AUSTIN - The governor’s mansion burned Sunday morning, June 8. The 152-year-old structure, which was being renovated, is gutted.
Firefighters were summoned around 1:45 a.m. They worked for hours to put the fire out. Authorities said the cause of the fire appeared to be arson. A multi-agency investigation has commenced.
Gov. Rick Perry and first lady Anita Perry were traveling in Europe on a trade mission when the fire occurred. The Perrys moved into a private home months ago to make way for the mansion’s multi-million dollar renovation.
What is left of the mansion is salvageable, the state fire marshall said.
Texas Democrats convene here
Thousands of elected delegates, alternates and guests poured into Austin June 6-8 for the Texas Democratic Party convention.
Boyd Richie of Graham was re-elected state party chair. Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia appeared on behalf of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., addressed the convention via the internet to voice her support for the Obama candidacy. After a 17-month battle for the nomination, Clinton on June 7 suspended her campaign. A few days earlier, Obama amassed enough delegates from the states and U.S. possessions to win.
The Republican Party of Texas will be in Houston June 12-14 for its state convention.
YFZ children back with families
The Texas Supreme Court on May 29 ruled the removal of children from the polygamy-practicing YFZ ranch in Eldorado should not have been ordered because the state failed to present evidence that the children were in danger.
On June 2, Judge Barbara Walther, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, instructed the state Department of Family and Protective Services to release the ranch children from foster care.
Walther, 51st state District Court, Tom Green County, gave the order that set the YFZ Ranch raid in motion on April 3.
Some 416 children who had been placed with caregivers across Texas were quickly moved back to their families after Walther gave the order.
Authorized people regained custody of children by providing a thumbprint, having their photograph taken with their child and agreeing to attend and complete parenting classes. The state will continue to use DNA testing to establish the parentage of each child and state efforts to investigate possible abuse of children also will continue.
A YFZ ranch spokesman said members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who reside at the 1,700 acre compound near Eldorado, will no longer practice “spiritual marriage” of underage girls.
Albert Hawkins, head of the Texas Department of Human Services, said despite the reversal of the massive child custody intervention, the state will not shrink from its duty to protect children from abuse.
Victim protection program debuts
There is a new address confidentiality program for victims of family violence, stalking and sexual assault.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on June 2 announced that eligible Texans may register for an anonymous address that would appear on voter and school registration cards, driver’s licenses and most government documents.
The attorney general’s Crime Victim Services Division will assign a substitute address, receive service of process and mail for the participants and forward mail to participants’ actual address.
Applicants must meet with a local domestic violence shelter, sexual assault center, law enforcement, or prosecution staff member to discuss a safety plan and learn more about the enrollment process.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Palmview authored a law, passed during the 2007 state legislative session, creating the Address Confidentiality Program.
Program scrutinizes drivers
Roadcheck 2008 subjected commercial vehicle drivers to higher than usual scrutiny on the roads of North America, June 3 through June 5.
The Texas Department of Public Safety participated in this intensive inspection program.
Troopers stopped thousands of commercial vehicles to check safety equipment, drivers’ log books, licenses and more. Troopers also looked for evidence of drug or alcohol use.