Dallas Morning News

APD Police Chief Art Acevedo at a press conference Thursday morning addressing the car incident from the night before that left two people dead and 23 injured at the intersection of Red River and 9th streets amid SXSW activities.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

“If Wallace Hall has been pushing Chancellor Cigarroa to do something that isn’t in the UT System’s best interest — which is what Mr. Foster’s email says — it warrants investigation by our committee. … I am now concerned that Mr. Hall’s abuse of his office may have led to the departure of a good friend of mine and an outstanding chancellor.” 

— State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, in a statement made Friday after the Dallas Morning News published portions of an email hinting that UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who resigned Feb. 10, did so amidst criticism of his job performance from Regent Wallace Hall. Hall is currently under investigation by a special committee of the State Legislature. Hall is currently under investigation by a special committee of the State Legislature. 

“I feel it is important to convey to you that I do not agree with the inference that ‘you have not done your job.’ Nor do I believe that it is the sentiment of the other members of the board.”

 — Regent Paul Foster in the email sent to Cigarroa on Feb. 5, five days before the chancellor’s resignation. Portions of the email were published by the Dallas Morning News on Thursday. 

“Let me first say this is the board’s choice. [The board will] go through a process, as they should. It’s up to them to choose the chancellor, and I’m confident we’ll get a good chancellor. … I’ve known Kyle [Janeck, Gov. Perry’s recommendation for chancellor] for a long time. I think he is an excellent person. If he were the chancellor, I would look forward to working with him.” 

— UT Austin President William Powers Jr. to the Texas Tribune on Thursday in response to the Board of Regents’ decision to hire an executive search firm to help in the process of finding Chancellor Cigarroa’s replacement. 

“As much as we would just like to go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue operating.”

 — SXSW Managing Director Roland Swenson speaking Thursday on how the festival would be continuing after a car crash injured more than 20 pedestrians and killed two people in the downtown area early Thursday morning. 

“You cannot stop a person that decides, rather than face potential drunk driving charges, at a high rate of speed, shows total disregard for human life. That’s why we will be charging two counts of capital murder.” 

— Police Chief Art Acevedo speaking Thursday about the charges against the then-unidentified driver who caused the car crash, 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens, who was evading an attempted traffic stop by police when the crash happened. 

Horns Up: Texas beats California in tech production

In 2012, Texas companies shipped out more than $45 billion in technology, including semiconductors and computers, outperforming California for the for first time, according to the Dallas Morning News. Texas now leads the nation in tech exports, supporting 331,000 jobs in the state and sending most of its products to Mexico. The numbers are up by $3 billion in Texas since 2011. Texas has long promoted itself as an ideal place to build a startup or grow a business, and the numbers are beginning to reflect this trend. Horns up to Texas’ progress in the high-tech field and coming out from under Silicon Valley’s shadow.

Horns Down: Hall investigation costing time, money

Attorney’s fees for the UT System and the investigation of Regent Wallace Hall by the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations have totaled more than $400,000, according to the Dallas Morning News. Hall was under scrutiny for micromanaging and his constant open-records requests for UT documents. The System has since re-evaluated its policies for regents requesting information from UT institutions. The investigation and the tension surrounding the requests and subsequent investigation have distracted administrators and the UT community enough, and knowing that this drama played out at the highest level of state politics and is amounting to a big waste of money only makes the embarrassing debacle worse. It’s time for everyone to refocus on the students and faculty instead of the regents’ drama.

Horns Up: Davis’ platform includes access to Pre-K

On Wednesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis called for increased access to full-day pre-kindergarten programs, along with an expansion of Texas’ early-childhood reading program. The proposal is a central point in her campaign’s overall push to restore $5.4 billion worth of spending cuts to public schools in 2011. Although Davis doesn’t put a price tag on the cost of her plan, funding could come from a new grant through the Texas Education Agency or by restoring funds to the Pre-K Early Start Program. And, although Abbott’s spokesperson, Avidel Huerta, has already dismissed the proposal as a “mere talking point” that will “add billions in new spending,” in a statement to the Texas Tribune, we think there is something to be said for Davis’ willingness to address the near-bankrupt state of public education in Texas.  

Horns Down: Davis' rags to riches story bends the truth

The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday that the story of Sen. Wendy Davis’ rags-to-riches rise to the top of Texas politics has a few fudged elements and omitted details, a potentially major problem for her current campaign for governor. The details in question include the amount of time Davis spent living in a trailer park and the extent of her second husband’s financial support for her education at Harvard Law School. The true(r) version of Davis’ background doesn’t give any impression that she had it easy, but that just makes the decision to sugarcoat her already-compelling backstory all the more confusing: Does she not think people who are smart enough to vote for her are smart enough to fact-check her? In any case, we’re disappointed that Davis let this misinformation hold for so long. As Davis’ second husband Jeff Davis told The Dallas Morning News, “She got a break. Good things happen, opportunities open up. You take them; you get lucky. That’s a better narrative than what they’re trying to paint.”

Horns Up: Venture capital in Austin on the rise

Venture capital funding in Austin for early-stage companies finished 2013 with renewed vigor, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. This past Saturday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that investment activity is up in several areas in which Austin has been a major player —  software, chip design and medical devices — as well as newer areas, such as social media, cloud computing and data analytics. Startups often spend capital inflow quickly to capture market share and grow their businesses — which often translates to an increase in local employment. But we’re also happy because we know the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep with many Longhorns, and we’re encouraged that venture capital is responding.  

Horns Down: MLK Jr. Day misued for agenda pushing

On Monday, Sarah Palin, former vice presidential candidate and Governor of Alaska, took to social media to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy — but with a twist. After quoting from King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, Palin went on to admonish President Barack Obama for “playing the race card” in a strangely caustic plea to end “the racial divide.” PETA also took advantage of the holiday to push its agenda, with a series of tweets claiming that the best way to honor Dr. King is to “seek justice for EVERYONE who is disadvantaged,” presumably also including animals. These comments are in poor taste on a day meant to celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy, not one to use as cannon fodder for our own unrelated political goals. 

Horns Down: Voter ID yet to prove its value

Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reported that thousands of voters had to sign affidavits or cast provisional ballots in the Nov. 5 election — the first statewide election held under the state’s new voter identification law — as their name on the voter rolls did not exactly match the name on their photo ID. Though the paperwork took only a few minutes per person in the Nov. 5 election, officials worry a similar situation will create a backlog in elections which boast a higher turnout — such as the party primaries in March or next November’s general election. Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said, “If it made any kind of a line in an election with 6 percent [voter] turnout, you can definitely imagine with a 58 percent.” The voter ID law in question was enacted by the Legislature in 2011 and took effect earlier this year. Now Democrats and civil rights groups are trying to overturn the law, claiming it disproportionately affects minorities. According to a September Dallas Morning News analysis, only four of the voter irregularity cases State Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has pursued since 2004 could have been prevented by this new photo ID requirement. 

 

UT President William Powers Jr. was nominated for the Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

Powers said he appreciated the Dallas Morning News’ recognition and plans to stay focused on maintaining the University as a world leader in teaching and research.

“As a Texan for more than three decades, it’s an honor to be nominated as Texan of the Year in a publication as highly regarded as the Morning News,” Powers said.

Columnist William McKenzie nominated Powers in a column citing his leadership of UT-Austin during a year in which Powers faced pressure to reduce University operating costs.

“Some university leaders may ignore the revolution,” McKenzie wrote in the column. “Others may capitulate. The smart ones adjust and maintain their mission. None have been as good at adjusting yet persevering as William Powers.”

McKenzie also wrote Powers maintained his vision for a research university and defended his recommendation for a tuition hike last May when the UT System Board of Regents opposed his request. The regents froze undergraduate tuition at UT for two years instead.

“Powers didn’t flinch,” McKenzie wrote. “That’s the key point. He used his podium, even though speculation abounded [Gov. Rick] Perry wanted him gone.”

Adm. William McRaven, who led the mission which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, was the 2011 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year. Other previous winners include Gov. Rick Perry, George W. Bush, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and the heroes of Fort Hood.

The search for the 2012 Texan of the Year began Nov. 2 and the winner will be announced Dec. 30.

Powers nominated for Texan of the Year

UT President William Powers Jr. was nominated for the Dallas Morning News’ Texan of the Year.

Columnist William McKenzie nominated Powers in a column citing his leadership of UT Austin during a year in which Powers faced pressure to reduce University operating costs.

“Some university leaders may ignore the revolution,” McKenzie wrote in a column. “Others may capitulate. The smart ones adjust and maintain their mission. None has been as good at adjusting yet persevering as William Powers.”

McKenzie also wrote Powers maintained his vision for a research university and defended his recommendation for a tuition hike last May when the UT System board of regents opposed his request. The regents froze undergraduate tuition at UT for two years instead.

“Powers didn’t flinch,” McKenzie wrote. “That’s the key point. He used his podium, even though speculation abounded Perry wanted him gone.”

Adm. William McRaven, who led the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, was the 2011 Texan of the Year. Other previous winners include Gov. Rick Perry, George W. Bush, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins and the heroes of Fort Hood.

The search for the 2012 Texan of the Year began Nov. 2 and the winner will be announced Dec. 30.

When Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior U.S. Senator from Texas, retires at the end of this legislative session, we will have a front-row seat to a marked shift in the Texas Republican Party. Likely to replace her is Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who currently leads his opponent, Democrat Paul Sadler, by nearly a 2-1 margin. While both the senator and her likely successor are Republicans, a comparison of Hutchison’s legislative record with Cruz’s goals highlights the contrast between them.

Hutchison, a former UT cheerleader who graduated at 19 and obtained a law degree five years later, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1993. During her 19 years in that office, Hutchison stood with the GOP on most issues, voting with the majority of Republicans almost 90 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. She invariably supported the oil and gas industry at the expense of environmental protection, and voted for an outright constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. She also voted to exclude sexual orientation from hate crimes criteria. However, her breaks with recent trends in the Republican Party show that she isn’t as through-and-through conservative as many of her colleagues.

Hutchison’s voting record presents a mixed bag on the issue of abortion. She consistently voted for strict restrictions on abortion and contraceptives, but supported Roe v. Wade and repeatedly voted against efforts to prohibit the practice altogether. In a 1993 Senate debate, she argued for restricted but legal abortions up to the third trimester, saying, “I’m not for abortion … The question is, should I make that decision for you, and that’s where I come down on the other side.” In 2003, she told the Dallas Morning News, “I’ve always said that I think that women should have the ability to make that decision, even if I disagree with it.”

The most striking departure from others in her party, however, was her openness toward government spending. In contrast to the Republican holy war on earmarked funds, a major talking point for some Republicans, Hutchison unabashedly sought a great deal of pork barrel government money for her home state. In 2008 and 2009 alone, she claimed almost half a billion dollars in earmarks for spending in Texas and was outspoken in her support of the practice. “I’m proud of being able to garner Texans’ fair share of their tax dollars,” she said in 2009.
Hutchison has also enthusiastically supported federal funding for higher education in Texas. Her website proudly proclaims that  she “has worked to move Texas from sixth in the nation in federal research funding to third.”

That friendly view toward government spending combined with her relatively moderate stance on abortion crippled Hutchison in a 2010 run for Texas governor. Although she was the early frontrunner by a large margin, incumbent governor Rick Perry succeeded in portraying her as a pro-choice, liberal spender and himself as a fiscally and socially conservative alternative to retain the governor’s office for another term. Hutchison had difficulty adapting to an electorate that had turned from predominantly moderate “country club Republicans” to right-wing ideologues, and she lost big. That defeat was more or less the end of her career on the national stage.

Two years later, Hutchison has confirmed her long-rumored retirement and opened up her seat for the next generation. Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz is the overwhelming favorite after his defeat of the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in the Republican primary. Cruz, by finding room to the right of the Republican leadership in one of the reddest states in the country, represents a new breed of conservative. Unlike Hutchison, he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade, calling it a “shameful decision,” and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. He also proposes the complete elimination of the Department of Education, which would end federal financial aid for college students. Furthermore, Texas can kiss the gravy train of government spending it enjoyed under Hutchison goodbye. In a recent interview with Texas Monthly, Cruz said, “I am absolutely opposed to earmarks. When 435 members of Congress and all 100 members of the Senate go to Washington and view their jobs as feeding at the public trough, that’s how we bankrupt our country, and I don’t think Texans want their senator to be part of that.”

Being a fiscal conservative is one thing, and earmarked spending can certainly be taken too far, but completely cutting off federal support for states and students in a weak economy makes no sense.

It’s a shame that Hutchison is retiring, because she’s the kind of senator Texas needs right now. As she rides into the sunset, a less open-minded generation of Republicans takes her place. That means all the federal spending that brought jobs and growth to Texas, and much-needed help to students, will soon be a thing of the past. That should be cause for concern.

Sam Kinch Jr., Dallas Morning News reporter and former editor for The Daily Texan, died Tuesday. Kinch, 70, suffered from pancreatic cancer. Austin American-Statesman columnist Dave McNeely remembers his 50-year-long friendship with Kinch, which began at the offices of The Daily Texan. “He became editor in 1962. The next year, he had me covering Texas Legislature,” said McNeely, whose column on Texas government and politics is carried in several Texas newspapers. “He was one of three appointed editors that year. He was the first; I was the second. I wouldn’t be covering Texas politics today if it weren’t for him.” McNeely and Kinch continued their friendship well into their professional and personal lives. When Kinch was living and working in Washington, D.C., McNeely earned a Congressional Fellowship that brought him and his family to D.C. across the courtyard from Kinch and his family. “We would go on family outings together: me, my wife and my three daughters, and him and his wife and children,” McNeely said. The pair reunited again in the Texas press corps, Kinch with The Dallas Morning News and McNeely with the Austin American-Statesman. McNeely said he remembers Kinch’s irreverence, work ethic, outgoing personality and dedication to his field. “He very much believed in the notion that journalism was integral to running a democracy, that this is how a people should govern themselves,” McNeely said. Kinch also founded Texas Weekly, an influential newsletter on Texas politics. In 1998, Kinch sold the weekly to Ross Ramsey, managing editor of the Texas Tribune and concurrent editor of Texas Weekly. “Sam was something of a one-man show,” Ramsey said. “Since his work with the Texan, he had a future in journalism. We would always see each other in the press corps where we got to know one another, and then he became a great reporter in Dallas.” Kinch also authored “Texas Under a Cloud,” the first book about the 1972 Sharpstown stock fraud and banking scandal that rattled the Texas government. S. Griffin Singer, senior lecturer at the journalism school, remembers Kinch from when they worked together at The Dallas Morning News, where Kinch was a part of the Austin bureau while Singer was on the metro desk. “Sam’s dad was a longtime Capitol Bureau reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,” Singer said of Sam Kinch Sr. “Like father, like son.” Kinch is survived by his wife, Lilas, his two sons, Sean and Ashby, his daughter Keary and six grandchildren.