Brace Yourself — … SXSW is coming. Can you feel it? The wildlife has gotten eerily quiet, and the ATM’s have suddenly begun charging double-digit service fees. On the heels of the festival’s 30th anniversary and the ultimate get—a keynote from a sitting president and first lady—the Austin American-Statesman takes a long (and pretty!) look Austin’s defining event. The big question the story tackles is “whether SXSW’s success spurred Austin’s rapid growth, or whether that growth was responsible for SXSW’s success,” though that itself is “a chicken-and-egg paradox.” That said, it kinda hard to deny that the ever-expanding conference didn’t spur serious growth and development in the state’s capital. And while it certainly started out as a music-centric event, the areas of true growth may reveal something about its current and future life. SXSW Interactive “had 33,825 registrants last year compared with 14,251 in 2010, an increase of 137 percent,” while “SXSW Film has had a similar increase in that time span, with last year’s 20,252 registrants more than doubling the 2010 figure of slightly under 10,000.” Apart from the chicken-or-egg question is the ongoing debate about how much SXSW can actually grow before it begins to convulse, then explode, like the universe itself. Only time will tell. But until then, be sure to read the piece.
Little Trouble in Big H — Houston was doing so well during the oil boom, as it does during every oil boom. But it’s like the whole city has the collective memory and planning skills of an Etch A Sketch when it comes to busts. At least three pieces over the past few days have pointed to one idea: “Houston’s screwed.” First, there are acts of God (i.e. hurricanes). “Houston’s perfect storm is coming — and it’s not a matter of if but when,” writes the Texas Tribune, speaking literally, and with super-fun graphics. “The city has dodged it for decades, but the likelihood it will happen in any given year is nothing to scoff at; it’s much higher than your chance of dying in a car crash or in a firearm assault, and 2,400 times as high as your chance of being struck by lightning. If a storm hits the region in the right spot, ‘it’s going to kill America’s economy,’ said Pete Olson, a Republican congressman from Sugar Land, a Houston suburb.” As if a storm wasn’t enough, the oil bust is now affecting local nonprofits. “Donations are down throughout the region. For the first time in years, the local United Way campaign will not surpass the total from the year before,” details the Houston Chronicle, providing more than one example of troubled charities. “With profits down, layoffs spreading and uncertainty about the duration of the oil downturn, some of the sources that contribute directly to the hundreds of local nonprofits are gone, going or unable to maintain previous levels of support.” And just to top it all off, the Thrillist named Houston number one on its list of “worst designed cities in the U.S.,” for which you can thank the the non-existent zoning laws. And yet, the city remains. For now …
New Town Slogan — In case you forgot about all the chaos happening in Crystal City, the Washington Post takes a look at the town less than a month after the wildly corrupt mayor and most of the city leaders were arrested by the FBI. And the story starts off so well! “Packs of dogs roam the streets … and dozens of vacant homes and businesses have their windows barred or boarded,” begins the very first sentence. Mercifully, the Post takes a slightly wider view of the whole scandal, but the state and area’s not much better for it. “The FBI has long waged a war against corruption in small towns across the country, but the problem seems to have grown particularly acute in the southern and western parts of Texas. In recent years, the feds have charged county officials involved in bid-rigging and kickback schemes, law enforcement officers who sold drugs they seized to other traffickers and even a state judge who took bribes for favorable rulings,” according to the story. “The FBI’s San Antonio Division launched 23 public corruption investigations in 2012, 51 in 2013 and 64 in 2014, authorities said.”
Cruz Control — How’s the absolute circus that is the GOP presidential race? Still ridiculous, but there do seem to be indications that our Senator Ted Cruz could be the antidote to Donald Trump. On Saturday, Cruz picked up caucus wins in Kansas and Maine, doing as well as Trump (Louisiana and Kentucky) and certainly better than Marco Rubio (way to grab the fake state of Puerto Rico). Even in Rubio’s home state of Florida, Cruz and his money men are looking to blow him out of the water. On Saturday, Cruz also won the straw poll at CPAC, the Woodstock for Republican dweebs. While Trump has called for “little” Rubio to drop out, the already-started conversation about Cruz being the best “real” conservative will no doubt kick it into another gear.