Austin Bureau Report From 1970

Here's a Feb. 27, 1970, Austin bureau report from Kyle Thompson to Don Reed covering the period ending 2/27/70:

The slash in state welfare checks to dependent children and medicaid for the aged story opened up on Monday 2/9 with the cuts announced by the State Welfare Board, and climaxed on Friday 2/13 with Lt. Gov. Barnes calling for a special session to raise the money, and Gov. Preston Smith on the next day coming out against a special session. I say "climaxed," but that was just the first week of a two- week deal tht took a lot of our time and attention. By Monday, 2/16, hospital and welfare associations were joining the clamor for a special session. Then, on Thursday, 2/19, while covering the Watere Quality Board's roasting of Houston Mayor Welch for that city's pollution, I moved up to the 4th floor with 70 mothers and their children demonstrating against the cuts. The real climax came on Friday, 2/20 and we showed up extremely well. I got in touch with a member of the governor's staff after learning that the governor had put off an appointment with one of the demonstrating mothers at 8 a.m., and the staff man said "stay loose, we're coming out later today with a solution." By answering a few tricky questions, I deducted that the solution would avoid a special session and by 8:34 a.m. We were on the wire with a lead that the governor was going to transfer other funds and avoid a special session. We had this information in the hands of PM's papers in plenty of time for all their editions. It was nearly noon before AP caught up, if they ever did. All in all, we came out looking great, I believe, because we went after information instead of waiting for it to come to us.

During this same period we had a major part of the legal hassle over whether or not State Sen. Ralph Hall could run for governor. We had hinted at a possible decision by the Texas Supreme Court by 2/11, but our story moved out 2/10 noted that it probably would be later. It was, coming on 2/16 in a special session of the high court. We held our own throughout on the Hall story, I believe, not especially shining until the U.S. Supreme Court decision came down on the morning of 2/27. Our urgent cleared the BBB wire at 9:57 a.m. Cst and the AP office in WA never did come through until after 1 p.m. The local AP boys found out about the ruling about an hour after our original story when the governor's office put out Smith's statement, which we asked for. The opposition then frantically began calling DA and WA, but they never were able to catch up. The AP people of PM's 2/27 just flat missed the story. Great job by someone in WA, probably Bill Clayton, who is a great guy who also is very dependable. We ought to promote this one.

In between those two items, Ann Arnold did some fine reporting on the 16-year-old Mississippi girl and her common law husband. We had the "dirty politics" deal between Atty. Gen. Crawford Martin and his opponent, Judge Brown. On this one, we did a lot of digging which I think put Brown in his place and resulted in what I think was a very good Sunday column moved out 2/27 for Sun. 3/1. We'll have to wait to see if the eds agree. The welfare weries, incidentially, was also climaxed by a great Sunday Ams by AA for 2/22 in which she interviewed some welfare recipients and really went into the issue. It got some good house by the really alert Texas papers.

The Martin-Brown hassle started off the week of 2/23 with Judge Brown accusing Martin of unethical conduct by representing landowners in condemnation suits. Martin said all the representating he did was way before he became Secretary of State or Attorney General,a nd that Brown, in effect, was complaining about him doing "a little moonlighting." My Sunday AM'er for 3/1 went into some moonlighting by Judge Brown himself, and revealed that he's quite adapted to it. He is part owner of a big real estate and construction business in the town where he holds court, he goes outside Texas as a federal mediator for NLRB, and he had made quite a tidy sum in recent years by being a "visiting judge" in other judicial districts while drawing his regular judge's salary. Again, let us hope the Texas papers are alert and use it.

Other activities in between these choice bits included regular Supreme and Criminal Appeals courts coverage, Madelyn O'Hair's filing suit against her husband for assault, numerous interim legislative study committees, and a few interesting stories out of the Feb. 19-20 meeting of the Texas Water Quality Board. One satellite story on the latter was an accusation by State Rep. Gerhardt Schulle or unethical practices by our old friend, Rep. Bill Heatly of Paducah, in the feedlot case at San Marcos.

This pretty well covers this period.

Best regards, Kyle Thompson

cc: REC, LAH, TH, FJS, KLY, files