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The State of Texas: Nov. 26, 2013

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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:

Daily Roundup

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.

Thin Blue Line, Crossed — Texas is making national news again, and yeah, it’s not for great reasons. On Saturday, a San Antonio Police Officer was arrested for allegedly handcuffing, then raping, a nineteen-year-old woman he’d pulled over during a traffic stop. The officer in question has said the charges are false, but the story is still making the rounds in nearly every major publication from here to New York. The thinnest of silver linings in this horrendous case is that the SAPD doesn’t appear to be protecting its own for the sake of it, with Chief William McManus calling the allegations “unthinkable” and “I can’t express in words how disappointed and angry I am about this. I am at a loss for words … I am outraged.” Also, the woman bravely reported the crime immediately. SAPD officials revealed that there was similar accusation against the officer in the past, although that woman later refused to participate in the investigation. The officer has been released on $20,000 bond will continue to receive pay, pending an indictment.

Clickity Bits

This Man Has Spent the Past Thirty-Three Years in Jail For an Overturned Conviction and a Retrial That Never Happened

We Number One … in Thanksgiving Turkey Fires

Dallas’s Lil Bro, Fort Worth, Is Now the Official City of Hate

Not Really Something to Go Whooping and Hollering About

Headline As-Is: North Texas Bathroom Bandit Steals Parts, Flushes Away Businesses’ Money

Necessary But Boring: Lawmakers Argue Over Electricity Market Redesign

When the Wife Says It, You Know It’s True

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