Recent editorials from Texas newspapers
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:
Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Aug. 7, 2017.
Bravo to the Corpus Christi business community for speaking up against the transgender bathroom bill in Austin, where it has passed the Texas Senate but not the House. Both the Corpus Christi United Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau oppose the bill because it’s bad for business and is estimated to cost Texas billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Being against it is one thing, being active quite another. Chamber chairman Alan Wilson recently led a group to Austin to let lawmakers know directly that the Corpus Christi business community is against the bill.
The bill would require people to use the restrooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates. It’s a hate crime in legislative format, masquerading as protection of women and children from sexual predators in restroom facilities. Its proponents rebranded it as “privacy” bill for the special session, as if that would fool anyone about its discriminatory intent.
The bill is so divisive that it ruined one session of the Legislature and threatens the progress of another. When its failure in the regular session became certain, its main proponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, bottled up legislation needed to continue the existence of key state agencies that face a sunset deadline to force the special session.
Wilson’s opposition is pragmatic. He, like many before him, observed that the bill addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. Transgender access to restrooms does not provide a cover for predators to stalk victims inside them. That’s a scare story cooked up by the likes of Patrick and refuted by law enforcement authorities, who also oppose the bill.
But the main concern of Texas’ business community is that the state can’t afford to be viewed as intolerant. Intolerance chases people away — all sorts of people, not just the specific targets of the intolerance.
Too bad the grassroots opposition from business groups such as Corpus Christi’s wasn’t vocal and organized during the regular session, when the responsibility was left largely to the chamber umbrella group Texas Association of Business.
But, on the upside, the refiling of the bill in the special session has caused previously reticent opponents to emerge vocally and righteously.
Recently, former Corpus Christi Independent School District Superintendent Scott Elliff penned a guest column linking the bill to bullying in schools — a predictable outcome of this reprehensible legislation if ever there were one. And House Speaker Joe Straus stepped up and declared that he didn’t want one suicide on his conscience — linking the discriminatory effect of the bill to despair, which is a predictable trigger for suicides. Previously Straus had confined his messaging to the bill’s detrimental effect on business.
There’s a flip side to the old saying that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. The demonstrable opposition that has emerged during this session, in contrast to the reticent opposition of the previous one, is an example of good people doing something so that good will triumph. The local business community didn’t just stand up for business. It stood up for tolerance.
The Dallas Morning News. Aug. 7, 2017.
John Kelly served in the United States Merchant Marine while he was a teenager. At 20, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and commanded forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. It’s safe to say there are few challenges he cannot meet.
That said, President Donald Trump is a completely different animal. And Kelly — as the president’s newly named chief of staff — will certainly have his hands full.
It’s important that he succeed. If he doesn’t, today’s instability could become tomorrow’s disaster.
Kelly wasted no time asserting his authority, showing White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, the door before Kelly’s formal start date of Aug. 15. Kelly also put a stop to the revolving door that led into the Oval Office while Reince Priebus was chief of staff.
During the Priebus tenure, people lingered outside the oval office, and Trump would wave them in without an appointment. Kelly made clear to staff, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, that all visits to the president would go through him.
This isn’t about testosterone. It’s about bringing order to a flailing administration.
The question is whether Kelly can get Trump to apply some of that discipline to himself. Getting the staff under control reduces the chance of backbiting, leaks and general friction. The President, however, is the key driver of whether he succeeds or fails. With an overall job approval under 39 percent, it is critical Trump take Kelly’s advice and find ways to focus less on trivial issues and more on important ones.
On Monday morning, Aug. 7, Trump threw caution to the wind. In a series of early morning tweets, the president attacked polling data and the media.
He also blasted Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal who criticized the President during an appearance on CNN.
We all should want Kelly to succeed. While it’s easy to criticize the likes of Scaramucci, Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon, what if the better appointees like James Mattis at Defense, H.R. McMaster at National Security and Nikki Haley at the United Nations were to get fed up and quit? They are from the more level-headed wing of the administration and Trump — America! — needs them to exert their influence.
If Trump continues to obsess over silly issues — perceived slights from members of Congress, distracting fights with the media, dismissing demonstrably true facts as fake and fiction — some of the good people might not stick around. If you’re Mattis and your commander in chief is too distracted with exacting revenge against people on Twitter instead of focusing on national defense, would you stay?
Some reports say Kelly and Trump have been conferring on tweets before the president sends them off. Perhaps that’s a step in the right direction. But Kelly can’t always be in the room with Trump.
It’s early in Kelly’s tenure. We’re rooting for him to extend his influence beyond who meets with the president and bring about real change in the administration.
San Antonio Express-News. Aug. 7, 2017.
The immigration debate through the decades has featured the pious pronouncement that no one being depicted as a foe of immigration was talking about legal immigration. As the familiar challenge goes: What part of illegal don’t you understand?
But President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash legal immigration blows the cover off that story. It’s clear — just as it was with his proposed ban on people from six largely Muslim countries — that the president had a whole lot of immigration in mind for restriction. The nation’s tradition of welcome and inclusion comes apart at the seams with a measure by two senators — backed by the president.
The bill is sponsored by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. It would essentially eliminate many of the legal entries allowed in the name of family reunification. Americans and legal residents would still be able to sponsor spouses and minor children, but other categories are eliminated.
Parents, siblings and adult children couldn’t be sponsored. The measure’s sponsors estimate that about half of the number of green cards now awarded will be eliminated.
Instead, the nation would institute a “merit” system based on skills, English ability and education.
In other words, even those hardworking Irish, Italian, German, Russian and Mexican forebears of yore who arrived penniless — many without education — and fleeing persecution at home wouldn’t have qualified. And America as we know it would not exist because many of the people who built it and made it great wouldn’t have been able to come here. You might not even be here.
The rationale of the proposal is that the influx of low-skilled workers has decreased opportunities for similarly skilled Americans. But the National Immigration Forum, an advocacy group, says that with current immigration levels, the country already faces a labor shortage by 2020. Many of these shortages were already going to be in low-wage categories.
Americans are not taking these jobs because the wages are so low? OK, follow that logic: Do Americans really want to increase the price of everything from fruits and vegetables to hotels and from homebuilding to roof repair?
If your answer is “yes” — as in “I’m willing to pay that much” — that’s perhaps laudatory but would likely be an economy buster. Too high a price on supply will surely decrease demand on all manner of foodstuffs, goods and services.
Agriculture is a $100 billion business in Texas alone. It is No. 1 in the nation for livestock receipts and No. 2 for agricultural receipts, behind California.
And then there’s the humanitarian aspect of curtailing family reunification for immigrants. Yes, spouses and minor children can still be sponsored, but siblings, adult children and parents not.
Does Trump think love for family diminishes with age — that families aren’t stronger united? There is value in extended, loving families. And there has been value getting these immigrants here — many have gone on to become the nation’s innovators and entrepreneurs.
The welcome mat that this nation has set out for those huddled masses has been a hallmark — in many ways it has defined us. If this measure passes, that will change. Our economy will suffer, as will the respect people the world over have held for us.
It is hard to imagine a more hardhearted and economically nonviable immigration policy than this one.
Here’s what components of true immigration reform would contain. Yes, more border security — though not a wall — a path to legal residency for undocumented immigrants already here, a guest-worker program and an employee-verification system that holds employers accountable.
Congress should scuttle this proposal. The Texas delegation should lead the way.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Aug. 7, 2017.
Mark White was a reformer.
In a single term as governor, he pushed for a dramatic overhaul of the state’s education system, emphasizing academics over sports, increasing teacher pay and limiting class sizes.
He raised standards for teachers and for students. And he raised taxes to pay for these improvements, which no doubt contributed to the brevity of his tenure.
White’s education policies were controversial, even in his own party. That’s why they were so remarkable.
His no pass, no play initiative, which makes students ineligible for extracurricular activities if they don’t pass their schoolwork, did not receive a warm reception in a state where football his king.
The policy benched students all over the state and drew harsh criticism and lawsuits aplenty.
But White believed that holding kids to high standards increased their chances of success after the Friday-night-lights glory had faded. His policy still stands.
White’s commitment to improving education didn’t end with his time in the governor’s mansion.
A Baylor University alum, he also urged reform of his beloved school, pressing regents for accountability and transparency after the recent sexual assault scandal.
To the very last, he sought to make Texas institutions better.
“So much for guts and glory,” he said on his way out of office.
We’re sure grateful he had guts.
Houston Chronicle. Aug. 7, 2017.
On a weekday morning a couple of years ago, Mark White was uncharacteristically late for a meeting with the Chronicle editorial board. He soon called, explained that a doctor’s appointment had gone longer than expected and assured us he would arrive shortly. When he walked through the door later in the morning, he sported puffy, white bandages on his nose and one ear. Never mind that he had just undergone minor surgery. When the former governor had something he wanted to discuss, he would not be deterred, although the bandages kept coming loose that morning and he confessed to being a bit groggy.
White, who died of a heart attack on Saturday, Aug. 5, at his Houston home, was a happy warrior. Although he had not held office for decades, the former secretary of state, attorney general and governor from 1983 to 1987 was as engaged and involved with issues and ideas as he was during his years in Austin, perhaps more so. Whether the issue was justice for wrongfully convicted inmates or strengthening our public schools or preserving this state’s unique past, he was still in the arena, still seeking to persuade.
He was a lifelong Democrat to be sure, but he never allowed party allegiance or partisan rancor to corrode his gregarious good nature or his genuine respect for others, regardless of whether they agreed with him on the issues. Kind words from former Presidents George H.W Bush and George W. Bush, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans who knew and worked with him attest to his unfeigned decency.
It’s sadly ironic that White departed this life at a time when a rancorous Texas Legislature has tied itself into knots over, in White’s words, “some silly restroom bill.” The son of an East Texas first-grade teacher, he believed in public education. He lost the governorship after one term in large part because he was willing to tell his fellow Texans that they were too focused on games their children played and not on whether they were learning in the classroom.
With the assistance of Dallas billionaire H. Ross Perot, he persuaded lawmakers to institute a controversial no pass, no play policy for high school athletes. His education-reform package, known as House Bill 72, also included limits on elementary class size and the first-ever statewide testing standards. It’s hard to imagine today, but he managed to persuade skittish lawmakers to pass a $4 billion tax increase to help pay for teacher pay raises and class-size limits.
The state’s 43rd governor was proud of the fact that a west Houston elementary school, not a building or a street, bears his name, and yet his reward at the time HB 72 went into effect was galling defeat at the polls. He lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clements, the Republican incumbent he had defeated four years earlier. The loss was hard to take, and yet White drew strength from a guiding principle espoused by a predecessor in the governor’s office.
“Do right and risk the consequences,” his hero, Sam Houston, said. The iconic Texan lived it. So did White, who in 2009 told the Houston Public Library’s Oral History Project that he had no regrets about his efforts on behalf of Texas schools.
“To have young people come up today and say, ‘Thank you for no pass, no play,’” he said, “to have teachers come up and say: ‘Thank you for the benefits that you gave to retired teachers back when it was tough to raise money’; to have people who say, ‘Yes, I did not get to play football but we were able to pass.’ ‘What are you doing now?’ ‘Well, I am a doctor.’ So that is kind of nice.”
White loved this state (almost as much as he loved his wife Linda Gale and his alma mater, Baylor University). In fact, his post-surgical visit to the Chronicle editorial board was prompted by his concern that Texans were neglecting their monuments to a proud past — at Goliad and Gonzales, in and around the Alamo, at Washington on the Brazos and especially at the San Jacinto Monument, where he served on the board of the San Jacinto Museum of History.
A few weeks after his Chronicle visit, he visited the monument with a reporter in tow and recalled getting stuck in a creaky, ancient elevator on the way to the observation floor high above the battleground, the Battleship Texas and the tangled metal forest of massive refineries symbolizing today’s Texas. He laughed about the elevator incident, but he was serious about our neglect of Texas treasures. He wanted everyday Texans to speak out; he wanted their elected officials to listen.
In the San Jacinto museum that morning, among the glass cabinets filled with maps, portraits, uniforms and early-day weaponry, he struck up a conversation with a group of African-American youngsters on a field trip with their Houston church camp and then with a retired couple from Georgia touring Texas. Neither the kids nor the couple knew the tall, white-haired man was a former governor, and that was fine with him. He was more interested in getting to know them. He was eager to share the love and fascination he felt for his native state.
We will miss the inveterate table-hopper. We will miss the distinctive Mark White voice, a sonorous baritone leavened with an East Texas twang, as well as his stories about the old days around the Capitol, usually punctuated with laughter. We will miss his efforts, to the very end, to make life better for all Texans.