The State of the State, Sanders lawsuit, and more
The State of the State Is Great!
Surprising no one, Gov. Rick Perry used the Feb. 8 State of the State address to repeat his claim that the state is in perfect condition, the economy is bullish, and the federal government needs to stay out of Texas. His only real concession to the idea that not everything in the garden is rosy was to propose axing funding for "non-mission-critical entities" like the Historical Commission and the Commission on the Arts; at the same time, he told lawmakers they should continue funding the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund – two controversial agencies, operating out of his office, accused of handing incentives to businesses owned by Perry donors. If that weren't business-friendly enough, Perry also launched an arsenal of proposals designed to further curtail people's right to redress in civil court. He proposed a "loser pays" system and an early dismissal process for what he called "frivolous lawsuits" and for limiting discovery for lawsuits worth less than $100,000. Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, accused Perry of thinking that "tort reform will magically improve our health care system, but he refuses to support the kinds of insurance reform that will help Texas families." – Richard Whittaker
Sanders Suit Rejected
State District Judge Rhonda Hurley has dismissed the breach of contract lawsuit filed by attorneys for the family of Nathaniel Sanders II (r), who was killed in a police shooting in May 2009. The family filed the suit after the Austin City Council rejected a $750,000 settlement of the Sanders' federal civil rights lawsuit, which is still pending and is slated for trial late this year. Adam Loewy, who represents the Sanders family, argued in the now-dismissed breach of contract suit that city officials had authorized its lawyers to negotiate the settlement up to the amount settled on but then buckled under political pressure, rejecting what was a binding settlement agreement. – Jordan Smith
Hello? 911? Anybody there?
Austin's 911 system needs help, said Marcia Brooks, the Austin Police Department's emergency communications manager, to members of the Public Safety Commission on Feb. 7. As it stands, there are just 79 full-time call-takers routing 911 calls and dispatching police calls for service – a staffing level that has not changed in 10 years even though the city's total number of 911 calls has increased. Brooks said that she would like to see an additional 25 call-takers added to the payroll; currently, the call center uses temp workers to help handle the call load. Last year the call center handled just more than 815,000 911 calls; nearly 97% of those are answered within 10 seconds. Still, more than 17,000 callers abandoned their attempts to reach 911 before their calls were answered. – J.S.
That's a Lot of Scanning
The University of Texas Libraries announced this week completion of a 3½-year project creating an online digital archive of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Texas and Mexico. Originally created between 1877 and 1922 as a tool for gauging fire insurance risks to buildings in major cities and towns, they've become a valuable resource for scholars, urban planners, architects, environmentalists, and others. The detailed maps include information on everything from population and property boundaries to building use and even type of roof construction. While the largest library collection of Sanborn maps is held at the Library of Congress, the 10,442 maps scanned as part of the Texas/Mexico collection will be held in UT's Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. See www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sanborn. – Nora Ankrum