Commentary

Letters to the editor: May 28, 2018

Letters to the editor: May 28, 2018

My idea to improve our children’s safety is to install two stage doors on all primary or unlocked entrances. The outer door, or immediately inside outer door, is equipped with a metal detection system. If triggered, the inner door would immediately automatically lock, as well as the outer door, trapping the person between the two doors. It is a simple solution and cost effective. STEVE RILEY...
Herman: My turn at the wheel of the school bus

Herman: My turn at the wheel of the school bus

The wheels on the bus, as generations of gleeful children have told us in song, go round and round, round and round, round and round. But those school bus wheels don’t go anywhere unless there’s somebody behind the wheel at the driver’s seat. On a recent Saturday, I was that somebody. Oh, don’t worry. There were no kids on the bus and I was not allowed to leave the bus parking...
Letters to the editor: May 26, 2018

Letters to the editor: May 26, 2018

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said we live in “a violent culture where we devalue life,” he neglected to take responsibility for his role in dehumanizing his fellow Texans. He obsessively promoted the bathroom bill, which unnecessarily violated the privacy of schoolchildren. He fights to destroy public education, a building block of our democracy. His answer to Texas’ high maternal mortality...
Commentary: How Texas can keep drivers of electric cars plugged-in

Commentary: How Texas can keep drivers of electric cars plugged-in

Today, the average Texas commuter drives more than 14,600 miles per year. With more than 28 million people calling the Lone Star State home and more than 24 million registered vehicles on the road, this adds up to a significant amount of harmful tailpipe emissions that threaten our health and our economy. As more vehicles are registered in Texas and Texans keep racking up the miles, new technologies...
Commentary: Austin’s plastic bag ban is rubbish. Go check the landfill

Commentary: Austin’s plastic bag ban is rubbish. Go check the landfill

As the Texas Supreme Court will soon make its decision regarding the legality of plastic bag regulations in Texas, this is a good time to revisit the arguments used to promote plastic bag bans. A review of the data shows that plastic bag regulations don’t reduce litter overall — and, in fact, they incentivize products that have far greater environment impacts. In Austin, a city-commissioned...
Commentary: With shootings and small checks, why would anyone teach?

Commentary: With shootings and small checks, why would anyone teach?

The optimism of graduation season was mixed this year with the tragedy of another school shooting, this time in Santa Fe, Texas. Among the 10 victims were two teachers. While we mourn the loss of our nation’s youths to school shootings, we should also wonder how the prevalence of gun violence will impact college graduates’ decision to enter the teaching profession. Teaching is one of the...
Commentary: Don’t leave it to just veterans to honor America’s fallen

Commentary: Don’t leave it to just veterans to honor America’s fallen

What are you planning to do this Memorial Day? What is the day for? Why was it created? Despite a long tradition of public promises that those who give their lives fighting for their families, cities and countries will live on in communal memory, human hearts and minds can stand only so much. Memories fade. When our society does not bear the burdens of war collectively, we suffer collective amnesia...
Herman: Runoffs that didn’t have many Texans running to the polls

Herman: Runoffs that didn’t have many Texans running to the polls

It’s quite possible that Rebecca Marques, a political strategist for the ACLU of Texas, is giving the Republicans too much credit. (And, FYI, POC is people of color.) “It’s almost as if #txlege has done everything to make it harder for Texans — especially young people/POC/low income — to vote in November let alone in a primary runoff in May,” she tweeted sarcastically...
Commentary: How Amazon ‘HQ2’ race helps politicians more than schools

Commentary: How Amazon ‘HQ2’ race helps politicians more than schools

When Amazon.com posted a public call for proposals to host its new $5 billion headquarters with a potential 50,000 workers, cities and states immediately took advantage of the opportunity to market themselves. But while these officials were busy doing everything they could to lure Amazon, such as offering tax reductions and tax holidays, they forgot about the children in their local public schools...
Commentary: The case against employer-sponsored health insurance

Commentary: The case against employer-sponsored health insurance

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — known as the ACA or Obamacare — is well-intentioned legislation that has failed to deliver on its promise to provide affordable health insurance to all Americans. In 2017, the uninsured rate of nonelderly individuals (ages 19-64) was over 15 percent. In states that did not expand Medicaid, like Texas, the uninsured rate was almost 22 percent...
Commentary: I got arrested for standing up against poverty

Commentary: I got arrested for standing up against poverty

This past Monday, I was arrested for blocking traffic in front of the U.S. Capitol along with 170 other low-income people and faith leaders from across the country. At first, I was scared and nervous to risk arrest, but I eventually felt at ease as we sang freedom songs and chanted for justice. This nonviolent civil disobedience was part of the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National...
Herman: Time for the look-at-me candidate to look ahead

Herman: Time for the look-at-me candidate to look ahead

In the end, as loser Andrew White sees it, “look at me” beat “listen to me” as Democrats, the relatively few who showed up to vote, picked former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez as their November candidate against GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. “It’s been an odd race,” White told me two hours before the polls closed as we sat in the garage apartment that served as...
Commentary: Why Congress must step up to the plate for Dreamers

Commentary: Why Congress must step up to the plate for Dreamers

It is now or never. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is the last line of defense. For recipients of DACA, other immigration routes to permanent residency or even the holy grail — U.S. citizenship — are next to impossible. Legally, even if after deportation they manage to apply for U.S. legal status, their “unlawful presence” will surely be a roadblock. That...

Herman: Male or female? You make the call.

Let’s play “Guess the Gender.” The rules are simple. I’ll tell you some facts. You’ll attempt to guess the gender of the person in question. This one should be easy. I’m guessing you’re going to guess male. Fact one: An Austin city employee, instead of doing the required research, inserted a bunch of made-up names in a report. Hmm. Male or female? Fact two...
Commentary: To fix property tax problem, start with appraisal boards

Commentary: To fix property tax problem, start with appraisal boards

Property taxes in Texas are a lot like dealing with a fresh wound. Every year, we vent our rage because our property tax bills go up. Lately, they go up a lot. We’re wounded yet again. But serious, fundamental change isn’t happening. Why? Because we’re underthinking the problem and rushing to find a Band-Aid for the wound. Caps on annual increases and sales price disclosure on commercial...
Herman: About the school shootings, can we talk?

Herman: About the school shootings, can we talk?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. The correct answer is all of the below. Once again, the unthinkable has become more than thinkable. It’s become predictable. Left untreated, school shootings will happen again. We know this because we’ve seen this. And once again, this latest one in Santa Fe has us thinking about what we can do to make it the last one. That might be too much to expect. But we...
The Supreme Court just made it easier on employers

The Supreme Court just made it easier on employers

The already meager rights of American workers just got significantly smaller, thanks to the Supreme Court. It ruled this morning that employers can use contracts with workers to ban them from joining class-action lawsuits - and to mandate individual arbitration in the event of disputes. The decision came in a case that pitted two conflicted federal statutes against one another. As the Wall Street...
Commentary: All music creators should be paid for their work

Commentary: All music creators should be paid for their work

All great music comes from … other music. It’s our greatest teacher, our loftiest inspiration, and at times our cruelest measuring stick. Every song has its roots. That’s true for all songwriters and performers, and even more so for those of us from musical families, where the fabric of our childhood is so deeply interwoven with song. This gives older music and artists a double...
Herman: Gubernatorial win for Valdez or White would be history-making

Herman: Gubernatorial win for Valdez or White would be history-making

Sometime Tuesday night the relatively few ballots will be tallied and we’ll bid a political farewell, possibly for all time, to one of the two contenders for the gubernatorial nomination of the once-great Democratic Party of Texas. The winner will advance to an upmountain (which is even steeper than uphill) battle with GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November. So let’s pause to note the history...
Castillo: America can’t push the ‘mute’ button on loss of civility

Castillo: America can’t push the ‘mute’ button on loss of civility

When you put your name on your work, readers aren’t shy about telling you what they think. I get some nice pats on the back from time to time, but I also hear from some who question my intelligence, besmirch my profession, and doubt my devotion to country. And that’s putting it nicely. Reader emails and the occasional voice mail come with the job territory. But that kind of treatment is...
Commentary: A tribute to the Charles Whites I knew

Commentary: A tribute to the Charles Whites I knew

On April 27, my uncle died. He was a police officer on duty, directing traffic after an early morning hit-and-run wreck. He was hit by a car going highway speeds; two months later he was gone. I was there holding his hand. He received full ceremonial honors at his funeral. His colleagues talked a lot about Officer Whites – his effectiveness, his badassery, his boldness and skill in the field...
TWO VIEWS: When will Texas finally outsmart its transportation trolls?

TWO VIEWS: When will Texas finally outsmart its transportation trolls?

Looking at our transportation woes, how can there be any humans left who still believe themselves at the top of the animal kingdom? Ants seem to march along their chosen ways with ease and without argument. The gently trod paths of whitetail deer emerge from the wood without controversy. Even cats and dogs in the same crowded house keep to their own lanes. Not us. If we were ants or deer, we&rsquo...
Phillips: City skips every chance to end Planning Commission conflicts 

Phillips: City skips every chance to end Planning Commission conflicts 

Austin’s Planning Commission has become the latest target in the CodeNext wars — and given its key role in zoning matters, no one should be surprised by the political fire directed at the body. At issue is the legitimacy of the Planning Commission’s membership, which seems to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the city’s charter. Perhaps as many as six members are serving...
Commentary: Endangered Species Act is a powerful regulatory driver

Commentary: Endangered Species Act is a powerful regulatory driver

What this week’s wildlife delistings can teach President Trump and Congress about conservation The conservation community has had little cause for celebration since the Trump administration and a handful of congressional leaders have made it their mission to undermine science-based environmental policies and guidance. From several proposed House bills that would weaken the scientific rigor of...
Commentary: Why it’s important to expose kids to sustainable food

Commentary: Why it’s important to expose kids to sustainable food

When was the last time you heard a group of kids enthusiastically shout, “Cabbage!” For me, it was last week, at our regular staff volunteer day at the Central Texas Food Bank. Through an affiliation between L’Oca D’Oro and MealshareUSA, we packed bags of raw ingredients for stew — cabbage, potatoes and carrots — to be delivered to kitchens across the region. Our...
Herman: From newspaper photographer to state trooper school

Herman: From newspaper photographer to state trooper school

These days it’s not unusual for folks to leave the newspaper biz in favor of a job at a startup starting something up or perhaps the relative safety of government work. So I wasn’t surprised by a recent all-points email here at the paper telling us that a talented young photographer is moving on. In this case it’s to government work, but definitely not the safety of government work...
TWO VIEWS: Texas underutilizes motor fuel tax, design-build process

TWO VIEWS: Texas underutilizes motor fuel tax, design-build process

Texans are generally eager for traffic congestion solutions. But a recent legal opinion on toll roads has left some feeling unenthused. At issue is whether the Texas Transportation Commission can use money that voters dedicated to the State Highway Fund for projects that have both tolled and nontolled elements. The act of comingling voter-approved funds with toll road projects raises a difficult question...
Letters to the editor: May 17, 2018

Letters to the editor: May 17, 2018

Texas does most things right, but car titling, registration, inspections and issuing drivers’ licenses is certainly not one of them. When I lived in New Jersey, you could walk in with your previous state’s documents and walk out with your car inspected for free, your new license, registration and car title. One-stop shop. The fact that we must go three separate places — inspection...
Commentary: Not everyone gets to be a police officer

Commentary: Not everyone gets to be a police officer

There were some startling accusations about the Austin Police Academy in a recent article. The author points out that the allegations are unsubstantiated, and the article makes clear that the accusers failed to complete the program. A letter from an attorney representing the accusers is also linked in the article. Having served 21 years in law enforcement and directed a police academy, I believe addressing...
Commentary: Stigma is still the biggest issue with HIV

Commentary: Stigma is still the biggest issue with HIV

I couldn’t sleep last night after my clinic. My patient is dying from AIDS. When his family found out that he has HIV, he was disowned. His sister kicked him out of her house. He has been self-medicating the shame with alcohol and now has liver disease and likely cancer. He feels so terrible each day that he finally stopped drinking on his own. He cannot miss time at his landscaping job, so...
Commentary: McCain shows us the power of coming to terms with dying

Commentary: McCain shows us the power of coming to terms with dying

Sen. John McCain has not announced a decision to stop treatment for his brain tumor — but his public actions indicate that he has transitioned from “being sick” and hoping for a cure to “dying” and hoping for the best possible quality of life in the time remaining. He has completed his final book, “The Restless Wave.” He has planned his funeral and asked people...
Herman: Lupe Valdez and ‘newspaper language’

Herman: Lupe Valdez and ‘newspaper language’

Meepzat nipzor, kunder Pflugerville zingo calamari rondo kronanian. Oops. Sorry. Forgive me for slipping into the patois of my people, the jargon of journalism, a mysterious vocabulary branded recently by a Texas gubernatorial candidate as “newspaper language.” Frankly, I didn’t know there was such a thing. But Democrat Lupe Valdez, during the May 11 debate with runoff foe Andrew...
INSIGHT: Why would a white person visit Montgomery’s slavery memorial?

INSIGHT: Why would a white person visit Montgomery’s slavery memorial?

For all the optimism among those of us who are white people that America has moved into a post-racial era, the daily news reports say this isn’t the case. One of the latest racial “incidents” that grabbed headlines occurred in Philadelphia recently, when two African-American men were arrested in a Starbucks. After issuing an apology to the two men, Starbucks decided to close their...
Commentary: How Texas courts can step it up for mental health services

Commentary: How Texas courts can step it up for mental health services

In January, the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, for the first time, joined together as one court to focus the attention of the highest judicial officials in the state on one topic: mental health. People from across the state appeared before Texas’ high courts to testify on how the judicial branch can play a key role in transforming the way we treat people with mental...
Robbins: Austin should lead the way for next wave of renewable energy

Robbins: Austin should lead the way for next wave of renewable energy

Wind power and solar cells may seem like best friends to environmentalists, but in a very real sense, they are “fair weather friends.” Most Austinites remember waking up to the bitterly cold morning of Jan. 17, when temperatures plummeted to 18 degrees. Austin’s utility hit a new winter demand record. When this occurred, Austin’s wind power operated at only 22 percent of its...
Commentary: Conservatives should lead criminal justice reform efforts

Commentary: Conservatives should lead criminal justice reform efforts

What do Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and John Cornyn have in common? All are strong Texas conservatives. Each consistently fights for core conservative values. And all embrace criminal justice reform because our criminal justice system is fundamentally inconsistent with core conservative values of limited government. State lawmakers need to follow their lead. Texas’ criminal justice system is sprawling...
Letters to the editor: May 13, 2018

Letters to the editor: May 13, 2018

Re: May 9 article, “Central Texas members of Congress react to U.S. abandoning Iran deal.” This article quoted Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and also Reps. Michael McCaul, Lamar Smith, Roger Williams, John Carter and Bill Flores as supporting President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. I suggest this is not the time to simply applaud everything our president...
Herman: Dem gov candidates spar over abortion and who can beat Abbott

Herman: Dem gov candidates spar over abortion and who can beat Abbott

For Lupe Valdez, still trying to shake doubts about her candidacy two months after coming within seven percentage points of winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination without a runoff, it was an hour to try to push back on the notion that she’s underschooled on issues. For Andrew White, the Friday night debate — the only one prior to the May 22 runoff (early voting starts Monday)...
Herman: A candidate running for a job he once couldn’t spell

Herman: A candidate running for a job he once couldn’t spell

Would you want a governor who once had trouble spelling governor? How about one who couldn’t remember his fourth-grade teacher’s name? Everybody remembers their fourth-grade teacher’s name, don’t they? And folks who want to be governor should be able to spell governor, particularly if they had a parent who had been governor. During a recent Austin stop, Democratic gubernatorial...
Commentary: How net neutrality effort could hurt Latino communities

Commentary: How net neutrality effort could hurt Latino communities

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree about the need for strong protections that ensure a free and open Internet for all. In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal 1930s-era regulations known as Title II, which were applied to the Internet in 2015 and led to diminished investment in broadband infrastructure expansion. Following months of heated debate on both sides...
Commentary: The real reason Ryan is blocking a Dreamers vote

Commentary: The real reason Ryan is blocking a Dreamers vote

In January of 2017, at a town hall meeting broadcast live to the nation on CNN, Paul Ryan made a heartfelt promise to an anxious “Dreamer” mom: He and incoming President Donald Trump would do everything in their power to make sure she could remain in the United States. “What we have to do is find a way to make sure that you can get right with the law,” Ryan said. Nearly 18...
Commentary: Another piece of the story to foster care, teen pregnancy

Commentary: Another piece of the story to foster care, teen pregnancy

Thanks to a recent report, Texas is one of the first states to know how many youths in foster care are pregnant or parents already. Of the 7,090 females ages 11 to 18 in foster care in 2017, 332 were pregnant and 218 were parents. Foster youths are approximately five times more likely to get pregnant compared with all youths. Hearing that youths in foster care are five times more likely to get pregnant...
Commentary: CapMetro uses traffic woes to disguise its bad ideas

Commentary: CapMetro uses traffic woes to disguise its bad ideas

Here we go again: Capital Metro and the city of Austin are still trying to figure out how to improve mobility. First, we had Ben Wear’s April 8th Statesman report about Capital Metro’s plans for transit corridors. Then, we had Capital Metro’s Randy Clarke with his April 14th Statesman Viewpoint titled “Long-Term Investment in Transit Upgrades Vital.” Capital Metro uses...
Commentary: Farm bill creates conservation opportunities for Texas

Commentary: Farm bill creates conservation opportunities for Texas

As Gus McCrae wisely quipped in Lonesome Dove, “Yesterday’s gone. We can’t get it back.” The Farm Bill of yesterday — or four years ago, to be clearer — is coming to a close, soon to be replaced by a new bill. Though it may not seem like it at first glance, the Farm Bill has far-reaching effects for Texans and all Americans. Along with funding important initiatives...
Commentary: How danger lurks in the details of congressional Farm Bill

Commentary: How danger lurks in the details of congressional Farm Bill

Most Americans feel no need to track all the harmful riders Republicans have attached to the Farm Bill that’s scheduled for a vote next week in the U.S. House of Representatives. And that’s exactly what Congressional leaders are counting on. But anyone who looks will discover the bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Conaway of Borger launches unprecedented attacks on bedrock federal protections...
Commentary: My experience as a Muslim on Central Health board

Commentary: My experience as a Muslim on Central Health board

In March, journalist Katie Couric led a South by Southwest panel about what it means to be a Muslim in America, a preview of her six-part National Geographic series, “America Inside Out with Katie Couric.” As Couric said, “These are the best of times, these are the worst of times,” for Muslims in America. As the first Muslim appointed to the Central Health Board of Managers...
Herman: The whole world won’t be watching Friday’s Democratic debate

Herman: The whole world won’t be watching Friday’s Democratic debate

It’s not exactly “Friday Night Lights.” In fact, one crueler than I might call it “Friday Night Lightweights,” a debate between two Democratic gubernatorial candidates battling for the honor of being a prohibitive underdog in November. But as a member of the civic chorus that called for this debate, I’m looking forward to it. That — in addition to other things...
Commentary: How Finance Commission can create parity in Texas schools

Commentary: How Finance Commission can create parity in Texas schools

Every morning, I start the school day by watching the news with my students, so we can both keep up with current events and understand how these relate to our own lives. For the past few weeks, the news media has been covering the stories of the educators from Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Arizona who are protesting for a livable wage within their state. While watching, one of my students turned to...
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