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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

November 27, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Facts. Nov. 25, 2018.

A recent decision makes it clear who has the authority to remove a Confederate plaque and its misinformation from the Texas Capitol, and Gov. Greg Abbott needs to stop passing the buck and order it taken down.

For a year there has been a campaign led by state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, calling for the plaque’s removal. Abbott chairs the Texas State Preservation Board and, when the request came in, he told Johnson he would look into it.

Attorney General Ken Paxton last week published an opinion that the board is the correct entity to decide the plaque’s fate.

While Abbott has not made any comment on Paxton’s opinion, earlier this year during a debate, he indicated the board should not be the one to decide whether to take down the plaque, stating the Legislature was who voted to put it in place and they are the ones who should take action on it. He added he believes the plaque should be taken down because of factual inaccuracy.

The plaque was erected by Texas Division Children of the Confederacy on Aug. 7, 1959. The plaque clearly claims “the war between the states was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”

That claim could not be more false and there is tons of evidence to prove it.

The reason this plaque went up at this time was because in the 1950s and ’60s was when the Civil Rights Act and desegregation was beginning to take its course. This is similar to the previous time plaques and statues went up in the early 1900s to about the ’20s because of Jim Crow laws.

Groups undertook misinformation campaigns in the forms of plaques and statues to educate the masses about its argument that the “real” reason for the Civil War was states’ rights. The monuments served as a symbol to the black minority to stay in their lane. That, yes, they would abide by the federal law but they didn’t like it.

If Abbott does the right thing and removes this divisive plaque from the Capitol, it again serve as a symbol. This time, though, it would be a patriotic hand outstretched toward healing in this country and the promise to fight for freedom and security for everyone.

For those who claim this is an issue about history, Americans don’t learn history from plaques; they learn it from books and word of mouth. And just this month, the Texas Board of Education rejected making states’ rights a centerpiece of social studies lessons about the Civil War. Texas schoolchildren will be taught slavery was its root cause.

There is no legitimate reason for keeping the plaque in place, and Abbott has the authority for it to come down. The halls of our elected representatives should not continue to propagate a lie one day longer.

As The Facts has opined before, we cannot rewrite history, but we can rewrite a plaque, and at minimum, that is what should be done to the tablet hanging in the Capitol.

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Houston Chronicle. Nov. 26, 2018.

Consider the legendary Astrodome and neighboring NRG Stadium as the bookends of Houston’s sports history.

On one side, Roy Hofheinz’s Eighth Wonder of the World brought baseball, football and global renown to a rice field on the outskirts of a swampy port city. On the other side, a showcase for the team Bob McNair brought to Houston in 2002 after Bud Adams petulantly absconded with the Oilers.

There is something unique in the way that Sunday NFL football can energize an entire community. It’s the only sport where fans are content simply to grill up in the parking lot if only to be near the action.

As we mourn his death at age 81, Houston should remember that McNair’s risky gambit in bringing the Texans to town was more than just a celebration of football. It was a contribution to our city’s civic life practically unmatched in modern history. Just ask yourself: Where would Houston be without J.J. Watt?

In Texas, home of Friday Night Lights, where high school stadiums sometimes rival those at universities, it seems strange to think that the state’s largest city once lost its NFL team to Nashville. Yet for six years Houston was a place of clear eyes, full hearts and no pro football.

When the league proposed an expansion, Houston wasn’t at the top of the list. The Powers That Be preferred Los Angeles (and its massive media market). For more than two years McNair lobbied the NFL and team owners, rallied local leaders and laid down $700 million of his own energy industry fortune to bring pro football back to Houston.

“I guess it was more of a civic responsibility I felt to pursue it,” he said.

Over the years McNair earned some harsh criticism — when he took the wrong side in debates over NFL players kneeling in protest of a broken criminal justice system, when he made a donation (which he later rescinded) to the campaign against Houston’s equal rights ordinance. But McNair’s contributions, including his generous philanthropy outside of sports, rise above the controversies.

His Texans gave us the connectedness that comes from shared heartbreak and hard-fought triumph. The team enriches Houston’s identity and unifies our diverse region under a hometown coat of arms — colored red, white and blue — that emblazons T-shirts, hats, jerseys from downtown Houston to Katy, Kingwood to Clear Lake. Ever the booster, McNair also helped bring to Houston the Super Bowl in 2004 and again in 2017.

For his vision, tenacity and love of our great city, we’ll say goodbye to McNair the same way fans said hello to him as he stood on the sideline during the Texans’ inaugural game against the Cowboys at Reliant:

“Thank you, Bob,” they chanted. “Thank you, Bob.”

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The Dallas Morning News. Nov. 27, 2018.

We are all cringing at the images of migrants, including women and children, fleeing tear gas at the southern California border.

At the same time, we have to separate the emotion of those images from the reality that a lawless surge at border checkpoints is going to draw a response from the law enforcement agents we have charged with keeping order. When dozens of migrants attempted to cross the border illegally and began hurling rocks at U.S. Border Patrol Agents, the agents had little choice but to employ tear gas to disperse the crowd.

If we take yet another step back and look at matters rationally rather than emotionally, we can see that from the Middle East to the northern triangle of Central America, we are witnessing one humanitarian crisis after another — people fleeing their native countries in search of a better life. Ebbing democracy, failing states and increasing desperation are leading people to seek better circumstances than those they face.

In America, we need to be a light of hope for the world — deeply engaged in building better states abroad through the example of democracy, freedom and rule of law.

That’s why it’s crucial for President Donald Trump and the new House leadership to work with GOP leadership in the Senate to ensure our foreign and trade policies in Central America and around the world are aimed at increasing freedom and prosperity in the same way the North American Free Trade Agreement helped lift a generation of Mexicans out of the worst grip of poverty.

But even as we work to promote more lawful and prosperous societies abroad, we shouldn’t condemn our own law enforcement here for doing their jobs in the face of all but impossible circumstances.

Whatever one thinks of what Trump says or tweets, particularly about his hope to build a massive border wall, it doesn’t excuse migrants rushing at our border patrol. We have laws governing immigration — whether for people seeking asylum, for those looking to gain work visas or those hoping to become citizens. Immigrants must respect our laws, just as we must. Border Patrol agents used the tear gas as a last resort, not as a first option. We’re sympathetic to the frustrations of those who made the dangerous trip to the border. The application for asylum takes time and right now, U.S. officials don’t have the resources to do the job.

Sooner or later, the president or his successor will have to address the need for more resources to process asylum claims. Even in the most hopeful circumstances, with smarter immigration policy, statecraft and aid, Central America may be a generation or more from the sort of stability that curbs mass migration. We could have been, and should have been, better prepared. This crisis, after all, was a long march coming.

As things stand, the United States invests hundreds of millions of dollars for various programs aimed at assisting Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. We have asked before if that money can’t be better spent to stabilize governance in nations where gang warfare and corruption have polluted people’s hope for the future. It is not unfair to review and reconsider how that money gets disbursed, and whether negotiations must take place to determine the path forward. Our hope is there’s a solution that provides aid and assistance along with accountability that’s measurable. Encouraging economic policies and investment in resources can blaze a trail where people leave the country to live elsewhere because they want to, not because they feel they have to.

The current issues with our immigration policies and related foreign policy span several presidential administrations. It didn’t start with Trump, though he’s shown more than enough willingness to throw gas on the fire. Democrats are quick to condemn, but without real solutions we’ll be witness to more conflict between desperate migrants and well-meaning border patrol agents. If confrontation and resolution continue to fall to those two groups, we will know our politicians have failed us utterly.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Nov. 27, 2018.

We will believe that the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project is a go when a submarine takes us 54 feet to the channel’s new bottom. This community has waited a quarter of a century for this project.

Now that the obligatory words of caution are out of the way, we’re thrilled at the news that the Army Corps of Engineers has committed $59 million to this $360 million project.

There seem to be a lot of steps between budgeting and actual spending. We’ve been assured that this $59 million is a bird in the Corps’ hand and that the spending will commence. This appears to be the milestone we have awaited in vain all these years.

So, like the song says, let’s get this party started. Let’s give credit where it’s due. A lot, if not the lion’s share, goes to the port staff led by CEO Sean Strawbridge and departing executive director John LaRue. But they should be busy planning a Buc Days-size parade for U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria. And the chambers of commerce and economic development corporations on both sides of the channel should be in on it, big time.

This is quite an impressive accomplishment for someone so new in Cloud’s position. He took office in July after a special election to finish Blake Farenthold’s unexpired term, then won the general election earlier this month.

We’ve lost count of the times we said that this project should be a high priority, if not the priority, of the District 27 congressional representative. The lack of progress during Farenthold’s not-quite-eight years in office was a continuing source of frustration, fairly or not. It could be argued that Cloud was at the right place at the right time after years of grunt work by others, including Farenthold.

But you won’t hear it from us. Until proved otherwise, Cloud gets — and may well deserve — the credit. Not only did Cloud impress us with how fast he assembled what appears to be a laser-focused professional staff, but he also talked up our port during a brief audience with President Trump. That’s what we call prioritizing. A straight line from Cloud to Monday’s announcement is not that hard to draw.

We also commend Cloud for saying “we” instead of “I″ in assessing credit and mentioning the port commissioners, chairman and staff specifically. That, Congressman, is how it’s done and how to build a long career in that shark tank where you now swim.

Cloud puts the total Corps funding figure at $71.8 million. Congress previously approved $13 million that the president’s budget included for the project. That plus $59 million minus rounding comes to $71.8 million or thereabouts.

This project is important to the nation’s energy independence and security. Cloud recognized and ballyhooed it. Others have done the same, most notably Gov. Greg Abbott and Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton. But Cloud is showing us the money.

Years ago, when the talk of deepening the 45-foot channel started, we were importing oil to our refineries, a lot of smart people believed that the world would run out of it soon, and the port was dreaming of diversifying heavily into container cargoes. Now we know more about oil reserves. We know we have lots of it. We’re exporting it and the Port of Corpus Christi is the nation’s top oil-export port. But our channel is too shallow for the really big tankers.

Developing nations need energy. Nations are willing to fight wars over energy. It is not an exaggeration to say that deepening the Corpus Christi Ship Channel can maintain world peace. It’s good to know that we have a congressman who not only said as much, in so many words, but also apparently was heard.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Nov. 27, 2018.

It’s a short jaunt from boon to boondoggle. And no bridge is necessary.

Still, while many in Fort Worth are understandably condemning Panther Island as Fantasy Island, we all should hope that’s not the case. The notion of re-routing the Trinity River and creating a kind of island for riverfront development on downtown’s northern edge — 800 acres of former industrial space that is largely forlorn today — is a tantalizing idea. Even many who now question the viability of the project would love to see it come about.

Fourteen years after its rollout — and just months after this year’s public vote of confidence, in the passage of a local $250 million bond referendum — the $1.16 billion vision has hit a huge sandbar: half a billion in federal funding, approved by Congress in 2016 and thought to be in the bank, was not included in the Trump administration’s current spending plans or Army Corps of Engineers budget.

Since that revelation, several high-profile officials, including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, have suggested scaling back the project and even auditing the Trinity River Vision Authority overseeing it.

It’s important that in our grand vision we don’t lose sight of the fact that the genesis and primary purpose of the Panther Island project is flood control. The Trinity River authority’s own materials tout the need to shore up the 1960s-era levees and bolster them with the “1.5-mile bypass channel, three new flood gates, expanded storm water valley storage opportunities and a new dam.”

While it’s an enticing byproduct that we’d be creating “12 miles of publicly accessible waterfront consisting of a river promenade, riverwalk system and a 30-acre town lake as its centerpiece,” and “doubling the size of downtown,” the main mission is to protect the downtown that we already have.

We would encourage the Trinity River authority to look at an audit not as a rebuke, but as welcome scrutiny. Many of us want to believe in this project, and a successful financial review of it would go a long way toward restoring that belief.

The Trump administration’s decision to withhold funding for the project should be seen as the reasonable, prudent challenge that it is: The feds appear to want an economic study proving the project’s need. This is a hurdle we should want all government projects to clear.

Finger-pointing and recriminations won’t get us anywhere, or get those already-under-construction Panther Island bridges off the ground.

Our task is clear, even if our vision isn’t: It’s time to buttress the audacious Panther Island plans with a persuasive cost-benefit analysis, and for the project’s practicality to be tested by the sunlight of a financial review, the scope of which is now being drawn up. The review should include an assessment of the project’s governing structure — and more importantly, whether federal money really can be expected.

Not all tension is bad, and the current questions and concerns over Panther Island will either demonstrate its endurance or protect the public from future failure.

Just as a bridge is stress-tested, the strength of Panther Island must be weighed.

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