Texas’ first- and third-largest cities could be in daily commuting distance from each other via the high-speed Texas Central Railroad.
Proponents of the proposed bullet train hailed two historic milestones last week: The Federal Railroad Administration released its rules of the road for the project and approved the environmental review and route for the track between Houston and Dallas.
Commuters would be able to travel the 240-mile route in less than 90 minutes on the Japanese-built train, with departures every 30 minutes daily during peak periods and every hour during off-peak periods. The train, holding about 400 passengers, is projected to travel at speeds of more than 200 mph. Construction could start as early as next year.
“This is the moment we have been working toward,” said Carlos Aguilar, chief executive officer of Texas Central Railroad. The Federal Railroad Administration approval “represents years of work by countless individuals, affirming a very thorough and careful regulatory process that will make the Texas Central Railroad the first high-speed rail system to be implemented in the United States.”
Opponents said the project still has a long way to go before final approval. Texans Against High-Speed Rail officials contend Texas Central is in financial trouble and has significant regulatory hurdles to clear.
“Texas Central will likely trumpet this decision as major progress for its project, but they are simply arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Kyle Workman, chairman and president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail.
Closed for the public’s business
The U.S. treasury has sent $139 billion to the country’s state and local governments in COVID-19 relief funds, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Government.
To track this spending in the Lone Star State, a group called Texas Housers has filed public information requests with major city and county governments, seeking documentation of new expenditures and policies.
“However, recent guidance from Attorney General Ken Paxton has eviscerated Texas’ Public Information Act and given governments impunity to operate without public scrutiny,” Texas Housers, an advocacy group supporting affordable housing, said in a statement. “The guidance allows governments to ignore public information requests if they are operating ‘skeleton crews’ and working remotely during the pandemic.”
San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth responded to Housers’ requests with automated emails stating that they are “closed for business” when it comes to the Texas Public Information Act.
“The exploitability of this system is obvious,” Housers’ statement said. “A city can be open for business with regards to new expenditures and policies but closed for business with regards to divulging any information about these plans.”
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas has joined in opposing this suspension of the Public Information Act and has asked the Attorney General’s Office for a clarifying opinion.
This old house
The Association of Texas Realtors is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020.
For a little perspective, the Humble Independent School District reports the price of a new home was $6,296 in 1920. One hundred years later, the average home price in Humble is $149,794. What will the price be in 2120? And what will a real estate agent’s job look like 100 years from now?
“We are at a crucial juncture within the history of the brokerage industry that will test the survival of every real estate agent …,” Jason S. Weissman, CEO of Bost Realty Advisers, wrote in a recent Fast Company opinion article. “The real estate agents and brokerages who survive and thrive in the coming crunch will be those who embrace technology, not fight it.”
Pecan pie goes with everything
Texans don’t really need a special month to remind them to celebrate pecans or wine, but October offers some emphasis.
October is specially designated for recognizing Texans pecans and Texas wine. The Texas Pecan Board and Texas Fine Wine invite people to celebrate by pairing the two tastes together during a virtual tasting event.
To participate in this tasting, purchase a tasting kit through Texas Fine Wine by Friday, Oct. 9, at texasfinewine.com/upcoming-events. Each kit is $125 plus tax and includes five bottles of wine, a 1-pound bag of raw pecans and a tasting sheet, recipes and other information produced by the Texas Pecan Board to be used during the event.
“In addition to participating in the tasting, I encourage every Texan to visit their closest pecan orchard and winery to discover what makes Texas pecans and Texas wines so special,” said Bob Whitney, executive director of the Texas Pecan Board.
If $125 is a little too pricey for your taste, individual Texas orchards and retailers may be running specials throughout the month, the Texas Pecan Board suggests. Share your favorite recipes and wine pairings on social media by using #TexasPecanMonth.
By Chris Cobler, board member and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. • [email protected]