Adios, Mofo: We're Gonna Miss You, Rick Perry, and Your Great Hair

Categories: Cover Story

perrydebate_121114_AP_Paul Sancya.jpg
Paul Sancya/AP
The defining moment for presidential candidate Rick Perry. Oops.

The hair has been the great constant.

For the past 14 years, the state of Texas has been run by the guy with the best head of hair in professional politics. Now we are reaching the end of an era. Come January 20, Governor Rick Perry will leave office after serving the longest gubernatorial term in the state's history, roughly 5,110 days. Whether he follows through on his threat to go into quiet California-Dreamin' retirement or takes the more likely path and tries another quixotic run at the White House, one thing is certain: We're going to miss that gorgeous dome of hair and the strange and wondrous mind beneath it.

Perry has been many things to us in Texas -- an Aggie, a Sam Rayburn-inspired Democrat, a state legislator, a more-conservative-than-your-most-conservative-relative Republican, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor -- but he has also been something infinitely more priceless. Dear Lord, even when his policies have been the stuff of nightmares, Perry has been entertaining.

We could talk about how Perry consolidated power to turn the relatively weak governor's office into a concentration of political strength never before seen in Texas. We could ruminate on the alleged Texas Miracle that he takes so much credit for and point out that despite all those jobs, Texas actually isn't all that remarkable where the economy is concerned.

We could mention the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas and the many questions regarding the finances and management of such Perry-established entities. There's his reluctance to tap into the Rainy Day Fund while he's happily accepted brutal cuts to the education budget. Heck, we could go on for ages about the poverty rates as well as the children and poor who don't receive health care. We could discuss Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a decision that has left thousands uninsured, although the federal government would have footed the bill until 2016 and covered about 90 percent of the expansion costs for a number of years after that. And we could go into the corporations to which Perry has given so many tax breaks, but that's not what this is about.

It's been a long, strange trip, and it's coming to an end. Yes, after 14 years, Perry is finally leaving office, and now we can't help waxing sentimental. The corn dogs. The guns. The strange political optics. The habit of opening his mouth and saying things that don't make much sense before showing the world his pearly whites -- evidence that Perry has no idea he's once again "stepped in it."

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Captive Audience: Counties and Private Businesses Cash in on Video Visits at Jails

Justin Renteria
Kristina Leisey's former fiance sits in jail in Hopkins County on a drug-possession charge, his link to the world outside a telephone and frequent calls to her. "He's trying to call every day, sometimes two or three times a day," Leisey says. "He doesn't understand how much it adds up after awhile."

The jail telephones are operated by Securus, a Dallas-based corporation that is a major player on the tech side of the for-profit prison industry. The company is popular with county and state governments for its ability to raise money through jail phone calls. It's not popular with the people who actually take the calls, the families and friends of inmates, who find their bank accounts taking hits from a system that is expensive and confusing to use.

To receive the calls, Leisey must deposit money into a prepaid account through Securus. Calls last 15 minutes each, at the flat rate of $4.95. Yet the calls often get dropped before the 15 minutes are up, Leisey says, and $4.95 is deducted from her account regardless. She has tried to call Securus to tell them about the problem, but the telecommunications giant never seems to answer its own phones. "I can never get through to them, ever," she says. The last time she called, she put her cell on speaker as she did her laundry. After 23 minutes, she gave up.

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How the Low T Industry Is Cashing in on Dubious, and Perhaps Dangerous, Science

Categories: Cover Story

Illustration by Jeff Drew
Sellers of testosterone therapy play -- some say prey -- on men's insecurities.
Alex Truman didn't think something was wrong until he returned to the gym. Before fathering his two kids, he worked out regularly and even made an early career of exercise. He had two degrees in health and fitness and ran gyms on the East Coast before he moved to Dallas and got into sales. Lean and square-jawed, he knew his body. But in his late 30s, it was betraying him. At 37, he was taking cholesterol medicine. "I didn't have an awful diet," he says, "but I liked beer, I liked pizza." He yearned to feel better.

He headed back to the weights and machines where he'd spent much of his 20s. He'd lift and lift, but something was different. Back in the day, all his effort would produce tangible results: bigger, defined muscles in his arms and legs, more strength and less fat. Now, results like that eluded him. "I'd go five to six days a week," Truman says, "and not see any progress." He'd go running and wear out easily. "It was really pissing me off because I had it before."

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The Rise and Fall of the Biggest Illegal Sports-Betting Ring in Dallas History

One morning in 2011, just after sunrise, a swarm of federal agents rolled quietly down a neatly manicured cul-de-sac in Southlake, the city police's SWAT alongside them. They gathered outside the home of their target, a $750,000 spread with five bedrooms, five bathrooms and a swimming pool, all sitting on a tree-lined half-acre lot in perhaps Dallas' most idyllic suburb. Around 7, they knocked on the door, and waited.

There was no made-for-TV chaos, no upturned tables or scattering underlings. After a brief wait, the man they were there for, 57-year-old Albert Sidney Reed, approached the door, sleep still in his eyes. He was in his underwear.

Reed's teenage son looking on, police calmly handcuffed their target, and black-clad SWAT officers shuffled inside to sweep the 5,250-square foot house. When the all clear was given several minutes later, Reed was un-cuffed and allowed to dress. He sat in a chair inside for four hours as investigators sifted through his belongings, looking for proof of what they already knew.

About an hour into the search, another IRS agent stumbled across a satchel in Reed's SUV and shuffled through its contents: printouts of wagers, collection notes, business expenses, printouts of how much his betting operation profited during football season, even notes from a big meeting upper-level owners in the organization had recently conducted. Later, he made sure to introduce himself to the satchel's owner.

"I'm Special Agent Mark Parsons with the Internal Revenue Service," he said. "We're investigating the Global International Corporation bookmaking operation, and you and I are going to get to know each other pretty well over the next six months. You can make it good on yourself -- or hard on yourself."

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A Trip to California for Legal Medical Marijuana Brings Relief to Kids from CannaMoms

Categories: Cover Story

Brian Stauffer

Houston Press

The last we'd heard from Renee Petro, the Florida pot advocate whose story was highlighted in our recent feature on medical marijuana refugees, the pint-sized parent was still fighting to obtain cannabis for her son, Branden, a FIRES sufferer.

Branden's debilitating seizures were spiraling out of control, and like the other parents in our story, Renee found herself caught between conflicting state laws and ideologies on medical marijuana. Traditional treatments weren't working for Branden, and in Florida -- much like Texas -- when it came to matters of medical marijuana, her hands were tied.

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Medical Marijuana's Promise of Relief Lures Desperate Parents and Patients to Flee Texas

Categories: Cover Story

Brian Stauffer
(Editor's note: This week's cover story comes courtesy of our sister paper, the Houston Press. Visit here for more stories by reporter Angelica Leicht.)


Sitting cross-legged on the floor in her apartment outside of Houston, Faith's mother looks over at the toddler repeatedly as she talks. There are no physical indicators that signal the start of a seizure, but Faith's mother can tell one is on its way.

Everything about raising Faith involves watching and waiting, and today is no different.

Suddenly, Faith's mom jumps up, her words stalling mid-sentence, and makes her way to the mat where the chocolate-haired child is lying. She plops down next to her daughter, gives her moon face and chubby-cherub limbs a once-over, and places a hand across her tiny chest, feeling for any sign of what's to come.

It's an unnerving ritual, the watching and waiting, but Faith's mom can feel what is happening in her own bones. She knows that Faith is about to seize.

Slowly, the toddler's eyes begin to flicker. The gut-wrenching convulsions quickly follow, working their way up her tiny body, while the anxiety that has worn premature lines across her mom's forehead works its way into sheer terror.

Fear fills the room, and she yells out to no one in particular.

"It's a seizure," she says. "Faith is having a seizure."

Seizures are nothing new to the family -- they've been happening since Faith, now 2, was about 4 months old -- but they are terrifying just the same. There is no respite from the epilepsy for the child, and modern mainstream medicine has no solutions for the young family.

Until recently, Faith's parents, who have asked that we not use any of their family's names, would call 911 and take her to the emergency room, where doctors would give her antiseizure drugs. The drugs didn't work -- they never worked -- yet the doctors would try anyway.

With the fear of what's to come -- Dravet Syndrome only worsens as children grow -- Faith's parents have decided to go an alternative route. They're ready to break the law for their daughter, and this means getting their hands on some cannabis oil.

Treating medical patients -- children or others -- with cannabis is illegal in Texas, and they could lose custody of their daughter for it, despite the clinical evidence of the drug's efficacy. But Faith could lose her life if they don't get a handle on these seizures.

Losing Faith is an unfathomable thought.

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The Battle for Preston Hollow's Soul

Categories: Cover Story

Mark Graham
Luke Crosland has been trying -- and failing -- to redevelop Preston Center for years.
Luke Crosland stands at the window of his seventh-floor office and looks out across Preston Center. In the foreground, a tangle of luxury SUVs battle for access to a shabby, two-story parking garage that seems to deteriorate before his eyes. The garage is ringed by a jumble of aging retail strips that wouldn't be out of place in a working-class neighborhood in Garland. Further back, past the Marshalls, a clump of mid-rise office towers stand as a testament to a 1980s office boom.

Crosland is a pugnacious commercial real estate developer best known for the iLume apartments on Cedar Springs Road. He's been gazing down on this scene since he bought into Preston Center 27 years ago. There are trendy new restaurants like John Tesar's Spoon and Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and a few office buildings have gone up here and there, but the difference between now and then is cosmetic. The retail buildings are still outdated. The infrastructure is still crumbling. Three decades of decay have only made the situation worse.

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Plans for Texas' First Private Toll Road Roll On -- and Right Over People in its Path

Categories: Cover Story

David Leonard
For the people who live in the countryside east of Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon, the appeal is in the quiet rural roads, dense trees, wild animals in the woods and bright stars shining in the night sky.

To a Dallas company called the Texas Turnpike Corp., all that open space is a sign that not enough stuff has been built yet. "A review of an aerial map of the metroplex shows that there is a lack of development to the north and east of Dallas," said a report the corporation prepared and sent in 2012 to the mayor of Lavon, a small town on the eastern shore of the lake. "Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon have blocked access to the area and stifled growth."

Texas Turnpike Corp. had a fix for that "lack of development:" a private toll road, developed by none other than Texas Turnpike Corp. The corporation's report pointed to wealthier Collin County suburbs as an example of the positive effects of toll roads: "Similar to the lack of growth in northwest Collin County prior to the opening of the Dallas North Tollway, the area northeast of Dallas has not grown due to lack of adequate transportation infrastructure."

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The Cop Watchers: Chasing (and Sometimes Trolling) Police in the Name of Liberty

Categories: Cover Story, Crime

Dylan Hollingsworth
Cop-watcher Kory Watkins squats and films a traffic stop in Arlington. Is this interfering?
Their camcorders and phones recording, about 10 cop-watchers stand on an embankment between six busy lanes and four gas pumps at an Arlington gas station, wondering why cops keep coming for what looks like a simple traffic stop. Don't all these cops have something better to do, they think, like fighting crime?

Three Arlington officers get out of their squad cars and form a loose wall between the officer conducting the stop and those recording. "Get back," an officer says. "Get back." The cop-watchers look at each other in confusion. Get back? Why?

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Meet the Arlington Libertarians Who Spend Their Nights Chasing and Filming Cops (Video)

This week, the Observer's Sky Chadde has a cover story about a group of Arlington "cop watchers" who spend their nights following the suburb's patrol cars, filming police's interactions with the citizenry and lobbing the occasional "oink," all in the name of liberty.

As part of that story, videographer Sarah Passon recently hit the streets with the group. Her video is above.

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