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The Brief: Jan. 3, 2014

Here's a novel strategy for state officials looking to avoid answering questions from the public: When in doubt, blame the Sugar Bowl.

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Here's a novel strategy for state officials looking to avoid answering questions from the public: When in doubt, blame the Sugar Bowl.

The Railroad Commission was in a packed high school auditorium in Azle on Thursday to hear more about the recent spate of earthquakes in the area that some believe is related to gas injection wells. What didn't sit right with the crowd, though, was the commission's decision not to take questions.

WFAA-TV's Teresa Woodard reported the following reason given by Commissioner David Porter for keeping the meeting short: "He told the crowd he was on a tight schedule, with early meetings in Austin and that he was sure people wanted to get home to watch the Sugar Bowl. Those were the reasons he gave for not being able to answer questions and listen to every concerned citizen."

Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett was one of those not happy with how the meeting went. "I don't feel real good about this. The only thing that makes me feel a little good is they actually came here. I'm not gonna go away," he said, "and I'm not gonna let up."


•    Austin woman dies after battle for access to experimental cancer drug (Austin American-Statesman): "Andrea Sloan, an Austin woman whose fight for an experimental cancer drug drew hundreds of thousands of supporters across the world, died New Year’s Day from complications of pneumonia."

•    Board president’s suicide comes amid FBI accusations of vote-buying in Donna election (McAllen Monitor): "Donna school board President Alfredo Lugo hanged himself in his home on New Year’s Day, authorities confirmed Thursday. The motive for the suicide was not immediately clear, but it came shortly after federal authorities arrested three women accused of buying votes for school board candidates in the most recent Donna ISD election."

•    Texas Supreme Court weighs polluter’s toll on ranch’s value (Austin American-Statesman): "Industry groups are watching the case closely, with the Texas Oil and Gas Association joining Houston Unlimited’s effort to ban stigma awards for contamination after a cleanup, saying in a brief that the jury award will encourage 'landowners to seek windfall recoveries for harm that has already been alleviated.'”

•    In final inaugural address, Parker promises busy last term (Houston Chronicle): "Houston Mayor Annise Parker used her final inaugural address Thursday to call for action on a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect gay and transgender residents, a project to shield the coast from hurricanes, continued work to end chronic homelessness and redoubled efforts on ReBuild Houston, the city's street and drainage repair program."

•    Popular Texas mayor leaves job to follow his heart (The Associated Press): "The small group of about a dozen family and friends applauded in a dining room with hand-picked poinsettias and a white sheet draped behind the couple. It was a concluding step in an epic journey of love, personal turmoil and drastic choices that had begun four and a half years ago for [Joseph W.Lown, San Angelo's mayor. Lown, having easily won re-election for a fourth term in May 2009, abruptly walked away from his promising public life in conservative West Texas to take a chance on love and a new life in Mexico."

Quote to Note: "It may not be taken care of after this meeting, but maybe if the earth shakes down in Austin, we'll get some results." — An unidentified man who attended and came away dissatisfied from a Railroad Commission meeting in Azle intended to address a recent spate of earthquakes


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