Beyond here, there be dragons—or at least the most interesting articles I’ve read this week by other writers.
by Steve Thompson
The Dallas Morning News
Texas law allows politicians to set up “blind trusts” that really are more what I call winky-blinky trusts—often not really blind or managed by a disinterested party. The generally accepted idea of a brother-in-law deal is one that is not arms-length, and the Morning News tells us of a literal brother-in-law deal involving a state oil regulator.
“With millions of dollars at stake, an Exxon Mobil unit went before Texas regulators to argue against a restriction on its operations. One member of the Railroad Commission, Ryan Sitton, took the lead on examining the issue. Then he voted in favor of the company, which got its way.
Sitton didn’t disclose that Exxon is a client of his business.”
Sure, Sitton’s company is in a blind trust, but one run by someone he probably regularly sees at family holiday functions. If Sitton’s job fell under federal ethics laws, the only trust that is blind is one in which you put cash assets under the management of a completely unrelated party. If the office holder knows of the existence of an asset in the trust, it’s not blind.
by Jonathan Tilove and Claire Osborn
Austin is the blueberry in the tomato soup of Texas, the Democratic stronghold surrounded by red rock Republican voters. It was not terribly surprising when tens of thousands protested the inauguration of Donald Trump as president in Austin. But out there in the hinterlands, there is a quiet satisfaction with the change in Washington.
From Day 1, Donald Trump’s presidency has roiled Austin.
But on a gorgeous February day barely an hour northwest of the Texas capital in bucolic Burnet County, habitués of the Blue Bonnet Cafe were savoring the first two weeks of the Trump presidency like a slice of the timeless eatery’s best-selling coconut cream pie.
“Love him,” said Dan Ross, who lives in Cottonwood Shores and is a police officer in Horseshoe Bay. “Think he’s doing great”
Love him, hate him, but no doubt that we live in interesting times
by Julie Chang
Educators have a name for teachers who engage in improper relationships with students, get fired without repercussions, and end up finding a job in a new school district: pass the trash. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick—with the backing of Governor Greg Abbott—has made ending the practice one of his top priorities for the current legislative session, with legislation to impose penalties on school administrators who fail to report these relationships. The Statesman‘s Julie Chang took a hard look at how difficult it is to get information on teachers who breach the professional wall of personal relations.
The American-Statesman reviewed the cases of 686 teachers who surrendered their teaching licenses or whose teaching licenses were revoked by the Texas Education Agency between 2010 and 2016, after the TEA launched investigations for possible improper teacher-student relationships. Allegations ran the gamut, including sending flirtatious text messages, kissing students and having sex with students in their classrooms.
The Statesman’s analysis, the first of its kind, found that teachers in less than half the cases were charged, leaving a trail of detailed information for potential future employers, accessible through criminal background checks, court documents and media coverage.