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Electricity Deregulation, ROTC Programs, Crafters & Sports Monday: Houston Matters for Monday, March 10, 2014

Back in 1999, state lawmakers voted to deregulate electricity in Texas. The idea: to break up monopolies, provide for competition, and in so doing, drive down consumer costs while ensuring reliability. But is that what has actually happened? Former Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy explores the complexities of electricity deregulation in Texas in the […]

Back in 1999, state lawmakers voted to deregulate electricity in Texas. The idea: to break up monopolies, provide for competition, and in so doing, drive down consumer costs while ensuring reliability. But is that what has actually happened? Former Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy explores the complexities of electricity deregulation in Texas in the March edition of Texas Monthly. He notes how the state’s biggest utility may file for bankruptcy, how reliability problems have led to Texans anticipating rolling blackouts, and how there are more layers and bureaucracy today than in the old monopoly system. Steffy suggests that “deregulation” is a misnomer.

On this edition of Houston Matters, we’ll talk with Steffy about his article, and about what he sees as the unintended consequences of electricity deregulation in Texas.

Also: Last month, the Houston Chronicle reported on a review by the Government Accountability Office of eight of the state’s 22 Reserve Officers Training Corps units – more commonly known as ROTC. In 2013, Congress eliminated a number of such units nationwide, as they weren’t producing enough officers. That’s the concern here in Texas as well. We’ll learn more about the state of ROTC programs at Texas colleges, as we talk with Captain William Fitzgerald, the Commanding Officer and Professor of Naval Science for the Navy’s ROTC Houston Consortium, which includes the Rice Naval ROTC unit and the Prairie View A&M program. We’ll discuss how ROTC programs are changing, and whether there’s still enough interest from students to keep such programs viable here in Texas.

Plus: It’s easy in 2014 to be tethered to technology – from the smart phones we can’t live without to high-tech appliances to entertainment that revolves around an HDTV, streaming services, cable, satellite, game systems, video on demand. These days, you really have to intentionally unplug. In such an automated, connected world, working creatively with our hands seems almost quaint, old-fashioned, out of step. And yet, developing a craft can serve us both in function and in inspiration. Throwing pottery, knitting a sweater, scrapbooking, making jewelry, building furniture. For some Houstonians, such interests connect us to a time when so much more of our world was handmade. We’ll discuss some of the ways Houstonians set aside the digital world to work with their digits. And we’ll discuss the value of occasionally unplugging from technology, and engaging in craft.

And: The Houston Rockets remain the hottest team in the NBA. They’re undefeated so far in March, and have improved their record to 44 and 19, good for 2nd place in the tough Southwest Division. But tough tests lay ahead on the road this week, as they tip off Tuesday night against Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Oklahoma City, then face the Bulls in Chicago Thursday, before another showdown against the Heat in Miami on Sunday afternoon. We’ll discuss the Rockets, the Dynamo’s season-opening shutout, and the Astros long climb back to respectability, with CultureMap Houston sports columnist MK Bower.

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