The State of Texas: September 26, 2014
Photos of the Day
Texas is beautiful and, as we all know, more than just yee-hawin’ ranch-scapes. For evidence, look no further than photographer Nancy Newberry, born and raised in San Antonio. Her work and perspective were featured Thursday on New York Times‘s photo blog. The pictures are great, but so is the post that highlights both Newberry and her curiously dreamy approach to naturalism.
Tweet of the Day
Spurs fan Joey Harvey can be forgiven somewhat. He thought he saw Kawhi Leonard and in his excitement rushed to take a TwitPic. Unfortunately, it was not the right pro basketball player. Harvey retracted his Tweet, though in his defense, the guy in the picture does play for the Spurs. And even the Houston Chronicle, which flagged the tweet, hedged its bets, writing “that’s very likely Josh Davis” (is it or isn’t it, H-Chron?!). Oh, and Josh Davis has been dubbed “Kawhi 2.0” in high school, “due to his rebounding skills and his, well, profound likeness to Kawhi Leonard.”
The Audit Man, Cometh — We all fear an audit, but thank your lucky stars you’re not the University of North Texas. Or Governor Rick Perry, for that matter. In a report issued Thursday, the State Auditor’s Office recommended that “the Legislature require UNT to repay the state at least $75.6 million over the next 10 years.” How did they get so far in the hole? Was it a clerical error? Well, technically, yes. According to the auditor, UNT “manipulated its payroll spending … a coordinated effort at the university” that “senior UNT finance leaders ‘should have known, or did know,'” reports the Dallas Morning News. Governor Perry fared a bit better, if not for the amount of money, at least because he’ll never have to pay any of it back to the taxpayers. The Texas Enterprise Fund, pushed like a rent-to-own car by salesman Perry is “riddled with weak oversight policies, including more than $170 million awarded to recipients that never formally applied for the funds,” according to the Texas Tribune, which flat-out calls the report “damning.” Among the numerous problems with the program is that in “many cases, the governor’s office relied on self-reported information that recipients submitted to determine whether companies were making the investments they had agreed to make in exchange for state funding,” say nothing of the fact that contracts were awarded less on objective measurements and more on feeling. “The report suggests that the governor’s office was, at best, sloppy or, at worst, misleading in providing information to lawmakers and the public about how the program was run.” Keep in mind, this news comes the same week that legislators offered the opportunity to consider better oversight for the fund, but were pretty much, like, nah, it’s cool.
Driving While Gay — The news that gay couples face an unfair burden in obtaining a Texas driver’s license is beginning to pick up steam (kudos to the Texas Observer for first catching the story). “Some Texas gays and lesbians have been denied driver’s licenses because they took a same-sex spouse’s last name and the Department of Public Safety won’t accept out-of-state marriage licenses and other documents showing the change,” according to the Dallas Morning News account. “Almost the only way same-sex couples can nudge the DPS to issue driver’s licenses in their newly chosen names is to obtain either a Texas court order approving a name change or a new U.S. passport with that name.” As rightly noted, “Both moves are costly and time-consuming.” Those costs are about “$298 in court fees and between $60 and $70 to obtain criminal-background and credit-history checks.” The cost of a new or renewed license is typically less than two Jacksons laying atop one another. Finally, “several gay and lesbian Texans complained this week.” For its part, DPS reacted to the problem by saying it’s not their problem (it really isn’t): “DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the law enforcement agency must adhere to a 2005 state constitutional amendment that bars recognition of same-sex marriage. When verifying applicants’ identities, the DPS can’t accept same-sex marriage certificates from other states, he said.” The controversy is just one of several interesting legal cases the state is facing for its strict no-gay policies. As the story notes, Abbott “has moved aggressively to prevent same-sex couples in Dallas and Austin from obtaining divorces.” And let’s not forget the transgender widow of a Wharton firefighter who is suing for his benefits.
Missing: Migrants — For all the talk of migrant amnesty and relief and the like, conservative critics definitely saw this one coming. “Tens of thousands of young families caught crossing the border illegally earlier this year subsequently failed to meet with federal immigration agents, as they were instructed, the Homeland Security Department has acknowledged privately,” according to the Associated Press. “An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments.” In addition, “final deportation had been ordered for at least 860 people traveling in families caught at the border since May but only 14 people had reported as ordered.” That’s insane, mathematically speaking. The information came to the AP via a recording made when “the ICE official made the disclosure in a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating.” When it comes to actual figures it’s all (educated) guess, since neither the White House, nor Homeland Security, nor its minor league affiliate, ICE, will reveal any actual figures regarding “how many of those [captured migrants] subsequently reported back to the government after 15 days as directed.”
Unaccompanied Minor — This has not been a good month for Austin and its ability to properly supervise children. Just last week, there was the mother who was visited by Child Protective Services for having the gall to let her children play unsupervised in the park about 150 yards from their house (where she was at). And perhaps supervisors and naggy-nannies took that too much to heart. “An Austin elementary school was notified that a kindergarten student had left campus around 9:15 a.m [and walked home]. Thursday, about two hours after his mother had dropped him off for breakfast,” reports the Statesman. To be fair, it’s not as bad as it sounds! The little tyke “got into a disagreement with an older sibling [in the cafeteria]” and then “decided to walk home, to an apartment complex across the street from the school.” Austin apparently has a problem with free-range children. As the story notes a four-year-old walked away during recess and “was spotted by a nearby residence.” In this latest case, things unfolded exactly how they should (and do, 99.99 percent of the time). “The apartment complex’s manager saw the student and brought him to an apartment where his grandmother was … The manager then called the student’s mother [who then called the school].”