The State of Texas: January 21, 2016

A Houston madam finally goes to jail, revisiting the Waco shooting (again), and Big Bend could get even bigger.

I Scream Thursday

It just breaks your heart. A Farmersville Dairy Queen was absolutely obliterated when a local fire truck ran into it. Only two people were hurt, though it could’ve been a lot more—the DQ is a popular place in the town. Said one eyewitness, “It was just crazy. It looked fake… like one of those fake videos you see that didn’t really happen.”

Daily Roundup

Goodbye, Madam —Here’s some good news for the state and Houston as it continues its crackdown on human trafficking. It also sounds like a horrific scene from a Robert Rodriguez movie. “The madam of a brothel that operated in Houston’s East End for years was sentenced to life in federal prison Wednesday for her role as the leader of an international sex-trafficking ring that forced women and girls into prostitution,” writes the Houston Chronicle. “A cantina was located downstairs, and hidden doorways and staircases led to a brothel upstairs where 17 rooms were rented out for sex. The number of men to come through there is staggering, with records presented in court showing rooms were rented out 64,296 during a 19 month period ending in 2013. That is far more people than it would take to fill Minute Maid Stadium’s nearly 41,000 seats.” As the story details, the women from Mexico and Central America were lured by pimps with promises of the good life in the U.S. At least 40 people having been prosecuted in connection to the brothel.

Brisket Battle — There’s another brisket fight here in Texas, but for once, it doesn’t have to do with restaurants competing with each other or thieves taking meat to the black market. Instead, everyone’s favorite gas station, Buc-ee’s is suing its brisket supplier, Sadler’s Smokehouse, for “‘unilaterally’ raising the cost of barbecue,” the Houston Chronicle reports. As the story details, “The two companies made an agreement in 2013 on how they’d buy and price select smoked brisket, according to the lawsuit, which included a copy of the pact. The deal included a provision that the price could not change unless Sadler’s sent a written notice to Buc-ee’s if it had a ‘significant change in circumstances’ such as higher freight costs, according to the lawsuit.” Buc-ee’s said it never received a notice, though the increased price of the gas station’s brisket has cost them $550,000.

Costs & Cossacks — If you’re not tired of reading about the Waco biker shootout, this one’s for you. The Houston Press has dropped its own contribution to the “what really happened” collection with a detailed story of the shootout that left nine dead. What separates the Press‘s story from others, however, is its focus on the Cossacks, the other biker club at Twin Peaks that’s received far less attention than the Bandidos. Most interestingly, the story focuses on Mingus, the small town where the Cossacks established their base. “Choosing Mingus as a home base halfway between Dallas-Fort Worth and Abilene, the Cossacks earned the gratitude of locals when they rolled in on the weekends and spent money at their bars, restaurants and stores,” writes Julie Lyons. “In the early days, the Cossacks would pitch tents in a field and hold weekend gatherings. They later shifted to a club called City Limits … [and] in recent years, Cossacks leaders purchased a large plot of land on Parsons Road behind Mingus, where they put up a few shelters and staged weekend ‘blowouts’ a few times a year, attracting as many as 300 people.” The Press‘s story works harder than most at providing a rounded look at the Cossacks without devolving into hand-wringing, and it’s definitely worth a read for those interested in the clubs. In related news, the city of Waco has applied for a federal grant to help with the costs incurred while investigating the shootout. “The city is seeking a $248,841 Justice Assistance Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The bulk of the requested funding, more than $240,000, would go to the Waco Police Department for overtime and equipment,” according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. In addition, “McLennan County officials have announced plans to seek a separate grant of about $250,000 from the state of Texas to defray the cost of housing and feeding the 177 people arrested the day of the deadly shootout, along with overtime for deputies.”

Bigger Bend — A good, ol’ fashioned land trade is set to give Big Bend State Park and the public even more pristine land. The park is aiming to trade 607 acres with a private ranch in exchange for 1,185 acres. Since its creation in 1988, the 310,000-acre park has added land in a piecemeal fashion. “The deal ‘simplifies knowing where the property line is, which is better for TPWD and our neighbor — the existing boundary wanders around,'” said a spokesman for the agency, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The spokesman said “the new land would be similar to what the state was giving up — lots of rolling terrain,” as well as an “important water feature.” As the story notes, Parks and Wildlife is doing things a bit differently than the last time it tried to acquire a large swath of land back in 2005, namely aiming for public transparency. “With little public notice, Parks and Wildlife officials had hammered out a deal involving 46,000 acres of parkland, valued at roughly $45 an acre.” After some public outcry, the department halted the deal, although some good did come out of it. “After the kerfuffle, Parks and Wildlife commissioners approved a new policy governing major land transactions, with the goal of keeping the public abreast of the department’s plans to sell, buy or trade property.” This time, there’s been an advertised public hearing and officials say “they had received no advance negative response from the public.”

Clickity Bits

Unrest and No Peace: Another Funeral Home Disaster

Another Wrench in the Legal Battle Surrounding Ken Paxton

The First Texas Execution of the New Year

The List of Private Colleges Opting Out of “Campus Carry” Grows

Looks Like Clinton Is Finally Looking to Make Her Impact in Texas

The Man Who Inspired Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”

Crashing Oil Prices Hit Former Texas Boomtowns

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