The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Bowing to pressure from groups both inside and outside the state, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced that it is suspending the killing of wild burros in Big Bend Ranch State Park. The department will work with the Humane Society of the United States to find other ways to control the burro population, which it says threatens the purity of the park’s water sources and destroys native plants. Since the policy was instituted in 2007, about 130 burros have been killed. The agencies will conduct a study of the size and location of the population and then consult on strategies for removing the burros.

A federal judge ruled against the state’s housing agency in a case that alleged discrimination in the placement of low-income housing. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which oversees tax credits to the tune of about $55 million this year, was accused of using race as a factor in making decisions about where to locate low-cost housing in the Dallas area. Although the lawsuit was specific to Dallas, it could have statewide implications. The agency was given 60 days to submit a plan to fix the problem and responded that it is considering all of its options, presumably including an appeal of the ruling.

The threat of litigation prompted Texas and IBM to come to an agreement ending their 2006 contract that was supposed to result in two streamlined data centers. IBM had agreed to merge the data of 28 separate state agencies into two upgraded facilities but was unable to complete the project. The state will pay IBM about $35 million for the services and equipment in addition to the $758 million it has already paid under the contract. IBM is forgiving $26 million in billings and will transfer equipment to the state valued at $15 million to $20 million. Work will continue on the project through two new companies, a Dallas-based unit of Xerox and Paris-based Capgemini, which will assume responsibility July 1.

Six Molotov cocktails were thrown at Sen. Wendy Davis’ office on Tuesday as two staff members worked inside. One of the staffers quickly put out the resulting fire with an extinguisher, and no injuries were reported. Police arrested a 40-year old man, Cedric Steele, who was characterized as mentally unstable. Steele had visited the office on two recent occasions, asking to speak to Davis.

The first proposed offshore wind farm in Texas will undergo a study by the Army Corps of Engineers, influenced by public comments it is now accepting on the project. Three areas off the South Texas coast are targeted for the installation of 200 wind turbines each by Austin-based company Barononyx Corp. The environmental study will be based on the locations for which the company has applied for permits, in state waters off South Padre Island. A public meeting will be held in Brownsville next week, and the corps will continue to accept comments on the study until May 14.

A proposed ordinance regulating the feeding of homeless people in Houston is undergoing scrutiny and revision after charitable groups protested some of its provisions. Mayor Annise Parker defended the ordinance, saying that a problem had been identified, a solution proposed and public comment received. After reviewing comments, Parker suggested changes and asked the City Council to put off its review of the revised law until she returned from a trade mission trip at the end of the month. At least five council members explicitly opposed the rules as originally proposed.

Part-time legislative staffer Allison Catalano drew more attention than her position would normally warrant when she fired off a resignation letter to her boss, Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, that was critical of the cuts to women’s health care. The 26-year-old thanked Crownover for the job opportunity but objected to the actions taken by the Legislature in slashing funds for free and low-cost health care for women and said she did not want to be associated with such cuts. The publicized letter led to an appearance at a rally and a possible job offer from Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin.