The State of Texas: March 18, 2015
SXSW of the Day
Your semi-regular dose of McConaughey is here. This time it’s in the form of a pretty funny skit from Jimmy Kimmel who is in Austin for the week taping his show. Local video store, Vulcan Video, gets a lot of love in this send up to VHS:
Yes, the Midland police needs to protect and serve, but they sure took away a lot of fun when the city’s “bomb squad recently lit the fuse to 20,000 pounds of seized fireworks near Big Spring,” writes the Reporter-Telegram. On the plus side, they did record it for posterity:
Texas By The Numbers
Sticker Shock – Number of drivers affected by the Department of Motor Vehicles printing error of renewal forms for their revised registration/inspection stickers: 320,000. As a percentage of all Texas drivers: 16 percent. What the renewal fee should have cost: $14.25. What drivers were led to believe the fee cost, thanks to the error: $0.00.
Perry Price Tag – Amount, per year, taxpayers paid to have Rick Perry travel around the world, as currently tallied: $1 million. Cost of food: $600,000. Cost of Italy trip: $69,620.98. Israel: $13,582.09. Switzerland: $39,038.56.
Rough Road – TxDOT can’t seem to catch a break. In addition to its epic printing error of registration/inspection renewal forms, the agency “will be giving back about $1.7 million to tollway users who have been over-billed,” reports the Texas Tribune. “Last month, TxDOT officials told a state Senate committee that it had found approximately 30,000 Texas drivers with valid TxTag accounts that erroneously received bills in the mail for using the state’s toll roads, which are charged at a higher rate.” In addition, the agency is “continuing to find TxTag accounts that were improperly billed following refunds to 31,000 accounts earlier this year.” As the piece notes, those are only the most recent problems. Things got messy when Xerox took over tolling operations, after which, “Texas drivers have encountered trouble accessing accounts online and long wait times on customer service calls.”
Dishonorable Charge – The state’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the basic rights of gay people has resulted in another embarrassing situation, this one involving the brave men and woman who fight for our freedoms. “Three same-sex military couples were told last week that their ID cards could not be processed at the Texas National Guard’s headquarters in Austin because their marriages were not recognized in the Lone Star State,” reports the San Antonio Express-News. The ID cards are used to get, among other things, military benefits. To its credit, the National Guard is calling the incident a “mistake” saying “the clerk was an inexperienced employee not acting under guard policy.” The Texas National Guard would have you believe that the incident had nothing to do with a culture of discrimination of course, but rather is a mistake due to “budget cuts that have decimated the ID office’s staff and left it with a single worker.” On the bright side, “One couple turned away last week was scheduled to return Tuesday to Camp Mabry, where [a spokeswoman] said officials would ‘hand-walk them through.’”
True Longview Detective – There’s something of a murder mystery in Longview. “In the first two months of 2015, the city of 81,000 has had six homicides — more than it had all of last year,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “The recent spasm of violence has startled residents of the small oil-and-gas town and focused more attention on a police department already under scrutiny for the death of a 17-year-old with a history of mental illness.… Most of the killings have occurred in a low-income area south of downtown, and all but one of the victims was a minority.” As the local News -Journal noted, the city only had five total homicides in 2014, but has now “already exceeded the national yearly average of 5.3 homicides per 100,000 people.” One church has organized a community call to action and police announced a “multi-layered” effort to end the violence, including “boosting patrols in the area.” Officers are also being “charged with getting out of their patrol cars and shaking the hands of residents not used to seeing officers as allies.”
Back In Your Seats – Fans with special seating at Texas football stadiums have not had the greatest luck recently. First there was the Cowboys stadium ruling that found the organization blameless in the 2011 Super Bowl seating mix up. Now a judge has approved the rennovations at Kyle Field, denying a request by fans to block the $485 million project. Alumni and wealthy endowment donors were concerned that they would lose their primo seats and parking thanks to the renovations. “The plaintiffs wanted the judge to issue a temporary restraining order to ‘maintain the status quo’ and prevent the foundation from redistributing their seats during the reseating program that runs through May,” writes the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The 12th Man Foundation didn’t pull punches when it came to their rich benefactors. Attorneys “said in court documents … that the plaintiffs have known about — and participated in — the reseating process for nearly two years but waited until three days before the reassignment was to begin to ask the court to stop it. ‘In essence, three disgruntled donors are trying to hold all the donors hostage while they complain about their seats.’” It’s a rather awkward situation since donors are paying for half the renovations through their seating contracts.