Tag Archives: NPR

Austinites Search For Answers Amid Serial Bombing Threats

No matter how different the lives of Texans may be, safety is a concern which all of us share.  We all want to live in safe cities, and not have to be constantly worried about major threats.

But unfortunately for the great citizens of Austin, one bad actor is causing much concern.  Since March 2nd, a serial bomber has put the city on high alert.  And as Alex Samuels of the Texas Tribune reports, the latest attack is creating new cause for alarm…

A fourth bombing in Austin on Sunday night has placed Texas’ capital city even more on edge, with two more people seriously injured and police describing what could be a new method used to set off the most recent explosion.

“We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber,” said Brian Manley, Austin’s interim police chief.

In a press conference Monday morning, Manley said a tripwire mechanism appears to have been used in the most recent blast. That indicates a higher level of sophistication by the bomber than police had previously seen, and also a new level of randomness in the attacks, Manley said.

“What we have seen here is a significant change from what appeared to be three targeted attacks to an attack that could have harmed anyone,” Manley said.

Unlike previous bombings, the trip wire incident also occurred in a different part of town.  So the serial bomber’s reach now extends far beyond the area of South Austin.

On Tuesday morning March 20th, yet another package exploded at a FedEx facility near San Antonio.  As Bill Chappell and Scott Neuman of NPR report, this incident seems to be connected…

A package destined for an address in Austin, Texas, exploded at a FedEx distribution facility near San Antonio early Tuesday morning, reportedly resulting to a slight injury to an employee.

“One person was treated and released at the scene,” the Schertz Police Department says.

The FBI has agents at the site of the explosion, which comes after a string of bombings in Austin. FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee says, “We believe that the explosion is likely connected” to those earlier blasts.

“There is an army of law enforcement folks that are here,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler told NPR’s David Greene. “Hundreds of federal agents, multiple federal agencies, hundreds of agents working on this outside of Austin and Texas.”

“Army” is probably not far of a stretch, as experts across the country are working hard to assist and protect the citizens of Austin.  Just yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott allotted nearly $250,000 in emergency funds to help equip Texas law enforcement agencies with the most current bomb detection technology available.  Whoever this domestic terrorist is, and wherever they may be hiding, they can be absolutely sure that a lot of Texans are looking for them.  And with over $115,000 in reward money as incentive for whoever can turn them over to Austin police, It’s only a matter of time before they are found.


Ben Hall’s Biggest Problem? An Eroding Base

So far in his campaign for Houston’s top job, candidate Ben Hall has had his ups and downs… most notably some issues with the wrong type of social media, timely payment of taxes, and a dispute over what exactly counts for residency. But it’s quite possible that the biggest problem with Hall’s Mayoral strategy has less to do with him, and more to do with how his chosen base of support is rapidly declining.

Houston Chronicle reporter Bill King took a look at shifting demographics in the city’s core African-American communities. Here’s what he found

“The principal reason that Turner and Locke lost their mayoral bids was a dramatic decline in African-American turnout in city elections.

I looked at the election results in five key, predominantly African-American precincts from around the city. In the 2001 election when Brown faced a stiff challenge from Orlando Sanchez for his third term, the turnout in the general election in these five precincts averaged just less than 30 percent.

For the runoff between Brown and Sanchez, the turnout actually went up to almost 37 percent. The five precincts produced more than 5,600 votes, and Brown won more than 95 percent of those votes.

In 2003, when Bill White, Orlando Sanchez and Sylvester Turner squared off in the general election, the turnout in these precincts was about the same as the 2001 general election, but Turner got only about 80 percent of the vote compared to Brown’s 95 percent.

This was the decisive factor in Turner not making the runoff. With him eliminated, turnout in the runoff in these precincts dropped by almost half to just 17 percent.

In 2009, Locke was unable to motivate African-American turnout or rack up the margins that Brown achieved in 2001. In the 2009 general election and in the runoff, turnout in these precincts was only 15 percent, with Locke winning about 84 percent of the vote.

From just these five precincts, Turner got 1,650 fewer votes in 2003 than Brown did in the 2001 runoff. In the 2009 runoff, Locke got a staggering 3,300 fewer votes than Brown did in the 2001 runoff. The significance of this drop in vote totals is highlighted when you consider that Locke lost by fewer than 9,000 votes citywide.”

First off, I do want to state that it’s not unfair to just assume that all African- Americans will vote for a candidate based solely on race. That is of course a stereotype. But it is fair to asses that each of these candidates campaigned heavily in the African- American community… so much so that they probably saw them as their “base of support”. By all indications, the Hall campaign is following a similar path.

So what is happening that so many African-Americans are moving out of the central city, and even out of Houston city limits altogether?

For poorer citizens, the reason is simple… gentrification. Houston’s historically black neighborhoods are being rapidly torn down and replaced by an upper income, young adult class. People that used to live in 3rd ward or 4th ward can no longer afford to be there. If they own property, they are under immense pressure to sell so that developers can build the type of housing that suits the “new urban” clientele. As a result, many African-Americans are leaving Houston proper for suburbs like Pearland and Missouri City, because it’s what they can afford. NPR covered this trend in 2012 where State Rep. Garnet Coleman discussed the alarming rate at which the city is changing.

Of course the way to confirm these trends is to take a look at the census records themselves. In 2000, the city of Pearland had 37,640 people, and was 5.3% African- American… or about 2,000 people. But by the 2010 census, Pearland’s overall population had exploded to 91,252, and the African- American population swelled from 5.3% to 16.4%… or about 15,000 people. That means the city of Pearland gained a net number of 13,000 African- American residents between 2000 and 2010, a disparity that’s probably grown larger now that it’s 2013. Of course Houston’s overall population, and it’s African- American population both increased during the decade as well, but by much smaller margins than the rate of growth seen in Pearland. It’s fair to assume that as newer residents moved into Houston, some of the people already in neighborhoods like 3rd and 4th Ward were priced out. Many of the newer citizens coming in don’t share the same cultural, communal or political alliances as those there previously.

Now for richer citizens like Ben Hall, other factors are at play. He certainly can afford to live anywhere he wishes, but he chose to build a home in Piney Point Village. That could possibly be because the tax burden is lower, or just because it’s an area where many wealthy people choose to live. It’s not fair to speculate on Mr. Hall’s reasons for that choice, but it’s worth recognizing that many others have chosen a similar path. Either way, it’s fair to say that it’s a decision that many have made over the last 10 years. And if assertions turn out to be true, that’s not a good indicator for the Hall campaign.