The State of Texas: October 20, 2015
George P. Bush comes under fire for hiring practices, A&M’s Halloween costume is ruined, and Ahmed Mohamed visits the White House.
Good Effort of the Day
The idea was perfect: Halloween game + glow-in-the-dark football helmets = great fun for all. Unfortunately, the Aggies didn’t count on the SEC scheduling the October 31 game against South Carolina at 11 in the morning. Oh, well. Maybe they can wear them trick-or-treating?
— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) August 7, 2015
Burning Out — Things continue to look up for Bastrop County and the Hidden Pines fire. The fire that’s been raging for about a week is 70 percent contained and power has been restored to area, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Unfortunately, on Monday “14 more ‘home-like’ structures were lost, bringing the total number of structures destroyed to 64.” With the ashes of the 2011 fire still settling in the community, some have begun returning to an area that “looks just like an atomic bomb hit the place,” as Smithville resident Linda Weber described it to TWC News. They’re not kidding—just look at the devastating photos from the Statesman. It seems that residents are finally understanding the best way to deal with wildfires—be prepared. “‘I’m going to pack an emergency bag and just set it. And if I ever have to do this again, I’ll just pick up my bag and go,” Smithville resident Gay Wright told TWC News. Walker County faced its own wildfire Monday, which forced evacuations of just north of Huntsville. “Officials said about 700 acres are burned, and the fire is 80 percent contained as of Monday night. They also said four structures were burned, but it is unclear if any houses were among those structures,” according to KHOU.
Job Fair? — On Monday the Houston Chronicle delivered a one-two punch to state agency hiring practices when it examined the “scores of political aides, campaign workers and friends of statewide elected officials who have been brought into Texas government over the past year without facing any public competition for their jobs.” That, of course, is a violation of a 1991 law requiring state agencies to advertise openings, which several high-ranking officials promptly ignored. “Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Railroad Commissioners David Porter, Christi Craddick and Ryan Sitton have bent the rules to hire at least 150 people with personal or political connections, state records show.” Overall, “officials have given unadvertised jobs to 179 people – 15.4 percent of their 1,161 hires between Election Day 2014 and Sept. 1.” The main offender was Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who has been taken to task over the past couple of months by both the press and other politicians for flitting off to help his dad’s presidential campaign. It seems that 76 percent of Bush’s hires since last November were from unadvertised jobs. In a quick reform move, Bush announced Monday that he will no longer “hand-pick people to hire at the General Land Office without giving the public a chance to apply.” That said, Bush “stood by his decision not to advertise 55 job openings in his first 10 months in office,” saying that “unusual circumstances” made it necessary to make quick hiring decisions.
Nerd-In-Chief — The adventures of Clock Boy continue, as Ahmed Mohamed visited the White House Monday for “Astronomy Night.” It’s certainly a better arrangement than last week, when Mohamed met with Sudanese president and war criminal Omar al-Bashir. At the White House, Mohamed and President Barack Obama met briefly, but the night was mostly filled with NASA scientists and astronauts (and Bill Nye!). But Ahmed’s visit attracted some backlash. In particular, Senator Ted Cruz: “President Obama, at every stage, tries to politicize what happens, whether it is this teenager here in Texas, whether it is the shootings we saw in the Pacific Northwest,” he said ahead of Ahmed’s White House visit. “Over and over again, sadly, he seeks to try to divide us, to try to tear us apart. The president really ought to be looking for ways to bring us together, to unify us.”