The State of Texas: November 30, 2015
State threatens refugee groups with lawsuits, and jail suicide attempts have skyrocketed.
Product of the Day
Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can shift to the second leg of the holiday season. And what’s more festive than an ugly Christmas sweater featuring a presidential candidate, available exclusively from Ted Cruz?
pic.twitter.com/CWy55Jjmq7 Christmas wishes
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) November 30, 2015
Imminent Threat — Texas officials are threatening to sue any organization looking to help resettle Syrian refugees, reaffirming their commitment to keep them out of the state. “Texas health commissioner Chris Traylor issued the first lawsuit threat over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in a letter to the Dallas branch of the International Rescue Committee, which said earlier this month that it supports accepting Syrian refugees,” writes the Houston Chronicle. “Similar letters are expected to be sent to any refugee resettlement group that takes a similar position against Gov. Greg Abbott. The Republican is among more than 30 governors who declared that they will not accept Syrian refugees due to security concerns in the days after terrorists with ties to the Syria-based Islamic State killed at least 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13.” Still up for debate (sort of?) is whether the governor and/or the state can actually stop such resettlement efforts. As nearly every publication has noted, it’s the federal government that dictates refugee efforts, but Abbott has insisted state powers will be enough to keep them out, “citing a provision in federal law that requires refugee resettlement groups to ‘cooperate’ with state officials.”
Jail Suicides — Sandra Bland’s death garnered national attention, but it’s part of a larger issue that hasn’t been addressed—jail suicides. And thanks to fresh reporting, it’s clear Texas has a pretty serious problem on its hands. “From 2008 to 2014, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported a 40 percent increase in suicides, and data from 2015 indicate the system is on track to meet those numbers this year,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “Attempted suicides grew 30 percent from 2008 to 2014, and department reports show 2015 is on course for another increase.” For some reference, there were 31 jail suicides last year and 980 attempts. The story is worth a read for all numbers crunched, but the steps needed to quell these numbers are complicated. “Advocates say the alarming figures show an urgent need to improve mental health care for inmates, better train officers to recognize signs of mental distress and implement independent oversight of the state prison system,” while authorities argue that many inmates are being stopped before they do any real damage to themselves, and the data “reflects the reality that more prisoners suffer from mental illness, even though the overall inmate population is dropping.”
That’s The Goal — Sure, they’ve got the Spurs, but San Antonio is pushing forward in its efforts to become a legitimate sports city like Dallas and Houston. The city is hoping to pull in a Major League Soccer team with a $21 million dollar deal, but not everyone is on board. One of the biggest issues, as noted by the San Antonio Express-News, is that taxpayers would be saddled with most of the cost of buying minor league soccer stadium Toyota Field and possibly spending “millions more” for upgrades—all with no guarantee that they would land a MLS team. As the story seems to make pretty clear, city officials are doing just about everything they can to entice a professional soccer team to Alamo City. What seems to be somewhat missing from the discussion are the actual taxpayers.
Gate Keeper — The Dallas Morning News has a fun and fascinating look at the 74-year-old Marylyn Love, Jerry Jones’s executive assistant who has been with him since he bought the Cowboys in 1989. “Players, coaches, media, fellow NFL owners, commissioners, movie stars, captains of industry, sheiks and former U.S. presidents all have come to learn that Love holds the key,” writes Barry Horn. “To those whom Love allows completions, Jones has a standard response to any question asking for more of his time or for something more tangible. It’s a simple, eight-word phrase that has resonated throughout Valley Ranch during Jones’ 27 years of occupancy: ‘Just get with Marylyn, she’ll handle the details.'” Love is apparently the exact opposite of her boss — notoriously guarded. “She has deflected all previous requests to interview her” and postponed the interview three times. The effort seems to have been worth it, though. The piece, definitely worth a read, makes clear that Love isn’t just the “team mom” but something of a quiet superhero. “Jones said he would ‘quit’ should the 74-year-old Love ever tell him she is retiring. Hyperbole? Probably. Still, he conceded it would take a cadre of skilled loyalists to replace his primary sounding board.”