Art |
October 23, 2013

So, Is It Art? Talking to Playboy Marfa Artist Richard Phillips

On August 28, 2013, we talked to Richard Phillips, the artist behind the controversial Playboy Marfa installation. Read more about the art-versus-advertising debate here.FRANCESCA MARI: When were you tapped to do this piece for Playboy?RICHARD PHILLIPS: I was contacted before the New Year by Neville Wakefield, who is the

Politics & Policy |
May 27, 2010

The TxDOT management audit

The consultant’s report, released yesterday, is now available online. Here are a couple of its salient observations: TxDOT funding situation At present, State Highway Fund revenues are not as stable as in previous years, nor are they continuing to increase at the same pace as in the past. In addition,

Politics & Policy |
February 14, 2010

KBH’s robocall

I received this e-mail from a lobbyist whom I have known for many years: Just got a robocall from “Texans for Kay” (was “Private Caller” on caller ID) with a clip from the Glenn Beck show about Perry is someone who says and does good things during an election but

Politics & Policy |
January 17, 2010

Perry, Hutchison battle over transportation

Transportation is going to be a major battleground in the governor’s race. The two camps exchanged fire after the debate. Perry spokesman Mark Miner put out a statement that accused Hutchison of making misleading statements on her TV ad about transportation policy. What the Perry camp says (from spokesman Mark

Politics & Policy |
October 21, 2009

Raise the gasoline tax?

In the comments to my earlier post, “Dewhurst hits bottom,” referring to the light gov’s op-ed piece in today’s American Statesman, I wrote about what I would have done to close the budget deficit. One of my recommendations would be to raise the gasoline tax, index it to inflation, and

Politics & Policy |
June 1, 2009

A way out of the carnage

Only two bills have to pass during a legislative session. One is the budget. The other is the safety-net Sunset bill. At this point, only one has passed. The death of the safety-net bill puts the existence of several state agencies, including TxDOT and the State Board of Insurance, at

Politics & Policy |
May 21, 2009

Follow the money

At today’s post-Senate session press avail, Sen. Steve Ogden says the final budget document approved by conferees shapes public policy in several big ways, including: 1. “A dramatic shift in policy in how we serve mentally retarded Texans” represented by a $500 million increase in total funds for community services

Politics & Policy |
May 20, 2009

Hegar on TxDOT Sunset

I’ve been watching Senate Transportation on TV. Hegar is talking about the process: “There is a prevailing thought among the public that they want their tax dollars to be used to build roads, nothing more, nothing less. They want transparency and accountability in the agency, nothing more, nothing less.” …

Politics & Policy |
May 11, 2009

TxDOT Sunset: Worse than I thought (updated)

I overlooked one other significant change to the bill (and no doubt there are others). Amendment 134 extended the authority for Comprehensive Development Agreements — that is, privatized roads. The authority was extended to 2015. This was done in spite of representations that the bill would not deal with methods

Politics & Policy |
May 9, 2009

Wanted: adult supervision

The House was out of control Thursday during the debate on the TxDOT Sunset bill. The process was living proof of the old saying that there are two things you should never see being made: sausage and legislation. This was not serious lawmaking. It was an orgy--an orgy of hatred

Politics & Policy |
April 29, 2009

TxDOT Sunset: It’s REE-form!

This report is based on interviews, not an actual reading of the bill. The bill does two significant things. One is that it substantially reduces the discretionary authority of TxDOT and the Highway Commission to dictate transportation plans to local areas, while expanding the authority of Metropolitan Planning Organizations to

Politics & Policy |
March 17, 2009

In the good old summertime

You can see the train wreck coming: a special session over the budget and the stimulus package. Speculation is rampant that Perry will veto the appropriations bill, but he may not even have a bill to veto. The difficulties of melding the budget with the stimulus funds (and the rules

Politics & Policy |
March 8, 2009

The Week in Review

This post has been revised since its initial publication. 1. The Tom Schieffer candidacy. Patricia Kilday Hart and I interviewed Tom Schieffer about his race for the Democratic nomination governor. Interestingly, Schieffer asked to go off the record before the interview to discuss the events that led to his being

Politics & Policy |
March 5, 2009

Where can TxDOT spend the money?

The stimulus package requires that state transportation agencies give priority to “economically distressed” areas in allocating money to highway projects. An economically distressed area is defined as a county with a per capital income that is no more than 80% of the national average, or a county with an unemployment

Politics & Policy |
March 5, 2009

TxDOT under fire

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a tough day for TxDOT. After the usual routine of resolutions congratulating this and that, and welcoming these and those, the House session ended with a resolution aimed squarely at the transportation agency. Dunnam, Coleman, and other lawmakers are unhappy that TxDOT rushed to decide how to

Politics & Policy |
February 20, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

I just want to raise a question, based on Carl Isett’s decision, announced yesterday, that he would handle the TxDOT and Texas Department of Insurance Sunset bills on the floor: Should the Sunset bills be carried by the appointees to the Sunset Commission, or by the committee chairs of the

Politics & Policy |
February 17, 2009

Gas tax indexing gets green light

Sen. John Carona’s SJR 8, which allows the gas tax to be indexed to the rate of inflation, is traveling in the fast lane (is there such a thing as too many traffic metaphors?) since Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst referred it to Carona’s own Transportation Committee, instead of the not-so-friendly

Politics & Policy |
November 25, 2008

State Secrets

Burka and Eileen preview the legislative sunset: How does an agency “misplace” $1 billion? Or lose one-third of its criminal files? Or let the governor’s mansion get torched? Or screw Texas homeowners? Don’t get mad, get even. Honorably mentioned: Steve Ogden, Lois Kolkhorst, John Carona, and Wayne Smith. Not so