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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

July 23, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Amarillo Globe-News. July 22, 2019.

Based on the immediate reaction in the room just more than a week ago, Amarillo Independent School District trustees made a great decision when they unanimously voted to change the name of Lee Elementary School to Park Hills Elementary School, replacing a tie to a Civil War figure with one that represents the subdivision where the school is located.

Moving from a name many found divisive to one that accentuates neighborhood inclusiveness demonstrates AISD trustees were listening to the people they represent. It marked the second name change for the school. In January 2018, according to our archives, the board voted 4-3 to shorten the school’s name from Robert E. Lee Elementary.

Since then, though, there had been a groundswell of support from residents to scrap the Lee name altogether. The district expedited the request and moved to handle it during the summer, ensuring the matter would not be a distraction throughout the upcoming school year. The estimated cost for the name change is $25,000 - consider it money well spent.

“We have 32,000 students in our district,” board member Robin Malone said afterward in our story. “Our district is the second-largest employer in the city. We should be a beacon of light to these students that there is hope. I think changing the name of the school goes a long way towards that goal. ...We are voting on a name change, but it’s so much deeper than that.”

Indeed it is. During the board’s meeting, a number of citizens came forward to express support for the name change, pointing to perceptions and subtle messages that can have an impact on a wide range of issues, including student performance. Rather than dig in, board members leaned in. They listened. They heard. And they reacted. For that, they should be commended.

And the full impact of the decision may not be known for some time, but its effect will be important.

“I truly believe those implicit biases matter,” AISD Superintendent Doug Loomis said in our story. “If there are subtle messages that we are sending kids that somehow they don’t count, somehow they count less and it’s keeping them from being academically successful, I think we have a responsibility to do everything we can to remove those implicit biases.”

Every aspect of the learning environment matters these days, and educators work extremely hard to make sure students are positioned for success. The trustees are charged with the important responsibility of developing and implementing policies that ensure the district moves forward in a positive way that gives students the opportunity to maximize their potential as the leaders of tomorrow.

“I hope the educators at Park Hills and the parents spent time with the children and explain to them what this means,” Jerri Glover, a member of the executive committee of the Amarillo branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in our story. “It’s not just a name change, as Ms. Malone referenced, but it’s much more than that. It is historic for so many reasons.”

It’s the kind of story that should be shared and retold often through the years to come, and it’s the kind of story that can set the tone for an entire school year. Kudos to the AISD trustees for their willingness to tackle this issue, work through its contours and make a decision in the best interest of its stakeholders.

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Houston Chronicle. July 23, 2019.

Fewer than 10 Democratic presidential candidates may qualify for the September debate at Texas Southern University, which could make it the perfect opportunity to switch the format from a smorgasbord of topics to one that decided key midterm races and could decide the 2020 election — health care.

A show of hands during the first two-part debate indicated most of the 20 participants did not support Bernie Sanders’ plan to replace private insurers with a single-payer, government-run program dubbed Medicare for All. But little time was provided for the candidates to discuss alternatives, nor is there much information on most of the candidates’ websites.

Time may not be a problem for the Sept.12-13 debate in Houston, which will require participants to meet more stringent qualification standards. The Democratic National Committee says qualifying candidates must receive 2% or more support in at least four major polls and have at least 130,000 unique donors.

An analysis by the poll data website FiveThirtyEight showed only five candidates have reached the qualifying threshold: Sanders, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. Within striking distance, however, are Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar.

Health care is too important a topic for each debater to be given a minute or two to talk about it. More than 20 million Americans have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, but 44 million still have no health insurance and 38 million have inadequate coverage.

Ever since Obamacare was enacted nine years ago, Republicans have tried to kill it. The ACA’s biggest threat now is a lawsuit filed by a number of states that contend the law became null and void two years ago when Congress removed its requirement that people either buy health insurance or pay a tax.

It makes no sense that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is spearheading the court fight to invalidate the ACA, which would unnecessarily risk the health of more than 900,000 Texans who have purchased health insurance through Obamacare.

The case was heard two weeks ago by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. Its ruling will undoubtedly be appealed to the Supreme Court, which in 2012 and 2015 issued rulings that upheld the ACA. The court is even more conservative now, however, so the case’s outcome is even harder to predict.

Paxton claims his litigation “will give President Trump and Congress the opportunity to replace the failed social experiment with a plan that ensures Texans and all Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage they need and who will be their doctor.”

Since neither Congress nor the president have shown any signs of working hard on an Obamacare replacement, the more likely outcome if Paxton’s suit succeeds would be millions of Americans going without health insurance for months or longer until a viable option is found. That was the situation before Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Medicare for All doesn’t appear to be the immediate answer. The infrastructure Sanders envisions will take years to build. Millions of Americans can’t wait that long, which is why the Democratic candidates who didn’t raise their hands in support for Sanders’ idea need to explain their plans, if they have one. Many others are comfortable keeping the private, employer-provided policies in which more than 50 million Americans are enrolled.

Sanders, Warren and Bill de Blasio want to end private insurance almost immediately while Buttigieg, Yang, Kirsten Gillibrand and Marianne Williamson said competition from Medicare for All would eventually drive private insurers out of business. Other candidates said private insurance should remain an option, including Biden, who said improving Obamacare would provide the best option.

If the ACA survives judicial review, it definitely will need to be upgraded. Voters need to know what upgrades the candidates would make. Would they bring back the tax penalty? Would they restore the subsidies Trump dumped, which had encouraged insurance companies to enroll Obamacare patients?

If they know well in advance that health care is going to be the main topic of the Texas Southern debate, the Democratic contenders who make the cut will have plenty of time to prepare for a discussion of their own health care plans instead of raising their hands to respond to someone else’s idea.

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The Monitor. July 23, 2019.

South Padre Island has long been popular with tourists and Winter Texans, as well as those who choose to live there. And while the island’s relative remoteness might be an asset, as it continues to develop and the number of people of visitors increases, that remoteness could become a greater liability.

Thus, discussions are warranted regarding the need for hospital beds, even if they are few.

Dr. Richard Ybarra, medical director for SPI Emergency Medical Services, last month presented the city’s economic development board a report on a hospital feasibility study that found the locale could support a mini-hospital.

Ybarra said he has tried unsuccessfully in the past to attract more complete health care services to the island. He concluded that a major reason his effort hasn’t been fruitful is “because we didn’t form a partnership with the city.”

In other words, an investment of taxpayers’ money might be needed to help cover the estimated $10 million cost of running a small hospital.

Fortunately, people seem receptive to the idea.

EDC board members expressed interest, as did Harlingen Medical Center CEO Matt Wolthoff. Another possible resource that hasn’t been available before is the still-developing University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which already has established clinics and a mobile care unit to serve Valley residents.

Almost 3,000 people live on the island, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But that number doesn’t include the thousands more who visit during Spring Break, the summer months and on weekends and holidays, not to mention the many retirees who make South Padre Island their winter home. And once launches begin from the SpaceX facility at nearby Boca Chica Beach, the number of visitors certainly will escalate.

And when crowded conditions increase, so do the chances for mishaps. Careless Spring Breakers and other visitors have been injured or even killed in accidents or from violence. Fortunately, such cases have been rare, but when someone suffers a major injury, a nearby hospital would enable the patient to be admitted and stabilized until transport to a larger facility is less of a risk.

More than 1,000 ambulance calls are made on the island every year. Fortunately, they don’t all require hospital admission. When they do, ambulances must work their way through the often-crowded Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge or air transport must be called.

Even those options aren’t always available. Although the cases are rare, flooding can impede ambulances and bad weather can make air transport impossible. Heavy winds have grounded medical helicopters, and a couple have crashed in high winds.

While the need for a second causeway to the island has been discussed for decades, actual construction is still years away.

It’s good to see officials’ interest in bringing at least a few hospital beds to South Padre Island. We hope Dr. Ybarra’s work will help convince health care providers that such a facility is worth the investment.

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