QUOTE OF THE DAY


“He hopes the court isn’t going to be a grinch.”

—Tom McHugh to the San Antonio Express-News on Thursday. McHugh is an attorney representing 69-year-old James Earl Bailey, a self-proclaimed hippie who was on the run from police for fourteen years before pleading guilty on Thursday in San Antonio to charges of manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants. After police raided his San Antonio home in 2002, Bailey fled to Nuevo Laredo, where he made a modest living as a Santa Claus impersonator until this March. 


BIG NEWS


Workers inspect a statue of Robert E. Lee in a public park in Dallas, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017.

LM Otero/AP

Toppled Bob
After multiple failed attempts to take it down, the Robert E. Lee statue in Dallas’s Lee Park is finally gone. The Dallas City Council voted last week to remove the Confederate monument, but it wasn’t quite that easy. The first delay came when construction crews had a hard time figuring out how best to take the statue down because they didn’t have the original plans showing how it had been mounted to the base. Then the crane they had was too small, and they found that the statue was actually a little taller than historical records had initially indicated. Those delays allowed time for a federal judge to issue a temporary injunction halting the removal after a group challenged the constitutionality of the city council’s vote. The injunction was lifted the next day, but Dallas had a hard time finding a crane crew for the job. When they finally did find one, the crane was damaged in a deadly accident while traveling from Houston on Sunday night. Hours before the crane crash, a drunk driver barreled through the barricades surrounding the statue, injuring one person. Dallas continued to struggle to find a crane crew, claiming that construction companies were weary of getting involved and facing threats. The crane crew that finally took down the statue on Thursday had its license plates and company logos hidden on the equipment, according to the Dallas Morning News, and the crane truck got to the park at about 4 p.m. after police blocked the ramps on the nearby highway to ensure it arrived safely. By 6:30 p.m., the statue was successfully removed from its pedestal and was on its way to an undisclosed location, where it will be while the city determines a new home for the monument.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Governor Castro?
U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat representing San Antonio, is apparently mulling a run for governor of Texas in 2018. “He and others are considering it,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday. “It’s a very big decision for him. It would require him to leave his safe seat in the U.S. House, where he’s a rising star.” As it stands, Governor Greg Abbott has a pretty easy path to victory, as no major Democratic challenger has stepped up to the plate. That would change if Castro decided to run. The 42-year-old served ten years in the Texas House before making the leap to the U.S. House in 2013, and he and his twin brother, Julián—who served as HUD Secretary under Obama—have been discussed as possible candidates to run against Abbott before. Joaquin Castro had no comment in response to the Morning News‘s article, but should he decide to run, he’d have a tough road ahead. It’s been nearly 25 years since a Texas Democrat has won a statewide race.

Shaky Ground
Irving was hit by a 2.6 magnitude earthquake on Thursday morning, according to the Dallas Morning News. This was the second quake in Irving in less than a month. The region was rattled by a 3.1 magnitude quake in late August—the strongest quake since May 2015, when Irving and Dallas experienced dozens of earthquakes over a span of several months, according to the Morning News. Researchers were able to tie those quakes to wastewater disposal from gas operations in North Texas. Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency said there was a strong possibility that earthquakes in North Texas were the result of oilfield wastewater disposal wells, but oil and gas companies have consistently rejected these claims, as has the Texas Railroad Commission, which is tasked with regulating the industry. The recent quakes came after a lengthy quiet period. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey didn’t record any earthquakes strong enough to be felt in the area in 2016.

No Water Beds
A plan to house hundreds of residents in Port Arthur who were displaced by Harvey on floating barges was nixed Thursday, according to the Port Arthur News. Mayor Derrick Freeman had announced in a Facebook post earlier this week that about 600 people would be housed on the barges, with the city prepared to provide them three meals a day and laundry services. Port Arthur was apparently just waiting for a thumbs-up from FEMA before they could get started moving people out of shelters and onto the barges, but the federal agency informed the city on Thursday that the barges would not be arriving in Port Arthur. “I was told by FEMA representatives that the barges did not pass Coast Guard inspection and they won’t be coming,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told the News. “They’re working on alternative arrangements.” Though they’d been used before to house people displaced by Hurricane Sandy, the Louisiana barges were apparently deemed unsafe. “They had guardrails down, and all kinds of safety violations,” Branick told the Beaumont Enterprise.


WHAT WE’RE READING


Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.

Benzene levels are high in southeast Houston after Harvey, but the EPA won’t tell you that Texas Tribune

Police raided a Port Arthur nursing home Thursday amid allegations of negligence after residents were evacuated during Harvey Beaumont Enterprise

J.J. Watt doesn’t have a plan yet for how to distribute the $33 million he raised for Harvey relief Houston Press

A teen received a citation while wearing nothing but polka-dot boxers because he stripped down after being sprayed by a skunk while illegally hunting rabbits on the roadside in Fate Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Rockport slowly begins to rebuild after being destroyed by Harvey Corpus Christi Caller-Times