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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

July 10, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Monitor. July 8, 2018.

President Donald Trump recently issued a disaster declaration for South Texas counties affected by flooding late last month. We are grateful to his administration and welcome the assistance it will bring.

Heavy rains from June 20-21 left many parts of the Rio Grande Valley, particularly the Mid-Valley, underwater, and many families still haven’t been able to move back into their homes.

Floods are not uncommon to the Valley, and to their credit local officials knew what to do and acted quickly. County judges immediately asked Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a state disaster declaration, which sets in motion the process for applying for federal assistance. Abbott visited the area June 26 and issued the declaration, and we appreciate his and all officials’ quick response.

The floods came amid visits by several members of the administration and Congress to local immigration and detention centers. Even the first lady, Melania Trump, was in the Valley on June 21 as the rains were still falling. Surely they returned to Washington with reports of high waters and the challenges they were creating for South Texas residents.

A two-week delay might frustrate those who desperately need help fixing their homes and businesses, but the disaster mitigation process takes time. The federal Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, also known as the Stafford Act, requires an initial assessment of state resources and abilities before the level and amount of federal aid can be determined. That aid then must be allocated and administered.

Trump’s declaration brings federal investment in infrastructure repair, and also provides for individual relief. That allows residents to apply for federal grants and loans to repair flood damage to their homes and businesses.

In a news release, Abbott thanked the president for the disaster declaration, and pledged that his office “will continue to work with local leaders to ensure the needs of those affected by the floods are being met.”

To begin the application process, Valley residents can visit DisasterAssistance.gov, or call 1-800-621-3362. That number also serves people who use the Video Relay Service (VRS) or 711 systems. People who use the text telephone (TTY) system for those with hearing or speech problems can call 1-800-462-7585.

It’s worth noting that 10 years after Hurricane Dolly swept through the Valley, some residents still are looking for help from damages caused by that storm. We trust that this most recent disaster declaration will bring needed assistance and help residents’ lives return to normal more quickly.

We encourage people who begin the process promptly, and will continue to report on the relief efforts as information becomes available.


Houston Chronicle. July 9, 2018.

Too many children drown both nationally and here in Harris County. Yet, too few of us know what drowning looks and sounds like. Sometimes even good swimmers are unaware.

So far this year, 12 children have drowned in Harris and surrounding counties, including seven children age 4 and younger.

To help avoid preventable deaths, parents and other supervisory adults need to realize that drowning may not be dramatic. It may look nothing like the classic scene in Hollywood movies in which a drowning victim, yelling for help, goes down, once, twice, then three times.

Instead, drowning is often quiet. Take the story of a 3-year-old boy named Judah Brown who died nearly two years ago, two days after his family pulled him from an apartment pool in west Houston. Christi Brown, his mother, was sitting next to the pool with her son one minute. When she looked for him again, maybe a minute later, she found him underwater. The apartment pool had a water feature with jets so loud, Brown didn’t hear her son go under, as reported by Chronicle reporter Samantha Ketterer.

Judah’s story isn’t unusual. Drowning people are usually struggling to breathe and are often unable to call out for help. In real life, a drowning victim might merely tilt his head back.

Drowning can be quick, without the thrashing around shown in the movies.

In the time it takes to read this sentence, a child can be submerged. A child can lose consciousness while an adult takes his eyes off her to grab a towel or to rub in a coat of sunscreen.

Drowning requires little water. It can happen in any body with enough depth to cover the mouth and nose. While most children drown in backyard swimming pools, they can drown in bathtubs, septic tanks — even buckets.

Nationally, drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages 1 to 4, aside from birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While drowning is too common in Houston, the area has made strides in making water safety available to more children.

Each year, the YMCA of Greater Houston provides free swimming survival lessons at certain apartment buildings through the Houston Apartment Association. More than 20,000 children have learned to swim through the lessons in the 11 years of the program, Afet Mesigil, associate director of aquatics at the YMCA of Greater Houston told Ketterer. These lessons have undoubtedly saved lives.

Judah, the youngest of seven children, was buried a week after he died. With summer now in full swing, parents and other adults should redouble their vigilance around water.


The Dallas Morning News. July 9, 2018.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the past few months about trade wars. The president says they are easy to win, while others talk about how messy and expensive they can be for countries, for alliances and for consumers.

We have a different thought. Trade wars can often start with something far short of a bang, in that the sky doesn’t collapse the first day that tariffs kick in. Instead, over time, expensive import duties can slowly choke off an industry’s or even an economy’s resilience.

If that seems like a trivial thought, consider several facts relevant to the trade debate now underway in this country. Let’s start with the small detail that Donald Trump justifies his tariffs — including those that kicked in late last week on $34 billion in Chinese goods — on national security grounds.

The president makes that claim for the simple reason the law requires it. That is to say, if he wants to unilaterally impose tariffs, he can do so by finding that the goods in question impair the country’s security interests. Under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the Commerce secretary has the authority to investigate and determine whether certain imports undermine national security.

One reason the president (through the Commerce secretary) was handed such discretion was that typically since the end of World War II, American presidents have looked for ways to expand the nation’s prosperity by capitalizing on the expansion of global trade. Congress often gets caught up in parochial politics, but the president usually has a more national outlook.

The upshot of this approach over the past several decades is that America has prospered. We’d argue that our prosperity is actually one of the best bulwarks of our national security. After all, one of the reasons why the United States can fund its military at a level in far excess of every other country is that the American economy has consistently led the world.

So it is of broad concern that we now see a trade war gathering steam. It is also of specific concern. The Brookings Institution estimates there are approximately 156,000 jobs in Texas alone that would be imperiled by Trump’s tariffs — something that should be evident to all North Texans after Toyota noted that the tariffs could add $1,800 to a price of a Camry.

What’s more, about 20 percent of the jobs in our economy are now tied to trade, up from about 10 percent in the early 1990s. So trade is not only important, it grows more crucial to our economy with each passing year.

Given that reality, as we dip into trade fights with a growing list of other countries, it is high time that Congress pushes forward new legislation to amend the president’s ability impose tariffs at will. Tariffs are taxes by another name. And taxes shouldn’t be levied at the whim of one branch of government.


Amarillo Globe-News. July 10, 2018.

Turn off the heat on ICE.

There have recently been calls to get rid of ICE, also known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Most of these attacks on ICE have come from Democrats. For example, Cynthia Nixon, a Democrat candidate for governor of New York, has referred to the agency as a “terrorist organization.”

The assumption is that attacks on ICE stem from the former immigration policy of the Trump administration which separated the children of illegal immigrants from their parents.

Let us set the record straight — ICE was not responsible for carrying out this former immigration policy. (Emphasis on “former.”)

However, facts do not always matter when it comes to political agendas.

Even if Democrats who want to abolish ICE were correct in their misguided targeting of ICE, how would getting rid of ICE change the immigration policy with which they so vehemently oppose? Following this logic (or lack thereof), if a lawmaker opposes a governmental policy, he/she can just insist on abolishing the governmental agency which carries out the policy rather than changing or getting rid of the policy?

This circumvention of the lawmaking process seems frightening.

And — again — ICE was not responsible for separating children of illegal immigrants from their parents anyway.

And if there are any Democrats who want to pull the plug on ICE because they claim the agency is a waste of taxpayer money, since when is frugality with taxpayer money a priority of Democrats? And what exactly would replace ICE? Or do Democrats not deem it necessary to have such an agency enforcing immigration laws?

What this ICE opposition represents is simple pandering to the left’s base, an attempt to fire up liberals with an idea that will never become reality — the end of ICE.

If Democrats want to get rid of a government agency and actually accomplish something that will help Americans, we have another target for their wrath — the Internal Revenue Service.


Beaumont Enterprise. July 10, 2018.

This is the way it’s supposed to work — taxpayers seeing a true list of finalists for an important public education position like college president or school superintendent, the same way they are able to see applicants for all other — some arguably less important — public jobs in Texas. Board members reluctant to step up to this responsibility should note what the Texas State University System is doing in the case of the presidency of Lamar State College-Orange — and resolve to do the same if they have a similar opportunity.

The system’s Advisory Search Committee released the names of four finalists being considered to replace Michael Shahan, who will retire on Aug. 31. They are Michael Calvert, president of Pratt Community College in Pratt, Kansas; Thomas Johnson, assistant vice president at Tyler Junior College; Robert Riza, president/CEO of Clarendon (Texas) College; and Deana Sheppard, vice president of student learning at Lone Star College-CyFair.

Taxpayers can review the background of the four candidates — on their own, without any filters. Better yet, they can meet the finalists at a July 17 reception at the LSC-O campus. As a result of this kick-the-tires openness, they won’t have a mystery hire thrust upon them. The process should be free of rumor and speculation because it’s out in the open. The final choice has a better chance of getting off to a good start at the college, free of any questions or resentment that can linger from a closed process. Students and faculty deserve nothing less.

Unfortunately, this approach is the exception, not the rule. School districts seldom release the names of finalists — much less applicants — because they don’t have to. That’s as a result of a literal reading of the law that created a loophole for a so-called “lone finalist,” originally intended for situations where only one person applied.

Search firms or professional organizations like the Texas Association of School Boards that assist in the hiring process often stipulate that searches be conducted in this star chamber secrecy. They want to control the board and avoid annoying questions or second-guessing from the very people who will be most affected by this hire.

School board members should resist any temptation to go along with this game. They should tell their colleagues that this dodge violates the spirit of the law, and they will not play along. They should put the clear interests of the voters ahead of the insider mindset that permeates some boards. State law may require a certain level of openness, but public officials can (and should more often) go above those minimum standards to be transparent. After all, that should be their constant goal.

For example, if the Kirbyville school board had been more open about its superintendent hiring process, it might have been alerted to possible problems with Tommy Wallis at his previous job in the Bryan ISD, scarily pervasive problems that came to light only after he was hired.

It matters who fills top education positions like college president or district superintendent every bit as much as it matters who is hired as a city’s manager or police chief. That person sets the tone for the organization in word and deed. He or she will have a big impact on the taxing entity’s success — or lack of it.

It’s not easy to find the right person for such a demanding job, and sometimes the new hire doesn’t work out. But an open hiring process offers the best chance to get it right the first time. Either way, a public education board that reveals its finalists will have less explaining to do.

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