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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

June 5, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Facts. June 3, 2018.

Gov. Greg Abbott deserves a lot of praise for developing such an in-depth proposal to better protect Texas school children less than two weeks after the deadly shooting spree at Santa Fe High School. While there are facets people will not agree with — inevitable with any broad government plan — the 40-point list touches on all the key elements experts have mentioned to combat school violence.

The most crucial part of Abbott’s package of initiatives, however, has little to do with him. After all, political leaders are great at putting together proposals and position papers that accomplish little more than to kill trees and take up bandwidth. Action by legislators and local officials is what will determine whether school children are safer in their classrooms.

It is encouraging that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and outgoing House Speaker Joe Strauss already are directing their chambers to consider some of the elements of Abbott’s plan that require legislative action. Hopefully, that will lead to strong measures that can be passed easily early in the next regular session in January — right after students return from winter break.

More encouraging, however, is that our local school leaders already have taken action on their campuses to better protect our kids. Many of Abbott’s proposals already are implemented or in the works at Brazosport Independent School District schools, and it should comfort Patrick to know local districts already limit the number of doors would-be shooters can enter through when classes are in session.

Local school leaders are quick to point out they could do more, and would like to, but lack the financial resources to carry them out. This applies to hiring more campus officers — be they district police or schools marshals — and more mental health professionals who could help diffuse potential tragedies before they happen. Both of those initiatives are in Abbott’s plans, though not fully funded.

No school districts currently have the resources to immediately aid a student in a mental health crisis, so having the funding to bring on counselors specifically for behavioral and emotional needs could have a positive impact on students, retiring Angleton ISD Superintendent Pat Montgomery said.

“Like everything, it’s going to cost money to do it correctly,” she said.

While Abbott’s pledge of $100 million in immediate funding for his plan seems like a lot, with more than 1,000 school districts and about 8,800 school campuses in Texas, including charters, that amounts to about $11,400 per school. That won’t go very far when attempting to harden a 50-year-old school building.

Even calls to arm teachers come with a price tag attached, with the state promising to pay for training and some leaders calling for bonuses and stipends for teachers who carry in the classroom.

It goes without saying state lawmakers do not have a stellar track record when it comes to paying for schools, with its share of per-student spending decreasing each session. Whether multiples school shootings in the state, combined with the unspeakable carnage in Parkland, Florida, get them to change their priorities remains to be seen. We join Montgomery in being skeptical, especially since the Legislature is expected to find a $7.9 billion funding hole when they hit Austin next year.

But without state leaders putting dollars behind their proposals, promises to better protect our school children will prove to be more empty promises.

Our hopes and prayers are that this time will be different so we don’t have to go through another Santa Fe, Sandy Hook or Parkland.


Corpus Christi Caller-Times. June 4, 2018.

The story of 2018 Ray High School valedictorian Juan De La Garza is more than inspirational. It’s an example of the value of immigration, a reminder of what’s in it for us.

Juan’s father is a welder and his mother is a health care provider. In Mexico, dad was an agricultural engineer and mom was an accountant. They came here, two non-English speakers, and took lesser jobs so that the son they would have someday and name “Juan” could have more opportunity than they thought he would have in Tamaulipas.

Juan says he learned English — and at the same time discovered that he needed to learn English — at school as a youngster. Imagine starting school not knowing the language spoken at school. Juan didn’t have to imagine it, nor do other children of immigrants whose primary language is not English. Most children don’t face the language-barrier challenge Juan faced when he started school. But because we are a nation of immigrants, Juan’s accomplishment in mastering English, though impressive, isn’t really all that unusual. It’s happening in our schools and has been happening for generations.

Turning out to be a valedictorian makes Juan’s story unique. All valedictorians are exceptional, whether their parents are immigrants or their great-great-grandparents built the school. Valedictorians in larger schools like Ray, with its graduating class of 490 and its highly competitive International Baccalaureate program, are even more exceptional. In addition to being No. 1 among 490, Juan also was one of two — count ’em, two — 2017 Caller-Times/Citgo South Texas Distinguished Scholars in the General Academics category and received a $1,000 scholarship. But the story of how Juan got here makes him exceptional even among the exceptional.

Juan intends to major in mechanical engineering at Rice University, start his own company and pursue new, innovative technologies. Considering what he has accomplished, that’s not some farfetched child’s daydream.

No telling what Juan will do someday for his native and his parents’ adopted country, and for himself. He and his hard-working parents are another country’s loss and our gain. It’s how this nation was built and what made it great.


The Dallas Morning News. June 4, 2018.

The collective sigh of relief emanating from Dallas City Hall last week was audible evidence of a monumental deal — one that almost certainly will remove the biggest fiscal threat hanging over local government.

An executive committee that represents nearly 8,700 current and former police officers and firefighters has agreed to a $173.3 million settlement of decades-old class-action lawsuits against Dallas over years of back pay claims.

The City Council, which seven months ago approved $61.7 million to settle four similar cases filed in Collin County, is almost certain to approve this final set of lawsuits, which were filed in Rockwall County.

The settlements are far from cheap, but they remove the dark cloud that has hung over the city’s finances, one that left Dallas susceptible to bankruptcy. And we share the hope that the settlement will be a step toward alleviating distrust between 1500 Marilla and our city’s first responders.

City Hall maintains that the two deals will not require a tax increase; both will use existing bond capacity to cover the terms of the agreement. The settlement also spares both sides from having the case continue to drag in the courts with no end in sight. At the heart of the fight was the interpretation of language in a 1979 pay referendum approved by voters.

Even if the Dallas City Council, as expected, OKs the settlement this summer, many time-consuming details will remain to be worked out. But the overwhelming sentiment among all parties is that the deal is done.

For both sides, losing the case would have led to catastrophic consequences — the possibility of a multi-billion dollar judgment for the city or the plaintiffs coming away with nothing.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and City Attorney Larry Casto deserve a lot of credit for focusing the time and resources necessary to get this gnarly problem resolved.

Rawlings recognized the financial folly in continuing to kick this ticking time bomb down the road. So while previous mayors and councils had found it most convenient to ignore the problem, Rawlings put City Hall to work to fix it. Casto was the guy in the room for the difficult negotiations.

But big credit also should go to the police officers and firefighters for being willing to settle for a lower figure than what they long wanted.

It’s great to see that the dark fiscal cloud that threatened the city is dissipating. Just as we noted in the aftermath of the settlement of the first-responders’ lawsuits out of Collin County, City Hall’s promise that the deal won’t translate to tax increases must stick. We’ll be watching to make sure that’s the case.


Fort Worth Star-Telegram. June 4, 2018.

Imagine being 4 years old, and traveling with your mother to a strange place where you don’t recognize anyone other than her. Nothing looks like home. The words you hear spoken aren’t familiar. Then you see people in uniforms forcibly pull your mother away — and she doesn’t return.

That scenario doesn’t begin to capture the fear and trauma children are enduring under the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance immigration policy. It calls for criminally charging parents who come across the border without proper authorization, and separating them from the children they bring with them.

This apparently applies to those fleeing danger and seeking asylum as well as those trying to sneak across.

Previously, unauthorized immigrants were usually charged with civil violations and allowed to stay with their children while their cases were adjudicated.

What’s happening now is another example of the administration using children as bait to tighten the vise on unauthorized immigration.

Congress can’t get it together to pass immigration reform, so the Trump administration is going to ramp up restrictions on its own.

Earlier this year Trump used the Dreamers. He said he’d agree to legal status for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought here as children — if Congress gave him money for his border wall. That deal fell apart.

Recently, Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, put children at the center of the immigration battle again when she said schools should be able to decide for themselves whether to notify immigration officials about students who are undocumented.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in a 1982 case entitles undocumented children to a public education, and DeVos has been pressured to walk back her statement.

This separation policy at the border, however, goes beyond a threat. It’s real and inhumane. The government has said about 700 children have been separated from their parents since Oct. 1.

That’s hundreds of children in greater danger of being physically abused and placed under enormous stress in settings that may be unhealthy.

Don’t take it from us. That comes from the American Psychological Association which represents more than 115,000 professionals. It called the new policy “needless and cruel,” and said the longer the children and parents are separated the more likely it is the children will develop anxiety and depression.

“Negative outcomes for children include psychological distress, academic difficulties and disruptions in their development,” the association said in a statement released last week.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a court injunction to end the policy claiming children can only be taken away from their parents if the parents are unfit or abusive.

And some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, are raising a ruckus. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, vented on social media Monday after he said he was prevented from entering a federal detention facility in Brownsville where children are being housed. He told CNN he saw children in cages in another facility in McAllen.

So, immediately, let’s open the doors of these facilities to policymakers, child advocacy groups and media, so we can all see firsthand how the children are being treated.

Then, let’s move quickly to reunite the children with their parents, and let’s end this shameful practice.

Using children for political gain is despicable.

Family values, anyone?


Houston Chronicle. June 5, 2018.

“Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

With that brief sentence, former President Richard Nixon shocked a nation into confronting the corrupt mindset of a man driven from office amidst the Watergate scandal.

But today, we don’t need to wait for the president to leave office to hear his unfiltered aspiration for unchecked power. Just check out his Twitter feed.

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” President Donald Trump stated in a tweet Monday morning.

The Department of Justice has said otherwise.

“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself,” the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel wrote. That memo was issued four days before Nixon resigned.

Once again, nearly a half-century later, the United States must grapple with a chief executive for whom rule of law is only a mere obstacle. During his short tenure in the White House, Trump has demonstrated a brazen disregard for every norm, every value, of a representative republic.

George Washington imagined the presidency as a first among equals. Trump seems to act as if he has no equal. Foreign funds and taxpayers dollars filter into his private company from which he never divested. Power continues to concentrate in the White House while key positions within the State Department go unfilled. Pardons are issued without the involvement of the Department of Justice. The mere mention of his power being checked elicits digital tirades, 280-characters at a time.

Meanwhile, a cowed and impotent Congress goes about its business as if this growing storm is little more than a summer drizzle.

“The president openly declares he is above the law,” CNN analyst Ryan Lizza observed Monday morning. “This statement alone would have led to calls for impeachment in a previous era.”

Now all its gets is representatives trying to avoid reporters’ questions.

It falls on voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, to confront their representatives in the run up to the November election and ask whether they believe the president is above the law.

Texans have dealt with profligate pardoners before. At the turn of the century, then-Gov. James E. “Pa” Ferguson became notorious for handing out clemency at an unprecedented rate — allegedly in exchange for land, cash and other bribes. Pa was eventually impeached and removed from office.

Texans then knew that we must hold politicians to account for their use of power.

Let us hope that we haven’t forgotten.

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