Editorials

Editorial: Texas must do more to end suspensions of youngest students

Editorial: Texas must do more to end suspensions of youngest students

Just two years ago, Austin schools issued 321 suspensions to the district’s youngest students, those in prekindergarten through second grade, sometimes over infractions as small as using rude language or leaving the classroom without permission. Those numbers included 288 out-of-school suspensions and 33 in-school suspensions. This year, Austin had just eight out-of-school suspensions for that...
Editorial: If Texas won’t give sick leave, at least let Austin do it

Editorial: If Texas won’t give sick leave, at least let Austin do it

Austin workers no longer will have to choose between going to work sick or staying home without pay when a child or family member is ill because starting Oct. 1 all but the smallest employers in the city will have to offer paid sick leave to workers. That is good policy that protects the public’s health and puts meaning to Republican rhetoric about family values. The Legislature’s unwillingness...
Editorial: We must embrace our patriotic duty to speak out

Editorial: We must embrace our patriotic duty to speak out

Benjamin Franklin famously told a group of citizens that America’s fledgling experiment in self-governance was “a republic, if you can keep it.” That charge from more than two centuries ago bears urgent resonance in today’s climate of rigid partisanship, withering civility and complex problems that want for serious, principled discussion. Tomorrow, we celebrate the Fourth of...
Editorial: Austin district turns inward to avoid financial crisis

Editorial: Austin district turns inward to avoid financial crisis

On the surface, the Austin Independent School District careening to a fiscal crisis might seem like a real head-scratcher. After all, the district is bringing in more money than in the past because property values are rising under tax rates that remain constant. When values go up, taxpayers pay more – and the district gets more. Add to that declining student enrollment, and the district, presumably...
Editorial: Court’s plastic bag ban ruling creates a mess for cities

Editorial: Court’s plastic bag ban ruling creates a mess for cities

So, let’s get this straight. Austin is responsible for picking up litter, paying for landfill space, clearing out the debris that clogs stormwater drainage pipes and protecting the wildlife along city waterways that could choke on discarded plastic bags. But cities can’t regulate the disposable plastic bags that contribute to all those problems. The Texas Supreme Court’s recent ruling...
Editorial: Negotiate MLS stadium deal on Austin’s terms, not Precourt’s

Editorial: Negotiate MLS stadium deal on Austin’s terms, not Precourt’s

It’s easy to envision the benefits a Major League Soccer franchise could bring to Austin: a team that is a source of community pride, a stadium that is a gathering place for people from all over the city, matches that entertain thousands of fans and inspire a new generation of players, parklike grounds that provide a respite of green space in the middle of the city. Those are all worthy and...
Editorial: Manley will be judged on whether he moves APD forward

Editorial: Manley will be judged on whether he moves APD forward

As a longtime Austin Police Department veteran takes the reins as police chief, we urge Brian Manley to embrace the most challenging part of his new job: to be an instigator of change. Manley’s Austin roots and 28 years of service to the department, including the past 18 months as interim chief, fueled the push by many to give him the top job. He has deep ties to the community, listens to the...
Grumet: City Council could do a lot of good with a little tax break

Grumet: City Council could do a lot of good with a little tax break

You know it’s coming. Your property tax bill next year will be worse than this year’s. But tune in on Thursday: The Austin City Council could make it hurt a little less. Council Member Ellen Troxclair has a proposal to increase the homestead exemption to 10 percent. Austin’s current homestead exemption knocks 8 percent off the value of a home when calculating city property taxes...
Editorial: We’re still missing the full score on McKalla soccer stadium

Editorial: We’re still missing the full score on McKalla soccer stadium

We now have a sharper picture of the benefits a Major League Soccer franchise could bring to Austin, particularly in terms of jobs and sales tax revenue, if a privately-financed stadium is built at city-owned McKalla Place. But two recent reports — an analysis by city staff and a detailed pitch by the owners of Columbus Crew SC — still leave many holes in calculating the costs for Austin...
Grumet: Can Waller Creek parks close the gap between haves, have-nots?

Grumet: Can Waller Creek parks close the gap between haves, have-nots?

Look past the abundant pecan trees, the grassy slopes, the inviting trails and the open vistas, and you’ll find the most beautiful thing about city parks is the mix of Austinites sharing the space with you. People of all ages, backgrounds and interests are playing and unwinding on land that belongs to all of us. Or at least, it’s supposed to. Some residents rightly grow resentful when...
Commentary: Trump’s team is blowing smoke over our natural assets

Commentary: Trump’s team is blowing smoke over our natural assets

It goes and goes and goes — the stretching of credulity by the team of scoundrels President Donald Trump has assembled to oversee our air, our forests, our waters. We have Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt with his $3.5 million round-the-clock security detail and the $43,000 soundproof phone booth he had built in his own office. We have Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke...
Editorial: After ‘poverty pimps’ flap, Austin ISD must focus on kids

Editorial: After ‘poverty pimps’ flap, Austin ISD must focus on kids

We by no means excuse the words former Austin Independent School Board President Kendall Pace used in a private text to a fellow board member. Her language was uncouth and unprofessional. The fallout cost Pace her position on the board as those she offended along with political foes turned up the heat. Pace’s judgment in making derogatory comments even confidentially threw into question her...
Editorial: We’re finally talking about mass shootings. Now let’s act.

Editorial: We’re finally talking about mass shootings. Now let’s act.

In the heavily fortified debate over mass shootings and gun violence in America, an important wall has come down. Gone is the barricade that once held back any discussion on policy changes after a gunman slaughtered people at a school, or a church, or a concert. Gone is the cynical stonewalling that talking about solutions in such a moment is “playing politics.” Within hours after a 17-year-old...
Young: Team Trump goes for immediate gratification, but we’ll pay later

Young: Team Trump goes for immediate gratification, but we’ll pay later

The old farmer says, “Don’t eat your seed corn. You need it for planting.” What would Steve Mnuchin say about that? President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary clearly would say, “It depends. Can it be sold on the futures market?” We know what Trump’s man heading the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, would say: “Seed corn makes great fritters...
Editorial: More work needed on Texas Capitol’s harassment policies

Editorial: More work needed on Texas Capitol’s harassment policies

A single, sobering fact accompanied the allegations that surfaced late last year about several Texas lawmakers groping, forcibly kissing and propositioning women who worked at the Capitol. No one ever filed a formal complaint. Rather, the alarming accusations came to light through investigative reporting by the Daily Beast and the Texas Tribune, amid the national conversation over sexual harassment...
Grumet: Late-night council meetings hurt the cause of open government

Grumet: Late-night council meetings hurt the cause of open government

We’re nearly a year into the Austin City Council’s latest push to rein in its late-night meetings. And if, like me, you were watching as the April 26 meeting ran into April 27, with a big debate on rentable scooters starting after midnight and a critical CodeNext discussion running from 2 to 3 a.m., then you know how well that’s going. Sadly, we’re so inured to late-night council...
Editorial: MLS can win Austin’s heart with the right deal

Editorial: MLS can win Austin’s heart with the right deal

We know Austin is a good fit for Major League Soccer — and having a team would give the city bragging rights for its first pro sports team. We know, too, Major League Soccer is enamored with Austin: Since last year, Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt has been working on a deal to relocate his team from Columbus to Austin in a proposal that all but has the blessing of league officials. The...
Young: Crossing the bridge to gun sanity in spite of the troll below

Young: Crossing the bridge to gun sanity in spite of the troll below

The vespidae were aloft over Boulder, Colorado last week. Vespidae – the family of hornets. The Boulder City Council stirred up a hornets nest. It voted to abolish the sale and possession, unless registered, of what the city defines as assault weapons, as well as bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. The action is yet to be finalized, but the unanimous preliminary vote seems to assure approval...
EDITORIAL: Do a national search for the best police chief candidate

EDITORIAL: Do a national search for the best police chief candidate

City Manager Spencer Cronk, with just 13 weeks on the job, concludes that Austin need look no farther than its own backyard for a permanent police chief. Cronk’s narrow approach contrasts with methods of former city managers, who cast their nets nationally to search for police chiefs and key executives. In naming just one finalist – interim Police Chief Brian Manley – Cronk denies...
EDITORIAL: Austin police academy needs clear focus on guardian tactics

EDITORIAL: Austin police academy needs clear focus on guardian tactics

Austin police respond every day to unpredictable situations that could put themselves and others in harm’s way. Sometimes deadly force is needed. But more often than not, officers can achieve a better outcome by responding with creativity, understanding and restraint. Austin’s finest — and the community they serve — deserve a training program that best equips officers with...

Jade Helm takeover was #FakeNews but plans for this counterattack were real

With everything we’ve learned about the ability of Russian bots to grossly amplify the reach of #FakeNews, we shouldn’t be all that surprised by this week’s revelation that the 2015 Jade Helm conspiracy theory was an early triumph of this toxic technology. But before we make our jokes about tin foil...
With no good options, City Council faces dilemma over CodeNext

With no good options, City Council faces dilemma over CodeNext

There aren’t any good options facing the Austin City Council regarding CodeNext, and the best of those – advancing a citizen-led ordinance to the ballot – might conflict with state law. That is the dilemma facing the council as the city continues public hearings on CodeNext, the initiative to rewrite Austin’s antiquated, unwieldy land-use and zoning rules. We’ve previously...
Editorial: Speed matters, but safety must prevail in new scooter rules

Editorial: Speed matters, but safety must prevail in new scooter rules

If we’ve learned anything from the tug-of-war over new transportation services, it’s that we all want to get somewhere sooner. After a bruising battle with Uber and Lyft a couple of years ago, Austin once again finds itself confronted with app-based ride providers hitting the streets before the city has rules in place to address public safety. The rentable scooters that Bird and LimeBike...
VIEWPOINTS: Independent ethics panel has benefits, but don’t rush it

VIEWPOINTS: Independent ethics panel has benefits, but don’t rush it

It’s still a work in progress, but the Charter Review Commission’s proposal to establish an independent ethics panel to investigate — and if necessary prosecute — alleged violations of Austin’s campaign-finance rules and other ethics-related matters is headed in the right direction. We do offer some cautions: Whatever the final product is, it should not be rushed through...
Why the ‘hyphenated Americanism’ comment triggered outrage

Why the ‘hyphenated Americanism’ comment triggered outrage

People rally in front of the State Board of Education building last week before a preliminary vote on whether to create a statewide Mexican American studies course. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN The decision by the State Board of Education to approve an elective course for Mexican-American studies in Texas high schools should have triggered triumphant celebrations...
Viewpoints: Releasing bomber’s recording would help heal a wounded city

Viewpoints: Releasing bomber’s recording would help heal a wounded city

We urge the Austin Police Department to release the recorded confession Mark A. Conditt left behind. The public’s right to hear the 28-minute audio recording of the bomber who terrorized the city for much of March far outweighs reasons for keeping it secret. We do understand temporarily withholding some information to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, as Texas law permits. But...
VIEWPOINTS: Releasing bomber’s recording would help heal a wounded city

VIEWPOINTS: Releasing bomber’s recording would help heal a wounded city

We urge the Austin Police Department to release the recorded confession Mark A. Conditt left behind. The public’s right to hear the 28-minute audio recording of the bomber who terrorized the city for much of March far outweighs reasons for keeping it secret. We do understand temporarily withholding some information to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, as Texas law permits. But...
VIEWPOINTS: It’s time for self-driving cars to meet safety regulations

VIEWPOINTS: It’s time for self-driving cars to meet safety regulations

Our streets should not be a laboratory. The recent death of an Arizona woman hit by a self-driving Uber car is a sobering reminder of the risks of this developing technology. It has also highlighted the fact that few safeguards protect the public as city streets become proving grounds for driverless cars, amid intense competition between tech giants and traditional car companies to bring these...
VIEWPOINTS: City Hall should value public input in police chief search

VIEWPOINTS: City Hall should value public input in police chief search

As Austin recovers from a reign of terror that gripped the city for much of March, some city officials are calling for interim Police Chief Brian Manley to be named permanent chief of the Austin Police Department. Such a move would bypass a national search and eliminate the public engagement typically used in filling the city’s most critical positions. With Mayor Steve Adler jumping on that...
Grumet: Why Travis County wants to build a kinder, gentler jail

Grumet: Why Travis County wants to build a kinder, gentler jail

Should a jail stay come with cushioned seats? Lost in the recent debate over a proposed $97 million women’s jail facility — which Travis County commissioners shelved for at least a year while they take stock of various jail diversion programs — was a surprising vision for what life in lockup could look like. Picture windows. Calming colors. Real furniture instead of metal...
VIEWPOINTS: Public deserves chance to improve jail diversion programs

VIEWPOINTS: Public deserves chance to improve jail diversion programs

Travis County has at least two dozen programs intended to steer people toward mental health support, substance abuse treatment and other services instead of assigning them a bunk at the county jail. But are those programs working? Before spending $97 million on a new wing of the Travis County jail, the public deserves to know. The various agencies involved in administering these jail diversion programs...
EDITORIAL: Why Austin bombings should be considered acts of terrorism

EDITORIAL: Why Austin bombings should be considered acts of terrorism

Let’s call this what it was: Austin was the target of a terrorist attack. We are still trying to grasp what motivated Mark A. Conditt, the bombing suspect who died early Wednesday morning as police closed in on him in Round Rock. The early indications are that he acted alone, driven more by “challenges in his personal life,” Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said, than by...
Impact on community clear: Austin bombings were acts of terror

Impact on community clear: Austin bombings were acts of terror

Let’s call this what it was: Austin was the target of a terrorist attack. Some officials have shied away from branding the recent bombings as terrorism — even as the string of explosions in Austin killed two people and injured five others in attacks that targeted people for no apparent reason, striking fear in neighborhoods across the city. While condemning these heinous acts, though,...
Bombings show why Austin no longer can afford a small-town attitude

Bombings show why Austin no longer can afford a small-town attitude

Three package bombings this month, which have left two Austin residents dead, another seriously injured and much of the minority community in fear, have raised questions about how the Austin Police Department handled those tragic events and whether it did enough to help safeguard the public. Those are legitimate concerns that Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley must answer better than he has...
VIEWPOINTS: Why Austin ISD is reviewing 62 schools named since 1960s

VIEWPOINTS: Why Austin ISD is reviewing 62 schools named since 1960s

As Austin school trustees move expeditiously to rebrand five schools stripped of names of Confederate leaders and soldiers, they also are revising school-naming policies to reflect the district’s core values, changing demographics and historical wrongs. We welcome their actions, which are overdue. The names of schools should serve as an inspiration to students to achieve and a beacon to the...
Viewpoints: City should decide on pro soccer with facts, not politics

Viewpoints: City should decide on pro soccer with facts, not politics

Once again, an intriguing proposal has become politicized way too fast, all but preventing a dispassionate discussion about whether Major League Soccer would be a good fit for Austin — and if so, whether city-owned property or parkland should be home to a stadium. Mayor Steve Adler’s downtown puzzle proposal to use tourist dollars to expand the Austin Convention Center and leverage the...
Viewpoints: Texas State Greek life needs a culture shift

Viewpoints: Texas State Greek life needs a culture shift

Texas State University lost two students in fraternity-related deaths over the past two years — not because the university’s rules allowed reckless bingeing on alcohol, but because the culture did. This week, the university announced sweeping new policies for Greek organizations after the deaths of Matthew McKinley Ellis and Jordin Taylor. We welcome this more vigorous effort to prohibit...
VIEWPOINTS: City should decide on pro soccer with facts, not politics

VIEWPOINTS: City should decide on pro soccer with facts, not politics

Once again, an intriguing proposal has become politicized way too fast, all but preventing a dispassionate discussion about whether Major League Soccer would be a good fit for Austin — and if so, whether city-owned property or parkland should be home to a stadium. Mayor Steve Adler’s downtown puzzle proposal to use tourist dollars to expand the Austin Convention Center and leverage the...
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...
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...
VIEWPOINTS: Texas should follow — not fight — mandates to improve CPS

VIEWPOINTS: Texas should follow — not fight — mandates to improve CPS

A child needs much more than shelter, food and clothing to establish a healthy life. Children need a good education, positive experiences, life skills and a nurturing environment to have a chance at becoming productive adults. Most children in Texas get what they need, but the majority of children in the state’s Child Protective Services system do not. The mission of CPS is to protect children...
VIEWPOINTS: UT’s uneven responses to sexual misconduct raise questions

VIEWPOINTS: UT’s uneven responses to sexual misconduct raise questions

At a time when women across the country are making a fierce stand against sexual harassment and abuse – and getting results, such as terminations of and sanctions against accused abusers – University of Texas professor Richard Morrisett might well escape such accountability. Morrisett pleaded guilty in 2016 to a felony charge of strangling his girlfriend to the point that she saw &ldquo...
VIEWPOINTS: Plan criminalizing the homeless might harm them and us

VIEWPOINTS: Plan criminalizing the homeless might harm them and us

We applaud Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen for recognizing a gap in serving people who are homeless in her South Austin district, then persuading her council colleagues to finance a social worker dedicated to helping people living on the streets. But Kitchen’s other proposal that would remove homeless people from a neighborhood in her district using trespassing laws – however well-intentioned...
VIEWPOINTS: De-escalation policy could help mend community trust

VIEWPOINTS: De-escalation policy could help mend community trust

It is common in Austin and elsewhere around the country for a police officer to grab for a gun in a volatile situation. Although officers are trained to de-escalate tension, most police departments don’t require they make use of that training. That will no longer be the case in Austin. Joining a national movement to end violent confrontations between officers and suspects, the Austin Police...
Lacking minorities, state boards are ill-prepared to serve all Texans

Lacking minorities, state boards are ill-prepared to serve all Texans

Gov. Greg Abbott should look at fairness, justice and best practices — along with qualifications — in making appointments to state boards and commissions. Given his record, that clearly is not happening. If those measures were used, Abbott’s appointments would better reflect the ethnic, racial and gender diversity of Texas. They don’t, as an analysis by the San Antonio Express-News...
VIEWPOINTS: Ruling in Kleinert case weakens police accountability

VIEWPOINTS: Ruling in Kleinert case weakens police accountability

Last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not take up a case involving a former Austin police officer who fatally shot an African-American man was a huge victory for the officer, ending a saga that began in 2013. For Travis County prosecutors who took the case to the high court in hope of holding Charles Kleinert criminally responsible in the death of Larry Jackson Jr., the ruling was...
VIEWPOINTS: New tax code is harsh on nonprofits. How Texans can help

VIEWPOINTS: New tax code is harsh on nonprofits. How Texans can help

When local, state and federal programs fail to serve Central Texas families and individuals who are the most in need, local nonprofit organizations help fill the gaps by using the generous contributions of those who find value in giving their neighbors a hand up when they need it. The recent federal tax overhaul, however, has nonprofits bracing for a significant decline in contributions because millions...
Viewpoints: TEA needs damage control. It can start with parents’ trust

Viewpoints: TEA needs damage control. It can start with parents’ trust

The Texas Education Agency’s abrupt decision to walk away last month from a special education data-mining project — after defending it for months despite legal and transparency questions — was the right thing to do. Now, the agency, which has been under long-standing pressure to improve special education services, must ensure it does right by students, parents and advocates. The...
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