COPS AND COURTS
Good Samaritan tells dying woman, ‘You are not alone’ A church organist tries to save a shooting victim in Seattle, learning hours later the same man has killed four others in a mass shooting earlier that day.
Shaken baby conviction relied on science, expert A father wins custody of his infant son then is accused of killing him. A Montana prosecutor relies on a Minnesota doctor to prove her case despite the father’s insistent denials and another probable suspect. The Montana Innocence Project began investigating Robert Wilkes’ case after this story ran and are seeking to prove in court he is actually innocent based on new medical evidence.
Spring High School Memorial shooting Breaking news with frequent online updates: Shots rang out and screaming teenagers crawled to hide under pews just moments after a crowd of hundreds prayed for unity over the casket of 17-year-old Spring High School student Joshua Broussard, killed on campus in a possible gang-related stabbing.
VA, housing authority dispute delays help for homeless veterans Houston-area housing authorities were ready to issue dozens of vouchers to homeless veterans, but the rental assistance went unused for months because of a debate with local VA officials. Also explore this interactive map, showing the places one homeless veteran slept on the street even though funding was available to move him into housing. A month after this story ran, the local housing authorities reported that the VA had started providing enough referrals to ensure no housing vouchers went unused.
Millions collected to expand parks used on amenities Six years after the City of Houston began collecting an “open space fee” from developers, the dedicated fund for expanding park lands has gathered $11 million but not one acre has been bought. Instead, the parks department spent the funds to complete routine maintenance and upgrades. Explore the funds collected and how they were spent with these interactive maps.
Communities grapple with effects of fewer annexations, more blocked incorporations The developers of Mission Bend stamped the manhole covers, “City of Houston,” reflecting expectations the suburb soon would be annexed. That never happened. Changes in state law 16 years ago froze the advance of city boundaries but still left communities like Mission Bend unable to form their own towns. Now, county leaders strain to manage urban issues without the needed tools, and state leaders question whether the expanded powers of special districts is met with an appropriate level of transparency. The residential housing boom in unincorporated areas of the Houston region adds urgency to questions about whether urban communities can be managed without the taxation and regulatory powers of a city.
Hiram Clarke hopes to catch up with Pearland The dreams of an activist from southwest Houston to see her neighborhood renewed finally seem tangible now that the city and county have established a tax increment reinvestment zone to finance infrastructure improvements. Some city leaders are skeptical, but she hopes to catch up with a small city just on the other side of the interstate that is ranked the state’s fastest growing retail market.
City keeping audit letters secret Houston officials blocked the release of letters detailing weaknesses in the city’s financial accounting even though other large Texas cities routinely share such letters as a matter of transparency.
$50 million donation to trails project hinges on maintenance pact
The Kinder Foundation will donate $50 million to jump start a bond-approved trails expansion, but first city leaders must handover control of development and maintenance to a nonprofit. Also, read about the man who first proposed the Bayou Greenways project more than a century ago.
iFest sponsor group is $680,000 in debt Months before the Houston Festival Foundation announced in August it would no longer produce the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the nonprofit struggled to pay for its signature event, the Houston International Festival, and relied on city officials to write checks for some of its bills. A few months after this story ran, the nonprofit filed for Ch. 7 bankruptcy.
Young volunteers help count homeless peers Kennington Adams returned to the Houston neighborhood where he first became homeless as a teen with a clipboard and a questionnaire to help with the city’s first effort to count children without homes.
Youth homeless count fails In a single year, more than 4,000 homeless youth seek help from one Houston nonprofit and area school districts report more than 19,000 students volunteer to staff that they live in shelters or on the street. Yet, the city’s first attempt to target youth in its annual point-in-time count only tallied 378.
STATE AND TRIBAL GOVERNMENT
Poor may never get electric bill help The Texas Legislature has not spent all of a fee it collected for 14 years to help the poor pay electric bills. Instead, legislators have let the dedicated fund grow so they can use it to balance against other spending in the state budget. Debate has emerged this session over what to do with the $811.3 million amassed.
Putting hens before eggs Visit one of the state’s largest egg farms just after Oregon became the third state to implement space standards for egg-laying hens. Regional egg industry leaders accepted the new law as a compromise, but animal rights organizations were divided on whether it does enough.
Abortion law expected to land in courts Texas Republicans clearly defeated abortion rights activists at the state Capitol when they pushed one of the nation’s most restrictive packages of abortion regulations through the Legislature, but all agree the fight to truly decide the matter will be in the courts.
New state law expands authority of tribal police A new Oregon law allows reservation police to have the same authority as other police agencies in the state. Supporters say criminals will find fewer loopholes and quicker response times while opponents say it will inspire costly litigation and can’t guarantee the protection of basic legal rights.
Tribe to U.S.: Forget the payment, let us open casino For decades the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe fought hard to make the federal government acknowledge that it illegally developed more than 5 million acres of the tribe’s aboriginal land. In an extraordinary move, the tribe’s leaders now say they will forgo the gigantic sum of money a court ordered Congress to pay and forget the past harms if allowed to open a casino to secure their future.
Islamic old guard looks to lure youth as world changes The families who built Houston’s first Islamic mosques are beginning to realize they must accept their children and grandchildren as leaders or they will see them leave behind their legacies to form competing organizations.
‘Holy Trio’ quietly guides Houston’s conscience For decades, three men have pushed Houston leaders to action, transformed hearts through worship and kept each other laughing along the way.
Lining up to fight for Christ Southern Baptist leaders called for aggressive expansion of the faith by training “Green Berets for Jesus Christ,” but some church analysts say the focus on mobilizing an already evangelical denomination is a response to a weakened ability to influence national policy and culture. That shift might best be marked by the retirement of the denomination’s public policy and ethics leader Richard Land, who frequently made television appearances and served as a presidential appointee.
Healing the land that heals With at least five different government programs directing land management on or near the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana, the sometimes-divergent philosophies about conservation and development become more pronounced. And no one in particular is charged with monitoring the health of native plant populations in the numerous ecosystems of the region. Consequently, it’s a cultural and natural resource that could disappear without notice.