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Best of The Observer 2012

Read a staff-curated list of the Observer’s top ten stories published this year.

Can Matt Damon’s New Fracking Movie Save the Environment?

Promised Land, a new film starring Matt Damon and directed by Gus Van Sant, will familiarize Americans with the f-word—fracking.

Lionfish Invasion Threatens Marine Ecosystems and Fishing Industry

The lionfish is the latest in the long line of invasive species—from fire ants to feral hogs—threatening ecological and economic resources in Texas, the Gulf, and elsewhere in the United States.

Rep. Diane Patrick Calls on TEA to Defer School Ratings Another Year

State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, is asking the Texas Education Agency to suspend its school ratings for a second straight year, as lawmakers rework the system.

Helena Handbasket: One Bizarre Year In the Life of Houston’s Strangest Politician

In November 2011, the residents of Houston’s City Council District A went to the polls to elect their representative to City Hall. Spring Branch residents need real representation. What they elected, instead, was Helena Brown.

In Catholic Schoolroom, Patrick and Dewhurst Unveil Plans for a Reformation in Public Ed

State Sen. Dan Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announce plan for a “revolution” in Texas’ school system built on school choice, but not necessarily “vouchers.”

Goodbye to Gun Culture

Here’s the good news about our seemingly intractable gun problem. The gun culture, and dare I say the NRA, may not have much of a future in this increasingly urban, multiracial nation.

Blowing the Whistle on El Paso’s Crooked Schools

In fall 2009, counselor Patricia Scott went to her bosses at El Paso’s Bowie High School with what turned out to be a very dangerous question: Why was somebody erasing credits from the sophomores’ transcripts?

State Regulators Issue a Warning to Rogue Payday Loan Shops

Following the Observer’s reporting on a Texas payday lender’s scheme to circumvent state and local rules meant to protect consumers, state regulators issued a stern warning last week.

Building a Better Block in Oak Cliff

In early 2010, Jason Roberts and his friend Amy Wallace Cowan were speculating about their Dallas neighborhood. What if, instead of empty, run-down buildings, the streets were lined with cafés and flower shops? What if people of all ages rode bikes here? What if Oak Cliff looked more like, you know, Paris?