The State of Texas: September 29, 2014
Photos of the Day
Although musician David Byrne once remarked that highways are “the cathedrals of our time,” the interstate system doesn’t normally inspire such awe. For the past thirty years, however, Texas Highways magazine photographer J. Griffis Smith has indeed managed to capture the wonder just off of the road’s shoulder. Smith’s new book collection, from the elite publishing house the Texas Department of Transportation, is out and an inspiration for that long-discussed road trip to anywhere:
Incensed Incentive — Governor Rick Perry had hoped his much-touted Texas Enterprise Fund would attract businesses to Texas. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s only chickens that are coming home to roost. Thanks to the absolutely damning state’s auditor report on the program, an odd collection of critics from both sides of the aisle are going after the program. The chair of the legislature’s TEA party caucus, for instance, bashed the fund for lacking any oversight and its crony dealings. Less surprising is that “For Democrats, the controversies provide ammunition on the campaign trail that they hope can help them rally voters around their candidates,” according to the Texas Tribune. The issue is even “exposed a rare division between Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. While Perry’s office argued Thursday that the report showed that his office operated the program in accordance with state law, Dewhurst—who co-chairs the Legislative Audit Committee that oversees the state auditor—made clear he views the report’s findings differently.” The scandal has even hit probable-governor Greg Abbott. While the Tribune suggested Abbott, as the state’s attorney general, acted primarily as a hands-off supervisor, the Dallas Morning News offers a much more insidious character sketch. In 2004, Abbott apparently denied the paper access to a company seeking $35 million in subsidies on the grounds that the application “might contain confidential corporate information.” Or might contain nothing at all, as was the case. “As it turns out, there was no application” according to the recent audit. It’s just one example of the snaky money trail, but as the Morning News points out, “Abbott, who as attorney general denied access to the applications, has received at least $1.4 million in campaign contributions from investors and officers of businesses that got millions in Texas Enterprise Fund money.” Looks like we sure could use that Public Integrity Unit right about now.
We Are NCTC — Tragedy hit over the weekend: four softball players with North Central Texas College were killed when the team’s bus was hit by an eighteen-wheeler late Friday. The team was heading back from a scrimmage in Bethany, Oklahoma, when “the truck drove through the median for 820 feet on a shallow angle before colliding with the bus,” reports CBS News. “It did not brake or appear to take any action to avoid the crash. They found no apparent problems with the truck’s brakes.” Two of the players remain hospitalized with one in serious condition. A vigil held Sunday at the NCTC campus in Gainesville was attended by more than 600 people family, friends, university students, “More than a dozen members of the Texas Wesleyan University softball team,” and “20 former softball players from NCTC.” The support has been state-wide with more than 600 at a vigil in Blue Ridge and hundreds in Dodd City. Send prayers and good vibes to the friends and family of the tragedy.
A Hail Mary — The NFL’s systemic culture of violence and domestic abuse (crystalized with the Ray Rice controversy)—say nothing of the leadership apparently being either willfully ignorant or actively covering up such activities—has finally forced its commissioner into action. Why else would Roger Goodell come down to Texas to talk with UT coach Charlie Strong, the stern disciplinary and moralist? In what might be his most craven PR move yet, Goodell visited the National Domestic Violence Hotline and was apparently “visibly shaken” and “moved to tears by the stories of abuse he heard,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. Apparently, “Goodell declined to answer questions on his way in and out of the center” but “has promised a multimillion-dollar, multi-year commitment to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a nonprofit that was unable to answer more than 77,000 calls last year due to lack of staff.” Since throwing money at a problem that, strictly speaking, doesn’t address the NFL’s continuous horrors in any way, Goodell also visited with Strong. NFL’s Executive vice president Troy Vincent was there, too. Unfortunately, nearly all the reports about their meeting are relatively short, except to quote Vincent’s Tweet saying, “Appreciate leadership of @Strong_TexasFB. Admire his 5 core values: Honesty, treat women with respect, and no drugs, stealing or guns.” If those eerily specific items are you’re “core values,” you’re probably in trouble.
Bottle Serviced — Pretty much everybody remembers their first sip of alcohol. The entire town of Lubbock is no different. In an interesting piece, the Avalanche-Journal looks back on five years of town boozing, after Lubbock went from dry to wet in a city referendum. Proponents of a wet city are, naturally, pleased as spiked punch. “Personally, I think it’s great. Things are normal; you’d never know the difference. I mean things haven’t gotten worse like many predicted,” said the head of the pro-PAC. Just as expected, the head of the anti-PAC is still not pleased. “It’s a slow, insidious influence, and just in public in general no one’s going to notice any difference ’cause it’s a slow change.” As for alcohol’s actual, measurable, influence on Lubbock, things are looking pretty good. “Lubbock Police Sgt. Jason Lewis said he has not seen alcohol sales affect the city’s crime rate. Statistics show alcohol-related collisions and DWI arrests in Lubbock were steadily dropping from 2007 to 2011, according to A-J archives. DWI arrests did spike significantly in 2012. However, Lewis attributed that to increased enforcement of DWI laws.” The anti-PAC leader, however, is unconvinced, offering a nearly historical esponse that could have been uttered by a member of the 1920s anti-Saloon League. “It’s an indication to certain criminal elements that a community is ready for a lot of illegal activity.” Or it could just be a cold one after work.
Baby White Plague-ish — Things just keep getting worse for the hospital that exposed more than 850 babies to tuberculosis. So far, “five babies tested have positive.” Since this isn’t nineteenth-century Europe, the revelation isn’t too devestating. “The El Paso Department of Public Health said … that none of the children have active TB, the deadly and contagious form of the illness,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “All five will be offered treatment, although the statement said that four of the children had been vaccinated in the past, meaning their results could be false-positives.” So far, about a quarter of the babies have been tested.