Webb Report: Statehood for Austin? We’ve got population to back it up

11:00 p.m Saturday, April 8, 2017 Austin360
Jay Janner
Austin now has a larger population than five U.S. states. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

We get it, we get it: Austin isn’t always like the rest of Texas. Certain folks love to call the city “the People’s Republic of Austin,” due to its liberal policy bent and undying embrace of the strange. Though we’re not likely to implement a Maoist political structure at City Hall anytime soon, comrades, the Live Music Capital of the World does actually have enough people to encourage dreams of statehood.

Austin’s population is so large that if it were a state, it would be the 45th largest in the U.S., according to a study by LawnStarter, a local lawn care service. Why grass-cutters are concerning themselves with comparative demographics, I’ll never know. Nonetheless, the company used city and U.S. Census data to count Austin’s teeming masses at 943,795 people, higher than those of Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. Poor Wyoming only has 585,501.

The study is quick to point out that land-wise, these beautiful states are all massive compared to ATX. If you plopped 326-square-mile Austin in the middle of Alaska (a sprawling, 656,424-square-mile snow beast), it would look like one of those little birds hitching a ride on a hippo. Even delicate, syrup-drenched Vermont is 30 times larger than Austin when it comes to area, at 9,615 square miles.

Now, there are much larger cities in the U.S. Austin is only the 11th largest, and Houston, Dallas and San Antonio all pack more people in than we do. However, the entire Austin metro area is the country’s fastest growing, and it recently hit the 2-million-people mark. Factor in our distinct cultural identity and the fact that even the European Union sees potential for us to stand on our own feet, and we could basically start shopping for our own constitution.

From ‘DWTS’ to NSC

Another week, another social media wildfire set by Rick Perry.

In news sure to pique the interest of any Texan or “Dancing With the Stars” fan, the U.S. secretary of energy was been added to President Donald Trump’s National Security Council principals committee. The former governor of Texas, Texas A&M University student and TV game show contestant made the cut as part of a council shakeup, which also ousted Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist.

Readers on the American-Statesman’s Facebook page were quick to comment, as they often are. Of course, they had jokes, too. Some comments have been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Texas wanted them anyway

The Texas Senate named Chuck Norris an honorary Texan on Tuesday. This was not because Chuck showed up and roundhouse-kicked everyone into submission — naming honorary Texans is something the Legislature does on a regular basis. Even for lesser mortals.

Who else, you are asking, has received this honor?

Well, in 2015, the Legislature was busy making Texans. Most notably, British singer Phil Collins got the Lone Star stamp of approval for his efforts on behalf of the Alamo. Actor Gary Sinise was honored for his work advocating for veterans.

But other honorary Texans minted in 2015 include Albanian artist Genc Mulliqi, Czech Republic exchange student Vladimir Jaskevic, University of Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart and former Philadelphia Eagles player Troy Vincent.

The resolution can be introduced in the House or in the Senate, or it can be a concurrent resolution, such as the one in 2015 that declared May 26 to be John Wayne Day for a 10-year period. Often such resolutions simply absolve newborns unlucky enough to be born outside state lines but lucky enough to have relatives with friends in high places.

Sometimes it’s weird. In 2011, a House Resolution granted posthumous Texan-ness to Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, for reasons nearly a half-dozen “whereas”es couldn’t make clear.

One particularly good story is the one of famous naturalist John James Audubon. After a visit to Texas in 1837, a senator in Texas’ fledgling government proposed to make Audubon an honorary Texan. Or Texian, as they said then. It went nowhere and stayed that way until 1985, when Sen. Carlos Truan sponsored a new resolution, which was easily adopted.

But the Lege doesn’t have all the fun. Texas governors can declare honorary Texans, too. Then-Gov. Rick Perry went nearly full partisan in his declarations: Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Rudy Giuliani, Glenn Beck and … Rush Limbaugh. (He also dubbed singer Chris Knight and actor Russell Crowe, for a little balance.)

Gov. George W. Bush was a little more, ahem, presidential in his selections. He made several prime ministers and other foreign dignitaries honorary Texans … and Bob Dylan, too.

Gov. Ann Richards kept it a little weirder. Under her watch, the parents of Jerry Jeff Walker, Bob Hope, Don McLean and Arnold Schwarzenegger became honorary Texans.

Perhaps the oddest honorary Texan ever was Nicolae CeauČ™escu, Romania’s brutal communist leader until 1989. When Gov. Dolph Briscoe honored him, we’re willing to bet he didn’t anticipate CeauČ™escu would be the only honorary Texan to be executed by a firing squad.

— Dave Thomas, American-Statesman staff

TeXXXas

Republicans in Congress passed the repeal of an internet privacy rule implemented last year by the FCC. The rule would have prohibited Internet service providers from selling the browsing history of their customers.

The repeal doesn’t necessarily mean your browsing history is for sale, but if it is, and you’re a Texan, you’re in trouble. Or rather, you might be in trouble if you’re embarrassed about searching for pornography.

The folks over at High Speed Internet, an internet service search tool, have compiled a list of each state’s “online guilty pleasure,” and Texas residents apparently like searching for “XXX Content,” as the list calls it. Texans aren’t alone; porn was also the top guilty pleasure for Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Other big “guilty pleasures”: Alaska really loves Googling celebrity news, Florida is big into “sugar daddy” sites, Utah can’t get enough fitness models, Colorado likes “fail videos,” and Mississippi residents love themselves some “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).

— Jake Harris, American-Statesman staff

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