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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

January 8, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Houston Chronicle. Jan. 7, 2019.

It was easy to believe. A 7-year-old black girl had been shot to death while riding in a car with her mother and three sisters. Witnesses described the possible assailant as a white man. Immediately racism was suggested as the likely motive. And why not? White separatists seem emboldened these days. The FBI says hate crimes are up in America.

But now an apparent confession suggests Jazmine Barnes’ murder isn’t one of them. Does that make her death any less of a tragedy? Only if we’ve accepted the solemn drumbeat of news reports involving child gun deaths as predictable background noise.

Add Jazmine’s name to a long list of innocent children killed when gunfire erupts where they are supposed to feel safe — outside their home, in places of worship, at school, or riding in the car with their mom to the store. That’s what Jazmine was doing when she was shot Dec. 30 in northeast Houston. “I turned around and my 7-year-old was shot in the head,” said Jazmine’s mother, LaPorsha Washington, who was shot in the arm.

In a hail of glass and bullets, a young girl with a big laugh who loved purple and playing dress up was gone. Six days later police arrested a suspect who implicated an accomplice. Neither Eric Black Jr. nor Larry Woodruffe is white. Black reportedly told Harris County authorities the suspects shot into the wrong car thinking it belonged to someone else.

That eyewitnesses got it wrong isn’t surprising. The Innocence Project says eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions.

Police said an unidentified white man in a red truck recorded by surveillance video was not a suspect, but that didn’t convince everyone. “They’re going to have to prove this to me, because I know how they can do to cover themselves,” said Juanita Bell.

Such mistrust of police can make a community more dangerous. Add too many guns and you have besieged neighborhoods resembling the Wild West.

The Brady Campaign says eight children and teens die from gun violence every day in America. Among them the baby and two other young children killed last week in Texas City by their father, who had a history of domestic abuse.

Though Jazmine’s murder may not be race-related, that’s not a license for complacency.

Ending racism requires changes in the heart encouraged by leaders who set an example. Ending gun violence merely requires common sense. Congress could pass stricter gun purchase laws. Texas could join the states with “extreme risk” laws that limit gun access for people with histories of violence.

Race hatred may draw more headlines, but any child’s life cut short by a bullet deserves action.

___

The Dallas Morning News. Jan. 7, 2019.

Online retailing is hardly cutting-edge anymore. In fact, it’s been cutting out traditional brick-and-mortar stores for some time when it’s not just taking them over the way Amazon absorbed Whole Foods.

But the state of Texas still isn’t getting its full share, and fair share, of sales tax revenue from online retailers.

That needs to change in 2019. Since June, states have had the power, per the Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., to collect sales tax on internet sales even if the internet shop has no physical presence in the state.

Texas has been less than aggressive in going after all the state is due — something that needs to change in the coming legislative session.

Look, it’s not that we are any more eager than the next guy to see more taxes piled on. But fair is fair. And brick-and-mortar stores that employ Texans and that have invested in real estate and buildings in the state are having to remit sales taxes to the government. The playing field needs to be leveled as fast as possible.

To be clear, Texas isn’t leaving everything on the table. Large online retailers like Amazon have been remitting taxes on purchases in Texas. But many smaller retailers and third-party sellers aren’t. That amounts to untold revenue — millions of dollars, certainly — should be paid to the state that aren’t.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office appears to have a slow and careful approach to figuring out how best to collect tax from such retailers, possibly by looking at prior sales to Texas residents.

The figure Hegar’s office is considering now is $500,000. That may or may not be the right number, but it’s a start to begin to set a threshold.

Online retailing has been a great convenience to buying and selling. But online retailers need to be just as responsible as old-fashioned retailers in paying what they owe.

The sooner Texas can get them doing it, the better, and fairer, for everyone.

___

Amarillo Globe-News. Jan. 8, 2019.

We always enjoy seeing efforts where different groups come together for a common vision or shared value, and it was gratifying to see four local churches spearhead a worship service of unification aimed at removing borders, divisions and categories that people (inside the church and outside of it) find themselves defined by. It is with an eye toward erasing dividing lines that the One In Christ service was designed.

Without delving into too much history, ancient or otherwise, the church’s record in this area has not always been stellar, but why spend time worrying about water under the bridge? The initial service, which took place Sunday at St. John Baptist Church on NW 14th Street was well-attended and offers hope that people from different faith traditions can still come together and connect over their commonalities rather than fret about their differences. We see no reason that subsequent meetings shouldn’t enjoy similar success.

Pastors Manny De Los Santos of Power Church, Andrew Hebert of Paramount Baptist Church, David Ritchie of Redeemer Christian Church and Anthony Harris of St. John Baptist are to be commended for their efforts toward emphasizing inclusion and unity. “One in Christ is such an important concept because we do live in a divided culture,” Pastor Ritchie told our reporter last week. “We see that division every day — people group pitted against people group.” It is encouraging to see groups put aside their theological differences and come together.

Throughout 2019, One In Christ services will take place each quarter. The next three are scheduled to be held at the churches over which the other three pastors preside. We are hopeful the next three gatherings create a similar response and engagement from the community. For many generations, churches were the central gathering spots in neighborhoods and served as not only a meeting place on Sundays for renewal of faith, but also a meeting place at other times for renewal of social connections. The pastors, their congregations, and others who attend these services hope to see more than a unifying spirit within the walls of the church. They expect what takes place inside to be carried outside the sanctuaries and into the daily life of neighborhoods and communities.

Likewise, the pastors understood that as much power as there is in unity, there is a lack of power in division. We’re gratified to see local churches taking leadership positions and working together toward effecting positive change in the community. We’re hopeful this initial gathering becomes a movement, gathering steam, attention and traction as the year continues. If the first meeting is any indication, there are a number of people who want to be a part of something positive that encourages them to get involved in something larger than themselves.

Every challenge any community faces can be solved only by groups committed to earnestly listening to each other and then moving with purpose and mutual respect toward a solution. All of this can happen only if someone intentionally chooses to take the first step. For the here and now in a recently christened new year, a step has been taken. It remains to be seen what the results will be, but we commend this group of pastors for their vision and their commitment and look forward to what might result from this encouraging first step, which, no doubt, has been taken in faith.

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