood waters, the Houston Astros will take on the Texas Rangers at the Tampa Bay Ray’s Tropicana Field on Tuesday, according to CBS Sports. Major League Baseball made the announcement on Mondaythat the two Texas teams would relocate their upcoming series to Florida, prompting questions about why the games didn’t move to the Rangers’ Arlington ballpark. But the answer from the various camps is a bit of a he-said-he-said situation. “We went to the Rangers and said, ‘Hey let’s switch series. You guys have our home series,’” Astros President Reid Ryan told Houston reporters. “‘We’ll take your home series.’ They rejected that and didn’t want to do that. The Rangers wanted us to play the next three days at their place, but they did not want to trade series with us. They wanted all six of our games at their park.” According to ESPN, the Rangers offered to play this week’s series in Arlington and provide revenue to the Astros, but that the Rangers didn’t want to switch series out of concerns for ticket holders. The first game of the series is on Tuesday evening.



Harvey’s Heroes

Texans responded in heroic ways as Harvey wreaked havoc. In Houston, more than 6,000 people called 911 for high-water rescues, according to the Houston Press, and an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 water rescues have taken place there as of late Sunday night. The images and videos of rescue attempts are dramatic. The Coast Guard airlifted dozens of people to safety from their boats on the churning waters outside Port Aransas. Fifteen senior citizens were saved from a nursing home in Dickinson after a viral photo showing elderly women nearly submerged in rising floodwater circulated on social media, according to the Galveston Daily News. A reporter for Houston’s CBS affiliate KHOU broadcasted live as she helped first responders save a stranded truck driver before floodwater filled his cabin. And as rescue workers struggled to reach affected areas, volunteers all over Texas took their own personal boats out over the rising waters to save their neighbors. More help is on the way. First responders are heading toward Harvey-afflicted areas from all across the state, and even as far away as California and New York.

Trump’s Take

As Harvey barreled toward Texas and pummeled our cities, President Donald Trump tweeted a lot. In multiple tweets, he urged Texans to be safe and showed he was keeping tabs on the situation. But he also made several major non-storm related moves, such as pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and signing a ban on transgender military members, both of which drew criticism for supposedly using the storm to shield potential blowback. In between cheerful Twitter updates praising the federal, state, and local responses to Harvey, Trump also took time to tweet praise for a newly released book authored by controversial Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, once again called for the construction of a border wall, and threatened to terminate NAFTA. He also announced a trip to Texas. “I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety,” Trump wrote on Sunday morning, before following up with a second tweet: “I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!” Trump is scheduled to arrive in Texas on Tuesday. His last tweet about Harvey came on Sunday night. “HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!”

Helping Hand

You don’t need a boat to help out with the rescue and recovery efforts—though if you do have one, your assistance is sorely needed. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced over the weekend that it’s looking for volunteer help with water rescues. If you have a “high-water, safe boat or vehicle,” the agency asks that you please help out (call the Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office at 713-881-3100 to coordinate ways you can help with rescues). Texas Monthly‘s Dan Solomon has compiled a list of reputable aid organizations you should donate to if you can, covering everything from dog food to diapers. Houston Texans star J.J. Watt has already raised nearly $300,000 on a fundraising website he set up during the storm. The Huffington Post has a solid list of ways to give money, give blood, or provide services and housing. Also, definitely read this ProPublica article about how to give to the right aid organizations after a disaster.



Escaping Harvey

Border Patrol checkpoints north of the Rio Grande Valley will stay open as thousands in South Texas prepare to evacuate to avoid Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Tribune. “Border Patrol checkpoints will not be closed unless there is a danger to the safety of the traveling public and our agents. Border Patrol resources, including personnel and transportation, will be deployed on an as needed basis to augment the efforts and capabilities of local-response authorities,” the agency said in a statement to the Tribune. Although CBP public affairs officer Roberto Rodriguez told the Tribune that Border Patrol would not stop anyone from getting to safety, the agency still has a job to do. “We’re not going to impede anybody getting out of here, but at the same time we’re a law enforcement agency, so we still have to conduct our duties,” he said. Southeast Texas is expected to face the brunt of Harvey, and Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez issued a disaster declaration for the city, also activating its emergency operation center.

The Stakes in Corpus

Hurricane Harvey will make landfall near Corpus Christi, and according to the Weather Channel it is expected to take the biggest hit. Grocery stores began to close Friday morning, and roads leading out of Corpus were clogged with traffic, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Still, mandatory evacuations still haven’t been issued for the city as of Friday morning. “We could mandate it, but people need to make a decision of their own,” said Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb. “I’m not going to risk our police and fire people going to try and drag somebody out of the house if they don’t want to go. Because our fire and police, they’re fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles. They’ve got relatives and they’ve got family, and we don’t want to put them in harm’s way because someone just wanted to stay.” As we noted in our September issue, a shale boom and the end of a decades-old export ban has finally put the Port of Corpus Christi on the map. The port, which exports more oil per day than Houston, Texas City, and Galveston, has closed down in preparation for the storm, according to Reuters.

Disaster Preparedness

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a statement on Thursday that it has been in close coordination with state and local officials as Hurricane Harvey hurtles toward Texas. FEMA has established a support base at Randolph Auxiliary Airfield near Seguin, which will supply water, meals, blankets, and other essentials. Should they be needed, state and local officials will be responsible for distributing supplies. FEMA has also established an Emergency Operations Center in Austin. You can check out FEMA’s disaster preparedness tips, which were included in the release.



Dynamic Duo

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s wife, Angela, is considering a run for Texas Senate, according to the Texas Tribune. Paxton, a guidance counselor at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, is eying the seat in Senate District 8, which is currently held by Plano Republican Van Taylor, who’s probably going to give up his seat to run for Congress in 2018. Paxton, who has been active in state Republican politics, frequently appears at political events with her husband and on her own. She’s certainly got the charisma and showmanship of a politician—at Republican party gatherings, according to the Tribune, she often strums a guitar and sings, “I’m a pistol-packin’ mama, and my husband sues Obama.” Phillip Huffines, the chairman of the Dallas County GOP, is the current frontrunner for the Senate seat, but Paxton already has the support of four state representatives in the area, so she could shake things up significantly if she does decide to run.

Lost at Sea

One of the ten sailors who went missing after the Navy destroyer U.S.S. John McCain collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Singapore on Mondayis a Texan, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Navy has announced the identification of the remains of three sailors, but John “C.J.” Hoagland, from Tarkington, is still unaccounted for. “The first time John said he wanted to serve his country, he was five,” Hoagland’s mother, Cynthia Kimball, told KTRK. “It’s the only thing he’s ever wanted to do. He loves the military, but he loves his family. He is really a good person. He would do anything for anyone.” The accident was the second such incident at sea for the Navy in recent months. Noe Hernandez, of Weslaco, was killed along with six other sailors in June, when the U.S.S. Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan. According to the New York Times, the Navy issued a rare suspension of ship operations worldwide following the McCain crash, and it relieved Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin after his fleet sustained a total of four collisions since January, including the fatal crashes of the Fitzgerald and the McCain.

Wet Weekend

The remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey could bring some serious rain to the Texas coast this weekend. The National Weather Service says details of the tropical storm’s exact landfall location are “still very uncertain,” but it could end up along the lower to middle Texas coast around Friday, according to the Houston Chronicle. Houston, Galveston, and Southeast Texas could be in for around four to eight inches of rain, with the possibility of ten to sixteen inches in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. KTRK‘s weather team predicts the storm could bring rains similar to the amount that seriously flooded Houston sixteen years ago, when Hurricane Allison hit the city and dropped more than three feet of rain, leaving 23 dead across Texas and causing billions of dollars in damage. “We’re most likely going to see a tropical storm form late tomorrow night,” Patrick Blood, a meteorologist with the Houston/Galveston branch of the National Weather Service, told the Houston Press. “The biggest threat for Houston is rainfall.” As we wrote in May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a rough storm season for Texas this summer.



Top 25

College football is almost here, so that means it’s time to rank stuff! The Associated Press released its Top 25 poll on Monday, and one Texas team managed to squeak into the rankings. The University of Texas at Austin is number 23 in the poll. The Longhorns held down the same spot in the Coaches Poll, released in early August. Although it’s a little disappointing to see just one Texas team make it in the first AP poll of the season, UT fans must be pretty excited about the high expectations for their team, considering the Longhorns finished last season with a disappointing 5-7 record before firing former head coach Charlie Strong. In fact, the last time UT made it into the final top 25 poll was in 2012, and they’ve been 16-21 in the last three seasons. But with new coach Tom Herman taking the reigns and breathing new life into the storied program, things are looking up in Austin. TCU, Herman’s old stopping ground the University of Houston, and Texas A&M weren’t far behind UT—all three schools received votes in the poll but landed outside the Top 25.

State Takeover

The state might have to shut down four Dallas ISD campuses or take over the entire district if the city can’t turn things around in struggling schools, according to the Dallas Morning News. Four historically low-performing schools must do better on state assessments to get rid of the “improvement required” label, or else the state will have to act. Three DISD schools have been on the state’s failing list for the past five years—Carr and Titche elementary schools and Edison Middle Learning Center. Another elementary campus, J.W. Ray Learning Center, has fallen short on its report cards for four straight years. As the Morning News notes, other districts in North Texas are facing similar challenges. Fort Worth ISD has three campuses in danger of facing a state takeover. Houston, meanwhile, has a whopping thirteen struggling schools. In 2015, the Texas Lege put further scrutiny on schools that have been in “improvement required” status for five or more years, as of the 2018 to 2019 school year.

Bad News Bears

Just as the fall semester begins at Baylor University, the school has been hit with yet another Title IX lawsuit, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. In this lawsuit—the eighth Title IX case to be filed against Baylor and the fifth suit the university is currently fighting—the plaintiff, “Jane Doe 11,” alleges she was assaulted by another student in April 2017, then was questioned by university officials in a way that shifted the blame away from the alleged attacker. Attorneys representing the woman pointed out to the Tribune that the allegations come after Baylor’s “media tour patting itself on the back for ‘complete’ and ‘full’ implementation” of 105 recommendations. The recommendations, made by an independent firm, aimed at improving the university’s response to sexual assault in the wake of a scandal that led to a personnel shake-up for the president, head football coach, and athletics director. “I think that, unfortunately, it’s an example of how things still have not changed,” one of the woman’s attorneys told the Tribune. “Hopefully, they will.”



Lone Star

The sun will be blocked out by the moon at some point Monday during a total solar eclipse, and a good chunk of Texas will be treated to the rare astronomical sight. Texans won’t get to see the whole thing, but we will get a good viewing of a partial solar eclipse. Dallas, for example, should see about 75 percent of the sun blocked out. For many, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The last time that a total eclipse crossed the entire U.S. from coast-to-coast was in 1918, though some northwestern states got a look at one in 1979, and Hawaiians got to see another in 1991. The next one won’t come until 2024. To find out when, precisely, you should look up at the sky (with proper eye protection, please!) to see Monday’s eclipse, check out this cool feature by Vox, which lets you look up your local eclipse time by using your zip code.

Buffett Eaten

Warren Buffett’s bid to buy a Texas utility company was taken out from under him by a competing company, according to the Wall Street Journal. The billionaire’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, announced its bid to buy Oncor, the largest utility provider in the state, in July, putting in a $9 billion offer to take over Energy Future Holdings, its parent company. But the deal has been in trouble since day one. Buffett managed to smooth things over with Texas regulators, who had nixed the hopes of two previous potential buyers of Oncor, but his company had difficulty gaining the support of Elliott Management Corp., a major investor that was trying to block the deal. At the end of the day, though, it was all about money. Sempra Energy swooped in, seemingly out of nowhere, with a $9.45 billion offer, beating out Berkshire Hathaway. The deal was finalized on Sunday, though it remains to be seen if Texas regulators will sign off on the deal.


After a federal appeals court ruled last week that Texas violated the Voting Rights Act by gerrymandering its congressional district maps with the intent to discriminate based on race, the state appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.  “Judges should get out of the business of drawing maps,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement after filing the appeal on Friday, according to the Texas Tribune. “We firmly believe that the maps Texas used in the last three election cycles are lawful, and we will aggressively defend the maps on all fronts.” In a 107-page ruling on Wednesday, a three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled unanimously that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 are in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act because they were intentionally drawn to dilute minority voting power. Paxton’s appeal appears to be an attempt to dodge the court’s order to redraw the maps ahead of the 2018 election. He’s requested an injunction that would keep Texas from having to draw a new map.



Voting Rights

A day after a federal court invalidated two of Texas’s congressional districts because they were drawn to dilute minority voting power, a separate federal ruling has once again found Texas in violation of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that the Lone Star State restricted the interpretation assistance available for English-limited voters at the ballot box, according to the Texas Tribune. Part of the Texas Election Code requires interpreters to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are helping voters cast ballots, which apparently goes against federal voting protections. The law violates a section of the Voting Rights Act which says any voter who needs assistance because of visual impairments, disabilities, or literacy skills can choose who helps them vote, provided it’s not their employer or a union leader. “The problem remains that the Texas provisions expressly limit the right to the act of casting a ballot,” the judges wrote in the opinion, according to the Tribune. “It should go without saying that a state cannot restrict this federally guaranteed right by enacting a statute tracking its language, then defining terms more restrictively than as federally defined.”

Five Flags

Six Flags Over Texas won’t be changing its name to Five Flags Over Texas anytime soon. That’s because the Arlington amusement park won’t remove its Confederate flag, even amid a wave of Confederate monument removals in cities across the country. TMZ first reported the park’s steadfast refusal to get rid of the Confederate banner that sits atop the park’s main gate, alongside the American flag, the Texas flag, and the Mexican flag. It’s not quite the stars-and-bars version that we’re all used to seeing, though—the one at Six Flags is the Flag of the Confederacy rather than the more commonly used Confederate Battle flag. A Six Flags rep told TMZ that park patrons “are astute enough to know the difference,” though it’s unclear what, exactly, the big difference is between two flags which both represent a failed secessionist state that embraced slavery. “Six Flags Over Texas continues to fly the Confederate States of America Flag and does not fly or sell any variation of the Confederate Battle Flag,” a Six Flags spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle.


It’s the hundredth anniversary of the first time license plates were used in Texas, and you can celebrate the big birthday by purchasing a pair of custom license plates, according to KXAS. The plates don’t come with candles or covered in funfetti, but they will feature a unique design commemorating the centennial. Car history nerds will want to act fast, because the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is only making the specialty plate available to the first 100 buyers. Those lucky few will receive a special plate pattern with “100” as the first three characters followed by three letters starting with “AAA.” There’s a seal in the center of the plate, reminiscent of the 1917 radiator seal, and on the top corners of the plate there’s a “19” and “17.” The plate also has security threads and the word “TEXAS” on a white background, just like it is on the current general-issue plate. The 100-year anniversary marker is doubly appropriate here, because that’s about how much time you spend waiting in line at most DMV offices!



Class Dismissed

The Texas Lege finally acted on the public school funding issue, with the House and Senate each passing the other’s priority school finance reform bill on Monday, according to the Texas Tribune. Lawmakers waited until the eleventh hour to pass the legislation—there are only two days left in the special session. The House passed Senate Bill 16 to form a commission to look at future school funding reform, and the Senate voted Monday night to pass House Bill 21, which would give public schools an immediate $351 million infusion to help address the struggles of small rural schools and students with special needs. HB 21 also adds $212 million to a health insurance program for retired teachers. But as the Dallas Morning News notes, there’s still a lot of work to be done this session on school finance, and “with time so short,” the legislative harmony could fall apart just as soon as it came together.

Deep Trouble

A former South Texas police chief is facing federal drug charges for allegedly working as a member of a drug trafficking organization, according to the McAllen Monitor. Ex-La Joya police chief Geovani Hernandez was arrested by federal agents over the weekend after a federal investigation revealed his ties to an unidentified drug trafficking organization. Court records show Hernandez allegedly had been working with a middleman for drug traffickers, and told several confidential informants that he was helping run drugs over the border. Hernandez also allegedly told an informant that he was a close friend of Gulf Cartel Plaza boss Juan Manuel Loza Salinas, also known as “El Toro.” In November, Hernandez also appeared as an actor in a narco-corrido, or drug ballad, music video for a song about running cocaine from Mission to Houston, which isn’t exactly lying low. Hernandez had been working with the Progreso Police Department as a “provisionary sergeant” at the time of his arrest—Progreso officials announced that Hernandez was no longer with the department effective Monday.

Hazing Scandal

Seven deputies at the Bexar County Jail were put on administrative leave for allegedly participating in a hazing incident at the facility, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced on Monday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The incident happened at a house party on Friday night, when six deputies on the elite Special Emergency Response Team at the jail allegedly hazed a seventh deputy. Salazar said the hazing involved county-issued handcuffs, shackles, and a stun gun. The deputies were placed on leave after video of the incident surfaced. All of the deputies involved viewed it as a joke—apparently involving a deputy’s four-year-old daughter in the hazing process—but Salazar certainly isn’t laughing. “It’s not to be tolerated. It’s not something I’m going to stand for,” he said at a Monday press conference. The deputies could face criminal charges, including hazing, unlawful restraint, and child endangerment.



Ted Talks

Senator Ted Cruz issued a statement condemning the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend after a man described as a Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd of protesters, killing one person and injuring dozens more. A graduate of Bellaire High School in Houstonwas among those injured in the attack. “It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed,” Cruz said in a statement released Saturday night, according to the Dallas Morning News. “The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society. The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

Wall March

Hundreds of activists marched to protest the construction of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall in South Texas on Saturday, according to the Texas Tribune. The protesters gathered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mission and walked four miles to La Lomita Chapel, about 300 yards from the Rio Grande. The latest plan for the wall prompted concerns that La Lomita Chapel will be stuck between the wall and the river. Marchers from different backgrounds participated, as the proposed wall has inflamed private property owners who may lose their land to the wall, conservationists who are concerned about several wildlife refuges in the path of construction, and immigration advocates. The mix of characters resulted in an interesting scene: people walked, used golf carts, and rode bikes during the march, blasting rock music as church bells rang out. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s longtime priest, Father Roy Snipes, led the protesters from the driver’s seat of his baby blue, four-door 1984 Ford Escort with a nearly five-foot statue of the Lady of Guadalupe sitting on top, “accompanied by at least a few of his dogs,” according to the McAllen Monitor.


A primarily African-American church in Waco was defaced with Nazi graffiti, the word “Satan,” and the name of President Donald Trump last week, the Waco Herald-Tribunereported on Friday. The vandalism was discovered on Tuesday morning at the thirty-member Willow Grove Baptist Church in McLennan County. A swastika, surrounded by a six-point star and circle, was drawn in ketchup and mustard at the church’s fellowship hall, which is where churchgoers hold Bible studies, Sunday classes, and community events. The total cost of damages is about $3,000. The historic church is nearly 200 years old, and was established by former slaves, A.J Crawford and Buck Manning. Pastor Kenneth McNeil—who is also a U.S. Army veteran—reacted with compassion toward the perpetrators. “Offer them love and forgiveness,” McNeil told the Tribune, echoing how he thought Crawford and Manning would respond to the vandals. “As I read some of their records, I think they would offer forgiveness.”




The National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars became the first professional sports franchise to come out publicly against the bathroom bill on Wednesday, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Dallas was warm and welcoming when we came to this great city 25 years ago,” President Jim Lites said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Dallas Stars stands strongly opposed to any legislation perceived as discriminatory, including proposed bathroom legislation. We welcome fans from all over the globe, and our roster boasts players from half a dozen countries. Dallas welcomes all, and we welcome all.” Lites also references the NHL draft, which Dallas is set to host next year amid protests from LGBT advocates. “We are proud of our home and want every visitor to feel safe at home here, too, and that’s why we oppose this discriminatory bathroom legislation,” Lites said in the statement. As the Morning News notes, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has been critical of the bill, and the Dallas Cowboys have reportedly been lobbying against it quietly.

Brace Yourself

Texas’s coastal residents should prepare to batten down the hatches this hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Wednesday that the Atlantic hurricane season will result in an above-average fourteen to nineteen storms strong enough to earn names, a prediction that could disrupt energy and agriculture markets now that it looks like a system-softening Pacific El Niño won’t arrive to save the day. “There is a possibility now that the season will be extremely active,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane seasonal forecaster at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, according to the Houston Chronicle. “We are now entering the historical peak months of the season. This three month period is when the bulk of hurricanes occur.” This most recent prediction is even harsher than the NOAA’s last hurricane season forecast in May, when the agency said we would be likely in store for between eleven and seventeen major storms.

Bombs Away

Former Exxon CEO and Wichita Falls native Rex Tillerson is in a tough spot. The secretary of State must now put out the massive fire started by President Donald Trump, who earlier this week seemed prepared to go to war with North Korea, saying the country would face “fire and fury” if it does not stop making threats toward the United States. On Wednesday, Tillerson defended President Trump’s remarks, but also downplayed the threat of nuclear war. “What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said in an interview with reporters while flying from Malaysia to a scheduled refueling stop in Guam, according to the Washington Post. “I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S. has the unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.” Tillerson also told reporters that he does “not believe that there is any imminent threat.”



School’s Out

Some Houston schools are in such bad shape that the state might have to step in and take over, according to the Houston Chronicle. Unless thirteen struggling schools show improvement, Houston ISD could fall under the jurisdiction of state-appointed managers as early as next year, Texas Education Agency officials warned at a meeting Monday with Houston’s legislative delegation. Only one of those thirteen historically failing schools needs to receive failing accountability marks in 2017 and again in 2018 to trigger state oversight of the entire district. As an alternative, the TEA could also just take over individual campuses. Houston ISD isn’t alone in that respect—according to the Chronicle, 46 independent school districts across the state could face potential state takeovers, thanks to a law passed by the Lege in 2015 that targets schools that have been in “improvement required” status for five or more years, as of the 2018 to 2019 school year. As the Chronicle notes, it’s not a new concept for the state to take control of failing school districts and individual schools, but it’s never been done on a scale as large as HISD, which, with more than 210,000 students at over 280 schools, is the seventh-largest school district in the country.

Making the Rounds

Upstart Senate candidate U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke drew a big crowd during his tour of the High Plains, meeting with a crowd of nearly 500 people at a middle school in Amarillo on Tuesday, according to KAMR. The El Paso Democrat spoke at Austin Middle School, touching on subjects ranging from veterans’ issues to the economy. It marked O’Rourke’s fourth visit to the Amarillo since he launched his campaign to challenge Senator Ted Cruz in March. “Being in Amarillo for a fourth time this year is just another reminder that first and foremost we’re Americans,” O’Rourke said at the campaign event, according to KAMR. “We’re Texans. We want to do right by each other. Right for this state and the right things for this country. That’s the way [my wife] Amy and I feel. That’s what’s brought us back to Amarillo again.”

Butting In

H-E-B is making a move on Whole Foods territory in Houston. According to the Houston Chronicle, H-E-B is under contract to buy property in the Upper Kirby neighborhood—specifically, a plot of land that sits directly across the street from a Whole Foods Market. Scott McClelland, president of H-E-B Houston, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that the company is in a due diligence phase with the property, but offered no additional details on the company’s possible plans for the site. As the Chronicle notes, H-E-B has been very busy in Houston lately, with an urban prototype store under construction in a mixed-used development on the city’s busy Washington Avenue. The 96,000-square foot behemoth will include a walk-up coffee and food concept topped with 230 fancy apartments and a few floors of office space. H-E-B is also planning a new location in the Houston Heights neighborhood.