🤠 Howdy, Thursday!

☀️ Today's weather: Sunshine galore. High of 58, low of 38.

Sounds like: "How D'Ya Like Your Eggs in the Morning," by Dean Martin and Helen O'Connell.

Today's newsletter is 957 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: City aims to curb sidewalk islands

Where the sidewalk ends. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

Houston city leaders hope a new ordinance will cut down on our infamous sidewalks to nowhere.

Catch up quick: In Houston, sidewalks are only built where there's new construction.

  • That policy created concrete islands as new homes and buildings were developed with sidewalks in areas where the neighboring properties did not have sidewalks.
  • The lack of continuity forces pedestrians into the street, then back onto the sidewalk, then back in the street (Jay here, speaking from experience).

Driving the news: City Council yesterday unanimously approved changes to the city's rules to allow property developers to pay a one-time fee instead of being required to include sidewalks on a property with new construction regardless of whether the surrounding properties have sidewalks.

How it works: The $12-per-square-foot fee will fund sidewalk projects across the city with a 70-30 split: 70% going to the area where the fee was collected and 30% going to projects citywide.

  • Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city hopes to generate $1.7 million each year.

The big picture: The new program will allow the city to fill gaps in the network while attempting to prevent new islands from being created in neighborhoods without an existing structure.

The other side: Critics are skeptical about the plan's ability to create a connected network of sidewalks.

  • Kevin Strickland, a founding member of CURBS, which advocates for safe pedestrian access in the Heights, said the city should have gone further.
  • "Austin and Denver passed mobility bonds to do this," Strickland said. "They no longer treat sidewalks as amenities, which is what Houston does."

Between the lines: It's still up to developers to choose whether to opt in to the fund — meaning new sidewalk islands could still be constructed.

  • Plus: The city has to wait for the fund to grow, so don't expect gaps to be filled anytime soon.

2. A potential property ban for Chinese nationals

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios; Photo: Brandon Bell /Getty Images

Amping up rhetoric against China, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas officials are seeking to bar Chinese nationals — as well as those from Iran, North Korea and Russia — from buying property in Texas.

The big picture: Suspicions about connections between the Chinese government and Chinese companies and individuals are running red hot, from Washington to state capitols across the country.

  • Abbott has already barred TikTok, owned by a Chinese company, from state-owned devices over cybersecurity concerns.
  • Critics say the policies demonize Chinese Americans, pointing to racist attacks against people of Asian heritage.

Driving the news: State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham, has proposed banning citizens and businesses from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from purchasing land in Texas.

  • Abbott said on Twitter he would sign such a bill into law.

The other side: At a press conference Monday, state Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat who was born in China, showed a photo of the house where he grew up in Houston.

  • "This is the house my parents bought when we were on our way to citizenship," he said. "This was our first step on our path to the American dream."
  • "We cannot stand for this," he continued.

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🌪 The tornado that tore through Deer Park and Pasadena on Tuesday was rated EF3 with a maximum speed of 140 mph, according to the National Weather Service. (KHOU)

📈 The Houston region had record-high employment in 2022, gaining an estimated 179,000 jobs over the course of the year — that's the most job growth since at least the 1980s. (Houston Chronicle)

🏢 The former Exxon skyscraper is set to become an apartment complex. The vacant, 45-story building has been in the heart of downtown since 1962. (Chron)

✈️ County Judge Lina Hidalgo made a quiet return after spending weeks abroad visiting an ill family member and then taking a brief vacation. (Houston Public Media)

4. Our James Beard semifinalists

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Several Houston chefs and restaurants got some major nods from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, which released its semifinalist list Wednesday.

Why it matters: The James Beard awards are considered the Oscars of the food world. Being on the list equates to having made exceptional culinary achievements.

The big picture: The recognition of our local chefs underscores that Houston is a food destination.

The intrigue: Chris Williams, the chef and owner of Lucille's, is nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur for the second year in a row.

  • Christine Ha and Tony Nguyen of Xin Chào are nominated for Outstanding Chef, after being nominated for Best Chef in Texas last year.

Other local semifinalists in national categories:

  • Victoria Elizondo of Cochinita & Co. for Emerging Chef
  • Tatemó for Best New Restaurant
  • Theodore Rex for Outstanding Hospitality
  • Nancy's Hustle for Outstanding Wine and Beverage Program

Plus: Several locals made the list for the best chefs in Texas:

  • Gatlin's BBQ chef Greg Gatlin
  • Street to Kitchen chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter
  • Nam Giao chef Ai Le
  • Kiran's chef Kiran Verma

Flashback: Last year, the only Houston establishment to win a James Beard Award was cocktail bar Julep for Outstanding Bar Program.

What's next: Finalists will be announced in March, and the winners will be revealed in a ceremony in Chicago on June 5.

Now hiring: New job openings

🔥 Hot and fresh local job listings.

  1. District Sales Leader Designate at PepsiCo.
  2. Gas Marketing Analyst at Targa.
  3. Senior Manager Operations at Discover.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

5. One map to go: Eggs-orbitant prices

Average price Instacart customers paid for a dozen eggs, December 2022
Data: Instacart; Map: Axios Visuals

Texans paid a whopping $5.43 for a dozen eggs in December, according to Instacart data.

Why it matters: While retail prices have begun to ease, egg prices are still historically high, according to a recent USDA report, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.

By the numbers: Nationally, the cost of eggs more than doubled in December compared to a year earlier.

  • The national average price for a dozen eggs rose to $4.25 in December, jumping 66 cents from November.

Yes, but: While Texans paid over a dollar more for a dozen eggs than the national average, at least we're not in Hawaii ($9.73) or Florida ($6.36).

Meanwhile, there is a flock of memes to commemorate our shared misery.

Thanks to Lindsey Erdody for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

🥬 Shafaq is very behind on her winter and spring garden.

🦺 Jay should be wearing his high-vis vest on walks.