The State of Texas: November 19, 2015
Perry’s legal woes hang in the balance, another increase in migrant children, and the return of Bluebell’s Texas plant.
Recent rain has caused alligators to pop up in residential areas of Houston, and someone has to do the heavy lifting of getting those reptiles back into the wilderness. Thankfully, “Gator Girl” has come to the city’s rescue and turned into a local celebrity in the process.
— Grace White (@GraceWhiteKHOU) November 19, 2015
Perry Persuasions — Is our illustrious former governor one step closer to clearing his name, or can we expect even more lawyerly shenanigans for the next 100 years? Who knows! On Wednesday lawyers for Rick Perry and the state made their cases before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, as the Texas Tribune details: “Two issues were at play Wednesday. One was whether the remaining charge, abuse of power, should also be thrown out, effectively ending the 15-month-old case against Perry. The other issue was whether a statute should be reinstated that was struck down by the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals in July when it dismissed the coercion charge.” And how did those arguments go? It’s hard to say exactly, but the state prosecutor received the brunt of the grilling by the eight-judge panel in the first half of the hearing, with at least one judge openly skeptical that the prosecutors would actually be able to gather any more evidence before a theoretical trial. After the hearing, the state prosecutor said she was “able to make most of the arguments I wanted to make” and that “there were a lot of questions the judges I had, so I couldn’t get to everything.” Not exactly an enthusiastic post-game response. The court is expected to take its sweet time in making a decision.
No Homework — The Texas Board of Education is satisfied with the state’s textbooks, despite minor issues in the texts, such as, say, referring to slaves as “workers.” In a split vote Monday, the board decided not to “add an extra layer of scrutiny to the review of Texas textbooks,” according to the Dallas Morning News. The proposal by board member Thomas Ratliff is something he’s wanted to implement since 2011, he said, but the recent controversy over the caption about slaves in one geography textbook certainly helped push the matter to the top of the homework pile. “Texas textbooks are currently reviewed by panels that include parents, educators and other experts, but Ratliff said those who evaluate the textbooks already are ‘looking for too much’ as they try to ensure that the instructional materials are aligned with the state’s curriculum standards. He also said he didn’t know if the current panel members have the time or expertise to catch errors of fact.” Other board members said the current process is good enough. It’s probably for the best, seeing as just picking out the books is controversial enough, say nothing of arguing over “facts” with actual educators and “scholars.” Or, in the words of one board member in support of the fact checking, “The public perception of our process, unfortunately, is not positive.”
Unaccompanied Minors: The Sequel — It looks like the border reinforcement orchestrated by former governor Perry wasn’t quite enough. According to new numbers from the U.S. Border Patrol, “after a months-long decrease in solo child arrivals after the surge in summer 2014, the numbers are back up to their highest levels for early fall in at least six years,” writes the Houston Chronicle. “August and September, the most recent months with available data, have borne the brunt of the recent increase. In the Border Patrol’s Big Bend sector of Texas, the number of unaccompanied children apprehended trying to enter the country during that period averaged 24 between 2010 and 2014. This year agents tallied 319. Statewide, 7,390 unaccompanied children were caught crossing in those two months, and 85 percent increase over the same period last year.” What’s particularly alarming is that those months are traditionally slower in terms of migrant numbers, and “in the Rio Grande Valley sector … apprehensions of unaccompanied children are also drastically up.” Once again, it’s cartel-related violence that experts attribute to the mass exodus, and authorities have said “addressing” the number of unaccompanied minors is an obvious priority.
Victory Bell — Talk about “homemade.” Blue Bell Creameries has switched the lights back on at its mothership plant in Brenham. “With the launch, Blue Bell has crossed a major milestone in its recovery,” notes the Houston Chronicle, and “the reopening also is a boost for Brenham, where 70 furloughed employees are returning to work. No laid off employees have been called back.” And reopening the plant was no small effort, as its age and size presented problems. “The Brenham plant was perhaps most problematic for the company, as it was the largest and oldest of three major production facilities, with one ice cream novelty machine so troublesome it had to be scrapped. Brenham was the last plant to come back online. Ice cream now being produced there will be closely monitored and tested, with no firm date for when it will be distributed for sale, the company said.” Unfortunately, for now, plant tours are still a no-go, “but its store, visitor center and ice cream parlor are open.”
Revved Up — Since the Waco shootout in May, authorities have hit bikers pretty hard, what with the mass arrests, cookie-cutter indictments, juries lead by police, etc. But it looks like at least some of those involved in the melee that left nine dead are now pushing back. Six bikers have filed civil rights lawsuits that “allege the bikers’ civil rights were violated because they claim they were falsely arrested after the shootout. They claim their rights to due process under the law were violated,” according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. “The lawsuit names as defendants McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper referred to in the lawsuit as ‘John Doe.'” Among those involved in the lawsuit is Matthew Clendennen, whose lawyer Clint Broden has made him something of a poster child for all the alleged abuses by authorities in the case. “The lawsuits allege that Reyna, Stroman and Chavez conspired to see that 177 bikers were arrested on identical engaging in organized criminal activity charges with little evidence.” The shootout allegedly occurred over turf war between two rival motorcycle gangs, so it’s fittingly ironic that the biker allegiances of the six men who’ve filed the lawsuit are evenly split between the gangs. Nothing like the enemy of my enemy (and “The Man”), to bring people together.