Commentary

Herman: In search of peace, quiet at the Texas Democratic Convention

Herman: In search of peace, quiet at the Texas Democratic Convention

Hype, hope and hoopla prevailed Friday at the Texas Democratic Convention, an event that exists for the purpose of hype, hope and hoopla. The energy was palpable, even in the morning caucus sessions of the various interest and demographic groups that make up the party. So where could one go for a brief respite from the masses for a few minutes of rest and repose? Let’s take a look. The convention...
Alberta Phillips: America the beautiful turns ugly under Trump

Alberta Phillips: America the beautiful turns ugly under Trump

So, this is our America. We’re now a country that gives cover and comfort to white supremacists who publicly slur Jews, African-Americans and Latinos. We’re a nation that defends extremes in gun regulation, even as our children and families are gunned down in our classrooms and churches by persons armed with weapons of war. We’re a government that paints Muslims with a broad &ndash...
Commentary: You can’t put a price on the kinship MLS fans enjoy

Commentary: You can’t put a price on the kinship MLS fans enjoy

Recently, many learned opinions have been offered in the Statesman about the economic impact that a Major League Soccer team might have on Austin. As a sports attorney and a soccer fan, I’m concerned that if the focus remains solely on how much money can be generated from the 24-acre plot of land known as McKalla Place, then we are forgetting about the other, more important benefits that a soccer...
Herman: For some reason, Texas Democrats go to work on a platform

Herman: For some reason, Texas Democrats go to work on a platform

Texas Democrats are drawing up a legislative wish list. And Rice University football players are planning about playing in the national title game. Faith, hope and optimism — even in the stark face of reality — are to be encouraged. Texas Democrats are convening in convention in The Town of Cows on Friday and Saturday. If you’re a political party convening in a convention...
Commentary: Austin sets a dangerous scenario with sick leave policy

Commentary: Austin sets a dangerous scenario with sick leave policy

On behalf of our members, local chambers and others whom the city of Austin’s paid sick leave policy will affect, the Texas Association of Business is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop it. In February, Austin passed an ordinance requiring private businesses to provide paid sick leave to approximately 87,000 residents. It’s a policy we believe is unjust, illegal and hinders an individual...
Commentary: ‘They broke the law’ a flimsy excuse for family separations

Commentary: ‘They broke the law’ a flimsy excuse for family separations

“They did break the law” is a phrase that is central to the argument behind how most people justify the increased actions the Trump administration has taken against immigrants. It is the phrase that has made it acceptable for many people to effectively limit undocumented immigrants from accessing the justice system, rip children from their parents, and treat a group of people that are...
Commentary: Let’s celebrate the value in working together

Commentary: Let’s celebrate the value in working together

Our national celebration as Americans will soon be here with the red, white and blue prominently displayed. Celebrations draw our attention from the ordinary to the inspired. Something inspiring happened at the Texas State Board of Education that merits celebration. We bemoan the fact we are becoming a people divided — society that lives in separate cultural and political silos. The board &mdash...
Herman: Mission accomplished for Austinite’s plans for Iceland monument

Herman: Mission accomplished for Austinite’s plans for Iceland monument

For several years, dating back to 2012, this newspaper has offered periodic updates on Austinite Jim Lux’s tireless effort to get a monument built in Iceland. It’s an effort that has made him, best as I can tell, the only local resident involved in trying to get a monument built in Iceland. I’m happy to now report that Lux now is the only local resident, also best as I can tell...
Commentary: Austin ISD prefers to see us appease parents than teach

Commentary: Austin ISD prefers to see us appease parents than teach

Austin ISD has adopted an “improved” approach to working with families. In this customer-service model — called AISD Cares — educators will prioritize parent requests regardless of professional judgment. This new focus shifts attention away from student needs to submit to the public. In an age when students are at greater risk than ever, now is not the time to turn efforts...
Commentary: We need to reinvent retirement. How universities can help

Commentary: We need to reinvent retirement. How universities can help

A friend recently told me a story of a very successful business owner who had recently sold his company to family members, having spent the previous few years transitioning out of the day-to-day management activities. But retirement didn’t suit him well, and he soon found himself back in the office but without responsibilities or authority. This left him unhappy as he spent his days staring...
Herman: The Texas GOP’s platform, by God

Herman: The Texas GOP’s platform, by God

Due to a family commitment (and no, wise guy, my family was not trying to have me committed), I skipped last week’s GOP state convention in San Antonio. But thanks to the glorious gift that is the written word, we can peruse and behold in wonderment the document that is the official, by-God platform of the Republican Party of Texas. First, however, please be assured that I will cast a similar...
Commentary: Separating families at border belies Christian beliefs

Commentary: Separating families at border belies Christian beliefs

GOP leaders seem to be looking the other way as children are separated from their asylum-seeking parents at the U.S.-Mexico border — Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pence and, until recently, Paul Ryan, all of whom boldly declare their allegiance to President Donald Trump’s immigration reforms and to cracking down on those crossing our borders illegally. They’re looking the...
Grumet: Austin’s MLS stadium numbers aren’t as strong as they look

Grumet: Austin’s MLS stadium numbers aren’t as strong as they look

If you’re a city looking to bring some fancy new thing to town — like, say, a Major League Soccer franchise — there’s basically one way to make money. You’ve got to bring in new dollars. New spending, by people who otherwise wouldn’t be here. I’d be happy to see the Columbus Crew SC come to Austin. My family and I would go to some games, and in time my husband...
Young: Cruel separations at the border expose ‘zero tolerance’ folly

Young: Cruel separations at the border expose ‘zero tolerance’ folly

Crossing the street on foot the other day, a terrible thought crossed my mind. It was a vision, actually: of my offspring broiling in a remote tent city under the blazing Southwest sun at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. You see, I was committing a crime at the time — jaywalking. Sure, it’s just a Class A traffic infraction, but I’d better stop it anyway. Based on the...
Herman: Schumer, leave the Texanisms to Texans

Herman: Schumer, leave the Texanisms to Texans

I’m always happy when Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, is held up to public ridicule. My animus toward Schumer is apolitical. It’s based on something more tribal than that — high school. Schumer’s a graduate of James Madison High School in Brooklyn. I attended, until I moved to South Florida, Midwood High School in Brooklyn. Midwood and Madison are rivals, though please understand...
Herman: Gov. Greg Abbott really, really needs your money

Herman: Gov. Greg Abbott really, really needs your money

Gov. Greg Abbott’s back in our mailboxes with another attempt to get into our wallets. There’s no such thing as enough or too much when it comes to political money, even for an overwhelming, overfunded overdog who has lots more money than the underwhelming, underfunded underdog. The most fascinating part of Abbott’s latest direct-mail fundraising appeal is the envelope that contains...
Editorial: Families seeking asylum deserve compassion and due process

Editorial: Families seeking asylum deserve compassion and due process

As we honor the love and contributions of our fathers this weekend, we cannot forget the horrific scenes at our nation’s borders, where infants and children are being taken from their parents’ arms by U.S. government agents. President Trump’s assertions to the contrary, there is no law mandating separation of families. We urge the Department of Homeland Security to immediately cease...
Commentary: The problem with De Niro’s F-bomb wasn’t the vulgarity

Commentary: The problem with De Niro’s F-bomb wasn’t the vulgarity

The problem with Robert De Niro’s using the F-word against President Donald Trump isn’t the word itself - it’s the absence of underlying content. Indeed, even Trump himself seems a bit confused by the meaning of De Niro’s weekend outburst. As if the actor hadn’t reached a wide enough audience, the president decided to weigh in while flying back from his Singapore meeting...
TWO VIEWS: Ruling on wedding cake a victory for business owners

TWO VIEWS: Ruling on wedding cake a victory for business owners

Despite what you may have heard about the recent ruling at the U. S. Supreme Court regarding a same-sex couple and a Colorado business, there two clear winners: Christian baker Jack Phillips — and religious freedom. There were essentially two questions addressed by this court decision. First, does the First Amendment and its long history of related court cases apply to the belief that marriage...
TWO VIEWS: Why America should practice what the framers preached

TWO VIEWS: Why America should practice what the framers preached

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 7-2 decision in favor of a Colorado baker’s refusal to bake a cake for a gay couple held in part that government has no role in deciding whether a religious belief is sincere or not. However, to reach their decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, the Court found the objectivity of commission officials, who ruled against...
Commentary: Why parents should talk to their kids about racial bias

Commentary: Why parents should talk to their kids about racial bias

“Father knows best” — a saying so popular that a midcentury television sitcom was named for it — means something different today. Dads in this day and age tackle child-rearing, domestic experiences and tough conversations with their children more than ever before. But there are some issues that many dads know a lot about from firsthand experience and are hesitant to address...
Commentary: Don’t donate blood just when tragedy strikes

Commentary: Don’t donate blood just when tragedy strikes

In celebration of World Blood Donor Day, the city of Austin has proclaimed June 14 to be “We Are Blood Type Local Day.” Today we celebrate our local blood supply, a precious community resource we all depend on — and have a stake in — regardless of whether we think about it on a regular basis. If you or someone you know has ever needed blood, chances are you’ve at least...
Commentary: An economic argument for Mexican-American studies

Commentary: An economic argument for Mexican-American studies

Our nation is undergoing a cultural evolution as a result of a non-European white, ethnic population explosion. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017 Hispanics, Latinos, and mestizos had grown to over 55 million — larger than Canada’s estimated 35 million total popilation — and are projected to reach 119 million by 2060. Much of this growth will continue to come from natural...
Commentary: How to make a difference on World Refugee Day

Commentary: How to make a difference on World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is celebrated throughout the world on June 20, though most of us will go through our daily routines without even knowing or perhaps caring about this day. We have our very hectic lives filled with work and family and all the comforts of home. We have an abundance of food and fun and opportunity here in this country that we take for granted — and often complain about not being...
Herman: The rest of the story of Walter Seaholm’s political demise

Herman: The rest of the story of Walter Seaholm’s political demise

As regular readers of my typing are aware, I take requests. Today, I’ll tackle one from Austinite Buddy Garcia, who wants to know more about Walter E. Seaholm, the former longtime city official for whom the Seaholm Power Plant was named. I told you last Sunday that the plant was named in Seaholm’s honor in 1960, five years after he was fired as city manager. Why, reader Garcia wants to...
Commentary: Ghosts and silence in West Texas

Commentary: Ghosts and silence in West Texas

There is a time machine hidden in the vast desert of far West Texas. As one drives south on U.S. 180, just where the turnoff for Carlsbad Caverns is nestled in a forest of tacky Whites City billboards, a shimmering ridge of rock rises like some wall in a garden of the gods. It parallels the road and then curves in the distance to form a towering pair of peaks: El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak, the most...
Commentary: Why a private soccer stadium is not a good deal for Austin

Commentary: Why a private soccer stadium is not a good deal for Austin

As soccer fans prepare for the World Cup, few Americans seem to care. During the last World Cup in 2014, 86 percent of Americans said they knew little or nothing about the World Cup. But here in Austin, Precourt Sports Ventures, the owners of the Major League Soccer team Columbus Crew, who are contemplating moving the team to Austin, commissioned a survey that found that 84 percent of Austinites were...
Commentary: What ‘equal opportunity’ in education really means

Commentary: What ‘equal opportunity’ in education really means

When teachers wave a fond farewell to our students at the end of the school year, a few leave a lasting impression because they have worked so hard to get to a point where academic excellence is even possible. Our institutions have a hard time both measuring that kind of success and valuing it as it deserves. Schools need to do more to create meaningful access to quality higher education for all Texans...
Herman: Austin Council Member Leslie Pool to colleagues, ‘I am a zero’

Herman: Austin Council Member Leslie Pool to colleagues, ‘I am a zero’

To make some Austin City Council sessions an even odder experience, Mayor Steve Adler has adopted a digital system to measure council members’ intensity of support for an item or idea. This is not newfangled digital as in computers. This is oldfangled digital as in fingers, as in hold up none to five to indicate intensity of support. The system was used Tuesday at a council work session on CodeNext...
Young: EPA shirked long view in scrapping rules after West explosion

Young: EPA shirked long view in scrapping rules after West explosion

The explosion didn’t destroy the small Texas town of West. It only destroyed 120 of its homes, its nursing home and three of its schools. Add to that tally the deaths of 15, including 12 first-responders who showed up to a fire alarm, not knowing they were about to be vaporized. More than 150 were injured in the town of less than 3,000. Witnesses compared the 2013 detonation at the West Fertilizer...
Commentary: Why Travis County needs a public defender’s office

Commentary: Why Travis County needs a public defender’s office

Every day, thousands of people of color are trapped in Travis County’s criminal justice system. We are disproportionately stopped, arrested by the police, and held in jail at a higher rate than our white counterparts. We are on the receiving end of longer prison sentences. After arrest, we are more likely to plead guilty, to spend a longer time in jail before conviction and receive a longer...
Letters to the editor: June 12, 2018

Letters to the editor: June 12, 2018

It seems we want to honor our Confederate forefathers but are uncomfortable acknowledging why they fought. Should you feel guilty about slavery? Of course not. You never owned slaves. But you should be aware of the effects of slavery that persist. Consider accumulated family wealth. The G.I. bill enabled soldiers to buy homes, but banks refused to grant loans to blacks. Then, there is the wealth accumulated...
Herman: The passing of a political force and a tar salesman

Herman: The passing of a political force and a tar salesman

Today I want to report on a couple of recent deaths worth mentioning in the newspaper. One is of note to anyone who’s been around Texas Democratic politics for more than a few minutes. The other is of note perhaps only to me and to anyone who’s heard me speak on the local civic club circuit. Carrin Patman died May 22 at age 86. She was a longtime force in the Democratic Party, including...
Herman: The great public works project named for a fired city employee

Herman: The great public works project named for a fired city employee

Sometimes, sadly, the stuff named for people becomes more well-known than the person for whom the stuff was named. Local case in point: Can you name the great municipal public works project in the news named in honor of a fired city of Austin employee? My colleague Elizabeth Findell recently told you about the latest ambitious plan to convert the waterfront intake facility at the old Seaholm Plant...
Letters to the editor: June 9, 2018

Letters to the editor: June 9, 2018

Picture this: Starting in kindergarten, children learning skills of citizenship, such as civil communication, tolerance for others’ beliefs, nonviolent conflict resolution and “good citizen” practices — voting, financial responsibility, building community. Currently, middle-school students who did poorly on the STAAR test in math, for example, must take two periods until they...
Castillo: Here’s a solution to intolerance that we can call agree on

Castillo: Here’s a solution to intolerance that we can call agree on

When I was reporting on the human toll of U.S. immigration policy back in the early 2000s, I was at first blindsided by the viciousness of some of the reader mail I received after writing these stories. These letters and emails typically did not dispute the facts behind the reporting. No, they downright ignored them, reacting instead with an anger striking for its lack of humanity. Some readers did...
Commentary: How border policy creates more mess for foster care system

Commentary: How border policy creates more mess for foster care system

I work in Austin at the SAFE Alliance, a nonprofit agency with a vision of a safe and just community free from violence and abuse. Every day, we work with people who are seeking safety from violent and abusive homes – an arduous, complex, and sometimes dangerous process. Take for example the woman currently living in one of our shelters with her young daughters who came to us after fleeing a...
Commentary: Texas must be better prepared to battle extreme weather

Commentary: Texas must be better prepared to battle extreme weather

Having grown up in Puerto Rico, I’m more familiar with hurricane season than I’d like to be. Every year, we would brace ourselves for what might be. The entire island would go on alert, and emergency plans would be put into effect at the first sign of an approaching storm. I know the importance of emergency preparedness firsthand, and I agree that individuals and families must have safety...
Commentary: Why Trump is an easy patsy for China’s charade

Commentary: Why Trump is an easy patsy for China’s charade

Despite the hoopla over whether Donald Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un, the possible summit is a sideshow. It is only an entertaining distraction from what is most important to America’s future. China’s leaders have made it clear that they believe their country is ascendant and should dominate Asia and eventually most of the world. China’s strategy is to be patient, plan carefully...
Commentary: Texas border a flashpoint in humanitarian crisis

Commentary: Texas border a flashpoint in humanitarian crisis

Those of us living in the Texas-Mexico border region have front-row seats to a rapidly intensifying Greek tragedy. Families fleeing deadly cartels, vigilante mobs and campaigns of “ethnic cleansing” are arriving at our gateways, hoping to find asylum here — or, at the very least, to save their children’s lives. Our laws and treaties are designed to protect them and forbid the...
Commentary: How some aging populations can help communities thrive

Commentary: How some aging populations can help communities thrive

In a recent commentary, two University of Texas professors urged us to begin planning for care of our elders as they increase proportionally within communities. This is a cautionary tale well worth noting — but it is otherwise empty of guidance. I urge the authors, Jacqueline Angel and Andrew Scoggin, to direct research into communities that have prospered with the incorporation of large numbers...
Commentary: How Trump’s critics help him talk his way out of trouble

Commentary: How Trump’s critics help him talk his way out of trouble

Communication scholars have documented that language does indeed matter. They also understand that rhetorical analyses often provide important insights into the current political landscape that may not be possible via more traditional historical, political, scientific or journalistic accounts. Case in point: President Donald Trump’s ongoing and accelerated response to the Russia investigation...
Commentary: How bitcoin technology could help Austin’s homeless

Commentary: How bitcoin technology could help Austin’s homeless

As bitcoin prices soared last year and cryptocurrency markets created new millionaires, a young man huddled under an Interstate 35 bridge in downtown Austin. It was an unseasonably cold night, and his asthma was flaring up. The day before, his backpack had been stolen — an all too common occurrence for someone living on the streets. In that backpack were his inhalers, as well as his ID and other...
Young: There’s a serious case of parasitism in the executive branch

Young: There’s a serious case of parasitism in the executive branch

John Dean famously warned Richard Nixon of a “cancer close to the presidency.” The diagnosis today would be that the presidency has a tapeworm. That would seem to be the assessment of Adam Serwer, senior editor of The Atlantic. He writes to empathize with those flustered as they attempt to connect the dots between the varied outrages and scandals associated with this president. Russian...
Commentary: Why Texas should reject proposed changes to Title X

Commentary: Why Texas should reject proposed changes to Title X

Access to contraception is one of the nation’s most important public health achievements over the past 100 years, contributing to better-timed and spaced pregnancies, which tend to be healthier and safer for mothers and babies and improves the economic status of women and their families. But if newly proposed federal regulations take effect, millions of low-income people — including nearly...
Commentary: What 1984 could teach us about CodeNext

Commentary: What 1984 could teach us about CodeNext

It has been 34 years since Austin last adopted a new zoning code. That was the year the Apple Macintosh was introduced; yearly incomes averaged $20,000;, home prices averaged $100,000; the Dow Jones hit 1,200; and the cost of gas was a buck a gallon. The 1984 code had been drafted over a four-year period by a California consultant. It started with a diagnosis report that recommended abandoning the...
Herman: Awaiting a final decision on final dispositions

Herman: Awaiting a final decision on final dispositions

Part of the fun of being Texas attorney general (I mean when there’s not a Democratic president to sue every hour on the hour) comes when folks ask for your opinion. In general, this is not about stuff like who has the best barbecue or pizza. This is legal stuff, official opinions, all of them of deep importance to somebody. For example, let’s take a look at the recently submitted opinion...
Commentary: NRA should manage gun safety in public-private partnership

Commentary: NRA should manage gun safety in public-private partnership

Like most teenagers, I found my first political voice in high school. Growing up in a conservative town, in a deep red state, I have vivid memories of taking on the controversial topic of gun reform for a speech competition as a sophomore at Santa Fe High School, where I also played football. Although I’ve still never owned a firearm, close conservative friends from my hometown kept me grounded...
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