TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 11/29/10

Public schools have long had a strained relationship with their charter cousins, which battle them for students and money and boast loudly about their relative success. But in the Rio Grande Valley, a federal grant has the largest public school district partnering with Teach For America and a network of charter schools to create a teacher training center with hopes of luring quality educators to one of Texas' most poverty stricken regions — and keeping them there. In the process, the competitive tension is being replaced by a spirit of constructive collaboration.

State Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, talked to the Tribune's Ross Ramsey about why he's running for speaker, why Joe Straus is "the most controversial Republican elected official ... that maybe has ever happened," the role of outside groups in what has historically been a forum for the most inside of insider politics and whether he thinks he can really win.

Ask House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, and he'll tell you: The budget he and his fellow finance types will put forward in a few weeks confirms fears that carnage is looming. "We're making huge cuts," he told a Tea Party group last week.

The force of the GOP wave in November was so strong that black Republicans and Latino Republicans outnumber the Texas House's new endangered species: the white Democratic woman. And if the 16-vote victory of state Rep. Donna Howard, R-Austin, doesn't survive a recount, the species will be extinct.

When country music icon Willie Nelson got arrested for marijuana possession last week, he wasn’t the only Texas legend who figured in the story. Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West, who put Willie in the local pokey, is a reigning symbol of the years-long fight over border security and immigration.

 

Woody Hunt, the chairman of the Governor's Business Council, talked to Tribune's Reeve Hamilton about why the business community cares about higher ed, why we have to incentivize outcomes, whether it's possible to increase productivity and who's to blame if we don't.

Mexican police think they've caught the drug kingpin behind the murder of a U.S. consulate employee and an El Paso sheriff's deputy in Juárez in March. But it's unlikely the arrest of a cartel leader will stem the tide of violence.

The number of adult Texans with diabetes is expected to quadruple over the next three decades, a massive spike that demographers and health care experts attribute to the state’s aging population and obesity epidemic.

Gov. Rick Perry’s office has asked a member of the Emerging Technology Fund’s advisory committee to consider resigning over a recent investigation into a stock deal — the latest dustup involving state incentive funds.

The sprawling capital of the oil industry — the fourth-largest city in the U.S. — has embarked on a range of green initiatives in an effort to keep up with the times and, hopefully, save money. The local-food craze is the most visible of these efforts, with the opening of a weekly farmers market and the planting of Michelle Obama-style vegetable gardens tended by city hall staff. But it is also transforming itself into an electric car hub, a national leader in wind-power investment and an advocate for energy efficiency. It even has a sustainability director hired away from, yes, San Francisco.

 

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