Commentary

John Young: Choosing ‘Trumpism’ over, um, governing?

John Young: Choosing ‘Trumpism’ over, um, governing?

Newt Gingrich told a gathering the other day that state and local leaders should embrace “Trumpism.” Not surprisingly, he did not define his terms. Racism? Sexism. Infantilism? Whatever. The former House speaker, whose greatest gift to democracy – correction, to Democrats – was to shut down government in 1996, observes the wreckage Trump wreaks in Washington and sees a movement...
Commentary: Whole Woman’s Health is fighting for 5.4 million Texans

Commentary: Whole Woman’s Health is fighting for 5.4 million Texans

Last week, Texas clinics — led by Whole Woman’s Health and represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood — came together to sue Texas over its latest attempt to undermine a woman’s right to access abortion. If that story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Just over a year ago, I was the lead plaintiff in a historic Supreme Court victory: Whole...
Commentary: What the Bastrop oil spill says about effective regulation

Commentary: What the Bastrop oil spill says about effective regulation

On July 13, at around 9 a.m., more than 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled out of a Magellan Midstream Partners pipeline near Bastrop and forced 15 nearby families to evacuate their homes. A contractor had accidentally punctured the line during normal maintenance. About 100 responders quickly descended on the scene, including members of state and federal agencies, emergency responders and Magellan&rsquo...
Commentary: Dan Patrick’s school ‘reforms’ are just a lesson in hypocrisy

Commentary: Dan Patrick’s school ‘reforms’ are just a lesson in hypocrisy

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rose to power through the tea party — a movement that stands for conservative values of personal freedom, local independence and local control of schools and curricula. Patrick’s latest list of education “reforms” — none of which made the cut for him in the regular session — directly contradict these values. Patrick proposes pay raises for teachers...
Adler: Expanding convention center an opportunity to meet local needs

Adler: Expanding convention center an opportunity to meet local needs

The city has long grappled with three downtown-related questions: whether to expand the convention center; how to adequately address the growing homeless population; and how to keep its local music and cultural arts vibrant. Last week, Mayor Steve Adler announced a strategy that would help provide answers to those questions. Adler’s idea would leverage tourism dollars to address homelessness...
Commentary: Why Iran is positioned to dominate the Middle East

Commentary: Why Iran is positioned to dominate the Middle East

By aligning the U.S. with Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump is foolishly looking only to the short term. Iran is already the most influential country in Iraq. Its ally, Hezbollah, is the greatest force in Lebanon. Together, they are the primary reason why Bashar al-Assad is holding on in Syria. Iran is behind the rebellion in Yemen. Its influence is growing in Afghanistan. Iran’s vision of...
E.J. Dionne Jr.: Trump’s election commission lacks integrity

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Trump’s election commission lacks integrity

WASHINGTON — President Trump had some remarkable things to say at the inaugural meeting of his Commission to Promote Voter Suppression and Justify Trump’s False Claims, which is formally known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He also asked a question that deserves an answer. Lest anyone believe Vice President Pence’s claim that “this commission...
Charles M. Blow: The Kook, ‘the Mooch’ and the Loot

Charles M. Blow: The Kook, ‘the Mooch’ and the Loot

On Friday, a “president” with no political experience brought on a communications director with no communications experience. Trump tapped Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street snake investment huckster, to be the new communications director, a move that caused press secretary Sean Spicer, who The New York Times reported “vehemently disagreed with the appointment,” to resign. So...
Two Views: Texas tree ordinances are eminent domain in all but name

Two Views: Texas tree ordinances are eminent domain in all but name

During the current special session, the Texas Legislature will address the seemingly simple question: Who owns the tree in your backyard? Nearly 50 municipalities in Texas have ordinances preventing landowners from removing trees from their private property without receiving the city’s permission — and they often require property owners to pay a fee to mitigate the loss of trees. Gov....
Herman: Austin pioneers resting in peace in ABIA flight path

Herman: Austin pioneers resting in peace in ABIA flight path

Welcome to the latest installment of “What Is That?” Today we’re off to a cemetery in a highway interchange. So that’s kind of different. Today’s inquiry comes from Austinite Sherry Statman who thinks she’s come across bodies buried near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Maybe you’ve seen them, too, kind of a final resting place on final approach...
Commentary: Pursuit of health care reform shouldn’t be Sisyphean

Commentary: Pursuit of health care reform shouldn’t be Sisyphean

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to ceaselessly roll a giant stone to the summit, only for it to roll back down. In trying to fix health care, we Americans are like Sisyphus — and it’s a little painful to witness the strenuous futility. First, let’s look back to see how our health care system evolved. Every U.S. president throughout the 20th century had universal health...
Commentary: How everyone ignores the biggest driver of property taxes

Commentary: How everyone ignores the biggest driver of property taxes

Property taxes are a red-hot topic this summer in Texas. More than 20 related bills have been filed for the Texas Legislature’s special session. But a fundamental problem — the appraisal system — has been largely ignored. In fact, our state’s deeply flawed mass appraisal process is a major driver of the rapid increase in tax bills. First, there’s the sheer volume of properties...
Commentary: How Abbott could introduce regulatory agencies to reality

Commentary: How Abbott could introduce regulatory agencies to reality

Seldom has a regulatory agency become so thoroughly discredited as the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, with seven high-ranking officials resigning in the last few weeks. Not only were agency officials caught boozing it up with the very industry they were supposed to be regulating, they also got smacked down for the overzealous and baseless prosecution of the state’s largest liquor chain...
Commentary: Texas ignored vaccination bills. Why parents should worry

Commentary: Texas ignored vaccination bills. Why parents should worry

As the last days of Texas’ regular legislative session were winding down, the number of measles cases in Minnesota was heading upward. It continues to grow: There were more than 70 cases as of last week, most of them among unvaccinated children in the state’s Somali population. More than 20 of them were so severely ill they required hospitalization. Texas isn’t Minnesota —...
Two Views: Let’s count the ways Texas loses without tree ordinances

Two Views: Let’s count the ways Texas loses without tree ordinances

Ever since it became evident that the Texas Legislature’s special session would include a targeted attack on tree protection, TreeFolks has been inundated with calls and emails from across Texas. Clearly, the public — including many legislators — have questions about the impact of proposed bills reversing tree ordinances. In short, the proposals — House Bill 70, and Senate...
Herman: The Texas Senate, while you were sleeping

Herman: The Texas Senate, while you were sleeping

Three things for which I don’t want to be in charge of explaining to the space monkeys when they arrive here from the planet Nipzor: 1. How come sometimes the guy who gets the second most votes gets to be president. 2. How Texas managed to lose to Kansas in football last season 3. Why, on the third day of a 30-day special legislative session, the Texas Senate convened at 12:08 a.m. Thursday...
Commentary: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding

Commentary: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding

Upon receiving their property tax notices, Texas homeowners seem ready to channel Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network” by throwing open their windows and yelling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But at whom should that ire be directed? Some wolves in sheep’s clothing at the Texas Capitol are pointing their fingers at your locally...
Milbank: What will Callista Gingrich do as ambassador to the Vatican?

Milbank: What will Callista Gingrich do as ambassador to the Vatican?

WASHINGTON — Let us consider the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See: one Callista Gingrich of Virginia. She is a former clerk on the House Agriculture Committee. She is the author of children’s books about an elephant named Ellis. She sings in the choir at the Basilica of the...
Commentary: Paxton should consider the harm of ending DACA’s success

Commentary: Paxton should consider the harm of ending DACA’s success

Last week marked a special moment in my life: On July 14, I celebrated 20 years in the United States — all as an undocumented immigrant. But for the last four years, I’ve been a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. Because of DACA, I have been protected from deportation and have had access to a work permit that has allowed me to begin my career and contribute to my...
Commentary: With North Korea, there’s danger of losing a war by winning

Commentary: With North Korea, there’s danger of losing a war by winning

North Korea has warned of a war with the United States and the capitalist “puppet” state of South Korea. President Donald Trump has been bellicose in tweets about North Korea’s missile tests and nuclear arsenal and has spoken of a surgical strike against its bases. Meanwhile U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis warns that North Korea’s response would lead to “probably...
Kathleen Parker: Repeal and regroup

Kathleen Parker: Repeal and regroup

WASHINGTON — It wasn’t quite a wicked-witch-is-dead Munchkin happy dance, but the white noise of foregone conclusions drowned out Republicans’ relatively muted regret over their failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. It was never gonna happen. Not no how. Partly this is because the GOP version of reform would have first done harm to our most vulnerable citizens — the elderly...
Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Congress’ do-nothing immigration bills

Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Congress’ do-nothing immigration bills

SAN DIEGO — Immigration is a major league policy challenge. But Congress, having recently passed a pair of bills that will accomplish nothing, is stuck playing in the minors. There are many risk-averse members of the legislative branch who prefer simple ideas over doing the hard things that might put them at odds with donors or anger constituents. The result: scores of lawmakers — most...
Jack Hunter: How Tucker Carlson opened the GOP foreign policy debate

Jack Hunter: How Tucker Carlson opened the GOP foreign policy debate

“Is Tucker Carlson the new king of cable news?” asked Forbes in late May. Carlson, the conservative pundit who in recent years was most recognized as the founder of the right-leaning website The Daily Caller, was Fox News’ choice to replace the popular Bill O’Reilly when he departed in April in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. Since then, ratings have not only held...
John Young: ‘The Gang That Couldn’t Lie Straight’

John Young: ‘The Gang That Couldn’t Lie Straight’

“The prosecution calls Rhona Graff.” Rhona — that’s the name. If Robert Mueller knows what he’s doing, Rhona will play the role of Rosemary — Rosemary Woods — in the 2017 remake of that immense thing that toppled a president in 1974, in what HBO’s John Oliver has dubbed “Stupid Watergate.” Woods was the White House secretary asked to explain...
Herman: Bad day at the Capitol for Texas Democrats, more to come

Herman: Bad day at the Capitol for Texas Democrats, more to come

Thanks, Democrats, for showing up for Tuesday’s opening day of the oh-so-special legislative session, but it looks like you’ll be just a minor speed bump as the Republicans steer the state even farther to the right. Despite the tension in the Capitol, things got off to an amicable start in the upper chamber as a bipartisan gaggle of senators chatted about grandkids — Sen. Jane Nelson...
Commentary: Repeal of Obamacare removes mental health safety net

Commentary: Repeal of Obamacare removes mental health safety net

The U.S. has been on a punishment binge for the past 50 years. We have the largest prison system and the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The invoice for all of this is about $1 trillion per year for our criminal justice system — plus the collateral social and economic costs that follow it. The recent recession that devastated the economy and drastically diminished tax revenue stimulated...
Commentary: How Trump travel ban can complicate visas, foreign travel

Commentary: How Trump travel ban can complicate visas, foreign travel

President Donald Trump continues to push forward with his plans for “extreme vetting” of foreign travelers to the United States. In addition to the reinstatement of the order banning travel to the U.S. for foreign nationals from six predominately Muslim countries, Trump also signed an executive order that will slow down the visa issuance process for all tourists, business travelers and...
Commentary: Public support for college is slipping. Why that’s trouble

Commentary: Public support for college is slipping. Why that’s trouble

The recent results of a Pew Research Center survey on the public’s views of colleges and universities are disheartening. Pew found that during the past year, Republicans perceiving higher education in a negative light has increased 13 percentage points. Among Republicans, 58 percent now perceive colleges and universities negatively, while 36 percent viewed them as positive. Among Democrats,...
Gov. Abbott: Overregulation makes Texas dream a California nightmare

Gov. Abbott: Overregulation makes Texas dream a California nightmare

Runaway regulations by cities are already hitting your wallet and threaten to turn the Texas dream into a California nightmare. Today’s reality is that more Texans are working than ever before. With our strong economy, overall lower costs of living and high quality of life, Texas remains the best place to raise a family, build a business and create greater opportunity for all. But that promise...
Commentary: Special session should deliver big, bold decisive action

Commentary: Special session should deliver big, bold decisive action

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special legislative session with an ambitious agenda that is sure to make hard-working Texans smile. By passing reforms that return power to the governed, lawmakers again have a historic chance to expand opportunity and prosperity for all Texans. Vested, special interests will undoubtedly be pulling out all the stop, though if principled lawmakers prevail...
Viewpoints: New panel could yield insight on zoning, gentrification

Viewpoints: New panel could yield insight on zoning, gentrification

When the Austin City Council returns from its July break, it will take up a proposal by Mayor Steve Adler to create a task force to look into the factors that drive residents from their neighborhoods in search of new places to live. It’s a bold idea, which if done right would help Austin navigate vexing challenges the city faces from rapid growth and the vestiges of segregation and gentrification...
Two Views: Session provides a golden opportunity for Texas House

Two Views: Session provides a golden opportunity for Texas House

Compared to a 140-day regular session, which begins slowly and ramps up over time, a 30-day special session, which begins Tuesday, requires focus and deliberate speed. The Senate wants to hit the gas. The House wants to hit the brake. Gov. Greg Abbott has been hitting the gas for weeks, lining up House and Senate bill sponsors for all 20 of his special session agenda items, seeking co-sponsors, meeting...
Two Views: Special session will known as ‘the summer the music died’

Two Views: Special session will known as ‘the summer the music died’

“I tell you friends there’s a song in every town,” Pat Green warbled in his hit “Songs About Texas.” It’s hard to argue with that, given the evidence. Dallas, wrote Jimmie Dale Gilmore, “gives a beautiful light,” at least when seen from a DC 9 at night. Glen Campbell could hear Galveston’s “sea winds blowing” from the jungles of Vietnam...
Castillo: Teachers deserve applause — and a raise plan with real funding

Castillo: Teachers deserve applause — and a raise plan with real funding

At a spelling bee at Zavala Elementary School in McAllen long ago, I stood in front of our hushed fifth-grade classroom, all eyes on me. My stomach bounced around in my throat, but I was cocky, too. After all, I consistently scored in the top 1 percent nationally in spelling aptitude tests then. But a spelling bee was new territory for me and my barrio classmates — and after what seemed like...
Herman: Lawmakers headed back to town. Isn’t that special?

Herman: Lawmakers headed back to town. Isn’t that special?

The Texas Legislature reconvenes Tuesday for a special session. Special is a, well, special word, one of those words whose meaning morphs depending on how you say it. Dictionary.com boils the adjective form of special down to this primary definition: “of a distinct or particular kind of character.” Yes, but remember how special sounded when Dana Carvey’s Church Lady, on “Saturday...
Commentary: We’re praying for an end to bullying from Patrick, Abbott

Commentary: We’re praying for an end to bullying from Patrick, Abbott

We’ve all seen it: The schoolyard bully chooses the most vulnerable victim, then uses fear to pressure peers into joining the campaign. Unless someone strong calls out the bully and defends the weak kid, the bully succeeds in consolidating power. We are calling out the bullying behavior of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his ally Gov. Greg Abbott towards the most vulnerable among us. While the percentage...
Herman: A dispatch from inside the Abbott Alliance

Herman: A dispatch from inside the Abbott Alliance

I’ve told you before that I’m on Gov. Greg Abbott’s political email list, probably because I’m a GOP primary voter. I enjoy the emails but, despite desperate pleas from the governor, I’ve not been tempted to donate to his campaign. Until Tuesday. “An exclusive club,” said the subject line in the email from Hilary Bombard of Texans for Greg Abbott. I like inbox...
Commentary: Why it’s urgent for Texas to restructure its rainy day fund

Commentary: Why it’s urgent for Texas to restructure its rainy day fund

On June 19, Standard & Poor’s issued a report that should serve as a wake-up call to every Texan. The report analyzed our financial outlook on four major categories of spending and provided an overall ranking. Of the four major categories, only one — transportation spending — received a positive score. Our budget for pensions received a low “neutral” rating and public...
Commentary: Why Texas should push back against involuntary annexations

Commentary: Why Texas should push back against involuntary annexations

Texans should have the freedom to choose where they live in our great state. Unfortunately, due to abusive exercises of annexation powers by some cities, many do not. Now is the time to change this. Gov. Greg Abbott recently called the Texas Legislature back for a special session to address some of his priorities. Fortunately, one of these is reforming municipal annexation powers. Under current law...
Commentary: Why ban on payroll deductions puts firefighters in peril

Commentary: Why ban on payroll deductions puts firefighters in peril

Texans who are dedicated to limited government and opposed to government overreach should oppose Gov. Greg Abbott’s forthcoming attack on first responders and other public employees. Among the governor’s listed priorities in the Texas Legislature’s special session is a “prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues.” Texas lawmakers know well that current law...
Commentary: 11 ways for Austin Energy to stay affordable and flexible

Commentary: 11 ways for Austin Energy to stay affordable and flexible

After years of discussions and study involving Austin Energy, the City Council and key stakeholders within the community, a diverse group met over seven months to update the city of Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan. The recommendations of the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning working group have been endorsed by both the Electric Utility Commission and Resource...
Herman: Property tax changes coming from Austin and D.C.?

Herman: Property tax changes coming from Austin and D.C.?

Texas lawmakers are fixin’ to fiddle with property taxes while federal lawmakers might be fixin’ to fiddle with something important about property taxes. We’ll see what tune the semi-simultaneous fiddlin’ produces. Many Texans believe our property taxes, the financial lifeblood of public schools, are too damn high. And many Texans believe school funding is too damn low. It&rsquo...
Commentary: Ethics is not a word under Trump administration

Commentary: Ethics is not a word under Trump administration

When Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, recently resigned, he said, “In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program.” No president leaves the White House with a clean ethics record — and Shaub, who joined the Office of Government Ethics under President George W. Bush and...
Commentary: How Austin could shape the future of STEM careers

Commentary: How Austin could shape the future of STEM careers

STEM may seem like a buzzword, though the acronym has earned respect. After all, careers in science, technology, engineering and math — the fantastic four fields known as STEM — are growing at 17 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Compare that to other occupations growing at 9.8 percent and it’s clear to see the lifelong value of instilling a love of...
Commentary: Why Texas should worry about heavy-handed government

Commentary: Why Texas should worry about heavy-handed government

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Lower state taxes have never been a free lunch. I remember watching the 2006-07 legislative session as a school board member — granted, I was much more naive then — but I believed our legislators were supporting public education and wanting to do what was best for all taxpayers. It made a flawed attempt at property tax cuts — and anyone involved...
Herman: Legislators warm up for Tuesday start of Texas special session

Herman: Legislators warm up for Tuesday start of Texas special session

It’s official. Gov. Greg Abbott officially has proclaimed for one and all, near and far, that the Texas Legislature will convene for a session deemed special on July 18, clearing the way for journalists around the state to write, “It’s official.” It is, and that means lawmakers officially now can file bills for consideration during said special session. And isn’t it always...
Commentary: What to expect from Legislature’s playbook on property tax

Commentary: What to expect from Legislature’s playbook on property tax

Texas lawmakers will soon convene in special session to tackle “property tax reform,” just as local taxing districts across the state begin their budget work to determine how much Texans will pay in taxes for next year. While the Legislature imposes a number of taxes, the property tax isn’t one of them. That falls to a multitude of local governments including school districts, cities...
Commentary: Why Trump’s infrastructure plan is a hard sell for Texas

Commentary: Why Trump’s infrastructure plan is a hard sell for Texas

President Donald Trump hasn’t fully outlined his prescription for making American infrastructure great again, but he has called for a major dose of public-private partnerships – known as P3s. These P3s, he promises, provide “better procurement methods, market discipline and a long-term focus on maintaining assets.” True enough in some cases, but P3s are no cure-all for every...
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