Every year, the Texas Tribune hosts a 3 day-event that attracts people from all over the United States. The Festival offers approximately 60 sessions that, in turn, feature some 250 different speakers addressing topics ranging from the flooding in Houston to the presidency of Donald Trump.
Such a format is ready-made for us, because it allows us to split up and attend different sessions, then regroup and discuss. Accordingly, each of us took different things from the festival and had different favorites.
Chase, for example, was particularly fascinated with the Festival, and he found the Susan Rice presentation most interesting. Rice, the NSA/UN Ambassador under President Obama, was highly critical of President Trump, noting that he had “broken more than four decades of diplomatic protocol” and concluding that the nation “is in grave danger.”
For Victoria, the “All about Flooding” panel was most interesting. In this panel, engineers and politicians discussed what will need to take place to prevent another major flood in Houston. The hope is to build a coastal wall to keep storm surges at bay, but they are less certain how to drain the type of flooding that occurs inland. For the wall, a 1 percent tax on sales might cover the costs of such a project.
Staci’s experience was more personal Her father was a citizen of Reynosa who had worked with the Governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco Cabeza de Vaca. Not coincidentally, the session that she most liked was the “Trump and Mexico,” where Governor Cabeza De Vaca, Antonio Garza (former ambassador of the U.S to Mexico), Victoria Escobar (El Paso County Judge), Congressman Henry Cuéllar, and Sid Miller (Texas Agriculture Commissioner) discussed hot topics such as NAFTA, DACA, the wall, and more.
The panel underscored the importance of having a trade deal with neighboring countries (NAFTA) and the number of people depending on such a deal for jobs.
The panel offered some unexpected humor…
…and interesting information.
Being a resident of McAllen and a neighbor to Reynosa, Tamaulipas it was a pleasure being able to meet Cabeza De Vaca and learn so much about a topic so close to home.
Of course, it helped that Governor Cabeza de Vaca was also very nice!
Brian, Karla, and Beatriz all shared that their favorite session was the “One on One with Speaker Strauss.” We were lucky enough to get to sit in second row and be right in front of the action.
As he was interviewed by The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, Speaker Strauss gave his take on the success of the 85th session, his opinion on his opposing candidate for House Speaker, and other matters concerning Texas politics. Karla was very excited because once it was over, a few of us were able to go up to the stage and shake Speaker Straus’s hand!
Christina was also impressed to learn that Straus had worked two presidential campaigns to start his political career. However, her favorite session was the one dealing with “Big City Economics.” It dealt with how much legislation has changed the economic procedures. There she was able to learn how pensions affected the city of San Antonio who actually have one of the best pension systems in the state. Also, El Paso, San Antonio, and Fort Worth all gave their pitch as to why Amazon should put their headquarters in the city they govern. She was fortunate to meet Bill Hamilton who is the president of the Retired State Employee Association. He told me that he was excited for the 86th session and wanted to hope for a lot of changes to the retirement plans.
Last of all, Kaitlyn liked the session dealing with Higher Education where members of the Texas Legislature recapped the past legislative session, discussed the funding of higher education, and some of the controversy behind passing a budget. The speakers included former Representative Dan Branch, Senator Kel Seliger, UH Provost Paula Short, and Chancellor Brenda Hellyer. The panel was especially important to Kaitlyn, inasmuch as she is the TSUS Student Regent. At the Texas Tribune Festival, she also happened to cross into Annie Jones, the Student Representative for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. They had previously met over the summer at a Student Regent Forum. It was great that they saw each other and were able to discuss some of the panels together.
Dining at TTF
With such a busy day, we needed fuel. For lunch, we were able to choose from various local Austin food trucks.
At the end of the day, we went to one of our Austin favorites, Kerbey Lane Cafe. It filled us up and let us wind down after a long day.
Also helping us wind down was James Turrell’s “Skyspace” on the UT campus. For many of us, it was our first experience with a “Skyspace,” and it was a relaxing delight!
The hour-long program offered an almost endless variety of colors to relax…
…and entertain us until tomorrow!