The Mignon Memo

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Posted November 20, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Governor Greg Abbott Sets Date for Special Runoff Elections in Texas

Tuesday, January 28, 2020, has been set by Gov. Greg Abbott as the date for special runoff elections to fill three vacant Texas House District seats.  The three seats include House District 28 in Fort Bend County, vacated by Rep. John Zerwas; House District 100 in Dallas County, vacated by Rep. Eric Johnson; and House District 148 in Harris County, vacated by Rep. Jessica Farrar.

In the Fort Bend County race, Democrat Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz will face Republican Gary Gates, a race that has drawn national attention.  Democrat Lorraine Birabil will face Democrat James Armstrong in the Dallas County runoff.  And in the Harris County race, Democrat Anna Eastman will face Republican Luis La Rotta.

In additional election news, mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Tony Buzbee will face each other in the runoff election for Houston Mayor set for Saturday, December 14th.

Austin’s Zilker Tree Lighting Set for Sunday, December 1st

Get ready to spin yourself dizzy under the lights at the Zilker Tree!  The annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting will take place at 5:30pm the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, officially kicking off the holiday season in Austin.  First lit on December 10, 1967, the Zilker Holiday Tree tradition is now in its 53rd year.  To create the 155 foot tall man-made tree, 39 strings of over 3,000 colored lights are draped from one of Austin’s 17 historic moontowers — the red, yellow and blue LED bulbs are strategically placed on each string to give the tree its distinctive swirl pattern.  The honor of first lighting the tree each year is awarded to children who have won the Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s tree art contest.

The 2019 Zilker Holiday Tree will be lit from 6pm to midnight every night between December 1st and January 1st.

Only in Austin…

Still MORE scooters are zooming around Austin!  Revel, a Brooklyn-based moped-sharing company, released 1,000 sit-down scooters at the beginning of the month, and we’re seeing them all around downtown Austin.  Revel’s blue Vespa-esque scooters and the peppy red versions previously released by Oxnard-based Ojo are touted as zippier options than the more common stand-up scooters, reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and able to last 50 miles on one charge.  According to the city’s mobility site, Austin now has close to 18,000 scooters and e-bikes permitted for circulation.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!  See you in December!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Posted November 13, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

2019 Texas Capitol Ornament

This year’s Texas Capitol Ornament was inspired by the famed Lone Star Locomotive and features historic details typical of steam trains from the late 19th century such as a smokestack, steam whistle and cattle guard. The train is ready for the holidays with its Texas Capitol wreath, flags and bunting, and Sunset Red granite fills the Austin-bound railcar to become part of the Texas Capitol.  This is the 24th ornament in the series, and proceeds from its sales support ongoing preservation of the Texas Capitol, which welcomes over one million visitors annually.  Mark your calendars – the annual Texas Capitol Gift Shop sale runs from December 2-6 and everything in the store will be 20% off.

Texas Legislators Make Endorsements in Democratic Presidential Primary

Senator Beverly Powell (D-Burleson/Ft. Worth) has joined Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) and Representative Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) in endorsing Joe Biden in the Democratic Presidential Primary.  In additional Biden campaign news, Jane Hamilton, a Democratic strategist who served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Ft. Worth), was named Texas state director.

Texan Julián Castro’s list of endorsements by Texas state legislators lengthened after fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke exited the race on November 1st.  Castro now counts among his supporters:  Sen. José Rodríguez (D-El Paso, retiring), Rep. César Blanco (D-El Paso, now running for Senate District 29), Rep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso), Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), Rep. Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso, the House Speaker Pro Tempore), Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass, now retiring), Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson), Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) and former Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston, retired at the end of September).  The Castro campaign is looking to hire a state director.

Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Dripping Springs) is the first Texas elected official to endorse Elizabeth Warren, who named a Texas state director in October.

Texas State Representative Poncho Nevárez Will Not Seek Reelection

On Friday, Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) announced he will not run for reelection.  Rep. Nevárez has been a member of the Texas House since 2013, representing a district that encompasses a large portion of the state’s border with Mexico.  He chaired the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety during the latest legislative session and was named vice chair of the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety when it was created this summer after the mass shootings in Odessa and El Paso.

Only in Austin…

Jimmy Fallon brought the Tonight Show to UT Austin last week, filming an episode on campus at Bass Concert Hall for about 3,000 lucky student lottery winners.  The show opened with an epic video Fallon recorded over a couple of days in Austin featuring 6th Street, scooters, OU jokes, the Longhorn Band and the Texas Pom Squad, all to the tune of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”  His guests included UT Professor and Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey (of course!), Chip and Joanna Gaines and a performance by musical guest Gucci Mane that really got the crowd going.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Posted November 6, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Texas Election Results from November 5, 2019

 Constitutional Amendments:  On Tuesday, Texas voters considered ten constitutional amendments proposed by the 86th Legislature.  9 amendments passed with large margins and 1 amendment failed to pass.

Here are the constitutional amendments Texas voters tackled on Tuesday:

Proposition 1 — “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.” DID NOT PASS

Proposition 2 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.” PASSED

Proposition 3 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.” PASSED

Proposition 4 — “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.” PASSED

Proposition 5 — “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.” PASSED

Proposition 6 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.” PASSED

Proposition 7 — “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.” PASSED

Proposition 8 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.” PASSED

Proposition 9 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.” PASSED

Proposition 10 — “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.” PASSED

 

 Texas House of Representatives:  Additionally, voters in Dallas, Harris and Fort Bend Counties voted in special elections to fill empty seats in three state House districts.  All will now move to runoff elections as none received more than 50% of the vote, according to unofficial results by Wednesday morning.

 Fort Bend County – House District 28

Democrat Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates head to a runoff to fill the seat vacated by former State Representative John Zerwas, MD – a race that has drawn national attention.

Gates was one of six GOP candidates in this special election and received 28.45% of the vote with Markowitz being the only Democrat in the race, with 39.06% of the vote. Republican Tricia Krenek came in third with 18.13%.

Dallas County – House District 100

Democrat Lorraine Birabil will face Democrat James Armstrong in a runoff for the seat vacated by former State Representative Eric Johnson. Birabil got 33%, with Armstrong had 21%, finishing just five votes ahead of Daniel Davis Clayton and 121 votes ahead of Sandra Crenshaw in the all-Democrat race. Margins are narrow enough to make recount requests eligible.

Harris County – House District 148

The race for the seat vacated by former State Representative Jessica Farrar is headed to a runoff between Democrat Anna Eastman with 18.5% of the vote and Republican Luis La Rotta with 17.19%. Only two other candidates, Democrat Adrian Garcia and Republican Ryan McConnico, were in double digits in the 15-way race.

 

Houston – Mayor’s Race:  Incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner, who was elected in 2015 after serving 27 years in the Texas House of Representatives, appears to be headed to a runoff with Tony Buzbee, a Houston attorney. As unofficial election results continued to come in at 3:45am Wednesday morning, Mayor Turner received 49% of the vote while Buzbee trailed behind with 29%. In third place was Bill King, the businessman who narrowly lost to Turner in the 2015 mayoral contest. It is unclear when the final vote count will be completed in Harris County.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Posted October 30, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Texas House Committee on Public Education Meets in Austin

On Monday, the House Public Education Committee met in Austin to learn about the implementation of the school finance reform bill passed during the recent legislative session.  House Bill 3, an $11 billion measure, increased funding for Texas school districts by increasing the basic allotment for each student, providing teacher pay raises and funding full-day Pre-K for all eligible students.

Legislators heard from Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath concerning issues with the measure’s implementation, such as the agency’s power to resolve any problems with the law before the Texas Legislature meets again in 2021.  Also discussed was the lack of clarity school districts face in predicting the amount of funding they will receive as they wait for final calculations from the state on things like tax revenue and funding for low-income students.  To help explain the complex new law, TEA began posting weekly web videos this summer – the series is scheduled to continue until June 2020.

Have You Heard About Texas 2036? 

In 2036, Texas will turn 200.  By then, 10 million more Texans are expected to call this state home.  Growth has always been a part of Texas, but it will bring new challenges as leaders try to preserve the best parts of Texas and expand opportunity for all citizens.  That’s where Texas 2036 comes in, a nonprofit organization working to build statewide support for sustained, data-driven planning efforts, led by Founder and Chairman Tom Luce and President and CEO Margaret Spellings.  The organization’s website explains that Texas 2036 is focused on engaging “Texans and their leaders in an honest conversation about our future, focusing on the big challenges.  We offer non-partisan ideas and modern solutions that are grounded in research and data to break through the gridlock on issues that matter most to all Texans.”  The website features a weekly blog, a good way to keep up with the important issues being studied by Texas 2036.

Only in Austin…

For the third year in a row, Amanda and Joel Pace are transforming their South Austin home into Diagon Alley ATX Halloween House.  For months the family has been as busy as house-elves constructing additions to the Harry Potter-themed attraction, which will be open to muggles and wizards alike from Halloween evening through November 2nd.  This year’s version features Hogwarts Castle, wizard shopping district Diagon Alley, Eeylops Owl Emporium, the Knight Bus, Hogwarts Express and the dome of Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

Happy Halloween and remember to vote!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Posted October 23, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Will Not Seek Reelection

Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Tuesday announced he will not seek reelection as a member of the Texas House of Representatives when his term ends in January 2021.  He has served in the body since 1997 and was elected Speaker at the beginning of the 2019 legislative session.

Houston Astros Return to the World Series!

The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees Saturday, winning the American League pennant and sending the Astros back to the World Series for the second time in three years.  The 2017 World Champion Astros and the Washington Nationals, appearing for the first time in the World Series, met last night in game one of the championship series.  While Houston lost last night, we are sure they will ultimately be World Series champs again.  Game two is tonight — Go Astros!

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush Visits Students in Round Rock and Pflugerville

Fourth graders at Round Rock Christian Academy and Pflugerville’s Riojas Elementary received a special lesson on Texas history Monday.  Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a former teacher, made visits to both schools as part of his Year of Education initiative, in which he intends to visit 50 schools.  Students pretended to be cartographers using gloves, magnifying glasses and replica maps from 1830, and even had the opportunity to hold a cannonball from the Battle of the Alamo.  Comm. Bush said the initiative was developed after a historic investment in public education by the state legislature.

Only in Austin…

Austin’s Pease Park recently celebrated a groundbreaking to start work on Kingsbury Commons, the southern entrance to the 84 acre park located close to downtown along North Lamar Boulevard.  Pease Park is a beautiful urban space known to Austinites as the home of the very unique Eeyore’s Birthday Party every April.  Park improvements will feature multiple playground areas including a very large “treescape” sphere, sports facilities, improved trails and a community event space.  The grand opening is anticipated for the spring of 2021 – a very cool 3D fly-through video of the project can be found within the link above.  What a great place to walk the doggos one day!

 

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Posted October 16, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Election Day is November 5th:  Texans Can Early Vote from Monday, October 21st to Friday, November 1st

Early voting in Texas’ November 5th constitutional amendments election begins next Monday, October 21st and runs through Friday, November 1st.  Voters will find ten proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot, ranging from dedicating sporting goods sales tax revenue to the maintenance of public parks and historic sites (Prop. 5), to doubling the amount of bonds the state can issue on behalf of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (Prop. 6), to retiring law enforcement animals (Prop. 10).  Additionally, voters in three state House districts, located in Dallas, Harris and Fort Bend Counties, will participate in special elections to fill empty seats.  Many counties are rolling out new voting machines for the November election as well; the new machines will allow voters to cast their vote electronically while also providing a paper backup of their ballot.

Professor John Goodenough of The University of Texas at Austin Shares Nobel Prize in Chemistry

John B. Goodenough, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry this past week.  He shares the award with Stanley Whittingham of the State University of New York at Binghamton and Akira Yoshino of Meijo University, “for the development of lithium-ion batteries.”  In the words of the Nobel Foundation, “Through their work, they have created the right conditions for a wireless and fossil fuel-free society, and so brought the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Only in Austin…

The 2019 Austin City Limits Festival wrapped up Sunday night after two full weekends of glorious music and fun.  This year’s ACL Fest featured an incredible line up of artists and extremes in temperatures over both weekends.  Crowds were wowed by The Cure, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover’s last performance as Gambino), Guns N’ Roses, Cardi B, Billie Eilish (guess who showed up for her set!), Lizzo, Kacey Musgraves, Gary Clark Jr. and Asleep at the Wheel, to mention only a few amazing acts.  The Austin High School marching band even got in on the action, performing on stage with Mumford and Sons to close out the last night of the festival.  Can’t wait to see the 2020 lineup!

 

 

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Posted October 9, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Special Edition:

Texas Fight and Hook Em’ Horns!!

Playing since 1900, the Texas Longhorns will face their arch-rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners, this Saturday at the Red River Shootout in Dallas, Texas. There are bound to be memorable moments, traditions made, and no love lost between the fans at this year’s game at the Cotton Bowl during the Texas State Fair.

More than just a football game is at stake when these two teams play. Sparks fly over which state is better, families become divided, and most importantly… the bragging rights for 364 days. When the Longhorns and Sooners play, anything can happen. So get there early, stay there late, grab your corn dog and HOOK EM’ HORNS!!

Series record between the Longhorns and Sooners:

All-time series record: Texas leads 62-47-5

Largest wins: Texas 40-7 in 1941, Oklahoma 65-13 in 2003

Latest Texas win: Oct. 6, 2018

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Posted October 2, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

TEXLEGE:  Rep. Bohac to Retire, Rep. Israel to Chair, Rep. Lang to Run Afterall

On September 25th, Texas State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) announced he will retire from the Legislature at the end of his term.  He has been a member of the Texas House since 2003, prioritizing measures to lower taxes, secure the border, reduce crime and improve public education during his tenure.  This past session he authored the “Character Education Bill,” which requires the state to incorporate positive character traits into public school curriculum.  He is also known for passing the “Merry Christmas Bill,” which allows teachers and students to offer holiday greetings without fear of litigation.  He won election to the House in 2018 by a slim margin of 47 votes and without an incumbent on the ballot in the next election, the seat is in peril of flipping.

Also on September 25th, Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) was named Chair of the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee.  She replaces Rep. César Blanco who recently announced his run for the Texas Senate.  Rep. Israel has served in the House since 2014, and also serves as Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.  In her new role, Rep. Israel will work to help Democrats win seats in the Texas House, though she says her vision goes beyond party.  “My goal is to get back to those times when you’re judged by the content of your bill, not by the letter that’s after your name.”

Finally, Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) announced Friday evening that he will run for re-election to the Texas House, after first announcing his retirement two days prior in order to run for Hood County Commissioner.  His change of heart came after hearing from community members and conservative leaders who stressed the importance of his service in the Legislature during a redistricting legislative session.  Rep. Lang serves as Chair of the House Freedom Caucus and is running for a third term.

U.S. Rep. Thornberry is 6th Texas Republican Member to Announce Retirement

United States Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) announced Monday his decision to retire from Congress, making him the 6th Texas Republican to do so ahead of the 2020 election.  Rep. Thornberry was first elected to the U.S. House in 1994 and is one of the longest-serving Texans in Washington from either party.

The other five Texas Republicans retiring from Congress include Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land), Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland), Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes), Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) and Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan).  Additionally, in the 2018 election cycle, six other Texas Republicans retired from Congress and two more ultimately lost their re-election bids.  Of the 25 Texas Republicans in the U.S. House in 2016 when President Donald Trump was elected, only eleven are slated to be members of Congress after the 2020 election.

Only in Austin…

United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Texas Legend Willie Nelson enjoyed a visit during the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday in Austin.  Described as “SXSW for political geeks,” TribFest is an annual event drawing politicos from across the country for two days of panels, podcasts and presentations, not to mention political celebrity sightings.  Featured participants this past weekend included opening keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who announced he is considering a run for President in 2024; Democratic candidates for President Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke; many Texas House and Senate members, as well as many Texas city, county, state and federal elected officials; and closing keynote speaker Nancy Pelosi.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Posted September 25, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

You Won’t Go Far Without the Star:  Texans Need a REAL ID-Compliant Driver’s License by October 1, 2020

Does your Texas Driver’s License have a gold star?  The Texas Department of Public Safety is working to ramp up awareness that air travelers need an updated REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card by October 1, 2020, if they plan to use it to go through airport security.  While roughly 16 million Texans are in possession of a current REAL ID, DPS estimates at least 4 million still need to update their documents within the next year, and it recommends that you not wait until the last minute.

If your license is missing the gold star in the upper quadrant, you can visit Texas.gov to see if you’re eligible to renew online.  If not, DPS shared tips to avoid long lines at driver’s license offices:

  • Renew early: You don’t have to wait for your driver’s license expiration date.  You can renew up to two years before your license expires.
  • Go on slower days: Mondays, Fridays and days after holidays are the busiest days of the week, and summer is the busiest time of year.
  • Take proper ID: Before going to a center, make sure you have the proper documents.  Check the Texas.gov website for acceptable proofs of identity.

Apple’s Mac Pro Manufacturing Will Remain in Austin

On Monday Apple announced it will continue manufacturing its Mac Pro computers in Austin, after the company received exemptions from some proposed federal tariffs.  Production will begin soon at the same facility where Mac Pro has been made since 2013.  Austin is a significant hub for Apple – the company has about 7,000 employees in the metropolitan area, including contractors.  In December, a plan was announced to invest $1 billion in a new 133-acre corporate campus in Austin and add 5,000 workers; the new campus could eventually hold up to 15,000 workers.

The State Fair of Texas Opens this Friday

The big day is almost here – the State Fair of Texas opens this Friday in Dallas.  This year’s theme is Celebrating Texas Creativity and kick off events include the Opening Day Parade at noon and the official opening ceremony at 7:00 p.m.  Big Tex will be sporting fancy new duds and boots in honor of the occasion.

But who are we kidding?  For most of us, the main attraction at the State Fair is the food and seeing what fried concoctions the geniuses who think these things up will amaze us with next.  This year we’ll be lining up for Big Red Chicken Bread (a fried chicken wing sitting in a Big Red-infused doughnut), Fla’Mango Tango (fried mango with a side of strawberry-mango sorbet) and Champagne Jell-O Hot Shots (Champagne and Chablis in a watermelon-flavored Jell-O shot topped with jalapeno slices)…not to mention numerous Fletcher’s corny dogs.  Though the Fletchers may be embroiled in a lawsuit within the family, we’ll still happily enjoy this State Fair tradition while contemplating the important things in life…like what the crispy bit at the end is called.

The State Fair runs through October 20th.  Bring on the stretchy pants!

Only in (outside) Austin…

The legendary Garth Brooks brought his Dive Bar Tour to the oldest dancehall in Texas Monday night for a free show at Gruene Hall for about 800 lucky fans.  Ticketless fans weren’t left out, however, grabbing spots in front of the jumbotron outside the historic dancehall for a memorable street party.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Posted September 18, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

TXLEGE: Sen. Rodríguez to Retire, Rep. Blanco to Run, Rep. Murphy to be Vice Chair

Senator José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) announced on Friday that he will retire from the Texas Senate at the end of his current term in January 2021.  He has served in the Senate since 2010; prior to that, he was the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years.  Sen. Rodríguez’s priorities in the Legislature have included affordable housing, education, health care, social issues and immigrant rights, and he was recently named to the Texas Safety Commission, which was created by Governor Greg Abbott after the recent El Paso mass shooting.

On Monday, Representative César Blanco (D-El Paso) threw his hat into the ring, announcing he will run for Sen. Rodríguez’s seat.  Rep. Blanco has represented House District 76 since 2015; the seat will be up for grabs now that he is running for the Texas Senate.

Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) won election as vice chair of the Texas House Republican Caucus Friday night.  The spot was vacated recently after the chair, Rep. Dustin Burrows, resigned and the vice chair, Rep. Stephanie Klick, was elevated to the top position.

 

Legislative Redistricting Committees Meet:  Texas Could Add 3 Congressional Seats After 2020 Census

According to Texas State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter, who testified recently before the House Redistricting Committee, the state has grown 14% over the past decade, putting the population just under 30 million.  This growth will likely mean Texas gains seats in the U.S. Congress, while states such as California and Minnesota, which have been losing population, have the potential to lose congressional seats.  During the 2021 legislative session, Texas lawmakers will face the highly political process of drawing U.S. House and Texas House and Senate districts, using population data from the 2020 census.  The census will also affect Electoral College votes, which are based on each state’s count of House and Senate seats.

The House Committee on Redistricting is scheduled to meet twice in October:  at 4:00 PM Wednesday, October 9th in Fort Worth, and at 4:00 PM Thursday, October 10th in Dallas.  The Senate Select Committee on Redistricting will meet at 9:00 AM Tuesday, October 29th at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

 

Dr. Harrison Keller Named Texas Higher Education Commissioner

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently voted unanimously to appoint Harrison Keller as commissioner, effective October 1st.  Dr. Keller will serve as the sixth commissioner since the board’s founding in 1965, succeeding Commissioner Raymund Paredes who served for 15 years before announcing his resignation in January.  Dr. Keller currently serves as deputy of strategy and policy in the president’s office at The University of Texas at Austin and is also a clinical professor at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.  He has a long history in education policy, having previously served as research director and senior education policy adviser under Speaker Tom Craddick in the Texas House.

 

Only in Austin…

It may still feel like the depths of summer, but Halloween seems to have come early to the Paramount Theater in Austin.  Pianist Chad Lawson was scheduled to perform there Sunday when he snapped a few photos from the stage after soundcheck.  When he got back to his hotel and looked at his shots, he made a chilling discovery – the figure of what appears to be a woman floating in the mezzanine stairway in the otherwise empty theater.  Spooky stories about the theater are not unheard of – one even mentions a woman in a white dress seen roaming the aisles of the mezzanine, thought to be the spirit of a mourning mother or wife from the Civil War era.  Time to book some tickets for a show!