The State of Texas: May 14, 2014
Video of the Day
The folks at the New York Times have a wondeful mini-documunetary about Texas courtroom sketch artist Gary Myrick. It’s art as craft as public service. If the man and his profession sound familar that’s because the project was inspired by this 2012 piece by Texas Monthly‘s own John Spong.
Texas By The Numbers
How Crime Pays — Number of six-figure lawsuits settled by the Dallas PD since 2011: Ten. Total payout: $10 million. Number of cases in the past six months: three. Payout: $1 million. Lawsuit payouts between 2006 and 2010: About $1.6 million. Largest settlement to date: $1.15 million.
Engineered to Succeed — Number of engineers that have graduated from Texas A&M: a milestone 100,000. Number of years that degree has been offered: 134. Number of 2014 engineering graduates: 1,400. Year A&M gave out its first engineering degree: 1880.
Harder, Faster, Stronger — Expected total of daily barrels for June oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale: 1.4 million. Expected daily increase from May’s figures: 27,000. Expected June average, per rig, for new wells: 476. May: 470. Average from June, 2007: 36.
False Alarm — Last night’s planned execution, the nation’s first since the botched Oklahoma one, didn’t happen, and it wasn’t because of secret death drug providers or the possibility of another failed attempt. “[Inmate Robert] Campbell’s lawyers argued that the state knew that Campbell was intellectually disabled but did not let his defense team know that,” according to NPR. “Because of that evidence, the [Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals] ruled that Campbell’s lawyers could not fairly prepare a claim of ineligibility for the death penalty.” It really was down to the wire, in more ways than one. Campbell had just two and a half hours left before his execution time, and his reported IQ is 69 (Texas death penalty minimum is 70). His lawyers are now expected to argue that Campbell should be disqualified from capital punishment.
Teacher Revolt — There’s about to be a big fight in Texas regarding the new teacher evaluation system. Or at least that’s the warning from the Texas Tribune, which details how the state’s overhaul of the system—to keep in line with federal waiver requirements—has “drawn opposition from a range of sources, including teacher groups and each of the state’s candidates for governor.” The new requirements, of course, would mean “school districts base 20 percent of teacher evaluations — which are used for pay and employment decisions — on ‘student growth.; data that includes standardized test scores”. But Texas hath no fury like a teacher scored. Not only are the gubernatoral candidates opposing the measure but both lite guv candidates are making it clear they don’t want to put teachers in timeout either. So how is this all going to play out? The commissioner of the Texas Education Agency would “never ever attempt to circumvent or violate the law,” according to a spokeswoman. But … “if legislators believed that the law related to evaluations needed to be clarified, they could do that during the 2015 legislative session.”
Dry As It Ever Was — The state climetologist has some potentially bad news for all of us. Or, rather, a very frightening proposition: the record-breaking droughts might-could-possibly be “the new normal. …The drought that has South Texas in its grip is among the top five extended dry spells in the past 500 years, and soon may rise to the top three,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. “‘The question arises, is this something that is going to be the new normal?’ state Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon told the Edwards Aquifer Authority board a day after the year’s heaviest rainfall, 2.5 inches, brought some relief, but not enough to even dent the drought.” Also part of Texas’s possible new normal: complete disaster. “We’re in one of those parts of the world where we could see both worse droughts and worse floods.”
Disinformation — Employees and/or anyone related to the travel site TripAdvisor is best advised to stay clear of Texas if they value their lives. The reason? The website “just published a list of the best barbecue states in America. Texas ranked third behind Georgia and North Carolina barbecue,” according to KVUE. In the piece, Texas Monthly‘s one-and-only expert on such matter, Daniel Vaughn, had a rather astute commentary as to whether or not TripAdvisor knows what the heck it’s talking about. “Well, of course not.”