February 17, 2022
The Brief: Texans speak out about the 2021 winter storm
Text version for screen readers:
In today’s Brief: Texans recount their experiences during last year’s historic winter weather, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick hints at targeting how race is taught at colleges.
🚨 Early voting in the March primary election continues through Feb. 25. 🗳
[The Brief Logo. Tagline: On Texas Politics and Policy]
Winter storm stories: In the days leading up to last year’s winter storm, some Texans took part in normal preparations for severe weather: They searched out canned goods and got fuel for generators and enjoyed the first day of the snow that blanketed much of the state. But the delight did not last long. In audio interviews, more than a dozen Texans shared with The Texas Tribune how they experienced last year’s historic winter storm that left millions in the dark and in subfreezing temperatures for days.
“Everywhere was covered in snow, I mean like everywhere,” said Plano resident Catherine Ogie. “I mean it was beautiful, it looked pretty. However, when we lost power that was when my daughter began to panic.”
The following days were filled with rolling outages, making heat almost impossible to come by, food hard to secure and loved ones difficult to reach. Houston resident John Crawford said one of his neighbors resorted to chopping up some of their furniture to burn as a source of heat.
“I was stuck in the dark, with no electricity for 72 hours … every time I breathed I could see my breath,” said Commerce resident Tashawna Powell.
Amid the chaos and calamity, some saw their communities grow closer and rally around one another to help those in need. But the losses they experienced — such as shelter, pets and loved ones — remain palpable. A year later, some Texans still can’t shake the worry that they’ll be left in the dark again. Hear more of what Texans shared with the Tribune’s Jacob Ohara, Ashley Miznazi and Todd Wiseman.
➕ Follow more of our one-year anniversary coverage of the 2021 winter storm and learn how other Texans were impacted by the severe weather event.
Want to listen to the latest in politics and policy?
Subscribe to The Brief podcast.
Higher education: Faculty at the University of Texas at Austin are speaking out against recent remarks from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that suggest he plans to target the teaching of critical race theory at colleges and universities.
Recently, conservative lawmakers across the country have raised alarm about the theory, a university-level of study that examines how race and racism have impacted social and local structures in the U.S. Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that would restrict the ways in which racism and race are taught in K-12 classrooms. On Twitter, Patrick wrote that lawmakers will move to do the same in higher education and pointed to the creation of the Liberty Institute — a project involving UT Austin leaders and private donors “dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise and free markets.”
Some UT faculty members are now looking for answers, arguing that Patrick’s comments contradict what university administrators told them last fall about the conservative-backed think tank and raise serious questions about academic freedom and freedom of thought on campus. Read more from the Tribune’s Kate McGee.
➕ To learn more about the institute, read our coverage about the intentions behind the think tank and how it received initial funding.
BEST OF THE TRIB
- Texas voters will have the chance to decide whether or not to lower property taxes that fund schools in a May election, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday. The two measures set to be on the statewide ballot were passed during special legislative sessions last year.
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, have sued the Biden administration over mask mandates on planes, marking the latest legal battle targeting federal COVID-19 mandates. The federal mandate was issued in January 2021 and requires people to wear masks while using public transportation or facilities such as airports and subways.
- Texas will receive $1.17 billion for opioid relief as part of a nationwide settlement that Texas joined in July involving pharmaceutical companies accused of exacerbating the opioid crisis. The money will go toward opioid overdose prevention and education over the next 18 years.
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT SAN ANTONIO
Texas now has more public Tier One research universities than any other state
UTSA’s recent top-tier classification solidifies Texas’s status as the best state for research. READ MORE
BEST OF THE REST
Paywall content noted with $.
- Flood funding: City leaders in Houston are angry after a regional council proceeded with a funding plan that would give the city just 2% of $488 million dollars in federal flood funds. (Houston Chronicle, $)
- Road inspections: An audit of Dallas’ Public Works Department found that the agency fails to routinely ensure work is being done properly, on time or at the estimated cost. The review also found there are no written rules or consistent record-keeping for workers to maintain oversight. (Dallas Morning News, $)
- Power grid: One year after the deadly winter storm hit Texas, Democratic state leaders held a summit at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to determine what went wrong and what still needs to be addressed to prevent a repeat of the past. (NBCDFW)
PENCIL US IN
Is Texas prepared for another winter blackout? Hear from someone who knows.
Our virtual multiday event on the 2021 winter storm continues today with a special one-on-one conversation with Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Peter Lake, chair of the Public Utility Commission.
RSVP to attend today’s lunchtime event.
Keep up with the latest before, during and after severe weather events with The Texas Tribune’s weekly energy and environment newsletter.
Take The Texas Tribune’s survey and be heard
The Tribune’s reader survey, available for a short while, is an opportunity to provide valuable feedback that will help the Tribune know how we can best serve readers like you. The information shared is anonymous and it will help us better represent the views and needs of all Texans. Take the survey now.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
[Silhouette of a person walking down hill on a road covered in snow]
An eastbound view of East Stassney Lane in South Austin on Feb. 15, 2021. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for The Texas Tribune. See more photos on our Instagram account.
THE LAST WORD
“Hopefully, even the lieutenant governor understands that a transparently partisan assault on academic freedom at the state’s flagship public university will only hurt the university — and, through it, the state itself.”
— Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s recent remarks targeting the teaching of critical race theory in higher education.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
[Allyson Waller headshot]
By Allyson Waller
Love this newsletter? Show us with your donation.
Have a friend you think would love it, too? Send them here to sign up.
Justice Evan Young for Texas Supreme Court – Former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, Evan Young has earned the endorsements of 14 former Texas Supreme Court justices. Vote for Justice Evan Young.
Texas Association of Nurse Anesthetists works to advance patient safety and the profession of nurse anesthesia. Learn more about CRNAs here.