The Dallas Morning News. Nov. 6, 2015.
On immigration, even those who want same solution can't work together
It's time for this nation's leaders to pause and take a hard look at the immigration mess they've created. The partisan bickering and finger-pointing has yielded nothing but confusion. The lives of an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants hang in limbo, with clarity on their fates nowhere in sight.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is fighting openly with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, about what Abbott says is the need to cooperate with the Democratic-run federal government when authorities ask jailers not to release criminal immigrants. Valdez says she will no longer honor a blanket policy of cooperation but will, instead, review federal detainer requests on a case-by-case basis.
Abbott now threatens to seek legislation cracking down on "sanctuary cities" and to withhold grant funding for sheriffs who fail to honor federal detention requests.
Meanwhile, Abbott is also pushing policies that could interfere with the federal government's ability to do its border-enforcement job. With his support, the Legislature is spending more than $800 million to amass state troopers at the border, even though federal authorities say it's counterproductive. The state so far has produced less-than-convincing evidence that the extra spending is making a difference.
For the past decade in Washington, Republican and Democratic presidents have pleaded with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation aimed at enhancing border security while addressing the root causes of illegal immigration — namely, that too many barriers exist to the legal entry of migrants, especially those seeking low-skilled, low-paying jobs.
Congress must find a way to address the status of the 11 million already here, especially children whose parents brought them here and now are stuck in limbo as they graduate from high school and seek jobs and college degrees. That's not only this newspaper's position; it's the one advocated by the newly installed House speaker, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Yet Ryan declared last week that he will not cooperate with the White House on immigration reform. Why? He is protesting the administration's unilateral move to relax deportation efforts against certain non-criminal unauthorized immigrants.
The irony is that President Barack Obama launched his relaxation policy to prod Congress on immigration reforms that Ryan supports. If Congress doesn't like the policy, Obama says, then stop stalling and get to work on solutions.
That's how convoluted this situation has become. Ryan and Obama already agree on the basic outlines for reform. It's their delays that invite the kinds of confusion where state troopers are surging at the border while Abbott and Valdez argue over how best to do the federal government's job.
This trajectory of escalating confusion doesn't bode well. Which is why Congress, led by Ryan, must stop making excuses and get to work on reform.
El Paso Times. Nov. 7, 2015.
Texas needs border funding scrutiny
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus took an important, and long overdue, step when he asked the House Appropriations Committee to come up with ways of evaluating the effectiveness of hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending on border security.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered a border "surge" of state resources in 2014 when tens of thousands of Central Americans, mostly women and children, fled the violence in their homelands and came through Mexico to the South Texas border.
The Legislature, acting at the behest of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, this year approved $800 million in further border security funding.
Republican leaders in Texas and elsewhere have made repeated claims that the Obama administration has failed to secure the border, despite billions of dollars spent on such efforts and extensive evidence showing a decline in illegal immigration.
But the broken-borders narrative plays well among the Republican base. So the Republican-dominated Texas government approved throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into border security.
They did so without ever seeking an accounting of state's earlier spending on border security. They did so without including anything in the appropriation to measure the effectiveness of the spending. And they did so without even defining what is meant by border security.
Straus, R-San Antonio, last month took an important step in addressing those gaps when he released his interim charges to House committees. These charges are directions for what issues should be addressed ahead of the 2017 legislative session.
One of Straus' charges to the Appropriations Committee dealt with border security:
"Evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Public Safety's use of funds appropriated during the 84th legislative session for border security operations. Examine existing data and reporting on border security metrics, and recommend improvements to ensure the availability of accurate information in considering sustaining or increasing border security funds."
Democratic Rep. Marisa Marquez of El Paso sits on the Appropriations Committee. Though she is not seeking re-election, she will be an important voice on the committee addressing the interim charges.
State Rep. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, has been a leading voice for accountability that has been lacking in the border security funding.
"I believe in the speaker. I believe in his leadership. The overall goal here is to protect taxpayer money," Blanco said.
We encourage the House Appropriations Committee to develop realistic and precise measures of the effectiveness of state spending. It is important to understand what added value the state spending is bringing to the border security mission.
We commend Straus for the interim charge on border security, and thank Blanco for his leadership on the issue.
Houston Chronicle. Nov. 5, 2015.
HERO's demise: Houston will have an equal rights ordinance, probably in the not-so-distant future.
Supporters of Houston's equal rights ordinance have to live with at least two depressing facts of political life in the wake of HERO's demise: One, the numbers don't lie, and, two, the architects of the campaign against the ordinance do. In fact, the campaign they mounted, successful to be sure, qualifies as the dictionary definition of "bad faith," a concept having to do in law and ethics with "intent to deceive."
Houstonians who voted against the ordinance may not have known it, but Jared Woodfill, Dr. Steven Hotze, Pastor Ed Young and other leaders of the anti-HERO campaign know full well that the ordinance had nothing to do with criminals invading women's restrooms. They also know that fear works, and to act on their antipathy toward gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered — the real reason for their opposition — they were willing to use whatever tool available. Never mind that their successful effort besmirches a city known for its tolerance and inclusivity or that it could cost Houston economically as companies, conventions and potential residents reconsider whether this is a city they want to call home. Never mind also that it conveys a message of hate and intolerance toward the GLBT community. As far as the opponents are concerned, the ordinance had to go by any means necessary, including a bald intent to deceive.
Of course, there are legitimate reasons for opposing HERO. Mayoral runoff candidate Bill King contends, for example, that the city doesn't need an extra layer of equal-rights protection. It's a position we don't share, but it's certainly worthy of consideration. Promulgating fears about a so-called "bathroom ordinance" was not a legitimate argument. It was nothing more than politics at their most cynical.
HERO supporters have to shoulder a certain amount of blame for what happened, none more so than Mayor Annise Parker. The first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city allowed the campaign for the ordinance to get personal, thereby deflecting attention from the broader purpose of an equal rights measure. A ham-handed city attorney's office didn't help, either. And, as it became obvious that opponents were willing to wage a scorched-city campaign of lies and deceit, proponents, including the Houston business community, were slow to respond, slow to point out the economic implications. And, finally, residents of Montrose, Meyerland and other areas of the city where the ordinance enjoyed strong support voted in paltry numbers.
Houston, the largest city in America without an equal rights ordinance, will have one, probably in the not-too-distant future after a new mayor takes office and begins repairing the damage. Meanwhile, the current mayor still has an opportunity to begin laying the groundwork for a retooled successor to HERO. She missed an opportunity during her embittered remarks on Election Night. We understand she was profoundly disappointed, and has a right to be, but the message she needed to convey, and must continue to convey, is that Houston is bigger — and better — than the election results suggest. She aimed at that during a follow-up press conference the day after the election, but that wasn't in front of a national audience.
In this diverse city of more than 2 million people, fewer than 160,000 voters rejected an ordinance designed to protect the equal rights of all; slightly more than 100,000 voted in favor. The nays prevailed, but they hardly reflect the openness, tolerance and respect for difference that make us proud to be Houstonians. That's the Houston we predict will ultimately prevail.
San Antonio Express-News. Nov. 9, 2015.
Time for Texas to get serious about climate change
Our hearts are with the communities across Central and South Texas that, once again, have had to brave flooding and extreme weather.
Overflowing rivers and creeks ravaged the region, killing seven people across the state, including two in the San Antonio region. Tornadoes whipped through towns like a wrecking ball, taking out businesses and homes in Geronimo and Floresville. In Hays County, still recovering from deadly flooding in May, scores of people were evacuated from their inundated homes.
We know all of these communities will rebuild, recover and rally. That's what Texans do after storms pass. But the state's residents deserve something more from its political class. It's time to take climate change seriously.
By no means do we associate one weather event with human influence on the planet's climate. There is weather, and there is the larger trend. But it's past time for Texas officials to drop the political posturing and embrace the scientific consensus about climate change. Based on the modeling, scientists expect more extreme weather events in Texas as the planet warms. That means more floods and more drought and more problems for communities across the state. It's an issue that touches public safety, infrastructure and the economy.
On this issue, Texas is best known for its doubters. Texas A&M's Atmospheric Sciences Department has issued a grave warning about the risks of climate change, but our elected leaders pay no heed. They also ignore that 2014 was the warmest year on record, 2015 is expected to become the warmest year on record and 13 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.
Such political skepticism is a disservice to the state's reputation. This assault on science does not serve Texans, who will have to live through more and more extreme weather at potentially perilous cost.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Nov. 6, 2015.
At this stage, Democrats may be better prepared for the long haul
About a year remains before Americans elect their 45th president, and little has been determined at this point about whom that person could be.
We've had the opportunity to see and hear all the candidates, but it's anyone's guess who will capture the parties' nominations. And then there will be the Nov. 8, 2016, contest between the winners of the nominations that will determine who will serve as the nation's executive branch for the next four years.
Despite all the unknown factors ahead, it appears at this point the candidates of one party are more unified, better prepared and closer to being on the same page on many issues than the other party.
The Democratic candidates each want to win the nomination for themselves, of course, but we get the feeling they are collectively thinking in terms of a party victory next year for whomever is on the ticket.
That's a point the Republicans haven't reached yet, but it's one they should think about if they want their party to win in November 2016.
Republicans had their first three debates — or the televised candidate forums that are being called debates — while the Democrats had only one. That turned out to be an advantage for the Democrats.
While the Republicans — especially Donald Trump — were beating each other up in the debates and in personal campaigning, the Democrats are talking about issues and doing less sniping at each other.
It's not surprising GOP candidates are more splintered. The party started with 17 candidates — so many that it was hard for the public to keep them straight. It also made it more difficult for them to raise money and to stand out in the polls.
To complicate matters, the first scheduled Republican debate on Aug. 6 was split into two debates — a top tier in prime time with the 10 candidates who had the highest polling numbers and a second tier debate earlier with the other seven.
By contrast, the first Democratic debate, on Oct. 13, had five candidates and a podium set up for Vice President Joe Biden in the event he would make a surprise appearance.
Biden later decided not to run, and two of the Democratic candidates, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, a former U.S. senator and Rhode Island governor, have since dropped out.
Democrats not only have the more manageable number of three candidates, they also have a smaller number of primary debates scheduled than the Republicans do.
The Republicans, because of the size of the field and a larger number of competitions ahead, are unlikely to appear unified anytime soon, but it will be to the party's advantage when they do.
It's going to be a long year until the election, but voters already are forming impressions about the candidates and parties.
The party with the better long-range plan may have an edge, and right now that appears to be the Democrats.