Commentary

Listen, America. Our children have something to say about guns

Listen, America. Our children have something to say about guns

The national gun debate has a new, youthful face. This time children are the grown-ups driving the discussion, and they have something to say. We should all listen. Even as they mourned the deaths of 17 of their schoolmates and faculty, the survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., channeled their grief and rage into activism as leaders of the newly...
Herman: Progressing toward a better way of picking judges?

Herman: Progressing toward a better way of picking judges?

It’s good that the Texas Legislature created a new and needed state district court for civil matters here in Travis County. Now comes the hard part: We, the voters, must pick a judge for the court. Admit it. We’re not always really good at that. It’s not that we don’t want to do our civic duty and do our homework and pick a good judge. It’s just that, well, life and long...
Commentary: Austin sick leave policy another cleanup for Legislature

Commentary: Austin sick leave policy another cleanup for Legislature

Once again, the Austin City Council has decided to run the city’s private businesses instead of the city of Austin. If it isn’t careful, it’s going to run those private businesses right out of town, like it did to Uber. Thankfully, the Texas Legislature stepped in on the ride-hailing issue. And while mandatory paid sick leave for private employers may not result in companies leaving...
Commentary: How the Texas tax pyramid stalls business growth

Commentary: How the Texas tax pyramid stalls business growth

Last month, President Trump traveled to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to deliver a message: America is once again open for business. That’s great news for Austin and the rest of the nation. Thanks to tax reform, foreign companies are giddy about expanding their operations in the United States. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of Swiss robotics giant ABB, told President Trump the...
Herman: Should doctors play with guns?

Herman: Should doctors play with guns?

It remains a Rorschach test for our times. As I’ve noted after previous incarnations of this ongoing discussion, different people see different things when they see a gun. Some see only a potential murder weapon. Some see good, clean recreational fun. Few have no reaction when they see or talk about guns. So perhaps it was foreseeable that the Travis County Medical Society event that had been...
Commentary: Hamilton and Madison never imagined assault weapons

Commentary: Hamilton and Madison never imagined assault weapons

As a frequent lecturer for legal education courses, I found myself in New Orleans last week when the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., occurred, breaking our collective hearts once again. As we grapple for lawful ways to restrict access to these devastating weapons of death, we are all beholden to the theories, myths and mysteries of what our framers intended as they crafted the Second Amendment. Curiously...
Commentary: Trump’s projects plan is the closest thing to a ‘road fairy’

Commentary: Trump’s projects plan is the closest thing to a ‘road fairy’

After months of speculation, the White House has finally released its infrastructure plan. While its contents are not surprising, some of the ideas contained within the 53-page, detailed document are surprisingly innovative. Allow me to point out a few aspects of the plan that I think will benefit us in Central Texas the most. The White House plan envisions at least a handful of new programs, including...
Commentary: For weddings in Hays County, count on guns and roses

Commentary: For weddings in Hays County, count on guns and roses

Gregory George, 41, is a former Texas General Land Office right-of-way agent. His wife Staci, 38, is a financial adviser in Austin. Until recently, they lived in a 1,400-square foot home in Manchaca. In 2013, they bought 10.9 acres of land on FM 967 between Buda and Driftwood. “Our dream always had been to buy a little piece of acreage in the country and raise our family,” said George...
Opinion: A case for small steps to fix a big gun problem

Opinion: A case for small steps to fix a big gun problem

In the effort to reduce gun violence, or gun massacres, should we go big or go small? Should we concentrate on steps that have a consensus behind them, at the risk of not making much difference? Or should we seek to transform American law and culture, even if success looks pitifully unlikely? The movement to regulate gun ownership has pursued both strategies at once, fighting for incremental progress...
Commentary: How GOP shows its true colors with tax breaks

Commentary: How GOP shows its true colors with tax breaks

Congressional Republicans are betting that their shiny new tax reform bill will distract from their repeated failures to implement a policy agenda that appeals to middle-class Americans. It’s a bet they are going to lose. Tax policy reveals a political party’s true colors – its priorities and who it advocates for provide unique insight into the party’s vision for the country...
Commentary: As you vote, remember Barbara Jordan’s ethical wisdom

Commentary: As you vote, remember Barbara Jordan’s ethical wisdom

“Being honest, telling the truth, and doing what you said you would do,” Barbara Jordan said was the definition of ethical behavior. This week is Barbara Jordan Freedom Week, as designated by the 82nd Texas Legislature, and marked annually. She lived as a patriot and teacher, served as a public official, and she was my dear friend. I was honored to publish a book of Jordan’s speeches...
Commentary: Why Texas classrooms aren’t silent about Florida shooting

Commentary: Why Texas classrooms aren’t silent about Florida shooting

I hate lying to kids. I hate watching a naiveté they think they’ve long outgrown die in their tearless eyes. Most of all, I hate the idea that kids’ lives are worth less than an adult’s political expediency. Because I value kids’ lives, I refuse to lie to them about adults. Hence the end of innocence. It started with the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School...
Herman: Hey gov, who’d you vote for?

Herman: Hey gov, who’d you vote for?

You know what’s kind of weird, I mean in addition to the fact that there’s a fruit called the grape and an unrelated fruit called the grapefruit? It’s kind of weird when our elected leaders tell us for whom to vote but won’t tell us for whom they voted. It happened again Tuesday at the Randalls at Slaughter and Brodie lanes in South Austin where Gov. Greg Abbott cast his ballot...
John Young: It’s time for a 9/11-style culture shift on guns

John Young: It’s time for a 9/11-style culture shift on guns

A 19-year-old drove a killing machine right through a Florida high school the other day, killing 17 and injuring many more. It just shows you that no matter what traffic laws we have, people will die. So let’s all agree to do nothing. It’s pointless. Well, all right. The killer tore through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High with an AR-15, not a Dodge truck. But, hey, what can you do? After...
Commentary: Three thoughts for Texas on spending emissions settlement

Commentary: Three thoughts for Texas on spending emissions settlement

It’s time for Texas to score big on the economic and environmental fronts — and here’s my playbook to make it happen. Consider this an open letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The background: German automaker Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions tests and settled for $16 billion, with $2.7 billion going to the states to fund mitigation plans which include...
Commentary: Why the U.S. should strengthen SNAP, not add restrictions

Commentary: Why the U.S. should strengthen SNAP, not add restrictions

The Trump administration has proposed an overhaul of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Called “America’s Harvest Box,” the overhaul was presented as “a Blue Apron-type program” where you receive food instead of cash. This is a misleading comparison. Blue Apron delivers boxes of gourmet ingredients and fresh produce, meat...
Letters to the editor: Feb. 22, 2018

Letters to the editor: Feb. 22, 2018

If Congress has worked out a good compromise piece of legislation to resolve the situation for so-called “Dreamers” — and it isn’t to President Trump’s satisfaction — too bad. Congress is supposed to represent the will of the people, not the will of the president. If Trump vetoes the bill, then our Constitution gives Congress the right to override that veto. It...
Herman: The words Nancy Pelosi has trouble saying

Herman: The words Nancy Pelosi has trouble saying

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dropped by the newspaper Monday and generously gave us more than an hour of her time to talk about the issues of the day, both legislative and political. She opened by noting it was Presidents Day, which indeed it was. About 40 minutes later, it struck me that Pelosi, in town as part of a Texas swing to rally the Democratic troops for this year’s elections...
Letters to the editor: Feb. 22, 2018

Letters to the editor: Feb. 22, 2018

We are long overdue for legislation on gun safety. We must require permits to purchase firearms, contingent on 1) completion of firearm training and education, and 2) passing a universal background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. We must give private sellers access to this system and require them to use it. And we must require a Firearms Transaction Record form...
TWO VIEWS: Let’s use better tools to decide which inmates get bail

TWO VIEWS: Let’s use better tools to decide which inmates get bail

Criminal justice reform is a prominent issue in the public square, capturing the interest of both ends of the ideological spectrum, as well as celebrities, think tanks and even the White House. Propelling this issue forward, both nationally and in the Lone Star State, is a recognition that change is needed. Especially when it comes to jails. One of the primary functions of county jails is for pretrial...
TWO VIEWS: Return to real criminal justice reform, like it’s 1989

TWO VIEWS: Return to real criminal justice reform, like it’s 1989

It will surprise many to learn that once upon a time — and not so very long ago — a bipartisan coalition of Texas legislators approved an innovative plan aimed at reducing crime through progressive health and education strategies. The year was 1989, and the proposals were put together by Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, a Democrat, with the cooperation and assistance of Republican Gov. Bill Clements...
Commentary: De-escalation training or survival training?

Commentary: De-escalation training or survival training?

The editorial in the Jan. 27 edition of the American-Statesman addressed the recent changes in the Austin Police Department’s policy “that mandates officers to calm volatile situations before reaching for their guns, batons or Tasers.” While this seems like a laudable goal, it fails to recognize some critical elements of survival training. During my 28-year career as a uniformed...
Commentary: I’ll spend my senior year getting my dad out of ICE custody

Commentary: I’ll spend my senior year getting my dad out of ICE custody

Just weeks ago, my dad asked about my progress in applying for college. I am a 17-year-old honors student at Wimberley High School, and I told him I was trying my best to finish applications. Who would have guessed the next day my family’s lives would be shattered? On Jan. 30, the Kyle Police Department arrested my dad, Victor Avendano Ramirez, on his way to work for an incomplete stop at a...
Commentary: Texas alcoholic beverage laws are complex for good reason

Commentary: Texas alcoholic beverage laws are complex for good reason

Contrary to some assertions, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code is not antiquated. It has been updated with hundreds of changes since the days following Prohibition, including a total recodification. Rarely does a biennial legislative session occur without multiple updates to conform the TABC code to modern business practices. In recent years, craft brews have been the fastest growing class in the...
Castillo: Prayers won’t stop this cycle of madness

Castillo: Prayers won’t stop this cycle of madness

Hunkered down on a classroom floor with his classmates, as a shooter roamed the halls opening fire on teachers and students, a terrified 14-year-old Florida high schooler tweeted these chilling words Wednesday: “I am in a school shooting right now …” Once, these words would have seemed unfathomable, even in the city where lethal bullets rained down from a University of Texas tower...
VIEWPOINTS: How Austin should reapproach police contract negotiations

VIEWPOINTS: How Austin should reapproach police contract negotiations

We welcome the Austin Police Association’s decision to restart negotiations on an employment contract after the Austin City Council in December uncharacteristically rejected an agreement hammered out over months between city staff and the police union. In past years, when both parties reached agreement, the council routinely approved the deal. This time, however, it was the City Council voting...
Herman: Politics, can we talk about it more please?

Herman: Politics, can we talk about it more please?

Texas, we need to talk. And we need to talk about what we talk about and what we don’t talk about. Apparently – surprisingly? – it turns out too few Texans talk about politics. A new study says that’s bad for our civic health. So, in the name of improving our civic health, please take time today get a political conversation going with somebody. Here are two suggested opening...
Commentary: 10,000 experts plan to make America ‘evidence-based’ again

Commentary: 10,000 experts plan to make America ‘evidence-based’ again

Ten thousand of the nation’s leading scientists are gathering in Austin this week to discuss the state of science in the country. High on the list of concerns for the American Association for the Advancement of Science at their annual meeting is the Trump administration’s antagonism to language used widely in the scientific community: “science-based” and “evidence-based...
Commentary: Don’t pave paradise to put up a parking lot — or a stadium

Commentary: Don’t pave paradise to put up a parking lot — or a stadium

Now that Butler Park has been removed from consideration as the site of the proposed Major League Soccer stadium, attention has shifted to an even worse idea: East Austin’s Roy G. Guerrero Park, a wild slice of the Colorado River 10 minutes from downtown that has somehow survived into the 21st century in its natural condition. The very fact that our civic leaders are giving attention to the...
Commentary: The Fabricator hears Mueller’s footsteps

Commentary: The Fabricator hears Mueller’s footsteps

Donald Trump lies more often without consequence than anyone to ever grace his position. Being a frequent liar, however, doesn’t make him a good one. Let’s see. Trump said dozens of times on the campaign trail that his campaign team had no interaction with the Russians. In fact, at least 12 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition. CNN reports 19 face-to-face...
Herman: At long last, is motherhood approaching for UT falcon?

Herman: At long last, is motherhood approaching for UT falcon?

This is a love story, perfect for Valentine’s Day. It involves a local bird we’ll assume yearns for a mate and a family. It also involves a local man who misses his wife. Just about every day, semiretired carpenter Chris DuCharme, 66, drives in from Bastrop, parks his car and bikes to the University of Texas, where he spends hours and hours standing at Hogg Auditorium and staring up at...
Commentary: On Valentine’s Day, let’s remember the evolution of love

Commentary: On Valentine’s Day, let’s remember the evolution of love

Falling in love is intoxicating. It feels unplanned and unconstrained, wild horses of emotion impossible to control. When in its grip, love crowds out other thoughts. It produces an exhilaration unmatched. Pain when apart become excruciating. Elation when reunited soars. Could this enrapturing psychological cocktail of hormones and emotions have an evolved function? Standard thinking in the social...
Commentary: Texas knows it needs NAFTA. Trump should keep it

Commentary: Texas knows it needs NAFTA. Trump should keep it

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady recently joined business and trade leaders in Dallas to champion the unparalleled success of the North American Free Trade Agreement to the Texas and U.S. economies. Unfortunately, on the heels of recent negotiations by leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States — and despite continued leadership from Brady, his Texas colleagues in the U.S. House and Texas Sens....
Is this the year of community bank regulatory relief?

Is this the year of community bank regulatory relief?

The calendar has flipped to 2018—a new year filled with great expectations. Will this be the year that comprehensive congressional regulatory relief for community banks finally happens? Many communities throughout Texas have seen their local banks shutter or be absorbed by larger institutions over the last several years because laws and rules, intended to curb the abuses of the nation&rsquo...
Commentary: Would Amazon avoid conservative Texas for HQ2? Think again

Commentary: Would Amazon avoid conservative Texas for HQ2? Think again

Amazon’s choice of a location for its second headquarters has led to much eye-of-the-beholder appraisal of the relative positives and negatives of the 20 cities on the most recent “short list” released by Amazon. Among the several factors Amazon is weighing that is frequently cited as a black mark against the two remaining Texas candidates, Austin and Dallas, is the conservative...
Viewpoints: Precourt is eyeing Guerrero Park. Why that’s worth a debate

Viewpoints: Precourt is eyeing Guerrero Park. Why that’s worth a debate

With Butler Shores Metropolitan Park in the rearview mirror, Precourt Sports Ventures has turned its attention on two other city-owned properties, with one – Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park – being the clear favorite for its Major League Soccer stadium. The focus shifted to Guerrero Park in Southeast Austin when the challenges regarding Butler near downtown became insurmountable, including...
Commentary: Why I’ll dread my trip to the mailbox

Commentary: Why I’ll dread my trip to the mailbox

When we turned 60, my wife and I confronted a question we all face as we age: How would we pay for in-home or assisted living care if we could no longer take care of ourselves? The answer was long-term care (LTC) insurance. We bought policies from General Electric Capital. The decision made in 2003 meant annual premiums totaling $5,001 a year. That didn’t last. If you are under 50, you may ask...
Herman: Who pays for presidential guests at State of the Union?

Herman: Who pays for presidential guests at State of the Union?

The deal with President Donald Trump is that by any given Friday, you can’t remember what the previous Tuesday’s dust-up-du-jour was. Who remembers much about his Jan. 30 State of the Union speech? And that’s despite Trump keeping it in the news by alleging Democrats who didn’t applaud his every word committed punishable-by-death treason by America-hating. Me? I’m circling...
INSIGHT: Is cushioning wrong? A look at how often it happens

INSIGHT: Is cushioning wrong? A look at how often it happens

Valentine’s Day tends to make people think about their romantic relationships. Single? Maybe there’s someone you’ve been texting regularly whom you realize you want to ask out on a date. In a relationship? You might start thinking that your current flame is your one and only. But no matter what your relationship status is, if you’re like the average young adult, chances are...
The Donald deploys the O.J. strategy

The Donald deploys the O.J. strategy

Mike Pence, defending the release of a politically juiced Republican memo that Donald Trump said “vindicated” him, said it was all about transparency. As is Trump’s releasing his tax returns. As is Trump’s releasing of White House visitor logs. As are the names of foreign companies doing business with the Trump organization. Oh, wait. He’s not releasing any of those....
Castillo: Bloated water bills. Secret hiring. This isn’t ‘fake’ news

Castillo: Bloated water bills. Secret hiring. This isn’t ‘fake’ news

If you’ve ever received a faulty bill that was too high, and tried to rectify it, you know the experience is not for anyone lacking a steel will. Even if you are the unrelenting type who won’t take “no” for an answer, the task can fall somewhere between Sisyphean and Herculean. So, you can imagine how more than 7,000 Austin residents must be feeling now that Austin Energy says...
Commentary: Replacing property tax with higher sales tax doesn’t add up

Commentary: Replacing property tax with higher sales tax doesn’t add up

It’s no exaggeration to say that Texans don’t like paying property taxes; we have some of the highest in the nation. Could we kiss those tax bills goodbye by modestly increasing the sales tax? That’s among the property tax relief options now floating around the Texas Capitol. If it sounds too good to be true, you’re right. Even a cursory look at the numbers shows that swapping...
Commentary: Texas saved $3B closing prisons. Why rehabilitation works

Commentary: Texas saved $3B closing prisons. Why rehabilitation works

Around 2 million individuals are behind bars in America’s criminal justice system. Almost all of them will eventually return to the communities they left behind. As a nation, we are failing to serve those communities by not preparing former inmates to re-enter society and lead productive and fulfilling lives. We are proud to be part of a new initiative, Safe Streets and Second Chances, that...
Herman: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mail ballot applications cause a stir

Herman: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mail ballot applications cause a stir

Gov. Greg Abbott is just trying to help some older folks vote. Oh sure, he hopes they’ll vote for him and that’s why his campaign staff picked out these particular older folks. But the overall goal of this effort can be couched as a helpful effort to help people vote. Maybe. I recently told you about it. Now I can tell you about how Abbott’s effort has caused woes for some local...
Commentary: The so-called GOP-FBI split is a Democratic fantasy

Commentary: The so-called GOP-FBI split is a Democratic fantasy

The Republican Party is the law-and-order party. That is not new, and it isn’t seriously contested. However, according to liberal media outlets such as HuffPost, Republicans are waging a “war on G-men.” The idea that Republicans are suddenly splitting from the FBI is a fantasy designed by the Democrats to attack a GOP strength and to distract from the growing revelations about anti-Trump...
Commentary: Why U.S. needs immigrant labor to sustain economic growth

Commentary: Why U.S. needs immigrant labor to sustain economic growth

Two recent incidents illustrate for me America’s current quandary over immigration. The first came during my return to Austin from a needed midsummer break in Colorado. My friend and I made a wrong turn somewhere south of Lubbock. As a result, we drove through small towns we otherwise would have never seen. What we saw was heart-wrenching: boarded-up storefronts and empty streets. It felt like...
INSIGHT: Why the biggest winners in Amazon’s HQ2 contest will be white men

INSIGHT: Why the biggest winners in Amazon’s HQ2 contest will be white men

Amazon may be hosting the biggest – and most economically important – reality show ever as city mayors compete to snag the retailer’s second headquarters. And just like TV, it has a diversity problem. More than 230 cities made the initial bid, and just recently Amazon whittled that list down to 20 that will go on to the next stage of the competition. Contestants have gone to great...
Commentary: ‘Conscience’ division at HHS aims to reignite culture wars

Commentary: ‘Conscience’ division at HHS aims to reignite culture wars

Did you know that health care workers are complaining to the government that they’re suffering from discrimination by employers for declining to give care that violates their religious beliefs? I didn’t either. What’s more, in 30 years of providing health care, I’ve never heard of an employee who felt their religious freedoms were threatened. But the regulation-averse Trump...
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