Wed July 16, 2014 4:20 pm By Paul Burka

In the July issue of the magazine, several writers—myself included—assessed the legacy of Governor Perry. One of the stories reviewed eight critical areas Texas Monthly believes the governor is responsible for, and we gave him a letter grade for each. Some readers thought we were too harsh, and some thought we were too kind. We have also heard from many prominent and respected members of state agencies, including Richard Hyde, the executive director of TCEQ. Our writers gave the governor a D+ for the environment, which Hyde strongly disagrees with. We appreciate his response, and I have posted it in full below:

Dear Texas Monthly,

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) takes issue with a number of inaccuracies in a story entitled, “The Perry Report Card,” in the July Texas Monthly issue, specifically those in “The Environment” segment.

To support the conclusions made in your assessment of Texas’ environmental record under the tenure of Governor Perry, Texas Monthly relied more on conjecture than statistical analysis, which proves Texas has made important and significant progress protecting air and water quality.  To provide appropriate context for your readers, who after reading your report card may be under the false impression that Texas is somehow substandard and that the reduction of TCEQ’s budget resulted in a reduction of environmental protection, I offer the following examples of our progress:

Read More
Tue July 15, 2014 6:11 pm By Erica Grieder

A few weeks ago, after a reporting trip to the Rio Grande Valley, I wrote a post concluding that the influx of Central American immigrants on the border amounts to a legitimately complex situation, and that I hoped people would respond calmly and thoughtfully. Plenty of people have done so. I would point to the many locals who immediately stepped up as volunteers, and to the men and women of the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley Sector; in my experience their public information officers have an oddly anhedonic attitude about both the public and information, but most of the agents are very nice and hardworking.

A number of politicians, too, have offered serious responses. As you can see from the Washington Post’s rundown, neither side has had a unified response, but both have offered valid suggestions, a number of which are not actually mutually exclusive. Bipartisanship has reared its head: despite the total absence of rapport between Barack Obama and Rick Perry, the president described his meeting with the governor last week as “constructive”, and John Cornyn has teamed with Henry Cuellar, the Democratic representative from Laredo, to introduce legislation that would streamline enforcement proceedings for children from non-contiguous countries.  

The politics of the situation, however, have naturally devolved into mutual recriminations. Since I wrote the previous post, I’ve heard from a number of Democrats and journalists who’ve fiercely pushed back against my suggestion that Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order announcing a major change in how his administration would enforce America’s immigration law with regard to minors is worth noting in this context. The gist of their argument is that that since the order had terms and conditions, it’s ridiculous to suggest that anyone in Central America could have misinterpreted the order itself, or the president’s speech announcing it and calling on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, or the cavalcade of hope-and-change press coverage that followed, as suggesting that if they managed to make it to the United States, they would probably be allowed to stay.

The pushback on that point was so vehement that at times I felt that I was witnessing Democratic bias in the mainstream media. But let’s set aside Obama’s executive order for the time being. I want to gently address a couple of premises are fairly common among advocates of comprehensive immigration reform advocates—well-intended premises, plausible premises, but premises that don't apply so well at the moment.

Read More

Fri July 11, 2014 2:19 pm By Paul Burka

One of two candidates, both of whom are outstanding choices. They are:

Richard Fisher, the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas


Admiral William H. McRaven, a 36-year Navy Seal and the UT commencement speaker at June's graduation ceremony.

Read More
Fri July 11, 2014 11:41 am By Paul Burka

I have generally been impressed by UT regents' chair Paul Foster's ability to smooth the waters concerning the Bill Powers controversy. But Foster
was out of line when, a day after the University of Texas System announced that Powers would step down in June 2015 — ending a standoff that many thought would end with his firing — he "lashed out at unnamed outside meddlers." At the regents meeting Thursday Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa also rejected speculation that Powers had been asked to resign because of accusations that lawmakers wielded undue influence in university admissions.

Well, Mr. Chairman, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. You hold a position of immense responsibility, and if you don't want to be criticized, there are plenty of other things for you to do other than assail members of the public for airing their well-founded concerns about the damage this collection of UT regents--one of the worst I have ever seen, I might add--has inflicted upon the university. You are not immune from criticism, and members of the public have every right to make their opinions known to you.

Read More
Thu July 10, 2014 1:12 pm By Paul Burka

My colleague Skip Hollandsworth has written a timely story for the upcoming August issue that was posted online this morning. Titled "Is This the Most Dangerous Man in Texas?" it's about UT Regent Wallace Hall, the impeachment process, and the resignation of William Powers, the president of UT-Austin. Hollandsworth recounts several fascinating moments, including this meeting between UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Powers:

In the fall of 2013, Cigarroa had Powers come to his office to discuss Hall’s allegations about the admissions process, and according to knowledgeable sources, the exchange turned testy when Cigarroa asked how Pitts’s son had gotten into UT law school. Powers fired back that Cigarroa’s own daughter had received the same consideration when she was admitted into the program. Cigarroa was livid. His daughter was a Harvard graduate who had top grades and a high LSAT score. He stood up and reportedly stepped toward Powers, as if he were going to punch him. The meeting quickly ended.

As I wrote yesterday, Powers is claiming victory regarding the events of the past few days: he will outlast Rick Perry, and he will be on the job during the legislative session. But I would predict that there is more to come on both fronts, for the Regents and for UT-Austin.



Read More