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Roar of the Crowd

Readers respond to the March 2014 issue.

By April 2014Comments

Last month, Pamela Colloff revisited the case of Heather Rich, an Oklahoma teen whose body was found in 1996 in a backwater creek near the Red River and whose tragic story Pam had recounted in these pages in 2002. Just days after publication, another of Pam’s stories—about the unsolved murder of Irene Garza, a young McAllen teacher who was last seen at her church in 1960—drew a similar measure of reexamination when 48 Hours aired its take on the case in an episode titled “The Last Confession.” Garza also came to the forefront of Hidalgo County’s recent district attorney’s race, where longstanding DA Rene Guerra lost in the Democratic primary to Ricardo Rodriguez, who campaigned, in part, on a promise to review the Garza case if elected. Rodriguez takes office in January.

And now a sampling of feedback from our readers.

Reasonable Doubt

Randy Wood committed a vicious, heinous crime, snuffing out the life of an innocent victim [“A Question of Mercy”]. He admits his guilt. He received a fair trial. He deserves no mercy or sympathy. This article struck me as completely pointless.
Mark Pulliam, Austin

I do not care that Wood testified with no deal in place. He told no one what happened to Heather Rich. He went to school, played football, and acted like nothing was wrong. He could have gone to the cops or told a teacher—or Heather’s parents! But what did he do? Nothing! While her body rotted away in the river, he was crowned homecoming king! Heather doesn’t get a second chance, so why should he?
Susan Mueller, via Facebook

So Wood gets a pic posted of himself looking important, tough, and badass as a reward for his bad behavior and his poor decision back in 1996? If this is the way it works, I want a great pic like this taken and published of me, ’cause I just tripped a small child and took his lunch money. 
Janeen Jay S, via Facebook 

I can tell you, Pamela Colloff is a brilliant writer. I do not know how she writes such incredible stuff. My heart hurts for Tim Cole, the families, the victim, and those incarcerated. Thank you for a well-written piece.
Bill Peary, via Facebook

Underserved 

WHAT?! El Paso’s Pershing Inn did not make the “Where to Drink Now” list?! 
Max Powers, via texasmonthly.com

No Fort Worth? Even the print version had only one place in Fort Worth for food or drink. Sixteenth-largest city in the country, one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas. Get it together, y’all.
Matt, via texasmonthly.com 

All the Brews That’s Fit To Print

Oh, hell yes, Velvet Hammer! Peticolas [Brewing Company] needs to bottle that, like, yesterday [“Bars and Crafts”].
Keith Cothroll, via Facebook

I was going to cancel my subscription if Velvet Hammer wasn’t listed. Whew.
Robyn Folmar, via Facebook

Fail for omitting Revolver [Brewing] Blood and Honey, in Granbury.
Casey Walsh, via Facebook

Good for Big Bend Brewing [Company]. They make good beers, and it’s good that the word gets out.
Jeff Pruett, via Facebook

Grid Work

I was very interested in “The Generation Gap,” having spent twelve years with large electric companies in Central Texas during the era of deregulation. What particularly caught my attention was Robert McCullough’s conclusion that “right now the Texas electric market is an amazing failure.” 

First, Texas has more wind generation by far than any state in the country. Second, Texas has built more high-efficiency gas generation than any state in the country. Third, from a regulatory standpoint, Texans—and not the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—still control the game via the Texas Public Utility Commission. Fourth, Austin is an epicenter of smart grid technology, and San Antonio has become a hub of solar innovation. And lastly, based on pricing information from the U.S. Department of Energy, the retail price of energy has been going down in Texas but going up in places like California, which has wholesale deregulation too, and Oregon, which has no deregulation but supposedly cheap hydroelectric generation. I am trying to understand where the failure is.
Wayne Morter, Seattle, Washington

No, no, no, you’re all confused. There is so much undesigned, unplanned, and uncontrolled development and growth going on that the state utilities cannot keep up. The utilities have contributed to the problem by limiting or prohibiting the distribution of renewable energy. Most Texas co-op utilities still will not allow homeowners, ranchers, and farmers to generate their own power onsite and sell excess power back to the grid. The problem is excess control.
Estaven Shepard, via Facebook 

Numbers Game

The woe-is-me forecasts from demographers about the outlook for personal-income growth in Texas has been tiresome and consistently wrong [“Coming to Our Census”]. Average per capita income in Texas grew in the eighties and the nineties, as well as the recent decade ending in 2010 (which included the bursting of the tech and housing bubbles).

Average per capita income in Texas in the first decade of this century grew faster than the U.S., faster than California, and faster than New York, New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, Georgia, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and many others, while the Hispanic population continued to grow. Places like Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland grew faster primarily because of  the federal government.

If adjusted for cost of living, the Texas results are even more outstanding. (Household income would have somewhat similar relative results but is affected by family size and younger populations, like Texas’s.) The problem with the demographer’s projections is that income is made up of more than wages, such as proprietors’ income, and the opportunities for income growth for newcomers is not determined exclusively by education. The implication that certain ethnic populations such as Hispanics won’t be entrepreneurial, start small businesses, or work hard has a distasteful flavor—and is dead wrong.

There is also a continual in-migration of skilled workers to Texas who are drawn by those opportunities, many who were educated or trained elsewhere at another state’s expense, demonstrating that it’s not necessarily how much Texas spends on education but rather on the business opportunities created by other economic policies and some good resource luck. (By the way, Texas spends a very competitive share of that personal income on education. And great colleges in New England do not create jobs for the region.)

Long-term economic forecasts for Texas will depend heavily on how Mexico manages its own economy and its own demographics, and that outlook has recently improved significantly. The test for Texas is to stay its general policy course on taxes, spending, and regulation and not try to reinvent itself in the model of northern and coastal states. It’s so hard for elites not to plan and manage everything, and simplicity is so uninteresting.
Charles Miller, Houston

High Steaks

General rule from Grilling 101: if you have to use butter to make a quality ribeye taste good, you need to hone your skills [Vittles]. For the best steak, use a charcoal grill, buy high-grade meat (cut thick), season lightly (if you must use gas, perhaps more than lightly), toss soaked wood chips on the fire, and cook slowly, taking the steak off before you think you should. You can’t un-cook a steak. No butter necessary!
Michael Ebbeler Jr., via Facebook

Cruz Blues

Why did you print those nasty letters about Ted Cruz [Roar of the Crowd]? Did you forget that many of us think he is the only true conservative in the lot?
Betty Riddle, Borger 

Ted Cruz is doing exactly what the voters put him there to do. 
Billy Wallington, League City

There is so much pride and admiration that I and so many Texans hold for this learned and brave man. And he takes it on the chin every day, from the left, the media, the good-ol’-boy establishment Republicans in office. Shame on you, texas monthly, for bowing down to the Cruz haters on the Roar of the Crowd page to show how “fair” you are. 
Lynn Pruitt, via email 

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