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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Houston Chronicle. Dec. 21, 2016.

Houston’s murder rate is disturbingly high. A preliminary analysis claims that our city is one of three driving an increase in the nation’s overall murder rate. “Nationally, the murder rate is projected to increase 31.5 percent from 2014 to 2016 – with half of additional murders attributable to Baltimore, Chicago and Houston,” according to the 2016 Brennan Center for Justice report.

Houstonians of all ages whose lives have been altered by those horrific statistics recently gathered together in Finley Wortham Theatre at the University of Houston to watch a performance of “Gun Violence: the New Normal.” This provocative exploration of deadly weapons and their horrific misuse was written, performed and directed by students at Yates High School in the Third Ward.

Unlike most adults, these students didn’t mince words. They took aim at the devastation that gun violence has wrought on their community and at the disruption that the all-too-frequent sound of gunfire wreaks on their daily lives. They voiced their conclusion in forceful terms: There should be nothing normal about the pervasive and deadly presence of guns in a community.

But let this sink in. The acquisition, possession and misuse of guns is normal in the Third Ward. Margo Hickman, their theater teacher, stated in a panel discussion after the play that she has had 10 students die of gun violence in her eight years of teaching theater at Yates. The students involved in the performance were both horrified and inspired to act by the back-to-back deaths last summer of two brothers in the Third Ward.

Daquarius Tucker, 19, was fatally shot at a Fourth of July block party. Four days after his funeral, Demarcus Tucker, 34, was gunned down blocks from his family’s Tuam Street home.

Ola Tucker, mother of the two men, was in the audience witnessing grief and bewilderment as portrayed by the student actors and actresses. She lives with these emotions every day.

Other mothers who have lost children to gun violence were in the audience to applaud the students’ courage for giving voice to what so many feel but too few say: These deaths are unnecessary and wrong.

Calandrian Kemp, who founded Village of Mothers in 2014 after her son was killed, attended to bear witness, along with members of her organization. In the discussion after the play, she added her plea to the students’: “No more gun violence.” That refrain reverberated around the room time and again.

Although a good-sized crowd filled the auditorium, those who most needed to see this play were absent. Some elected officials, whose obeisance to the Second Amendment blinds them to reasonable measures designed to protect their fellow Texans, weren’t in the audience. Neither were state Reps. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, and Jonathan Stickland, R-Fort Worth, who might have been enlightened by vignettes of gun violence the students acted out – abusive boyfriend, abusive father, abusive girlfriend and hate crime. Each had the same tragic ending: an unnecessary death. Both legislators have filed bills in the upcoming legislative session that expand gun rights.

Fortunately, the students are going to the Legislature. On Jan. 11, they are driving to the Capitol to lobby against gun violence. This is more than a play for these students; it’s a cause.

In a question-and-answer session after the play, several students acknowledged that it was easy now for them to buy guns. Let that sink in. These are high school students. Texas lawmakers should be working on measures to keep guns out of the hands of children, not laws expanding access.

Imagine a chocolate birthday cake with candles ready for a celebration, except that the birthday girl or boy is gone, a victim of a senseless murder. That’s what Fort Bend County resident Kemp and the members of Village of Mothers do, as a way to express their grief for their sons and daughters who have been lost to gun violence in this country. They host birthday parties for their deceased children.

There should be nothing normal about gun violence. But in some communities it’s so common that it’s part of the daily fabric of life. This reality outrages these students. They refuse to accept it. But the sad fact is that many of our lawmakers do.

___

Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Dec. 27, 2016.

Banning movies from being in filmed in Texas isn’t on the table, but taking away the state’s already minimal movie production incentives might have the same result.

State Sens. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth, and Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, have filed bills to abolish the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program.

Texas is in a perplexing position when it comes to filmmaking.

The state has almost every type of “look” for locations, sprawling amounts of empty land, hot spots for both crew and talent and a major film festival, but no enticing incentive for filmmakers to use any of it.

The film incentives went down 66 percent after the 2015 legislative session, and films might not even get any incentive at all if the content is inappropriate or portrays Texan culture negatively.

The future of Texas filmmaking isn’t looking good, which is a shame. Many great filmmakers started in Texas.

Without the filmmakers and material, other people in the film industry will find jobs elsewhere.

“The Texas Film Commission, which oversees the program, ties the $ 168.4 million doled out to the creation of nearly 20,000 full-time jobs and $ 1.14 billion in spending,” The Texas Tribune reported in 2015.

Gov. Greg Abbott has been supportive of the incentive program. This should bode well for keeping it alive.

___

The Monitor. Dec. 29, 2016.

With Republicans having secured a majority trifecta in Washington – the House of Representatives, Senate and presidency – Democrats in Congress no doubt will have a tough year(s) ahead.

That makes unity of the Democratic Party all the more important in the upcoming Congress, and will propel those who lead the party during this transition into roles of great historical importance for our nation.

Therefore we take great pride in recently learning that one of the Valley’s own, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a third-term Democrat from Brownsville, has secured just such a leadership position within the Democratic Party.

Vela told us he has been tapped by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for the party’s elite leadership team.

In a statement, Pelosi said she selected him because “Congressman Vela has been a relentless advocate for immigrant rights and a strong voice for the millions of Americans who live along the U.S.-Mexico border. His sound policy perspective has played a vital role in the past and is needed more than ever at the leadership table.”

The incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, added: “I’ve come to know Congressman Vela as a leader who has both policy chops and political know-how – a combination we need at this critical time.”

Indeed, Vela’s knowledge of our Southwest border and his suggestions for reforming immigration policy are needed in Washington, D.C., especially as President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to build a wall here to keep immigrants out.

Vela, who is the ranking member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, told us that he has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reforms that will protect the Rio Grande Valley’s economy, and he opposes erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Vela said he believes he was likely among the 16 congressional representatives picked by Pelosi because in 2014 he brought her to South Texas to personally witness the immigration surge here and to help her gain greater depth into this complex issue.

“Ever since, on issues related specifically to the Central American migrant surge, immigration in general, and border issues, she (Pelosi) throughout the years has come to me to see what my thoughts were. I think knowing that we have this surge now and knowing that we have difficult battles ahead of us – given President-elect Trump’s rhetoric on Mexico, on immigration and on the border – I’m sure that played a factor in her choosing me,” Vela told us.

Vela added that unity of the Democratic Party against a wall is necessary at this juncture in history. “We have got to go to battle against him on this,” Vela told us.

The Monitor’s editorial board has repeatedly called on Congress to enact immigration reforms that will uphold U.S. laws, protect our federal agents, increase the number of tax-paying residents and jobs, and maintain border trade with Mexico. With $ 1.5 billion in trade conducted each year between the United States and Mexico – and with a great majority of that trade crossing through South Texas – our country’s economic relationship with Mexico directly effects life in the RGV.

We rely on our leaders to relay that message to lawmakers in Washington, and we hope with his new “seat at the table” that Rep. Vela will be influential in preserving our economic interests, while helping to craft new immigration policies during the 115th Congress.

___

The Dallas Morning News. Dec. 31, 2016.

Mayor Mike Rawlings is right to ask for a state criminal investigation into shady practices by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System’s prior management.

The fund is on the verge of a potentially catastrophic collapse that could leave public safety workers, taxpayers and the City of Dallas on the hook for billions of dollars. And the reason stems from abuses under the former administrator Richard Tettamant, who was ousted in 2014. (Stunningly, Tettamant is still working in investments in the DFW area, according to his LinkedIn page.)

The fund’s former managers bet heavily on risky investments such as luxury homes in Hawaii, a resort and vineyard in California and Dallas’ Museum Tower itself, and promised its hardworking police and fire employees unrealistic returns while enjoying lavish perks.

Those returns didn’t materialize, saddling the retirement fund’s new managers with $ 2 billion to $ 5 billion in unfunded liabilities. Frightened police officers and firefighters began a run on the fund, pulling more than $ 500 million out of it in recent weeks at a pace that would have drained the fund’s cash to dangerous levels.

In December, the fund’s new managers wisely froze lump sum withdrawals after Rawlings sued to force the pension board to act to stop the bleeding. The board later tweaked that ban to allow small withdrawals for some retirees who need access to their pension for living expenses.

The state probe – the Texas Rangers have confirmed they’ll investigate – may be the second into alleged criminal acts. The FBI, which doesn’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations, in 2016 raided the offices of CDK Realty Advisors, which worked closely with the pension fund’s previous administration and worked out of the pension system’s building.

The city of Dallas contends it is not legally responsible for the actions of the pension fund’s former managers, in part, because the city doesn’t control the fund, which was set up decades ago by the Texas Legislature. But the city is on the hook nonetheless; a failure of the fund would betray promises made to current and retired public safety workers and would make it much more difficult for the city to recruit new police officers and firefighters.

Too many people are at risk and those who put them there need to be called to account for their actions.

___

The Eagle. Jan. 1, 2017.

Here we are, on the first day of a new year – and for many Americans it couldn’t come too soon.

Last year was long and often ugly. Tensions around the world were high, with terror attacks in numerous places, a humanitarian crisis in Syria, the never-ending strife between the Israelis and the Palestinians, heightened strain between Russia and the United States. At home we witnessed questionable police shootings of black Americans and retaliatory murders of law enforcement officers, including five in Dallas. We recoiled with horror at the massacre of some 50 people in an Orlando gay nightclub. We witnessed a rising tide of killings in Chicago.

Then there was the presidential election, full of ugliness all around. There was more than enough nastiness to last several lifetimes. And when the election ended in a surprise, the nastiness continued unabated. As we start this new year, many Americans refuse to accept the legitimacy of the election, refuse to acknowledge Donald Trump as our 45th president. He lost the popular vote, they note, as if that matters. He is going to destroy America – the world – they worry, and Trump certainly has played into their fears with his embrace of Vladimir Putin, his cabinet appointments and his threat of a renewed nuclear arms race.

But this is a new year, one we should enter with hope not fear. No one knows what 2017 will bring, but we should give it a chance.

In a few weeks we will have a new president – our 45th – and a new direction for our nation. There are concerns, to be sure, but President Trump should be given a chance to be, well, president. It is to be hoped that the mantle of the presidency will soften Trump’s strident side, will mellow his more outrageous traits. This isn’t to say that the president shouldn’t be challenged when he does something with which we disagree, but he must be given the chance to lead. He just might surprise us.

Those of us who proclaim Donald Trump is not my president should remember how they felt when others said Barack Obama was not theirs. Thanks to the beauty of our Constitution, Trump will become our president on Jan. 20, just as Obama became our president on Jan. 20, 2008. That’s how it works, and it works so well.

The fact is we are one nation, one people striving for a better life, a more equitable society. Our political parties often try to divert us from that goal and we must not let them. We should reject the partisanship that gridlocks Washington and reach out to people of different philosophies, different faiths, different colors, different orientations and relearn how to work together for the good of all of us.

Reject the politics of division and embrace the reconciliation of unity. Look not to the past, but to the future, a future that should be bright for each and every one of us.

And together, we will make an even greater America.

Happy new year! Best wishes for a wonderful and peaceful 2017.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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