Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin Are Some of the Most Dangerous Cities in America for Pedestrians

Texas cities aren’t really built for pedestrians. They’re not really set up for cyclists or bus-riders or people who take the limited-use commuter rail services in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, either—but new data explains exactly how bad it is to be a pedestrian in the four largest cities in Texas, and it’s pretty bad.

The data comes courtesy of Smart Growth America, which ranked the most and least pedestrian-friendly cities—and states—in the US “Pedestrian-friendly,” in these terms, is mostly speaking in terms of safety. The report uses a “Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) that gives an indication of the likelihood of a person on foot being hit by a vehicle and killed.”

Will It Cost $2.3 Million A Year to Keep the Astrodome Open? Number Crunchers Say No.

Here’s some good news for Astrodome die-hards: the much-cited figure of $2.3 million that it takes to keep the building around is, how you say, a “guesstimate,” and it’s probably off by, oh, two million bucks or so. That’s the takeaway from a story the Houston Chronicle posted late last week in which several county officials revealed that the figure in the millions cited frequently by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation is not even close to the real number

Texas Cities Have A Lot Of Ideas About How To Fix Transportation Woes

The battle to bring rideshare services to San Antonio started heating up last week, as the City Council held a public hearing to debate whether—and how—Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc, should be made legal. 

That’s a battle, being waged in all four of Texas’ biggest cities, that we’ve remarked on before. But things got especially heated in San Antonio’s May 7 hearing. According to the San Antonio Current

Texas Dreamin’

Like a scene from an old western, the streets of big Texas cities are littered with the bleached bones of famous restaurants from afar. Their owners thought they would open here to thunderous applause, only to discover that cracking the Texas code is harder than it seems. Remember Craft, BLT Steak, and Charlie Palmer, in Dallas? Or Bank and Katsuya, in Houston? What about Coyote Cafe, in Austin? The longest-lived, Tom Colicchio’s Craft, lasted only six years.

“I Would Only Rob Banks for My Family”

Just after sunrise on the morning of August 9, 2012, in the Houston suburb of Katy, Scott Catt, a fifty-year-old structural engineer, was awakened by the buzzing of his alarm clock in the master bedroom of the apartment he shared with his twenty-year-old son, Hayden, and his eighteen-year-old daughter, Abby. The apartment was in Nottingham Place, a pleasant, family-oriented complex that featured a resort-size swimming pool and a large fitness center. 

Liquid Assets

Four years ago, things looked bleak for Houston’s Cheniere Energy. It had about $3 billion in debt, its stock price had plunged from more than $40 to less than $1 in a year’s time, and bankruptcy seemed imminent. Cheniere had made one of the biggest wrong-way bets in the history of natural gas, a commodity that is the poster child for wrong-way bets.

As If You Needed It, Further Proof That Houston Is So Much Bigger Than Most Cities

Houstonians live in a really big city. We know that people know that, but thanks to an intrepid Reddit user, we now have a succinct visual shorthand for just how big the city really is: Namely, these maps, which overlay the 88 miles of Beltway 8 on top of a number of other major world cities. 

The maps, created by a Reddit user with the handle “Youllfindaway,” help explain why going from one end of Houston to another seems like a gargantuan task, while a commute across, say, San Francisco doesn’t even come close to comparing. Take a look: 

Houston ISD Is Spending $250,000 to Change Culturally Insensitive Mascot Names

The owner of Washington’s professional football team just lost another ally in his struggling campaign to convince the world that his team’s mascot is a celebration of a noble history, rather than a racial slur: the Houston ISD school board, which voted in January to change the names of culturally insensitive mascot names in the district’s schools, unveiled the new mascots yesterday. 

Thus do the Lamar High School Redskins become the Texans, the Welch Middle School Warriors become the Wolf Pack, and both the Westbury High Rebels and the Hamilton Middle School Indians become the Huskies. (Rebels and Indians coming together: Albert Pike would be proud.)

Man About Town

As Bun B stood before a mirror in a fluorescent-lit room the size of a walk-in closet, tugging on a dark-purple bow tie, his entourage huddled by the door, assessing his mood. Just a few hours earlier, the Grammy-nominated rapper—the famous surviving half of the hip-hop duo UGK—had seemed buoyant, with a nod and easy smile for anyone who approached. He had recently released his fourth solo album, Trill OG: The Epilogue, and he would soon be heading out on tour. But now, minutes before the show on this cool November evening, he’d grown solemn, tense. Bun B was about to do something new: perform with the Houston Symphony. 

That he had rapped in front of crowds 25 times the size of this sold-out audience in Jones Hall didn’t seem relevant. As the moan of a violin warming up drifted in from the stage, Bun B’s official photographer, his videographer, his social media promoter, his manager, and a Houston Press photographer watched him attentively, documenting every move with their cameras. Bun B struggled several minutes to tighten the tie band around his tuxedo collar, then cocked his right eyebrow. “This tie isn’t working,” he said. “This tie is not going to work.” His crew exchanged glances. He was nervous. 

It didn’t help that the rapper had been getting fewer than five hours of sleep a night lately, thanks to a grueling schedule. In addition to finishing the album, Bun B had launched a blog, co-authored a book, and spent an inordinate amount of time promoting the three—all while finishing up a semester as a distinguished guest lecturer at Rice University. At age forty, he was one of the hardest-working performers in the music business, with a remarkable longevity in the youthful universe of rap; that same month marked the twenty-first anniversary of the first album released by UGK, short for Underground Kingz, the group he’d formed with the late rapper Pimp C. The pair had helped introduce Texas rap to the world, an accomplishment that had since earned Bun B the honorific “original gangsta,” or OG. 

In an effort to calm him, or maybe just break an awkward silence, the videographer, a sweet-natured film school graduate named Sama’an Ashrawi, zoomed in with his camera and asked, “So what’s about to go down?” Earlier that day, Bun B had offered some thoughts on what he felt was at stake. “If this collaboration goes well with the Houston Symphony, just think of the possibilities for hip-hop in classical ballets, classical operas, and so forth,” he said. “There’s room for a lot of groundbreaking interpretation. It makes me want to take something like The Merchant of Venice or Fiddler on the Roof and see if there is a place—one or two places—to incorporate different elements.

“If I do right by this opportunity,” he continued, “it could open the way for many other young rappers to be part of something positive. I only get one shot. I haven’t done it yet. I get one time.”

Ashrawi, who had banked hundreds of hours of Bun B footage at family barbecues and other events, had been witness to this kind of creative fusion before. Bun B’s vast network of contacts and eclectic array of tastes—the blog he’d just launched, with sneaker site founder Premium Pete, was all about food; the title he’d just published, in collaboration with middle-school science teacher Shea Serrano, was Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book—were in part what made his fans, some 900,000 of them on Twitter, so devoted to him. Bun B didn’t just habitually cross genres and media platforms, he also moved among Houston’s subcultures with a native’s easy authority. He seemed to embody modern Houston itself, his endeavors a celebration of the steamy, glorious complexity of the most diverse city in Texas. This, not surprisingly, inspired a fervent sea of followers, Ashrawi among them. 

Except that, at this moment, Bun B wasn’t feeling quite so self-possessed. “If you want to video me, you can video me, but we’re not going to do a Q&A and all that; this is nerve-wracking enough as it is,” he snapped. Unfazed, Ashrawi turned to me instead and began describing his love for Bun B, summarizing his feelings with “How does the grass thank the sun?”

A petite blond woman in her sixties poked her head in the doorway. “You guys doing okay?” she asked, as Bun B pulled off his tie and traded it for another. “You look beautiful. I’m so proud of y’all.” Her name was Sherry Levy, she said, and she was a volunteer for the Anti-Defamation League, which was co-hosting the concert with the Houston Symphony in honor of the two organizations’ centennial anniversaries. 

It was Levy who was responsible for Bun B’s being there. After hearing that one ADL member had purchased concert tickets for 650 high school students, Levy had turned to her daughter, Gillian, for suggestions on a musician to include who would appeal to the teens. A college senior, Gillian had resented growing up in the “conservative bubble” of Houston, as she called it—until she discovered the vibrant local hip-hop scene. This changed her view of the city, and of herself. (“I realized how great our rap scene is, and it made me proud to be from Houston,” she told me.) The person at the center of that scene, she told her mom, was Bun B.

Curious ADL board members who Googled “Bun B rapper Houston” would have unearthed a peculiar combination of images. Some photos show a large glowering man in an assertive pose, wearing a baseball cap and an imposing gold chain, promoting song titles such as “Murder” and “That’s Gangsta.” But there are also photos, taken in recent years, of him in a staid V-neck sweater, his beard shaved close, smiling like a toothpaste model. Those doing the research might have gathered that Bun B is a big deal—he has collaborated with Jay-Z and OutKast, among others, and Beyoncé counts him as a friend—but they might not have fully understood his role in defining Houston for young people across the globe. In other words, these symphonygoers still weren’t sure exactly what to expect. And now they were in the audience, waiting.

At eight o’clock, the lights dimmed, and the audience’s murmurs quieted as heroic trumpets and thundering timpani signaled the start of “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Backstage, everyone cleared out with the exception of Bun B and his acolytes, who tried to look anywhere but his direction: the floor, a watch, a phone. Bun B straightened his lapels repeatedly, peering out the small window of a stage door at the orchestra. He started to pace. “This is my life now,” he said. 


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