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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

September 12, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

San Antonio Express-News. Sept. 9, 2017.

There’s one thing that isn’t bigger in Texas, and that’s voter turnout.

According to the U.S. Election Project’s 2017 statistics, Texas clocked in at 49th in the nation for voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election. The number of eligible Texans who showed up to the polls on Nov. 6 was a paltry 51.6 percent. By contrast, 69 percent of eligible Iowans voted, while Oregon and Massachusetts followed not far behind with 68.3 percent.

The data for Texas only goes downhill from there: only 21.6 percent of Texans eligible to vote cast a ballot in the 2016 primaries, and Texas had the single worst turnout nationally for the 2014 midterm elections.

Is there a solution? Look to Illinois, which has recently installed automatic voter registration when getting a driver’s license. Texas would do well to emulate this law. But, as recent events reveal, it has been on a decidedly different path.

Texas, in fact, has a long and troubling history of voter discrimination. One need only look at its draconian voter ID regulations, struck down five times this year, to see something is amiss.

A federal court during the last election deemed Senate Bill 14 discriminatory. SB 14 required voters to show one of seven forms of photo ID at the polls, all documents held disproportionately by white voters.

A replacement measure, SB 5, was meant to ameliorate the problems caused by SB 14 by allowing voters to produce utility bills and other alternate forms of ID — provided they were also willing to sign an affidavit, carrying with it a steep criminal penalty for perjury, stating they had no proper ID and no reasonable means of obtaining one.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos rightly ruled this month that SB 5, too, was discriminatory and reeked of voter intimidation. The state’s redistricting has also been cast as discriminatory by federal courts.

But besides protecting minority voters from overt discrimination — a not insignificant “but” — what else can the state do to produce a meaningful uptick in its voter turnout?

Another factor at play in Texas’ low voter turnout, the Houston Chronicle reported in 2014, is uncompetitive elections. In any given election, Texans on both sides of the aisle don’t vote if they feel its outcome is a foregone conclusion.

The result is little to no mobilization for turnout in Texas when compared to other states, reported the Chronicle — no cold calling by candidates or knocking on doors.

In an effort to combat voter apathy, Illinois recently became the 10th state (along with Washington, D.C.) to implement “opt-out,” or automatic, voter registration when getting a driver’s license.

This proves to be significantly more efficient than the “opt-in” policies on the books in Texas and most other states, which allow you to register to vote when getting a driver’s license, but do not register you automatically.

Why does this distinction matter? Because given a choice, most voters will choose the path of least resistance. Many will not opt in.

Consider the research on “opt-in” vs. “opt-out” policies in other key arenas such as medicine and business. Countries that have an “opt-out” policy for organ donation, such as Austria, have organ donation rates of more than 90 percent, whereas countries such as the United States with “opt-in” policies for organ donation have rates hovering at 15 percent. Similarly, 401(k) plans are increasingly offered by companies on an opt-out vs. opt-in basis because while 59 percent of employees will opt in to a 401(k), 85 percent will participate in automatic enrollment.

Would opt-out registration be an impingement on Texans’ right to choose? No, no one will force people to vote.

Texas ought to follow Illinois’ lead and enact automatic voter registration; some decisions, it seems, are best made by default.


The Monitor. Sept. 10, 2017.

We strongly support DREAMers and a policy to allow them to stay in this country, but we are disheartened by recent news that the attorneys general for 15 states and the District of Columbia are suing in support of DREAMers and seeking a policy that allows them to stay in this country.

In other words, while we support the goals that they are trying to achieve we do not believe in the manner in which they are going about it.

That’s because the litigation announced by Democratic attorneys general points to a more fundamental — and disconcerting — trend in our country: The growing frequency of trying to set public policy by relying on the judicial, instead of the legislative branch of government.

The lawsuit, announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, came one day after President Donald Trump’s administration, through its own attorney general, announced that it was phasing out a policy that has allowed undocumented youth to stay in our country as long as they were employed, going to school and stay out of trouble.

Called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the program was put into place by President Barack Obama in 2012 as a temporary measure to set executive priorities as it related to children who were brought into this country illegally by their parents.

These kids, now called DREAMers, grew up in this country, adhered to the laws of this country and essentially know little but what life is like inside the borders of this country.

And Obama’s policy was aimed at temporarily allowing them to pursue jobs and educations and to develop into productive adults until Congress could enact legislation that set a sound public policy related to these children.

While critics of Obama argue that he did not have the legal authority to set this policy, our concern is directed squarely at Congress. We are not being critical that Congress didn’t act the way Obama wanted it to act, we are critical that Congress failed to act at all.

The best way to deal with the concerns of critics about Obama’s authority was simply to render his actions moot by enacting meaningful legislation that established public policy over the fate of these children.

Instead, Congress abrogated its responsibilities in favor of politics and did nothing.

Shortly after Trump took office, the attorneys general of 10 Republican states, led by Texas, threatened to sue the president if he did not reverse DACA by Sept. 5.

Trump’s answer came on that very deadline day when he capitulated to these legal threats. In doing so, he left vulnerable the very children that he proclaimed to love in a later tweet.

While we believe President Trump’s action only contributes to the growing anti-Hispanic xenophobia overtaking policymakers in our country, we also view his actions as an opportunity — once again — for Congress to do its job.

Ultimately, we agree with Obama’s critics that Congress has the sole authority to establish immigration policy. But with Congress’ failure to achieve any meaningful policy, we also believe Obama’s actions would have provoked Congress to act.

We believe the same thing with Trump and his actions to phase out DACA by giving Congress six months to enact a policy for these children. We are not optimistic, but we know that lawmakers are skilled at accomplishing much when they are motivated.

What we don’t want, what we find extremely troubling is what the Democratic attorneys general are now attempting to do: Set public policy through the judiciary instead of through Congress.

Both Democrats and Republicans have begun using this tactic; both sides have said they are forced to use this tactic because of an overreach by a president who is affiliated with the rival political party.

If overreach is their concern, if adhering to the U.S. Constitution is their objective, then both parties are guilty of hypocrisy by ceding constitutional authority that belongs to Congress to the judiciary.

Congress must act on immigration. And Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals should be demanding that Congress act in the name of preserving what is delineated in our Constitution.


The Dallas Morning News. Sept. 11, 2017.

On Monday, as the nation solemnly remembered the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we also linked arms to recover from two devastating hurricanes.

Be it in response to attacks on our way of life or natural crises that batter our shores, the American spirit is always ready to rebound and forge ahead. We demonstrate grit and resolve.

We’re dirtied but not beaten.

On 9/11, thousands of people, many of whose names we’ll never know, rushed into the crumbling rubble of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, risking life and limb to rescue people. Aboard United Flight 93, passengers gave their lives in a desperate struggle to prevent hijackers from diverting a fourth commercial airliner from targeting the White House, an act of bravery for which this country is forever grateful.

Even after all these years, the 9/11 attacks, the most deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil, seem surreal. It was an unthinkable moment: nearly 3,000 lives wiped away in a single day. Thousands answered the call, including police from departments all over the nation who drove through the night to backstop their brethren in New York City. We rebuilt; we didn’t cower in defeat.

Sixteen years later, again during the first year of a new administration, we find the heroes of Hurricane Harvey and Irma in Americans cut from the same selfless cloth.

Again, professional first responders and average citizens faced challenges they didn’t seek and performed admirably, like the self-styled Cajun Navy, which plucked a 73-year-old woman found floating face-down from Harvey’s waters in Texas. In the coming days, we’ll learn of more stories as the waters recede and emergency workers assess the aftermath of Irma’s violent path across Florida.

Many of the rescuers eventually will return to flood-devastated homes, but in the moment of greatest need, they have put their own plight on the back burner in the interest of helping others. If there is a saving grace from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is that the loss of life appears relatively small, given the torrential winds and water surges across Texas and Florida.

And, yes, we will rebuild. As William Shakespeare once penned, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

In such times of national crisis, the American spirit shows its greatness.

We honor the fallen and we carry on. That’s what we do.


Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Sept. 11, 2017.

The line outside of the west side Salsa Limon one afternoon in late August consisted young men and women anxiously awaiting the call — not to their schools, but to Texas’ southern coast.

They were members of the Texas National Guard and on Aug. 28, Gov. Greg Abbott mobilized all 12,000 of them to help with rescue, security and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Activating the state’s full National Guard was one in a laundry list of decisions Abbott has made in preparation of and response to Harvey. For the most part, his decisions have served the people of Texas well.

It’s been more than two weeks since the hurricane ravaged Texas’ southern coast and he’s already helped secure a massive federal relief package — some $15 billion of aid to those affected. More aid is expected to come in more comprehensive legislation in the coming months.

Abbott has also offered nearly daily briefings, has been praised for his accessibility to local officials and has overseen an effective communication strategy regarding his office’s response to Harvey.

The governor this month announced that John Sharp, the chancellor of Texas A&M University, will lead the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas.

Abbott’s choice was shrewd. Sharp, a Democrat with a bounty of experience in managing state bureaucracy, will play a critical role in ensuring that federal and state monies are wisely spent.

The governor’s performance hasn’t been flawless. Abbott has been noncommittal about using the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help with Harvey efforts. With only an estimated $10 billion in its coiffeurs, it could only help supplement other efforts, but still should be considered. And the split between Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner over whether city residents should evacuate or hunker down caused an uncomfortable rift early on.

But being governor during a disaster is often tricky. City and county officials tend to have jurisdiction over emergency events and they are none too pleased to see them usurped by Austin.

It’s a fine line to tread. But all in all, Abbott has also proven adept at crisis management.

Now back to those National Guardsmen, who answered Abbott’s call and still don’t get the praise they are due.

Like so many of the people who rushed to serve in Harvey’s wake, our National Guardsmen and women left jobs and families all across the state, eager to serve wherever they were needed.

They conducted day and night wide-area search-and-rescue missions along the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to Houston, created supply lines and kept generators running as power outages plagued the region. They will continue to play in effort in the cleanup and rebuilding of Houston and other coastal towns deserved continued support and thanks.

We are grateful for their service and sacrifice.


Houston Chronicle. Sept. 11, 2017.

While Houstonians help our neighbors demuck or try to make temporary housing feel like home, the nation yet again turns its eyes and hearts to the destruction wrought by nature’s fury.

Hurricane Irma has crossed the state of Florida, bringing winds and rain to coastal communities. People fled the storm’s path by the millions in one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history. Downtown Miami flooded; Jacksonville was inundated with a record storm surge, and millions of people are without power across the state.

Before it made landfall, Irma was one of the most powerful hurricanes on record, with sustained winds of 185 mph for more than 24-hours straight and a footprint the size of Texas. So far, reports are hinting that Florida and Puerto Rico may have both avoided the worst-case scenario of this unprecedented storm. Parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations, however, weren’t as lucky.

Congress should not hesitate to approve an Irma recovery bill with all the speed and robust funding that was demonstrated in the $15 billion Hurricane Harvey bill passed this month.

But it cannot end there. Rebuilding Texas, Florida and other hurricane-ravaged communities will likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars. A final recovery package must include enough resources to not only help people get back on their feet, but also fully fund the infrastructure needed to harden our cities against future hurricanes and floods.

The United States has to start making the smart investments in coastal communities.

The sad fact is that millions of Americans live in the path of a storm and our government is ill prepared at every level to keep them safe. The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg breathed a collective sigh of relief as they avoided a direct hit from Irma. The metropolitan area has been the subject of a series of academic studies and news reports revealing how it is dangerously vulnerable to a major hurricane.

Houstonians share in that fear every time we watch a scientific model of a hurricane moving up the ship channel, or read projections about the destruction wrought by a failure at the Addicks and Barker dams.

From Texas to Florida, volunteers and helping hands are doing everything they can to repair and rebuild. Not even an ocean can stand in the way: Puerto Ricans are sailing to the U.S. Virgin Islands with supplies and tools to help people recover after Irma.

Now Congress needs to do its part to keep us safe from the next storm.

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