Here’s a look at some of the top local news stories for the week.
Takeoff murder suspect requests $5k from judge
The man charged with the murder of Migos rapper, Takeoff is making an unusual request.
Patrick Clark, who is charged with the murder of the rap star, asked the judge in his case for $5,000, stating he wanted to hire a private investigator and doesn’t have the money to afford one.
Clarks says he and his family used all the money they had to hire a lawyer and the lawyer is working at a reduced rate. He pleaded to the judge that he needs a private investigator in order to put up a proper defense in the case, and he says he can’t do that without one. The $5,000 was an initial request as he could possibly request more than needed. He says he found a private investigator that would also work for a reduced rate. He says the private investigator could take on the case for $85 per hour.
Attorneys for 33-year-old Patrick Xavier Clark spoke out following the preliminary hearing; saying they don’t want their client to be tried in the court of public opinion, and plan to fight to ensure he receives a fair and unbiased trial.
“So, we just ask that everyone keep an opened mind and let the system and constitution do its part; and that is right now, he’s innocent until proven guilty,” said Letitia Quinones, with Quinones & Associates.
Houston police announced Clark’s arrest during a recent press conference. We learned that Clark had a trip booked to Mexico and had put in for an expedited passport, he also had a large amount of cash at the time of his arrest.
Third Ward bike-lane project moving forward despite pushback from Houston City Council member
A Houston City Council member’s change of heart on a bike lane project in her district seems unlikely to halt the effort, which is already under construction. Council member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz expressed support for a Third Ward bikeway project on Oct. 7, 2020, saying during a virtual public engagement meeting that she was “excited” about the upcoming roadway work and thought her community would embrace it as well. She had been introduced to the online audience by Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, her former cousin-in-law, a driver of the initiative and its most significant supporter from a financial standpoint. Two years later, with the first phase of the project having already been completed and the second phase under construction, Evans-Shabazz is pushing back against the addition of bicycle lanes and reduction of vehicular lanes on a stretch of Blodgett Street that runs alongside Texas Southern University.
Evans-Shabazz recently led the city council in tabling a proposed payment of nearly $400,000 for its part in a 2018 agreement between the city, university and Harris County for transportation and drainage improvements in the area – although the work already has been contracted and paid for by the county, according to Ellis.
Evans-Shabazz, who represents that part of the city and has long lived there, said community members including impacted residents and businesses along Blodgett Street have expressed concerns about the potential for increased traffic congestion and limited street parking as well as the necessity of bike lanes. She also said the community was not adequately engaged and consulted before work began, so she has organized a townhall meeting to discuss the issue from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Pilgrim Congregational United, a church at 3115 Blodgett St. But the city council member acknowledged the fate of the project and its specifics are largely up to Ellis, an avid cyclist and supporter of bike infrastructure whose office is covering $11.7 million of the estimated $12.1 cost for the work on Blodgett and some nearby streets, where water and sewer lines already have been replaced and the addition of two bike lanes and wider sidewalks are planned. Ellis said the Blodgett project is part of a broader transformation of a corridor that includes TSU and the University of Houston. And like some other recent and upcoming transportation infrastructure initiatives across the city, it calls for reducing the number of vehicular lanes from two in each direction to one each way in an attempt to reduce speeding and traffic accidents.
Gov. Greg Abbott bans TikTok on state phones and computers, citing cybersecurity risks
Gov. Greg Abbott has banned the social media platform TikTok from government-issued cellphones and computers, becoming the latest GOP governor to target the video-sharing app over cybersecurity fears.
Abbott cited concerns that TikTok posed a threat to state information given that the app is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. Last week, FBI Director Chris Wray expressed worry that the Chinese government could use the app’s recommendation algorithm to manipulate content or users. He warned that the Chinese government doesn’t share the United States’ values and said “that should concern us.”
The video-sharing app, which has popularized dance trends and inspired viral challenges, had almost 87 million users in the U.S. in 2021. The federal government has warned of TikTok’s security risks for years. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app.
Republican governors in South Dakota, South Carolina and Maryland have banned TikTok from government-issued devices. Republicans in Wisconsin petitioned their Democratic governor to do the same.
In letters to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan and state agency leaders, Abbott said banning TikTok from government-issued cellphones, laptops, tablets and desktop computers would protect sensitive information and critical infrastructure from the Chinese government.
“TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices—including when, where, and how they conduct Internet activity—and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” Abbott’s letter read.
Abbott acknowledged that TikTok has said its data is stored in the U.S., but he expressed concern that the Chinese government could use the app to surveil American citizens.
SNAP benefits extended
Gov. Greg Abbott announced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide more than $341.4 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits for the month of December.
The SNAP benefits are expected to help about 1.6 million Texas households. HHSC received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the maximum, allowable amount of SNAP benefits to recipients based on family size, and all SNAP households will receive a minimum of $95 in emergency allotments, according to a release.
The additional emergency allotment should appear in recipients’ accounts by Dec. 31. Texans in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, at YourTexasBenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app to manage their benefits.