AUSTIN – Signs that the governor’s mansion soon will be functional again have been evident recently.
Pieces from the governor’s mansion collection were being moved back into the stately home that in June 2008 was heavily damaged by arson. The governor’s press office announced June 20 the return of the collection marks the first stage of the move phase of the restoration of the mansion and that Gov. Rick Perry and family are expected to resume residence when the restoration project is completed in late July. Among pieces in the collection are the bed used by Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin’s writing desk and portraits of Gov. and Mrs. Pease, who was in office when the Governor’s Mansion was built in 1856.
The collection also includes the governors’ memento collection, a tradition started in the l960s by then-first lady Jean Houston Daniel. The restoration, overseen by the State Preservation Board, has been made possible by nearly $3.5 million in private donations and a $21.5 million appropriation by the Texas Legislature, the governor’s office said. The Texas Department of Public Safety urges anyone with information related to the arson to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 252-TIPS or the state fire marshal’s arson hotline, (988) 252-8477.
A&M wins bid for center
Texas A&M University System on June 18 announced its successful bid to become one of three national biosecurity centers. The $285.6 million contract includes an initial investment of $176.6 million from the federal government, with the remainder cost-shared by commercial and academic proposal partners, A&M reported. “We have long served our nation and risen to defend our country against national security threats,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “Our selection for this Center reflects that tradition and means we are enhancing the nation’s ability to counter biological and pandemic threats, both known and unknown, with vaccines manufactured here in the United States. We would like to thank President Obama and his administration; we are honored to be selected and to have the Texas A&M System’s unique capabilities leveraged to meet critical 21st-century challenges.”
Sharp also said the award “is a result of a decade of visionary leadership by Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Joe Straus, backed by the Texas A&M System Board of Regents and faculty and researchers throughout the A&M System to position Texas and the A&M System as leaders in biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals. This is big news for Texas A&M and the state of Texas,” said state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education. Texas A&M joins sites in Maryland and North Carolina as centers working to develop and manufacture drugs to fight bioterrorist threats, pandemic influenza and other infectious diseases, Branch reported, and said the new center at Texas A&M, along with the biocontainment work going on at the UTMB Galveston National Laboratory, “keeps Texas at the forefront of national security research and protecting Americans from threats of bioterrorism.” A&M officials said the center could lead to the creation of 1,000 jobs over the next five years.
Runoff candidates debate
A battle over who is the real conservative was the main thrust of a June 22 broadcast debate between the two Republican runoff candidates for the U.S. Senate seat that is opening when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s final six-year term of office expires on Dec. 31. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz traded barbs over their respective bona fides in the first of two scheduled debates before the July 31 runoff election. Meanwhile, Democrats in a runoff to determine who will face the winner of the Dewhurst-Cruz contest have a debate scheduled for June 26. The candidates for their party’s nomination are former State Rep. Paul Sadler of Henderson and retired educator Grady Yarbrough of Tyler.
'Drive Texas' site debuts
The Texas Department of Transportation on June 20 launched its “Drive Texas” online map application that makes traffic conditions, weather and other information available to travelers and people who are making travel plans. Internet users may go to www.DriveTexas.org to locate rest stops, construction, closures, accidents and more. But, TxDOT cautioned, motorists should get off the road and park in a safe location if they want to access the service.