The State of Texas: July 28, 2014
Photos of the Day
Not much can top a lazy ride on your lawnmower on a summer’s eve, except, maybe, turning that lawnmower into a souped-up jimmy and speeding it around a dirt track. Business Insider has a wonderful photo essay from photographer Jennifer Boomer about our state’s fun little tradition of lawnmower racing, which started out as a joke but got real serious real fast.
Boom Blame — The two fertilizer companies being sued in connection with the 2013 West, Texas, explosion “argued in a state district court in Waco that the city of West … had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 2013 blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion,” reports the Associated Press. “The fertilizer suppliers are now seeking to have the city designated as a ‘responsible third party’ in lawsuits filed against the companies.” The list of people and groups the companies wishes to name as a “responsible third party” will not make them particularly popular among, well, anybody. “The motion from CF Industries also seeks to designate an unknown ‘John Doe,’ who the motion says may have started the fire, and the makers of a golf cart, which was inside West Fertilizer and may have caused the fire through a potential electrical short,” reports the Waco Tribune. The companies also “contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place.” And what about the state lawmakers who are reluctant to increase oversight of ammonium nitrate facilities? Who knows. Considering the lawsuits’s scope, it may eventually come to that. “About 200 plaintiffs, including families of those killed and injured, have filed lawsuits in the wake of the blast. State District Judge Jim Meyer has divided them into three trials, with the first scheduled to begin in July 2015.”
A New Sheriff in Town — “Interim Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra cleared a major hurdle Saturday to earning his position full-time when nearly 70 percent of the county’s Democratic Party precinct chairs voted to make him the party’s nominee for sheriff in November,” according to The Monitor. But this is just the beginning of the process. There won’t be a complete one-eighty for the law enforcement department that’s seen more scandal and corruption than a Sergio Leone film. “Guerra said sweeping changes in operations at the Sheriff’s Office would not come as a result of the nomination.” After securing his party’s support, Guerra continued his cautious tone for dealing with the Hidalgo situation that recently saw, among a few scandals, the sheriff pleading guilty to corruption charges. “‘I have been criticized for not cleaning house at the Sheriff’s Office,’ he said. ‘I assure you that all credible complaints are being investigated. Ask yourself this: If one of your loved ones had been accused, do you want a sheriff who will ruin lives over chisme [gossip]? Or do you want a sheriff who will enforce the law fairly and provide justice without bias?'” If you’re a Republican, live in the area and have an inclination toward law and order, that party is accepting applications for its sheriff candidate until August 1.
Minor Targets — Unaccompanied minor migrants are taking hits from both criminals and politicians. From the latter, U.S. Senator John Cornyn and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar have begun making a public pitch for their bipartisan plan to vastly speed up the deportation process. As the Dallas Morning News reports, the odd couple appeared Sunday on ABC’s This Week together. “My view is a solution beats no solution any day,” said Cornyn. That solution, of course, “would allow removal of such migrants within days of illegal entry into the United States unless they have a valid asylum claim.” As for the criminal element seeking to take advantage of the minors, the FBI appears to have made no progress uncovering the recent spat of scams, the predators of which “use private information about the [unaccompanied migrant children] to contact their family members and demand payment for bogus processing and travel expenses needed to reunite the kids with their relatives,” according to the Associated Press. “The FBI is trying to determine how many people have been victimized by the scheme,” in which “scammers have requested payments ranging from $300 to $6,000 and have called relatives in 12 states, including Alabama, Florida and Massachusetts.”
Corpus Christi Congeniality — The beach vibe really suits Corpus Christi. The town was “the only place in Texas to be named one of the happiest cities in the nation,” reports the San Antonio Express-News. “The honor comes from a working paper, Unhappy Cities, from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. The study named the 10 happiest and unhappiest cities in the nation based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other data, including age, income, race and sex.” While this is great news, remember that Texas is a very varied place. Just last year, Beaumont was called one of the saddest places in the country. Also suspect: “Six cities in Louisiana made the list of happiest cities in the nation.”