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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

August 21, 2018

Here are selections from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Houston Chronicle. Aug. 20, 2018.

An international search for a Dallas priest accused of molesting three teenage boys is a stark reminder that Texas should be as concerned as other states about the child sexual abuse allegations that have shaken faith in the Catholic Church.

Father Edmundo Paredes, pastor for 27 years of St. Cecilia Catholic Church, was reported missing Sunday and suspected of fleeing to the Philippines, his native country. The Diocese of Dallas reportedly notified police in February that Paredes was suspected of abusing children, but did not let his parishioners know until Saturday.

Such delays have led to widespread condemnation of the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations. A Pennsylvania grand jury report last week documented abuse by 300 priests of more than 1,000 victims over a period of 70 years in that state. Most of the abusers were allowed to remain in the ministry as priests.

Pope Francis in a letter to Catholics expressed “shame” over the charges and vowed to punish priests guilty of crimes or covering them up: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Francis wrote.

But while the Vatican noted improvements in child protection since a wave of priest scandals were revealed in 2002, many believe it has not done enough.

The Church’s past failures to defrock priests and turn them over to law enforcement have led to a campaign by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to get more states to lift their civil and criminal statutes of limitation to prosecute child sexual abuse cases. The research group Bishop Accountability wants the Vatican to release the names of all priests convicted under church law of abusing children.

There is no criminal statute of limitation for child sexual abuse in Texas, but victims are given only five years to file civil suits. With so many traumatized victims only now opening up about the abuse they experienced as children, it makes sense to remove the limit or expand it.

As an alternative, some states are considering opening a temporary “window” for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed. But the Catholic Church, Jewish and other religious groups, schools, and youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts fear the windows could ruin them financially.

Their fear isn’t groundless. The Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn., filed for bankruptcy in February after 70 sex abuse suits were filed against it during a three-year window. But fault for that deluge of lawsuits lies with the diocese, which withheld the names of priests accused of crimes that allegedly occurred decades ago until 2014.

The truth needs to come out in Texas too.

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Amarillo Globe-News. Aug. 19, 2018

It is a mystery.

And it is time the mystery was solved with an explanation by those responsible.

In a shocking move, Robert Duncan, Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, announced his retirement last week. Duncan’s decision was reportedly the result of a 5-4 “no confidence” vote in the chancellor by the Board of Regents.

The mystery is why did five regents feel it necessary to remove Duncan — via a no confidence vote? Only the five regents know for sure, because there has been no public explanation. And in this case, silence is not acceptable.

There are theories and rumors as to why five regents voted against Duncan — the politics behind a veterinary school in Amarillo being the most prevalent explanation. (As far as Amarillo is concerned, it is important to note that Tech has announced that it is moving forward with plans for the vet school.)

Sorry, but if regents are going to make a monumental decision to remove a chancellor, especially a chancellor as revered and respected as Duncan, then the public — not to mention the Texas Tech community — deserves to know why. And now.

There is no debate about it — Duncan was more than getting the job done as chancellor. He was named Tech’s fourth chancellor on July 7, 2014. Duncan helped Tech raise more than $581 million in philanthropic funds — more than any Tech chancellor in the same time period. His vision was to expand the Texas Tech footprint — from El Paso (with a School of Dental Medicine) to Amarillo (with the vet school.) Both of these schools are needed, and benefit not only Texas but the state, as they will be the first such schools in Texas in more than 100 years and 50 years, respectively.

And with these upcoming and vital projects that would help Tech grow into the future, and projects that will require state funding, the chancellor suddenly retires? Why?

Keep in mind that Duncan told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as recently as last month that he had no plans to retire.

This is not on Duncan, but the regents, who forced this decision.

Duncan was the leader of Texas Tech, and when the board of a public institution makes the decision to abruptly remove a leader who has served successfully and with distinction, then the board has a responsibility to state why.

Silence from the regents has led to rampant speculation — speculation that has stretched across Texas to the governor’s office and all the way to Washington, D.C. (See Ricky Perry, the current U.S. Secretary of Energy.)

Because regents have so far refused to give a reason for ousting Duncan, this has led many to assume a political power-play related to the vet school as the reason. It should be noted that, according to Lubbock A-J sources, three of the five regents who voted “no confidence” in Duncan were originally appointed by Perry, the former governor and Texas A&M alum. (Texas A&M happens to have the state’s lone full vet school.) Another of the five was twice appointed by Perry to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Let us be clear. The only responsibility of the regents is to Texas Tech — its students, alumni and supporters across the state of Texas, and to guarantee the needed resources for the university.

Regents — or five regents — determined that the person who has led Texas Tech since 2014, and by all accounts was doing so in exemplary fashion, was no longer capable. Yet they offer no reason for this decision.

Leadership requires communication, and regents are failing to provide competent leadership by choosing to make a significant decision like removing a chancellor without any explanation.

Texas Tech deserves better.

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The Dallas Morning News. Aug. 18, 2018.

The current president of the United States governs a little, shall we say, differently. So we weren’t quite sure how to take his initial floating of the idea of creating a sixth branch of the military to handle out-of-this-world threats.

But since Donald Trump has continued to talk (or tweet) about creating a Space Force, we thought it was worth weighing in with a few thoughts of our own.

For starters, we’re strong supporters of our military. Those who don our nation’s uniform deserve our respect and support as they seek to preserve the safety and security of our country. And with that in mind, we wonder what value there would be in creating a new branch of the U.S. military.

But then the Air Force already has an organization to support military use of satellites, rockets and cyberwarfare operations and track space junk, and many of the military’s top brass say the nation doesn’t need a separate new force. In other words, we already have a constellation of agencies and a military branch focused on the key problems.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly put it well in a tweet: “What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force’?”

At bottom, our objection is with creating a bloated organization with an ill-defined purpose that will expend billions of dollars to justify its existence. That won’t make us safer, and unlike the moonshot in the 1960s, it’s unlikely to inspire the nation to both compete with a dangerous foe while also shooting for the stars.

But if there is a real point in all of this talk about a space force, it is that there are security risks high above the earth. For example, Russia and China have restructured their aerospace and military forces to pose a threat to communications satellites. So even as we doubt the seriousness of the very idea of a space force, we can wish the president was doing more to encourage Americans to think seriously about the challenges of space.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Aug. 17, 2018.

One of the best things about North Texas students returning to school this week will be the food.

We have a lot of hungry, low-income children living among us. In the Fort Worth school district alone, 77 percent of students come from low-income homes and qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. According to the Texas Education Agency, that’s more than 66,000 children.

The healthy, filling breakfasts and lunches they’ll be served as this semester begins are for some the only real nutrition they receive all day.

So, imagine the horror that gripped state Rep. Diego Bernal when he began touring the schools in his San Antonio district, and watched as the lunch hour ended and packaged, untouched food was gathered up and tossed in the trash.

Fresh fruits and vegetables; unopened cartons of cereal; bottles of water or juice; packaged granola bars, and other food was gathered up, and thrown out. Or, in some cases, collected and sent to outside nonprofits.

“It was the most shocking and immoral inefficiency I’d ever heard of,” Bernal told this Editorial Board. “So you can give food away to someone else, but not to your own hungry kids.”

The reason we’re telling you this story is that Bernal turned his shock into action and last year spearheaded legislation that allows Texas schools to redistribute the untouched food to its students during the school day or to take home at night.

We don’t know if our North Texas districts are aware of this law and taking advantage of it, but we think this is an easy-to-implement, low-cost way to further help our kids. Allowing nutritious food to be dumped while children go hungry is just plain wrong.

Bernal learned the problem was with a U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation that required schools only serve food during defined meal times. Non-perishable leftovers could be donated to nonprofits like food banks, but quite often they were just thrown out.

So Bernal reasoned — why not create nonprofits within schools and allow the food to stay with the children. The law that passed in 2017 allows that.

The San Antonio ISD Bernal represents was an early adopter of what’s become known as the School Pantry Program. Jenny Arredondo, the district’s executive director of school nutrition, says the district has pantries on 10 campuses and is adding more. She’s contacted weekly by other districts that want to get started.

“There are many ways to take advantage of this program. You can start out very basic,” she says.

Schools need to identify staff or district volunteers to oversee the pantry. They must ensure they comply with local health and safety regulations for storing the food.

Some districts have refrigerators for preserving milk, or they keep it on ice for kids to have at the end of the day. Others limit the foods they offer to water, granola bars and fruit.

“Even if it’s just a snack, our breads contain 51 percent whole grains, and that’s more nutritious than what they’d normally have,” said Arredondo.

Arredondo and Bernal are now on a mission to encourage other districts to redistribute available food instead of throwing it out.

Both will take part in a free webinar presented by Salud America on Aug. 28. The Texas Education Agency also has guidelines on its website.

We know school districts are frantic as the fall semester gets under way and they address all of the hiccups that come with teachers and students settling into their classrooms and schedules.

As districts make their to-do lists, however, we’d like to see them investigate the creation of school pantries. How could you justify throwing or giving away healthy food when there are so many children who need it?

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Galveston County Daily News. Aug. 18, 2018.

Filing for the November elections ended Monday, and already there are a few races that have proved interesting to watch in the coming months.

Right now, one of the races catching a lot of attention is the campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Cruz, who is being challenged by Beto O’Rourke. Many pollsters are saying the race, at present, is too close to call, with Cruz holding a slight lead.

It is interesting to note a few recent observations by Cruz.

“It’s clear we have a real and contested race where the margin is far too close for comfort,” Cruz said during one campaign stop, The Texas Tribune reported.

“The biggest challenge I have in this race . is complacency,” Cruz said. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, come on, it’s a Texas re-elect. How could you possibly lose?’ Well, in an ordinary cycle, that might be true. But this is not an ordinary cycle. The far left is filled with anger and rage and we underestimate that anger at our peril.”

Others, including Gov. Greg Abbott, disagreed with Cruz’s assessment there was a risk of a “blue wave” during the nation’s upcoming November elections.

“Texas is going to stay red,” said Abbott, whose Democratic opponent, Lupe Valdez, has not caught traction in the way O’Rourke has against Cruz.

But Cruz is right about one thing — at least on the state and national level — there appears to be a lot of anger out there.

That is unfortunate.

A close race, like the one shaping up between Cruz and O’Rourke can be good in one respect. It forces each candidate to take a firm stand on the issues he holds. It allows voters to weigh which candidate would best represent their needs. In a perfect world, the party each candidate belonged to would have some bearing, but not an overwhelming one.

What is not good, however, was a scene at a recent Cruz rally when a protester interrupted with a sign reading, “Russian Bootlicker,” who called Cruz a coward and used an expletive to denounce the crowd before breaking out in chants of “Beto!”

That has no place whether it be a campaign stop, a town hall meeting, a debate or anytime issues are being discussed.

While we understand there is a lot of anger among the voting public, allowing the anger to overwhelm the understanding of issues is contrary to what elections are supposed to be about.

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