AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry, in prepared remarks regarding the fire that gutted the governor’s mansion on June 8, said, “... few sights have left a deeper impression on me than the charred remains of this genuine Texas treasure standing behind me. As I consider what was done to this once-majestic home, my heart aches beyond words.”
The fire occurred while the governor and first lady Anita Perry were in Europe on a trade mission. On June 11 Perry toured the burned interior of the 152-year-old home now braced to prevent stone and masonry walls from failing.
“I cannot begin to understand what would motivate someone to do this, but I do know that they will be caught, and they will be prosecuted for what they have done,” Perry said.
The state fire marshal has ruled the cause of the fire was arson. An investigation by state and federal agencies is under way.
A security camera recorded a human figure tossing an object at the mansion before the fire erupted. Authorities later said the object appeared to be a Molotov cocktail.
TxDOT cuts back Corridor plan
The state’s idea of building new rural toll roads in East Texas has been shelved after months of public hearings and input including 28,000 comments from citizens.
The Texas Department of Transportation announced June 11 it will recommend that the Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor Project be developed using existing highway facilities wherever possible. If additional travel lanes are added to existing highways, only the new lanes would have tolls.
“After a dozen town hall meetings, nearly 50 public hearings and countless one-on-one conversations, it is clear to us that Texans want us to use existing roadways to start building the Texas portion of Interstate 69,” explained Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton.
TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz, in a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, said the overwhelming sentiment of those 28,000 comments focused on the need to improve the existing transportation network rather than building a new corridor for the project.
Saenz said TxDOT would continue to talk to the public about the project. He encouraged Texans to ask questions and share their transportation ideas at www.keeptexasmoving.com.
Secretary of state bids farewell
Phil Wilson, Texas’ 106th secretary of state, on June 11 announced his resignation.
The Brownwood native is the fifth Texan to serve as secretary of state under Gov. Rick Perry. Wilson’s four predecessors include Henry Cuellar, Gwen Shea, Geoff Connor and Roger Williams.
Dallas-based power producer Luminant announced Wilson will join the company as senior vice president of public affairs and start work on July 7.
Luminant is a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings, formerly TXU Corp. The company bills itself as the largest purchaser of wind-generated electricity in Texas.
Roadcheck results are reported
Highway patrol officers conduct a Roadcheck inspection blitz annually in states ranging from Mexico to Canada to reduce commercial vehicle highway fatalities.
Roadcheck 2008 ran from June 3 through 5. During it, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers inspected 5,824 commercial vehicles. Of those, 1,435 were put out of service for equipment violations, the DPS reported.
Also, 178 drivers were found to have serious enough safety violations to be removed from service.
Inmate executed June 11
Karl Eugene Chamberlain was executed by the state of Texas on June 11 in Huntsville. The last execution was carried out in September 2007.
The execution followed a nine-month moratorium on executions observed by Texas and others states awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Kentucky case. Plaintiffs in that case argued that a three-injection regimen used to administer the death penalty is cruel. The court found for the defendant.
Texas GOP meets in Houston
An estimated 12,000 delegates, alternates and guests attended the Republican Party of Texas convention in Houston, June 12-14. Tina Benkiser, a Houston lawyer, was reelected as chair of the state party. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was confirmed as the Republican party nominee for president.