The State of Texas: May 12, 2014
Headline of the Day
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reporting on the former Speaker of the House
Ahhh, prom season in the twenty-first century: Tweets and semi-celebrity victories. After a Twitter campaign that started out as “a joke,” a sophomore in Crosby managed to score a date with a Texan cheerleader. Highlights include the fact that it only took 27 hours for the sophomore to get the needed 10,000 retweets and that his mom opened up her first Twitter account to help him in that effort. It was also a blind prom date. All the kid knew about “Caitlyn before they met was that her favorite color is pink and she likes sushi.” Which, to be fair, is more than some high school boys know about their real dates.
Settling Dust, And Lawsuits — Litigation surrounding the Texas A&M bonfire disaster has finally concluded, fifteen years after the log collapse that killed twelve people and injured 27. “In April, the final defendants, Zachry Construction Corp. in San Antonio and Scott-Macon Equipment, which has a San Antonio office, reached settlements in a lawsuit filed by the parents of four students who were killed and three injured survivors,” according to the Star-Telegram. The piece does a great job detailing all the numerous courtroom efforts, in which it seems everybody got sued. The first suits in 2001, “named about 65 defendants, many of whom were student leaders … as well as the university and A&M officials and the construction companies.” The students settled for $5.85 million. Then, in 2008, “a dozen Aggie administrators agreed to pay $2.1 million to about eight families of those killed or injured. And then, “[o]ther victims were attached to a federal case that ended in 2007 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reconsider a lower-court ruling that Texas A&M officials could not be held responsible for the deaths and injuries.” This final lawsuit puts an ugly little bow on the matter, with one survivor concluding, “justice was done and we can move on.” Whether that means another Bonfire in the future is uncertain. The university hasn’t held a similar event since but promised that if they did, they would “provide architectural and engineering oversight by professionals who have no affiliation with the university.” For an in-depth retrospective, be sure to read the 2001 piece by Texas Monthly‘s own Paul Burka, as well as Pamela Colloff’s 2009 oral history on whether the tradition should return.
Thin Grey Line, Crossed — After a community uproar that attracted the likes of activist Quanell X and even the town’s own mayor making public protests, the officer who shot and killed a 93-year-old woman has been fired from the Hearne Police Department. The story attracted national attention, undoubtedly because of the age factor, and officials moved swiftly to conclude the matter just four days after the incident. The officer responded to the termination and community fury with some pretty direct and angry language. “The knee-jerk reaction … was not about whether [the woman] chose to create and perpetuate a life-threatening situation,” said the officer’s lawyer, according to CNN. The woman had been brandishing a gun and even fired a couple shots. “Rather, the city’s decision was about appeasing certain members of the community who want to make this case about [the woman’s] age, the fact she is African-American, or the fact she is a woman.” This isn’t the first time the officer has had an incident that the Associated Press diplomatically called a “fatal, on-the-job shooting.” The Texas Rangers are still investigating the latest incident.
Drafter Dodgers — Just how bad has the Longhorns’s football program been lately? Historically bad. “The Texas Longhorns have produced an astonishing amount of NFL talent over the years, but this year the school didn’t have a prospect drafted for the first time since 1937,” according to the NFL’s own Pravda. “Texas’ streak of having at least one of its prospects picked in the draft had been the longest in the country.” It get’s worse. “[F]ormer Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who finished his career at SMU after transferring, was taken in the sixth round by the St. Louis Rams. In-state rival Texas A&M saw three players drafted — all in the first round — while Oklahoma produced four selections. To add insult to injury, all other FBS schools in the state had at least one player drafted.” Speaking of quarterbacks and people not named “Manziel,” the Dallas Cowboys explain why they didn’t draft either one. For starters, they still have Romo (which, debatable!). Also, they weren’t just that into an O-line this year, taking a total of seven defensive players, out of nine total draft picks.
Big Trouble in Little League — For today’s amazing near-miss, a single-engine airplane almost crashed into a little league game, “barely making it over the outfield fence before … [it] barreled into a fence at the edge of the SA 5 Diamonds’ baseball facilities,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. The plane apparently lost power on approach to the nearby landing strip. And who first saw the oncoming disaster? Here’s the fun description from the Express-News: “a young boy playing outfield began sprinting from his position toward his dugout. People were yelling, ‘No! What are you doing?’ SA 5 Diamonds Vice President John Luna said. ‘He was the only one who saw it.'” Luckily, the pilot appears to be relatively unscathed and everyone else is doing just fine, especially since the kids now have an awesome story they get to tell the rest of their lives. The last time there was such a dangerously close call in pee wee baseball, it was when a parent almost forgot the post-game snacks.
Pay To Play — It was a rather somber weekend for the state’s strip clubs. “A state appeals court on Friday upheld the legality of the state’s so-called ‘pole tax’ on nude entertainment clubs, the latest decision in a six-year battle by Texas officials to collect the $5-per-customer fee from more than 200 strip clubs,” according to the Houston Chronicle. The strip club lobby had contended that the “law violated the Texas Constitution because it is an occupation tax from which 25 percent of the collections must go to public schools.” Unfortunately, the appeals court ruled that, like a stag party, the Legislature can spend the fun money however it wants. The strip clubs also lost their argument that the sin tax was not “equal and uniform” (lingerie modelling studios and porn arcades were exempt) as required by the state Constitution. The decision itself contained some expressly moral findings. Not everybody agreed. “‘It’s not a pole tax, it’s just a punishment tax,’ said a man who identified himself only as Derek, after he and several friends finished watching a dance routine. ‘The state is just looking for more money.'”