The State of Texas: June 25, 2014
History of the Day
Before Wendy Davis, before Ann Richards, there was “Ma” Ferguson, who died this day in 1961. Texas’s first female governor (and the country’s second), was first elected in 1925 and served a second term a few years later. Break out your seventh-grade history book, and read about this very fascinating lady, who can be seen below in her Texas best:
Texas By The Numbers
Incoming — Increase of the personal income of Texans in the first quarter of 2014: 1.3 percent. Increase during previous twelve-month span: 4.9 percent. National increase during that same time period: 3.6 percent. Texas’s rank among other states: third. Amount of nation’s mining earnings in first quarter: $8.6 billion. Amount of those earning that came from Texas: more than half.
God’s Profit — Number of members at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood megachurch: 43,500. Lakewood’s annual budget: $70 million. Net profit of Olsteen’s services: $43 million. Olsteen worth: $56.5 million. Olsteen’s yearly salary: $0.
Out-Gunned — Number of museums in Texas: 2,029. Libraries: 877. Gun retailers: 5,680. Number of counties with the same number of gun retailers and combined museums-and-libraries: 23. Counties with more learning than guns: 61. More guns than learning: 160.
Major, Minor Problems — As the dire situation with undocumented children crossing to the United States continues, officials are sandbagging the best they can. Not only have state officials made visits to the holding areas, but the “U.S. government plans to turn an empty 55,000-square-foot warehouse in South Texas into a processing facility for unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally,” reports the Associated Press. Construction permits “reveal plans for four fence-enclosed pods inside a corrugated steel warehouse in McAllen that could eventually accommodate about 1,000 children.” It’s obviously not nearly enough since “More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been arrested since October after entering the United States illegally, a 99 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.” The Texas Tribune has calculated a somewhat smaller (but still alarming) figure of 33,500, and the publication’s latest story says health officials are calling the surge “a looming medical crisis.” Burning some shoe leather, Texas Monthly‘s own Erica Grieder was down in the Rio Grande Valley sector and has a wonderful quick-take on how this whole mess got going and where the real trouble will start: namely, with political compromise. “Democrats have reacted to the humanitarian dimension of the story; Republicans are more focused on the security side. Both aspects of the situation should be addressed.”
Take Me Home, Alamo — Phil Collins’s obsession with the Alamo has made him the butt of more than a few jokes, but Collins recently won over the hearts of Texans yesterday when the Texas General Land Office announced that “the pop star has agreed to donate his [Alamo] collection, which is thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars, to the state. For free. All of it,” reports Texas Monthly senior editor John Spong. That collection includes a lot of stuff only a true buff would love enough, like “hundreds of documents, ranging from a letter Stephen F. Austin wrote from a Mexican prison in January, 1834 and Sam Houston’s original 1835 land grant for property in East Texas, to the signed receipt for thirty beeves that Travis brought into the Alamo on the day the siege began, plus artifacts like … a sword belt believed to have been worn by Travis when he died atop the northern wall, and a shot pouch that Crocket is thought to have given a Mexican soldier just before he was executed.” So, thanks Phil. It really is an amazing gift. Now if, against all odds, you could just get Santa Anna’s wooden leg from that pesky Illinois museum, we’d be a real easy lover.
Swamp Water — Poor Houston. Its glass may be half full, but apparently it’s full of foul-tasting water. Thanks to its unfortunate geographic location, the water’s always had a bit of a dirty reputation, but, apparently, its gotten worse. “The city’s 311 service request line has received more than 200 bad tasting water complaints between Friday and Saturday,” reports the Chronicle. “Prior to the weekend, there were only 13 complaints in all of June, according to data on the city’s website.” Residents are saying the water taste like algae, “like that decaying smell that you get from vegetation in water.” Officials say the problem is an all-natural one, the result of “increased levels of a naturally-occurring compound in our upstream surface water supplies.”
Here Come De Judge, Again — Looks like court is back in session for the long-running school finance case. The state had attempted to have the presiding judge, John Dietz, removed for appearing to be rather partial in the matter (sending emails to the opposing team’s attorney has that effect). But a visiting judge, in Austin to judge the judge on his possible poor judgment, ruled His Honor will retain the honor. The state had argued that Dietz knew full well what he was doing when he and his office corresponded with attorneys for the school districts seeking about $2 billion in return of education funds. Whether or not there was actually any malfeasance, this case is probably going to be a little bit more awkward for the Attorney General’s side, which hammered away even after the decision. “It is important for the general public to have the opportunity to determine whether the ultimate decision in the school finance case is made with the objectivity and impartiality that justice requires,” said a spokesman. “Failure to do so would undermine confidence in our judicial system and the rule of law.” The state has yet to say whether they’ll file an appeal.