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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

November 13, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Longview News-Journal. Nov. 11, 2018.

To the outsider, East Texas looks like a pristine forest, unspoiled in many ways — especially compared to the urban areas just west of here.

Those from the city will take a deep breath of our fresh air, thinking it far less polluted than that they breathe at home.

That probably isn’t true.

While the large cities have millions of vehicles, East Texas is where utility companies have built the power plants that provide electricity to the cities. The result has been a higher amount of air pollution than one might expect.

Our area also is blessed with the tremendous natural resource of plentiful water in streams, rivers and reservoirs. Most look beautiful from the surface and East Texas offers some of the best fishing in our state.

But the lakes and rivers are facing their own dangers.

The Environmental Integrity Project — a Washington, D.C.-based environmental watchdog group — has issued a report highlighting some of those dangers, most notably effluent from East Texas chicken farms and processing plants.

It should be noted that the Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit group with an agenda to strengthen clean air and water laws. But the data cited in its report come directly from the Environmental Protection Agency and were collected during the administration of President Donald Trump. The evidence is not fake.

Among the findings was that Pilgrim’s Pride plants in Mount Pleasant were dumping 1,755 pounds of nitrogen a day into the tributaries that feed Lake O’ the Pines, which is one source of Longview’s drinking water. That makes it one of the biggest water polluters in the state, and many times worse than most meatpacking operations across the nation.

What that nitrogen does — along with phosphorus also released by Pilgrim’s — is deplete oxygen from the water, which in turn makes the lake more hazardous for fish and other animal life. Lake O’ the Pines had already been identified as having lower than optimum levels of dissolved oxygen.

None of this is to say water from the lake isn’t safe to drink or that the fish there are about to die. What it means is that we must find a way to solve this problem.

One solution would be to require Pilgrim’s Pride to install its own water treatment plant to reduce the dangerous effects of the effluent. Yes, that would cost the company millions and could impact the price of your chicken dinner.

Other processing plants, such as Tyson Farms, already do this, so it is not unreasonable. Unfortunately, Tyson’s plant in Center also was cited by the report because its treatment system is not working as well as it should. But the negative effluent from the Tyson plant is still only about one-third that from the Mount Pleasant plant.

There could be other solutions we don’t know about, some even revolutionary, given the pace of science progress today.

But one must be found, because this situation is not sustainable over the long run. If allowed to continue, conditions at Lake ’O the Pines and other waterways will seriously deteriorate. Will that be in 10, 25 or 50 years? We do not know.

What we do know is that this problem can be solved. We just need the will to get it done.

State environmental officials have issued recommendations for Pilgrim’s to begin reducing the pollution, but they lack teeth. If Pilgrim’s will not follow the recommendations voluntarily, area lawmakers should act in the coming session to force it and other polluters to act more responsibly.

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San Antonio Express-News. Nov. 11, 2018.

Among the casualties of the Democratic sweep at the Bexar County courthouse were the longtime district and county clerks.

Collectively, District Clerk Donna Kay McKinney and County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff have more than 32 years of institutional memory about the record keeping in Bexar County. McKinney has only been in office for eight years but spent decades employed in different departments and various courts.

We wish the best going forward to District Clerk-elect Mary Angie Garcia, who worked in the department from 1997 to 2012, and County Clerk-elect Lucy Adame-Clark, an employee of the sheriff’s office.

They have just become heads of two major county departments that together employ close to 259 people and have combined budgets of close to $20 million.

The work of these offices affect every taxpayer in the county.

The county clerk’s office issue marriage licenses and records marriages, maintains records on property in the county and is the keeper of the records for all county and probate courts. The district clerk handles all lawsuits filed and maintains the records for criminal and criminal courts.

With every new job comes a learning curve.

We urge the new and old administrations to set aside their political differences and seek common ground to allow for a smooth transition in the best interest of the general public.

___

Houston Chronicle. Nov. 12, 2018.

After last week’s elections, Republicans across the nation are probably asking themselves one key question: What’s the matter with Kansas?

One of the nation’s reddest states elected a Democratic woman to serve as governor. Texas Republicans ought to be paying attention — this could be their future if they don’t take seriously the next legislative session.

The problem in Kansas began in 2012 when then-Gov. Sam Brownback slashed nearly $4 billion in state income taxes. The goal was to stimulate economic growth and attract businesses. That didn’t happen. The economy actually underperformed neighboring states.

Instead Kansas got underfunded infrastructure and strangled budgets for public schools. Eventually an alliance of Democrats and moderate Republicans rolled back the tax cuts over Brownback’s veto and restored funding.

This pushback should have been a warning to Kansas Republicans, but the siren song of Trump-style politics must have been too alluring. Their gubernatorial candidate, Kris Kobach, ran on a platform of fear mongering about undocumented immigrants and baseless claims of rampant voter fraud.

Fundamental concerns such as public schools, roads and taxes were instead left to Democratic candidate Laura Kelly, a longtime state legislator. Her campaign, as Kelly said during her victory speech, wasn’t the result of a “blue wave” but rather a “wave of common sense.”

Here in Texas, we have heard a call for common sense from Democrats and moderate Republicans alike.

Like those in Kansas, our public schools are in trouble. Texas schools are funded by a mix of state sales taxes and local property taxes. The state has failed to keep up with growth and shifted far too much of the burden onto homeowners. In an attempt to keep state taxes low, lawmakers in Austin have merely undermined our public schools and compelled tax hikes at a local level.

There’s a growing consensus among Democrats and moderate Republicans — specifically those in the state House — to find new revenue sources by closing the “equal and uniform” loophole that benefits commercial properties but not homeowners, and expanding the sales tax to cover currently untaxed goods and services. Meanwhile, the Brownbacks and Kobachs of our state — notably Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — spent campaign season talking about sideshow issues like NFL protesters.

Common sense candidates like Patrick’s opponent Mike Collier got closer than any Democrat in decades to winning a statewide seat. If the Republicans controlling Austin can’t solve the problems facing Texas in the next session, don’t be surprised if the national party finds itself asking in 2022: What’s the matter with Texas?

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The Dallas Morning News. Nov. 12, 2018.

Wearing a crisp suit adorned with the pin of a Navy Seal and a black patch over his right eye, U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, who will represent Texas’ 2nd District, went a long way Saturday night toward offering all of us some things we desperately need in our current political culture: a sense of humor, a sense of forgiveness and a sense of magnanimity that no matter what our differences, we are all in this together as Americans.

Over the weekend, Crenshaw appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” where a week earlier, cast member Pete Davidson mocked his appearance because of that eye patch. Davidson failed to mention that Crenshaw wears the patch because he lost his right eye in 2012 following the detonation of an IED while serving in Afghanistan.

Crenshaw could easily have been a jerk in return. He wasn’t. He made a simple and transparently true statement that the wounds of our veterans should never be held up for mockery or sport.

Then he did one better. He showed up on SNL next to Davidson and gave us some real laughs, as well as a lesson we can all remember.

In a political era when people love nothing more than to be offended and insist on apologies for said offenses, we were thrilled to see someone step up as the adult. And we were glad SNL gave Crenshaw the platform it did.

It was heartening to see a display of grace, humor and humility play out live on national television. We hope others will watch this and learn from it, recognizing that despite our political differences, we’re real people and not cardboard cutouts.

In a final word, Crenshaw talked about the importance of the phrase “never forget” and what it means to the relationship between civilians and members of the armed forces. “And never forget those we lost on 9/11, heroes like Pete’s father,” Crenshaw said. “So I’ll just say, Pete, never forget.”

Pete’s dad, Scott Davidson, was a New York City firefighter who lost his life on 9/11. Scott Davidson was last seen doing what heroes do: running toward danger and not away from it. In this case, running up the stairs of the Marriott World Trade Center shortly before it collapsed. Crenshaw served in Afghanistan, fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban in response to the vicious attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

What we saw on SNL was a reminder that, as Americans, our lives are inextricably linked. In this age of terror and division, we are stronger when we realize we are one people.

___

Beaumont Enterprise. Nov. 13, 2018.

It may seem strange to point out that funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall will never pass the U.S. House of Representatives when it is controlled by Democrats in the new Congress. After all, money for the wall couldn’t even get through the Republican-controlled House over the last two years. Still, this bad idea keeps trying to avoid its slide into irrelevance, with some proponents even talking about sneaking a bill through the lame-duck session of the outgoing Congress. House members should not waste any more time on the wall and start focusing on more important challenges.

Local U.S. Reps. Randy Weber and Brian Babin can do their part to move forward by advising their GOP colleagues to forget about the wall and start looking ahead. If enough Republican House members do that, the few die-hard supporters of the wall may finally realize that it’s not going to happen.

The plain fact here is that even many Republicans in Congress thought the border wall was unworkable from the start. Republican Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, appropriately called it the most expensive and least effective way to fight illegal immigration.

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo spoke for many is his party when he said, “We want security, cameras, sensors, personnel, the Border Patrol. . Nobody wants an open border. It’s just how we do it.”

The U.S.-Mexico border already has 700 miles of fencing of varying levels along its 1,954-mile length, and where it’s appropriate an actual barrier might make sense. But a physical wall from California to the Gulf of Mexico would be incredibly expensive and unnecessary, spanning vast stretches of isolated desert with virtually no illegal crossing. Even if the wall could be built, people could probably find a way to go over or under it. Large numbers of foreigners fly into the country now as tourists or students and overstay their visas; a wall 50 feet high wouldn’t stop them.

The new Congress should focus on common-sense border security. Republicans want that, and Democrats want some kind of deal for the “Dreamers,” children brought into this country by their parents years ago but still lacking legal status. Both sides should be able to work out an agreement that does something about both of these goals. They need to break through the bitter partisanship that has poisoned the mood in Washington and understand that one-sided lawmaking just won’t work any more.

If President Trump won’t accept this, Republican members of Congress should make it clear that they recognize the new political reality. That includes ignoring some wild talk about shutting down the government in the coming lame-duck session if the wall isn’t funded.

Those in the current Congress have some loose ends to tie down before their successors take over. Members should get it done and move on. The bluster of campaigning is over; the serious business of governing must begin.

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