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The State of Texas: It’s Hot, Y’all

Plus: Ken Paxton gets a little financial help from his friends, Texas pre-K programs receive a boost in funding, and Austin’s Greenbelt endures a particularly deadly summer.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“We will take them all the way to the Texas Supreme Court if that’s necessary.”

 —Ari Bargil, an Institute for Justice attorney, to the Dallas Morning News. Bargil is fighting the City of Dallas on behalf of auto mechanic Hinga Mbogo, whose business the city is trying to shutter after the zoning plan for the East Dallas area his shop is in was changed. Mbogo’s shop has been there for 30 years. 


BIG NEWS


CANADIAN, TX - JULY 28: Cattle use a tree for shade as temperatures rose above 100 degrees in a pasture July 28, 2011 near Canadian, Texas. A severe drought has caused shortages of grass, hay and water, in much of the state, forcing ranchers to thin their herds or risk losing their cattle to the drought. The past nine months have been the driest in Texas since record keeping began in 1895, with 75% of the state classified as exceptional drought, the worst level. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CANADIAN, TX – JULY 28: Cattle use a tree for shade as temperatures rose above 100 degrees in a pasture July 28, 2011 near Canadian, Texas. A severe drought has caused shortages of grass, hay and water, in much of the state, forcing ranchers to thin their herds or risk losing their cattle to the drought. The past nine months have been the driest in Texas since record keeping began in 1895, with 75% of the state classified as exceptional drought, the worst level. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Heat wave
Texas summer is in full swing, and the mercury is expected to hit triple digits and stay there all across the state today and this week. The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories in 23 Texas counties, expecting extremely high temperatures in Austin, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, coastal cities including Houston, and even as far north as Amarillo, starting yesterday and extending through the weekend, according to the San Antonio CurrentIn Amarillo yesterday, the temperature recorded at the airport hit 106 degrees, shattering the 18-year-old daily record of 101, according to the Amarillo Globe-News. The high temperatures in Amarillo reportedly claimed the life of a woman who died of heat stroke in Palo Duro Canyon State Park on Monday afternoon. Amarillo’s forecast for the next three days shows temperatures are expected to rise above 100 and stay. In Lubbock, Wednesday and Thursday are predicted to hit 104 degrees, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The heat index in Austin rose to 109 on Tuesday, and more of the same is expected this week, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Coastal areas will feel heat indices of more than 110 degrees. As Houston’s KPRC notes, it can get even hotter in the sun, which adds another 10 to 15 degrees to the index temperature. You know the drill: stay in the shade, drink all of the water, keep your pets and livestock hydrated, and—if you have it—blast your air conditioning.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Friendly Lenders
Ken Paxton is pretty lucky to have friends like his. Paxton’s buddies have forked over nearly $330,000 to help pay the embattled attorney general’s legal fees. According to the Dallas Morning News, an annual personal financial statement Paxton was required to file sheds new light on how Paxton can afford his all-star legal team. Turns out, he’s gotten a big helping hand from some pretty powerful pals. The 24 donors range from prominent business owners to corporate vice presidents to familiar conservative allies. All were from Texas, except for a $10,000 gift from a California couple, a lawyer and a real estate agent from Newport Beach. According to the Texas Tribune, Paxton’s legal fees are expected to reach millions of dollars as his cases make their way through the system. Are these gifts even legal? Yeah, probably. According to the Houston Chronicle, “an official or his employee is free to accept a gift from a relative or longtime friend whose acquaintance has nothing to do with his state duties.” Still, Paxton was hammered by the Texas Democrats, who say he’s simply “exploiting an ethics loophole.”

Pre-K Cashes In
Texas awarded more than $116 million in grants to bolster pre-K programs in school districts across the state. According to the Austin-American Statesman, the huge payout covers 578 districts and charters, amounting to an extra $734 per pre-K student. The move isn’t entirely popular. As the Texas Tribune notes, conservatives have long opposed the pre-K support plan pushed by Governor Greg Abbott, claiming it’s just an expensive way to force kids into public education. Meanwhile, pre-K advocates had higher expectations for the bill, like mandating full-day pre-K or, well, more money. “It will be a challenge for school districts to turn these relatively small grants into sustained improvements in program quality and student performance,” Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, said in a statement. “These pre-K grants are a good step but state leaders will have to continue the $118 million per school year investment and support other community pre-K improvement efforts to see real returns for kids.”

Greenbelt Dangers
Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt has seen a spate of deaths recently, and city officials are trying to figure out what to do about it. According to KXAN, four people have died since May alone. A twenty-year-old soccer player for Southwestern University fell nearly 50 feet while hiking on Monday, and the other three deaths are believed to be the result of drownings. Public Safety Commissioners and Austin’s fire and police departments are discussing ways to keep Greenbelters safe—everything from installing warning signs at points along the trail where the water is particularly rough to increasing the fine for entering a closed waterway. EMS officials say that more frequent mile markers would help first responders, since many people who call 911 with emergencies along the Greenbelt don’t know where they are. “It’s deceptively familiar,” on Austin EMS official told KXAN. “People think they can go enjoy a day in the park and in reality it is much more rugged than they realize.”


WHAT WE’RE READING


The screwed-up love story of a drug smuggler and a border patrol agent Texas Tribune

Say it ain’t so, Buc-ee’s Houston Press

A veteran says he was told he couldn’t donate plasma because of his PTSD KENS

Here’s everything that’s coming with the new Texas Rangers stadium Dallas Morning News

Archaeologists are doing exploratory digs around the Alamo KHOU

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