This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.
This week, in news from Dallas-Fort Worth, we have a lot of business. We start with coverage of the Ken Paxton trial. Then we move on to the Senate race and some local state House races, Prager U and some of the awful people who sponsor it, ransomware news, city and county budget updates, the awful heat and its effects, fair food, dinosaur tracks, and zoo babies, among other things. This week’s post was brought to you by the music of Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann), a modern classical composer and performer.
We start this week with local boy gone bad Ken Paxton. Local pre-trial reporting included the news that half of Texas voters think Paxton should be removed as Attorney General. Here’s Paxton and his supporters, including his wife and Sid Miller, in Collin County celebrating Labor Day (which you would have thought was a little communist for those guys, but whatever). Not everybody in Plano thinks Paxton is fantastic, though, as this Texas Newsroom series of interviews shows. It turns out some of their GOP folks didn’t know what all he was accused of.
Propublica has taken a look at some of the things Paxton wasn’t doing in office, specifically refusing to represent state agencies and forcing them to spend money on outside counsel. Our tax dollars at work! Last but not least, the AP has some details about the perks Paxton enjoyed as AG, a story that really takes the cake. Quite literally: the cake was from HEB and worth $45, and they gave it to his staff but he took it home himself.
We also have a lot of backgrounders: Angela Paxton from the DMN; Jeff Mateer, one of the early prosecution witnesses from the Star-Telegram; Nate Paul, Paxton’s buddy, again from the Star-Telegram; and Paxton’s purported affair partner, also from the Star-Telegram. The DMN also has an editorial on the “Shameful Six” senators who voted against trying Ken Paxton. I like that name, so let’s help it catch on. Last but not least, we have some Texas Republican politicians opinionating about the trial: John Cornyn, trying to be in the middle of the Republican road, and former House Rep Louie Gohmert, a loudmouth we haven’t heard from in a while, who is unsurprisingly against the guy he tried to primary out of the AG office. Even a stopped clock, etc.
In other North Texas news:
- In my favorite beat, Six Degrees of Clarence Thomas, the disclosures continue, and will continue, until morale improves, or at least until we meanies stop picking on Clarence Thomas. Also here’s inJustice Alito telling us how because he is Caesar’s justice, he is above suspicion and no, he won’t recuse himself from the case where the guy who interviewed him for the WSJ is counsel before the court because he’s too good and too pure to need to do that. Alito sure gets mad when his inferiors question him!
- Carl Sherman of DeSoto is joining the Dem primary for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat. Like Mark Gonzalez, the Nueces County DA, whom our host mentioned earlier this week but isn’t even name-checked in this article, Sherman could be a good candidate, but where he fits in a race that Colin Allred and Roland Gutierrez are raising a ton of money in, at least based on my email inbox and my texts, isn’t clear. Also note the mention of Botham Jean’s family; they’ll appear later in this roundup.
- It’s September, which means all the new laws the Lege passed in the regular session have come into effect. KERA has the story; the Guardian has the view from abroad; and the Dallas Observer has the scoop about three laws that didn’t make it (yet).
- Legislation about unsealing adoption information, like original birth certificates, keeps failing in the Lege. This heartbreaking story tells you why: State Senator Donna Campbell.
- Noting this Texas Tribune story on the HD2 special election, where we’ll see five Republicans and one sacrificial Democrat. That’s Bryan Slaton’s old district. Remember that scandal? It’s so six months ago, and that’s a long time in Republican scandals in Texas.
- The DMN has a piece on Averie Bishop’s campaign for HD 112.
- You’ve probably been hearing a lot about “PragerU” and the effort to get it into curricula here in Texas and elsewhere. Here’s an explainer about how much trouble these guys are and why we don’t want them supplying teaching material to our public schools.
- Speaking of PragerU, did you know they’re funded in part by the Wilks brothers, two fracking billionaires who spend their money on right-wing propaganda? Check out this Guardian piece about them and where they spend their cash and you’ll spot a lot of familiar names. One of them is Defend Texas Liberty, the folks who are planning to primary any Republicans who vote against Ken Paxton in his impeachment. Also Ted Cruz.
- And speaking of our junior senator, remember last week when he was complaining that Joe Biden wants to take your beer away? Politifact has an explainer about that and no, he was lying. Related, from Talking Points Memo: A List Of Household Items Republicans Lost Their Minds Over For No Reason. No reason except cultural grievances are what keeps people voting Republican.
- We’re number one here in Texas! Except maybe this time we don’t want to be in an ALA report on book banning “by the numbers”.
- This week a report and presentation on the Dallas ransomware situation was supposed to come out. That didn’t happen, unsurprisingly. Things we do know: more than 800K files were stolen, which, depending on what a “file” is and which files they got, could mean a lot or nothing, and City Manager T.C. Broadnax thinks the city has done a great job with the ransomware response. An interesting thing I read on this topic this week is a history of ransomware that’s technically an advertisement. I recommend it anyway because I learned something from it.
- News on the city budget: DMN coverage of amendments to what the paper previously called our last easy budget, in which the tax rate is decreasing slightly and they’re doing some moving of money to make ends meet. KERA’s notes on the discussion, especially about the DEI budget, are also worth a read.
- Unsurprisingly, given that a bunch of their computer systems don’t work and they still don’t know what they owe their workers, Dallas County’s budget is going to run late.
- Also on city and county financial issues: the bond ceiling for the city right now is $1.1 billion and the parks and rec department wants $400 million of it. I don’t think that’s going to fly.
- Meanwhile, the DMN reports that local groups are applying for federal money for four deck parks in the region: upgrades to Klyde Warren Park, and three new ones: over I-35 in the southern part of town near the zoo; over I-30 near the Farmer’s Market; and one in McKinney. I’ve been visiting Dallas long enough to remember what the downtown area was like before Klyde Warren. The deck park is a massive improvement. We should have fewer highways and more mass transit, but deck parks are a good first step. The two new locations in Dallas are ripe for the kinds of improvement Klyde Warren has brought to the Arts District.
- I mentioned Botham Jean’s family earlier in this review and here’s a couple of articles about them in the DMN. Botham Jean was the man whom DPD officer Amber Guyger killed a few years back; she lived in the same apartment on a different floor, thought an intruder was in her place, and shot him. The five-year anniversary was this week and the family is still looking for justice beyond Guyger’s conviction for murder. Here’s an interview with Jean’s sister, her new book, and her journey towards healing. And, as mentioned above, looks like they’re going to endorse Carl Sherman for Senate.
- Wandering back to budget business: Tarrant County has a contract with a private jail near Lubbock and they’re looking for a new, longer, and more expensive contract along with other law enforcement priorities. (You may remember that people keep dying in the Tarrant County jail.) The money is coming from federal affordable housing and COVID money. The vote was party-line (3R/2D). There’s also a KERA story on the budget transfers.
- Just as rainy relief is hitting north Texas from the worst of this hellish summer (Saturday’s high is supposed to be under 100F), here are some news stories about the heat. Quarter of Texas businesses say heat wave has hurt them (DMN); Summertime, and the Livin’ Ain’t Easy for Dallas Restaurants (Dallas Observer); Texas just recorded its second hottest summer on record (Texas Tribune; the hottest was 2011); Texas Prisons Are Cooking People Alive. Are We Okay With That? (Austin Chronicle, first in a series); related to that, Deadly heat in Texas prisons sounds ‘cruel and unusual.’ Why is it still happening? (KUT); The summer’s record heat has caused costly damage to Texas water systems and in the “our tax dollars at work” category, ERCOT paid a bitcoin miner $7 million to cut energy consumption during heat wave (DMN).
- Somewhat related, water restriction are on the way in North Texas as the reservoirs run dry. I remember coming to Dallas during the drought in Austin and being mildly boggled at the water features with working fountains. That may be about to come to an end.
- Noted without comment: Tarrant County has the worst weather in Texas.
- Driverless cars are coming to Dallas and DPD needs to figure out how to issue tickets.
- Schools have started and with the surge in COVID coming, schools are figuring out what to do about mask policies. Look for the mentions of Ted Cruz mouthing off about masking policies and Garland ISD in the article.
- Here’s a backgrounder about a pro-birth conference taking place in December in Austin that turns out to be a cesspool of eugenicists and other racists. I had to look up the hotel it’s in; I’m not familiar with it but it’s just south of the river near the Congress Street bridge and used to be a bar.
- Here’s a long video of a discussion panel on Martin Luther King’s Visit to UT Austin in 1962 from the University of Texas for those interested.
- Sports is not usually my beat (notice that I almost never talk about the Cowboys and the Rangers) but I found this Star-Telegram analysis of diversity in pro sports ownership very interesting. It’s mostly white men; not a lot of women (mostly white) and not a lot of minority/BIPOC folks.
- Library Journal has a deep dive into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection at Texas A&M University.
- More about State Fair food: four new vendors have signed up. I’ve been interested in Sandoitchi for a while; I’ve done some window shopping at Eataly in NorthPark; and I know nothing about Pound Cake Experts or Stay Cheesy, but I’m willing to learn.
- Not Texas-related, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t note that Freddie Mercury’s piano was auctioned off for $2.2 million. Mercury’s birthday was this week. He would have been 77.
- Sometimes the drought brings good things: it let folks find dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose.
- And last but not least, we have zoo babies this week. They’re critically endangered gharials at the Fort Worth Zoo, and there are four of them.