Texas Standard For June 24, 2021

Vice President Harris is coming to Texas. Her visit to the border aims to quiet weeks of criticism – we’ll have one view from El Paso. And: $1 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief funding disproportionately went to communities further inland – an investigation. Also: COVID-19 disproportionately devastated Texas border communities, but the same wasn’t true in neighboring New Mexico. Why? Plus: We’ll check in on Houston’s Fifth Ward and an ongoing fight to address what’s been identified as a cancer cluster there. And: If you have one of those smart thermostats you might want to double check your settings – what some users are seeing happen as demand for energy goes up. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

By Texas StandardJune 24, 2021 8:49 am

Political Border Visits

Vice President Kamala Harris is set to visit the Texas-Mexico border on Friday. She’ll be headed to El Paso along with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The visit will come just days before former President Donald Trump will be touring the border with Governor Greg Abbott in the Rio Grande Valley city of Edinburg. Her visit comes after Harris faced criticism from Texas Republicans including U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for not visiting the U.S. Mexico border during a diplomatic trip earlier this month to Central America and Mexico. Richard Pineda, an associate professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who specializes in Texas politics, talks to the Standard.

Hurricane Harvey Relief Distribution, Part 2

A Houston Chronicle investigation last month revealed the city of Houston and most of Harris County received nothing out of $1 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid distributed by the Texas General Land Office. As the Chronicle investigation continues, reporters found other coastal communities hit the hardest by Harvey, like Port Arthur, also received no money, while communities more inland and less impacted by the storm did get a large portion of the funds. Houston Chronicle reporter Zach Despart, who has been heading this investigation, talks to the Standard.

Pizza Delivery Robots

Robots are now delivering pizza in Austin. KUT’s Nathan Bernier reports it’s one small step for a technology that could reshape society.

Energy Saving ‘Smart’ Thermostats

The relationship between a Texan and their thermostat is a close one come summer time. But for some Texans who opted into auto energy saving plans, that relationship has soured a bit. For more on that the Standard turns to tech expert Omar Gallaga.

Houston Cancer Clusters

Last year’s police murder of George Floyd prompted more Americans to have more conversations about racism. Not just about treatment by police but also about equity in many of its forms — say the construction of cities and where certain industrial facilities were allowed to go up. This environmental racism is the focus of this season of the NPR podcast “Living Downstream.” Producer Laura Isensee worked on an upcoming episode which focused on Houston, a city created without zoning laws.

COVID-19 Deaths At The Texas Border

COVID-19 tore through Texas border communities in 2020. The death rate along the border was significantly higher among all age groups compared to the rest of Texas. But the same wasn’t true along the border in neighboring New Mexico. It’s a disparity explored in a reporting partnership between El Paso Matters and Kaiser Health News. René Kladzyk, a reporter with El Paso Matters, talks to the Standard.

All this and the Texas News Roundup, plus Michael Marks with the Talk of Texas.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.