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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

September 4, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Victoria Advocate. Sept. 1, 2018.

Bob Glenn has a huge job ahead of him, and he knows it.

Glenn, who started work in early August as the new president of the University of Houston-Victoria, knows he needs to continue on the growth path established by retiring President Vic Morgan — grow enrollment, get classrooms and dorms built, develop athletics, get the support of the Victoria area as well as keep the support of the university’s system, and the list goes on.

He also knows he has to gain the support and trust of the faculty for him be successful in making the university a destination campus with 6,000 students by 2025.

Some people may look at his long to-do list and run away from the job, but not Glenn. He, instead, has hit the ground running and is not looking back.

He is using his more than three decades in higher education where he has served as university president, vice president and vice provost to develop plans to accomplish the goals.

Developing the university as a destination campus will take the support of the system, faculty, students, alumni and community.

Glenn is already working with the Victoria school district and Victoria College to form a partnership to encourage students to want to attend college locally. They will also work with the parents to show them the benefits of their children getting a four-year degree and being able to stay in Victoria to have a successful career.

He and others know the children and the parents have to have the desire to gain higher education as early as elementary school so the students will want to learn.

He also knows that by the nature of the community, a large percentage of their students will be older non-traditional learners who are working on their degrees after years in the workforce.

To make the campus a destination campus, Glenn said the city must become a college town offering entertainment and businesses that will attract students. While he doesn’t promote only opening more bars to attract students, he does believe more microbreweries in Victoria would go a long way in starting the college town atmosphere.

A larger alumni base and its support is also needed to help market the university to local and out-of-area students.

The new buildings under construction and planned as well as a growing athletics program will also help increase the on-campus population.

Recently the university received 65 acres of land near the airport to develop baseball, softball and soccer fields. The university is also talking with Victoria school district officials to lease a facility to start basketball and volleyball programs.

The university also has a golf program.

This is in addition to building the university commons student center and modern library and Smith hall complex, the renovations at the former Town Plaza Mall and the project to establish Ben Wilson Street as the grand entry to the university.

Ground should be breaking soon on the future science, technology engineering and math building. Officials are also considering building a health and wellness center near the STEM building.

All of which, when complete, will help give the small university a big-campus identity.

It all of this weren’t enough, Glenn is also dealing with fast growth at the UHV Katy campus and future construction there.

As Glenn gets to know the community, he will learn we want the best for our children and the students who choose to attend college here. We want them to succeed and grow to their fullest potential.

We have a vested interest in the university’s success because with this success, the Crossroads will grow.

Glenn understands this connection and appears ready to put it to work.

We, as the community, need to make sure we are ready to help when he comes calling on us or, better yet, volunteer before he makes the call.

___

Houston Chronicle. Sept. 2, 2018.

Houston is a glass-is-half-full city, even when it’s full of flood water.

We will never forget the heroism after Hurricane Harvey, the bass boats, the lines of volunteers wrapped around the George R. Brown, the muckers, the gutters, the faith communities and businesspeople who donated to those in need. The elected officials, including Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who worked around the clock and behind the scenes to help us recover.

But let’s not forget the people who responded to Harvey with selfishness instead of service, the opportunists far more concerned with their bottom line than the water line. If we want to rebuild a city that will be truly resilient in the face of the next storm, we’ll have to know the foes who will lead us astray and prioritize their own gains over the greater good.

Let’s remember the villains of Harvey.

Let’s remember the developers who saw nothing wrong with building neighborhoods inside the flood pools behind Addicks and Barker reservoirs, and then kept the risks to themselves. Even after rescuers risked their lives to save families huddled on upper floors in those neighborhoods, where streets quickly turned to rivers, groups like Meritage Homes continued to pursue new construction in the flood plain.

Let’s remember the politicians who failed to stop dangerous development in flood-prone areas and also those who saw recovery efforts after the storm as an opportunity to divide the city. City Hall could barely pass an ordinance to improve our construction codes as Houston council members unhelpfully nitpicked and critiqued in the wake of Houston’s epic disaster.

Let’s remember, specifically, the politicians who treated Harvey like an inconvenience rather than a call to action. Gov. Greg Abbott called a special legislative session over transgender bathrooms but refused to call one to help us rebuild from Harvey. Our junior senator in Washington, Ted Cruz, was willing to shut down the whole chamber to oppose Obamacare but not to force a vote on a Harvey recovery package.

Let’s remember the bosses, owners and crooks who refused to pay their workers their true earnings when Houstonians needed help rebuilding. Day laborers suffered astounding rates of wage theft after Harvey, and Texas has failed to set things right.

Let’s remember the con-artist contractors who provided shoddy work for families with holes in their roofs and mold in their walls. The Texas Legislature held a hearing on the problem of lax licensing requirements and regulations after Harvey, but reform doesn’t look likely.

Let’s remember the credulous commenters who insisted on returning to the status quo as quickly as possible. Houston has stood as a model for urban thinkers who advocate for easy land use, low regulation and never saw a stretch of pavement they didn’t like. But Harvey should have all of us questioning our presumptions about building to stand the test of time. As Emmett said during a meeting with the Urban Land Institute last week: “We need to not fight with nature; we need to live with nature and allow those areas to be green that need to be green and, frankly, allow those areas to be wet that need to be wet and not try and change that.”

Let’s remember the corporate leaders who kept Houstonians in the dark about the chemicals and toxins that their industrial plants were releasing into our water and air. Arkema CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle were indicted after the company’s actions recklessly placed Crosby residents and first responders at risk.

We all want to remember the best about Harvey — the light that shone through the clouds during that biblical flood. But it is the villains who can teach us the lessons we’ll need to learn to ensure that we’re better prepared for the next storm. Because there will be a next one.

___

Odessa American. Sept. 2, 2018.

“Why would he want to risk his reputation coming back here?”

Of all the reactions to news that former Odessan Jim Nelson would be returning as Ector County Independent School District interim superintendent, that one got us to thinking most of all.

It was telling in more ways than one.

It sums up the beleaguered sense of frustration, hopelessness that so many people in town feel about the many challenges that continue to plague the Ector County Independent School District.

Thomas Crowe wrapped up his stint as superintendent this past week, agreeing with district trustees to move up his retirement date to allow Nelson to step in now for a steadier transition while the district conducts a formal search for a more long-term leader.

We wish to thank Crowe for his service. He came out of a cushy retirement and worked hard for half a decade to turn things around in the troubled district. Under his leadership, the district pulled off some gutsy moves, including redrawing school boundaries to right-size campus populations, opening three new elementary schools, converting to a middle school system and showing improvement in standardized testing scores at some troubled campuses.

But let’s be frank; it took more than a decade to create the mess we now are trying to clean up. There was no way Crowe was going to be able to repair such a broken system in a handful of years. It will take years more to turn things around, and it was time for him to pass the baton to someone else to help continue the fight.

This newspaper is glad that person is Nelson, even if he will be here for just a short while.

In taking on this temporary assignment, Nelson returns to the town where he grew up and became involved in public education as an ECISD trustee. Nelson may be an attorney by trade, but education has been his true passion. And he has carved an impressive mark in that landscape. His many accomplishments include:

— Serving as Commissioner of Education for the Texas Education Agency.

— Assisting the U.S. Department of Defense as a senior adviser in an effort to rebuild the school system in war-torn Iraq.

— Serving as senior vice president for state and federal affairs for Voyager Expanded Learning in Dallas.

— A successful stint as superintendent of the Richardson Independent School District.

— Serving as executive director and chief executive officer of San Diego-based AVID, the wildly successful education program, which is showing great results here in ECISD schools, Odessa College and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Many people may be unaware of that fact that for years, Nelson has also been gracious with his time, connections and expertise in helping people within our school district and with the Odessa Education Foundation. So he is keenly aware of the challenges we face.

As this community continues to work with its school district to pull local public education out of the proverbial ditch, it is heartening to know that Nelson will be bringing to the effort his special mix of experience — ranging from high-level strategy and planning to in-the-trenches engagement and leadership.

Knowing Nelson, we suspect he could care less about what this latest assignment will mean for his reputation. He’ll just go about doing what he always has done: rolling up his sleeves and working with colleagues and the community to figure out ways for schools, teachers and parents to help all children learn in order to be better prepared for life.

Come to think of it, perhaps the best answer to the original question is this:

It’s pretty well-known that Odessans are friendly, big-hearted people who will go out of their way to help others in need.

A lot of that has to do with life in an Oil Patch town whose residents are used to seeing their lives go up and down with the price of oil. When it’s a bust, pretty much everyone suffers one way or another. And everyone tends to hug each other a little tighter to help each other weather the tough times.

Jim Nelson may have moved away from Odessa years ago, but he’s coming back to his hometown because he wants to try and help this Oil Patch school district out of a nine-line bind.

What else would one expect from a true Odessan?

___

The Dallas Morning News. Sept. 4, 2018.

Sometimes it’s worth taking a look at an old subject through a new lens. For example, to understand why there’s a chronic construction labor shortage in Texas, think one word: immigration.

Immigrants make up about 41 percent of the construction trades in Texas, or close to twice the share of immigrants in the U.S. construction labor force, making this region heavily dependent on foreign-born tradesmen. Factor in the perfect storm of slowed immigration from Mexico, Hurricane Harvey reconstruction and the white-hot construction market in North Texas, and the outcome is predictable. Demand continues to outpace supply, and we all are paying a price.

Now before you say that’s business nirvana, think again. Tighter labor markets pose a risk to overall economic growth. Building a house anywhere in the state costs at least $4,000 more and takes two or three months longer than a year ago, and the impact of high costs disproportionately affects buyers at the low end.

We’re in this conundrum largely due to flawed immigration policy. Immigrant workers have replaced U.S.-born workers who either retired or bailed out of the construction industry and retrained for other work after the Great Recession. Chaotic immigration policy has reduced the supply of workers in relation to construction demands.

In 2004 and 2005, over 130,000 new immigrants nationwide joined the construction labor force annually, peaking at about 11.7 million jobs in 2005. The housing crisis trimmed that to about 10.8 million in 2008 and 10.2 million even after the housing market’s recovery.

Texas is at the epicenter of this decline, experiencing major shortages of skilled drywall installers, painters, carpenters, electricians, bricklayers, roofers and a host of other construction occupations. Builders estimate that Texas needs at least 100,000 more workers statewide — including up to 38,000 in North Texas, twice as many as two years ago — just to meet the demand for new construction.

Let’s be clear. We aren’t advocating illegal immigration or a return to the industry’s unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that allowed builders to exploit unauthorized immigrants. But here’s the economic reality: Uncertain immigration policy is hurting you in the pocketbook. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University estimates that a $1,000 increase in costs quickly prices thousands of would-be homebuyers out of the market. And houses that should be built but aren’t act “as a drag on new starts,” Robert Kramp, director of research and analysis for commercial real estate firm CBRE, recently told The Dallas Morning News.

Markets work best when supply and demand are near equilibrium. Our economy needs a vibrant construction industry and a functioning immigration policy that meets the demands of the marketplace.

___

New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. Sept. 4, 2018.

New Braunfels and Comal County are great places to call home, and we continually sing the praises of our homeland.

We have a strong heritage. We have beautiful surroundings. We have our two rivers. We have prosperity and a strong economy.

We’re a very attractive place to live, and our population explosion continues to prove it.

But with everything we have to offer, all the strengths, traditions and advantages we have, we wouldn’t be anywhere without the people who make it happen.

We’re blessed to have the folks we have in this town. And there is no doubt our residents continue to be our greatest asset.

There are so many who serve and give their time and energy to help the plethora of groups and organizations that rely on volunteers for success.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: These individuals are the backbone of our community.

Our volunteers come in many shapes and sizes, and their backgrounds are varied. Some are older, others are younger. Some no longer work, others are in the prime of their careers. Some are stay-at-home mothers, others are business executives.

But the binding tie is their volunteer spirit and the help they provide our city and county so it continues to thrive and be a great place to call home. They simply have that strong and unselfish desire to give back to their community. And they often do it behind the scenes with no accolades or thanks.

We love and admire these folks, and we want to recognize them.

We call these people our “unsung heroes.” Each year, we play host to an event in their honor. We’re going to continue that tradition this year.

But before we do that, we need your help.

We need nominations.

We need you to tell us who is worthy of the special recognition this year. We need you to tell us about your friends, neighbors, family members and business partners who have made a difference in our community through their volunteer spirit.

We need you to tell us why someone deserves to be a Herald-Zeitung Unsung Hero.

We’re currently accepting nominations, and will continue to do so through the end of this month.

The process is easy. Please send us an email or a letter telling us about this person and what he or she has done to deserve the recognition. Tell us why they deserve a moment in the spotlight. Tell us why they are an unsung hero.

Please include your contact information, and your nominee’s, too, if you can.

Send your nominations to President and Publisher David Compton at david.compton@nbhztx.com .

Help the Herald-Zeitung offer thanks and a bit of recognition for these individuals who do so much for our community.

Help us celebrate the folks who make this community the great place it is.

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