The State of Texas: April 17, 2014
Photo of the Day
It’s not Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro but the Fellowship Church in Grapevine is attempting to create the largest drawing of Jesus, in chalk. Known as “Chalk Jesus,” the effort “spans nearly 17,000 square feet … took 6,700 individual pieces of chalk to create the portrait, and 125 bags of charcoal.”
One Year — On April 17, 2013, the town of West, Texas, was literally ripped apart by an explosion at the local fertilizer plant. Few need reminding that it was “a blast so powerful that it leveled nearby schools and homes, left a wide crater at the plant site, scattered debris miles away,” and killed fifteen people. In the past year, the town has made some progress in rehabilitating and rebuilding. Yesterday, “state officials say an additional $4.8 million in disaster assistance” will be handed over, bringing the total to $8 million. This comes just as state legislators consider more stringent requirements and regulations when it comes to fertilizer material. As for the residents of West, they’re very much ready to put the past behind them. “In some ways, I want to know, ‘Why did this happen?'” said Holly Harris, whose husband died saving another fireman, according to the Associated Press. “She is among those who have filed a lawsuit. ‘But maybe we’ll never know, and if we keep trying to figure it out, we’ll drive ourselves crazy.'” While “more than 100 people have filed lawsuits against Adair Grain Co., the plant’s operator … several residents told The Associated Press in interviews that they were trying not to blame anyone.” And Mayor Tommy Muska said he’s more concerned with helping the town move forward: “If you look back, you trip and fall.” For a momentary glance back, however, be sure to read the powerful story of the West volunteer fire department’s brave efforts from Texas Monthly‘s own Katy Vine. And Jeff Beckham details how the town has been getting back to normal in the most Texas of ways possible: football.
Mo’ Money, Some Problems — The good news: Texas’s economy continues to rise. The bad-ish news: It’s growing in a rather un-Texas way, that is, at a “modest” pace. Or at least that’s the word from the Dallas Fed. “Manufacturing, real estate and housing, energy and retailers all reported increased demand for their products and services … Most of the Dallas Fed’s industry contacts said prices held steady with some modest increases in certain sectors, suggesting that inflation was muted since the last Beige Book report in early March,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. Economically, Texas is still in need of two things: skilled labor for manufacturing, construction and oilfield services; and rain. Or as the Statesman so clevelry put it, “About the only sector under a figurative dark cloud in the region is the sector in dire need of an actual dark cloud.”
Down in the Mud Hole — Speaking of regions in desperate need of dark clouds, Lubbock may soon have a multi-million-dollar mudhole on its hands, which is great for taking the truck mudding, or for the mud-pie business, but terrible for anybody who wants a drink of water. Lake Alan Henry, which cost $245 million to create “lost about 4 billion gallons of water to evaporation in 2011 … twice as much as the city takes from the lake in a year,” according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “Today, the city’s only reservoir is a little more than 60 percent full [and] at its lowest level in more than a decade.” Even more unfortunate, is that the area has seen this before with its previous water source, Lake Meredith, about 200 miles north. Perhaps understandable, getting more rainwater and river inflows, city officials are trying to keep calm and carry on. “That’s the best we can do,” said one official. “We can’t see the future.”
No Paso — “A federal judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order against a portion of the state’s new abortion law Wednesday that would allow an El Paso abortion clinic to remain open,” according to the Dallas Morning News. The clinic, one of only three in the Valley and West Texas, had to shut down because its doctor was not in compliance with the portion of the new law requiring admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The case went to Judge Lee Yeakel, who had previously rejected that specific portion of the law because it was “without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” But the law is the law, and “while District Judge Lee Yeakel said he believed the plaintiffs proved that the clinic in El Paso and women seeking services there would be burdened by its closing, he could not grant the temporary restraining order because the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals disagrees, making the likelihood of the plaintiffs’ success in this case, a requirement for temporary relief, unlikely.”