February 23, 2024
❣️ It's Friday! Gotta love a short week.
☀️ Today's weather: Take advantage of the beautiful sunny day, with a high of 75.
⚖️ Situational awareness: A judge ruled yesterday that Barbers Hill Independent School District did not violate the CROWN Act by punishing a Black teen over the length of his dreadlocks.
🏘 Programming note: We'll be back in your inbox tomorrow with another special real estate newsletter from our colleague.
Today's newsletter is 951 words — a 3.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Driver could be charged in crosswalk crash
Police are still determining whether criminal charges will be filed against a driver who hit and killed a woman in a downtown Houston crosswalk in late January.
Why it matters: Advocates say the case could lead to Harris County's first prosecution under the Lisa Torry Smith Act, a 2021 Texas law that made it a felony for drivers to severely injure or kill someone who is lawfully using a crosswalk.
What happened: Patricia Martin, 64, was using a crosswalk along Milam Street on Jan. 29 when the driver of a Chevrolet Silverado turned and hit her, police said.
- The driver told police he stopped, backed up his truck and placed a pillow under Martin's head, according to a Houston Police Department report obtained by Axios. He said he asked a bystander to call 911.
- Martin was pronounced dead at Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center.
What they're saying: Gina Torry, Torry Smith's sister and leader of Citizens for Road Safety, tells Axios that the lack of prosecutions in Harris County is indicative of a "lack of political will" from District Attorney Kim Ogg.
- "Police need to be systematically fining and, if required, arresting those who choose to endanger lives by breaking the crosswalk law," Torry said.
The other side: When asked about the case and the Lisa Torry Smith Act, a District Attorney's Office spokesperson told Axios the office sent staff to monitor the scene and is waiting for the results of the police department's investigation.
Details: Police allowed the man to drive off in his pickup without charges or a citation, but they said the investigation is ongoing. They said he was not impaired.
What we're watching: Whether the driver will be charged under the Lisa Torry Smith Act.
2. 📺 What to know about "Selena and Yolanda"
A new documentary series reexamines the murder of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.
Why it matters: The docuseries tries to cast a new light on the relationship between Selena and Yolanda Saldívar, the former fan club president from San Antonio convicted of her murder.
- It includes the first English interview Saldívar has given in decades.
- It casts Saldívar as Selena's friend and confidant, not an obsessed fan as many '90s tabloids at the time portrayed her.
Catch up fast: Saldívar shot Selena in 1995 at a Days Inn in Corpus Christi when the singer was 23 years old, following accusations that Saldívar was stealing money from Selena's businesses.
Of note: Saldívar is up for parole in March 2025 after serving 30 years of her life sentence.
State of play: Some fans have criticized the docuseries as exploiting Selena's memory.
The big picture: No one interviewed in the series denies that Saldívar shot Selena. But Saldívar and her family say that the shooting was an accident and that Saldívar was under emotional duress as a victim of controlling men in Selena's life.
3. Bayou Buzz
🚨 Houston police chief Troy Finner detailed the department's response to discovering that thousands of sexual assault investigations had been suspended over lack of personnel. (ABC13)
🚲 Houston BCycle has reduced its prices and reactivated some of its stations to boost ridership as the Metropolitan Transit Authority works to build its own bike share system. (Houston Public Media)
🤳 A national AT&T outage affected thousands of Houstonians yesterday, leaving many without cell service in the morning. (Axios)
4. Silvia Webber, the "Harriet Tubman" of Texas
Descendants of Silvia Hector Webber — the first free Black woman in present-day Austin and the "Harriet Tubman" of the Underground Railroad to Mexico — are working to resurrect her story.
Why it matters: Texas is one of many states that have passed laws limiting discussions about slavery in schools, and Webber's descendants say teaching her story is the best way to fight attempts to erase history, writes Axios' Russell Contreras.
Driving the news: Her descendants announced that they've found new records showing Webber was 8 years old when she was sold along with her mother, Sarah, from an area near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- Before the announcement at the Briscoe Center for American History, Webber had been a mysterious but influential figure in the often-overlooked Underground Railroad to Mexico.
Between the lines: Webber's accomplishments would have remained unknown had it not been for Ohio State history professor María Esther Hammack, who found Webber's freedom papers and has been researching the topic for years.
5. Two performances to go
👋 Shafaq here! I saw a couple of shows this week that made me smile.
Driving the news: I went to Asia Society Texas to see "The Big Swim," a show in collaboration with the Houston Grand Opera.
- The one-hour show, which was HGO's 76th world premiere production, ran only through the weekend and was about the great race between the 12 animals that became the symbols of the Lunar New Year calendar.
Quick thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this opera. It was fun, wholesome, short and sweet.
- It's been a few years since I received a red envelope, so I was excited when I received one at the end with a chocolate coin and stickers of my zodiac animal.
Plus: I also saw "Laughs in Spanish" at Stages during previews. The play opens with an art gallery turned into an active crime scene after the exhibit goes missing ahead of opening day. The gallery owner's movie star mother makes a surprise visit to save the show.
- The show packs a lot in an hour and a half, but it centered around mother-daughter relationships. Overall, it was a light, fun show that got some laughs from me.
If you go: Runs through March 17. Tickets start at $48.
Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.
☀️ Shafaq is trying to be outside as much as possible this weekend.
📱 Jay is glad he's a T-Mobile customer unbothered by yesterday's cellphone shenanigans.