The State of Texas: September 3, 2014
Image of the Day
If you think San Antonio loves its Spurs, that ain’t nothing to compared to how Buenos Aires feels about its native son, Manu Ginobili. Last week, the capital city of Argentina unveiled a statue of Manu, which (as the San Antonio Current notes) effectively makes him the most globally celebrated Sixth Man in all of basketball:
Texas By The Numbers
Global Market — Percentage of international buyers who purchase Texas real estate: 12 percent. That figure as a total number of sales last year: $11 billion. Percentage of American homes purchased in Texas by Mexican nationals: 65 percent. Percentage of Texas’s naturalized citizens that own homes: 75 percent. Native Texans: 63.5 percent. Rank of Texas among real estates sales of international homebuyers: third.
Cash Crop — Number of mega marijuana farms found near Houston this year (so far): three. Total number of plants seized: 115,797. Estimated street value: $196 million
Cash Flowing —Trying to wring out money from oil companies is harder than cleaning up a massive spill. But four years after the BP Gulf disaster, it appears we might be one step closer to a financial settlement. Halliburton, the Houston-based company BP contracted to cement the faulty Macondo oil well responsible for the most destructive leak in the Gulf’s history, has agreed on a $1.1 billion settlement package to cover various claims, particularly from commercial and subsistence fishermen as well as business owners along the coast. Of course, this is all just preliminary talk. “A federal judge still has to approve the settlement,” reports the Associated Press. “That same judge has rulings pending on the extent to which parties, including Halliburton, were negligent in the deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. Those rulings could affect plaintiffs’ decisions on whether to participate in the settlement, which was announced Tuesday.” If it passes muster, the settlement “would settle most major claims against Halliburton, except those filed by state governments affected by the spill.” Then again, “the deal is contingent upon a minimum number of plaintiffs signing on. If [U.S. District Judge Carl] Barbier decides that gross negligence on the part of Halliburton was a major factor in the accident, plaintiffs could decide instead to hold out for a larger award.” BP, meanwhile, is fighting tooth and nail not to pay its settlements.
Possession of an Illicit Vote — Who knew the voting booth also doubled as the bathroom stall of a sketchy downtown bar? “An unnamed Hidalgo County commissioner’s campaign manager used cocaine to buy votes in the 2012 primary election, the FBI said in court records filed last week,” according to The Monitor. “FBI investigators said a campaign manager, who worked for a Hidalgo County commissioner, bought $50 worth of cocaine — known as an eight ball — and split it up among the two women who then passed out ‘baggies’ of the drug to sway people into voting for the commissioner in the 2012 primary election, according to a criminal complaint.” (Note to The Monitor: “eight ball” indicates the amount of cocaine, not the price.) “Besides cocaine, [politiquera Veronica Saldivar] told authorities that she handed out money, beer and cigarettes to almost 30 voters, the complaint states.” The votes they reportedly bought were apparently pretty cheap. “[Politiquera Belinda Soli] told agents she paid three voters $10 each for their votes. She also told the FBI she paid her ex-husband $5 for his vote. And she gave another man a ‘dime bag’ of cocaine for his vote.” The two women, among five who’ve been arrested in connection with the school board elections, appear again in court tomorrow.
Horror in the Court — Somehow, the Kaufman County killings have taken an even more chilling turn. Eric Lyle Williams, “accused of assassinating the Kaufman County district attorney, his wife and an assistant district attorney last year was also plotting to kill two others, according to court documents filed Tuesday,” reports the Dallas Morning News. “Williams, a former justice of the peace, was also planning to kill Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Norville Wiley, who was appointed in April 2013 [as well as] former state District Judge Glen Ashworth.” As heinous as these new details are, the court documents “don’t reveal why Williams would have wanted to kill [Wiley],” notes WFAA. Nor do the documents “explain why he would have wanted to kill … Ashworth.” Not that there aren’t some “startling revelations” in the court documents, included accusations that Williams “impersonated a police officer during the McLelland slayings [and he] submitted a false Crime Stoppers tip nearly a month after the Hasse murder in an apparent effort to put investigators on the wrong track.” Jury selection begins this month although Williams’s attorneys are hoping for a delay.
Debating Debates — This will-they-or-won’t-they between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis is more aggravating than anything Friends put us through with Ross and Rachel. “Four days after Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott backed out of a planned debate with Democrat Wendy Davis in Dallas, it was unclear Tuesday whether there would be a gubernatorial debate in the city at all,” reports the Texas Tribune. As far as clusterfudges go, this one takes the cake. “Davis agreed to Abbott’s format preferences for a debate on Sept. 30 to be hosted by WFAA-TV in Dallas … But Abbott has committed to debating at a different venue in the city, Davis hasn’t accepted the invitation to the second one and WFAA says it’s no longer pursuing a debate.” At this rate, both candidates will be “debating” a poster cut-out of the other, which (to be honest) is basically what they’ve been doing since the gubernatorial race got going. At least, they’re keeping the insulting tradition of Texas governor debates alive and well. As Bud Kennedy notes, the only agreed-upon debate thus far is set for a Friday (football) night. For a little historical context, the last time a gubernatorial debate was held, it was eight years ago, also on a Friday evening, the night before the UT-OU game.