The State of Texas: May 21, 2014
Video of the Day
Even the most suspect awards are worth revisiting. The Austin American-Statesman has a lovely little short on Larry Brill, who won the 1994 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for “worst writer in America.” Twenty years later, Brill is now attempting the opposite with his new novel. “That is my goal, to get on the best-seller list. I would be the only person in the world whose ever gone form being the worst writer to being the best writer.”
Tweet of the Day
For his ill-advised comments about San Antonio women earlier this month, Charles Barkley is still suffering the fury of the River City’s fairer sex. What’s worse, now such high-profile ladies like Tim Duncan’s girlfriend, Vanessa Macias, have joined in the fray, wearing shirts at the Spurs/OKC playoff game. Barkley don’t know … what he’s gotten himself into:
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballSource) May 20, 2014
Texas By The Numbers
Ruff Distinction — Number of Texas dog bite insurance claims in 2013: 207. In 2012: 236. Texas’s overall rank among other states: Fourth. In 2012: Third. Estimated number of dog bites nationally: 4.5 million. Highest number of dog biting claims made to State Farm: 449. Offending state: California.
Road Blocked — Amount per year Texas could lose if the federal Highway Trust Fund goes bankrupt: $3.8 billion. Portion of state’s transportation budget: 44 percent. Estimated amount proposed gas tax revision could bring in: $1.3 billion. That amount as a portion of current federal transportation funding: 34 percent. Only state to lose more if federal funding dries up: California.
Security Threat — Number of guns seized at U.S. airports in the past two years: 3,369. Number of those seizures occurring in Texas: 842. Portion of overall seizures: 24 percent. Texas’s rank among all states: First. DFW’s rank among Texas airports: First. Number of guns seized: 176.
Bad Teacher — Parents and kids aren’t the only ones who dislike the STAAR test, the latest trend in standardized testing. Last week, Paris ISD superintendent, Paul Jones, posted a friendly, informative, seven-paragraph note on the district’s website. Among other things, it stated that “These assessments do not reflect the quality of teaching or learning in our classrooms. Instead, they reflect a punitive; one size fits all test-driven system. … Our students, not the state assessment, will be our main focus and top priority.” Apparently, the item went a little viral,” and Jones received more than 75 responses from as far away as Thailand, according to the Dallas Morning News. Jones spoke with reporter Jeffrey Weiss, whose been following the story, and explained exactly why he wrote it. Short test answer: he was venting thoughtfully to his principals. “And then the district tech guy put it on the home page.” The class lesson from all this is that teachers really do care about what’s best for your kids—and when in doubt, blame tech support.
Jim Crowsfeet Laws — While the state’s new voter ID law doesn’t seem to have been a major issue since it was implemented, there does seem to be one group repeatedly affected: Nonagenarians. A little story that, only a few days ago, was just a simple item in the Waco Tribune has now been picked up by none other than the New York Daily News with the rather New York-ified headline, “Texas officials won’t allow 92-year-old woman to get voter ID.” Ninety-two-year-old Ruth Barber has reportedly been unable to vote because she can’t find her birth certicate, and it’s not because old people lose things. “I’m sure [my birth] was never reported because I was born in a farmhouse with a coal oil lamp,” said Barber. “Didn’t have a doctor, just a neighbor woman come in and deliver me.” A DPS spokesman said that this kind of situation doesn’t often happen, but that they’re working on resolving the problem. As they should. Back in November, the ninety-years-young former U.S. House speaker, Jim Wright, had his initial voter ID card request denied by DPS.
Friday Night Lights Out — Bad news for anyone hoping that the massive Allen stadium would rally in the fourth quarter and overcome its architectural opponent. “Significant structural problems at Allen High School’s $60 million Eagle Stadium will force the stadium to remain closed for the 2014 season,” according to CBS-DFW. Officials knew there were issues with the structure that included cracks and shrinkage, but they were optimistic the stadium would reopen for the next season. Now, it appears that the “full extent of the damage will not be known until June, when [the investigating engineer group] completes its study and reports back to the district. Repair options are currently being analyzed to procure cost estimates for the repairs.” To make matters worse, the “school will be forced to play all home games in neighboring Plano in 2014.”
Hazardous Litter — If you thought it was bad enough that Texas was made to contain nuclear waste after the New Mexico dump site had a radiation leak, then this story is purr-fect. According to the Associated Press, workers at the West Texas facility are “closely monitoring” the New Mexico containers because the packing material used in the drums may “pose a potentially ‘substantial’ threat to public health.” And what, pray tell, is the packing material used in the radioactive drums? Kitty litter. Yes, you read that right. “The kitty litter soaks up any liquid before drums of waste are sealed and shipped. Officials are investigating whether a switch from non-organic to organic litter is to blame for the leak.”
Houston Hazards — There’s a reason everyone in Texas has a car: in these parts, walking can be dangerous. That’s the takeaway from a study by the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America. “Texas ranked as the 10th most dangerous state for walking commuters, with nearly 4,200 pedestrian deaths between 2003 and 2012. That’s roughly 10 percent of such deaths nationally during that time period,” according to the Texas Tribune. As for depressing facts to throw out at your next dinner party, Texas has seen 164 pedestrian fatalities this year and “the reports says the number of [national] pedestrian deaths in the past decade — 47,000 — is 16 times higher than the number of people who died in natural disasters.” In the report, H-town was named the nation’s seventh-most dangerous city for pedestrians. And the numbers of fatalities for black pedestrians is “60 percent higher than it is for non-Hispanic whites.”