The State of Texas: Nov. 26, 2013
Goodbye ‘Star Maker’
Ever gone to the Capitol, stood in the Rotunda, looked up, and saw that big, beautiful star of Texas floating at the top? Then you should pay your respects to William “Bill” Williamson, who recently went to that big dome in the sky. A blue-collar Michelangelo, Williamson “dropped out in the eighth grade so he could pick up the sheet metal trade from his father,” and “his commercial work over the years involved things like repairing air conditioning ducts,” according to the Austin American-Statesman obituary. Below, his most iconic work. Behold:
Modern Day Homelessness — Even within Texas’s little oil boom there’s plenty of bust. Just in time to remember what you should be thankful for, the Midland Reporter-Times has a fascinating look at the area’s unique homeless problem. And it’s “homeless” in the most technical sense: “Men, women and families who work full time but can’t afford high monthly rents brought on by the supercharged economy.” One Salvation Army facility manager estimated that a person has to make about $22 an hour to afford a place, and data found that “one-third of Midland’s homeless work full-time and another quarter work part-time.” All this helps explain the story’s comically sad details, like the Sally parking lot, which is “overflowing with vehicles, including — at one point in time — a silver Mercedes Benz.”
Perfect Qualifications — What’s the best way the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas could prove it’s no longer unethical? Hiring away the executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission is a good start. Which is exactly what CPRIT did when it announced yesterday that David Reisman would become the new chief compliance office, according to the Texas Tribune. Resiman will “oversee compliance and planning for CPRIT’s grant award process,” which is a good thing, since, remember, CPRIT did approve $56 million in grants without much peer review, say nothing of the alleged cronyism. Now, if only the same sound judgment could be made when putting qualified folks in charge of women’s health and reviewing biology textbooks.
Payday Groan — Houston’s fearless mayor, Annise Parker, is taking a brave stand against the city’s predatory payday loan industry, heroically pushing a restrictive ordinance, despite litigious and economic threats from the bullies. At least, that’s how the news reads at the Texas Observer. “The proposed Houston ordinance is similar to those passed in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio,” and it’s one that’s definitely for-the-people. Except … the ordinances, including Houston’s, don’t cap the lender’s interest rates but rather cap the size of loans requested by the lendee. Of course, it’s all “designed to help break the ‘cycle of debt’ many consumers fall into,” which is a nice way of saying that people who take out these loans can’t handle their own finances (it’s worth noting that ninety percent of all payday loans are repaid on time). A representative for a social justice organization said Houston’s move is “a really big statement,” though what that statement is still isn’t exactly clear.