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Thumbs Twiddled: Living in a one-party state can be frustrating if you don’t agree with the ruling party but, even worse, it’s boring. We get so tired of predictable party lines, the passage of cookie cutter laws sanctioned by mono-brained conservative think tanks, and the rather incestuous nest of bedfellows who spend entire careers lazing about in epic orgies of back-scratching. So, color us amused this week at a slight break from monotony. Two prominent Republicans, state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley announced they weren’t supporting fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick but rather, his Democratic challenger Mike Collier. The news wasn’t exactly surprising — neither Republican is fond of Patrick, known as a domineering, right-wing blowhard. Still, the impetus for their sudden candor isn’t exactly unbridled outrage or courage. They’re both retiring. Collier, a smart, affable accountant who seems to actually want to govern and cut ordinary Texans’ taxes instead of playing bathroom bully to trans kids, is a conservative Democrat who came within four points of beating Patrick last time. But don’t feel too bad for Danny Boy. A Democrat, state Sen. Eddie Lucio — who is also retiring — promptly came forward to grace Patrick with his bipartisan endorsement, declaring the lieutenant governor “a hero and a legend,” and citing “#LIFE” among the reasons. Of course, those are words Texans have historically used loosely.
Thumbs Down: Another one is “principle.” That was ostensibly the motivation behind legislation Dan Patrick championed last session requiring Texas retirement funds to boycott investment firms he criticized as “woke” for their divestments from oil and gas. The firms say investing in renewable energies is more about long-term stability of their businesses than wokeness. Nevertheless, Patrick’s lucky Senate Bill 13 passed. But rather than sending Wall Street to the woodshed, Patrick ended up punishing ordinary Texans who, according to one economist, are paying $300 million-$500 million more in higher interest payments after the new law drove five of the largest municipal bond underwriters out of the state, reducing competition. This is bad enough. But, wait. This week, Texas Monthly reported that Patrick kept doing personal business with the woke firms the whole time, including the world’s largest money manager BlackRock, which Patrick deemed the “worst offender.” Patrick’s campaign strategist claimed the lieutenant governor eventually sold his BlackRock holdings, but apparently, not until seven months after the bill was signed into law. And Patrick’s campaign wouldn’t answer questions about his holdings in another BlackRock fund, or in other companies such as Apple and Walmart that have committed to using only renewable energy. Patrick had declared in a letter urging the state’s accountant to shun BlackRock: “Texas will not do business with those that boycott fossil fuels.” It’s time for Texans to declare: “Texas will not elect politicians who take us as fools.”
Thumbs Down: Watching Austin grow up is a bit like watching a pimply, unkempt, squat teen magically transform into a pimply, unkempt, lanky teen — truly wondrous. Until one day the lanky teen surpasses his elder brother and starts thinking highly of himself, maybe too highly. That, folks, is the case in the People’s Republic of Austin, where a smallish college town once happy to be known for its live music, its socialist sympathies and its disheveled weirdness has turned corporate, capitalist and downright uppity. Literally. Breaking ground this week is a downtown skyscraper — a 74-story, mixed-use high-rise — that is expected to surpass Houston’s 1,002-foot-high Chase Tower by a whopping 20 feet when it’s finished in 2026, and thereby slam the door on Houston’s reign as the city with the tallest tower in Texas. Height, of course, isn’t everything — unless you’re a hetero male looking to draw clicks on a popular dating app. There are other measures of a city’s maturity, like infrastructure and mobility, that are bringing Austin great growing pains. After decades of succumbing to the “if we don’t build it, they won’t come,” mantra, Austin found out the hard way they’d come anyway, even if they had to live on the center lane of I-35. The city’s natural beauty, its forever-rocking music scene, and its welcoming, Prozac vibe still portend a bright future, judging by Austin’s eternally hot real estate market. Clearly, it has nowhere to go but up!
Thumbs Up: The world said goodbye to one queen this week while several U.S. cities, including Houston and Austin, welcomed another. As loyal subjects and royal admirers continued mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth II Friday, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited the Bayou City on an important mission: reminding us, in the most queenly of ways, things we should already know about Houston’s resiliency to climate disasters. It’s not there, yet. She also met with Mayor Sylvester Turner and engaged about our health care systems on a tour of the Texas Medical Center. The Dutch, who have experienced, and learned from, catastrophic flooding in the low-lying Netherlands, have much to teach Houston about preparing for storms growing in severity and preventing the tragic losses of life we’d suffer if the Big One ever hits Houston straight-on. The trip was also good for business. Trade between the Houston region and the Netherlands was valued at $13.8 billion in 2021, according to the Houston Partnership, adding that Dutch businesses support more jobs in Texas than in any other state in the nation. We’ll curtsy to that!
Thumbs Down: Missing mail? Ask your dog. Postal workers in Houston face some of the most dangerous conditions in the country with some 360 dog attacks reported in the past five years. Houston, it turns out, has one dog for every two people, more than any other city in the country. Sadly, not all of them are friendly. “We have different strategies,” Dominique Cruz, a mail carrier for Houston’s North Shepherd post office, told the Chronicle this week. “We try to walk quietly, and make sure that we are watching out around us. Sometimes we jiggle our keys.” While postal workers are issued dog spray and are even trained to use their mail bags to protect themselves, dog attacks are beyond the unofficial call of duty: neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But what about the hounds? When dogs are too aggressive, postal workers can decide to suspend mail service, with the case-by-case blessing of a supervisor. So before complaining about the lagging service on your route, you might inquire first about Fido’s whereabouts.