It's been two decades since our state nurtured its relationship with Mexico as a diplomatic and trading partner during the regime of George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Brownsville native Tony Garza, and it seems even longer.
Even then points of contention tempered our international relationship. Just as now, the threat of spillover drug violence concerned U.S. residents. Just as now, conflicting interpretations of the Rio Grande water-sharing treaty were a sore spot. But amid those debates, officials on both sides of the border were quick to call each other friend.
To be sure, statements like those Peña made this week often are intended more to draw support from their own constituents than to fire warning shots across the river. And certainly the president recognizes that Perry's troop deployment, which is costing state taxpayers $12 a month, is designed primarily to draw political support for his next White House run.
We can only hope that the bluster is harmless. Wars of words must not interfere with the basic relationship that neighboring countries must have. Secure and open legal movement across our bridges is vital to both sides, especially in cases such as recent death of a U.S. citizen in a Matamoros prison riot. Difficulty in gaining information about the incident suggests a possible breakdown between the U.S. consulate in Matamoros, which should keep track of jailed Americans there, and Mexican officials, who should provide information promptly when such things happen.
We trust that officials on both sides of the river know the importance of continued cross-border cooperation, and don't let the braying of higher-ups interfere with the policies and actions that benefit us both.
Galveston County Daily News. Sept. 12, 2014.
Six years after Ike, where do we stand?
It's been six years since Hurricane Ike struck. As time passes, it gets a bit easier to see what ought to be done in response to that storm.
So, what should be on the short list of priorities?
First, we need some system or systems to protect people from storm surge. Galveston County is not alone. The area around Galveston Bay needs protection, and local governments have lined up behind the Ike Dike Concept, a system that includes levees along Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, with floodgates across Bolivar Roads.
That concept is the front-runner — but it's not the only idea in the region. While it would be nice to have everyone on the same page, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have the say about what kinds of projects would justify the costs.
People here should continue to push for as much protection as they can get.
Second, Galveston County residents — and Texans in general — ought to get engaged in the discussion about how best to manage the coast. Texas was behind other states in developing coastal zone management plans. It's been behind others in talking about appropriate regulations for high-risk areas. To take one example, consider the question of requiring higher building standards on the coast. Higher standards drive up the cost of construction and ignite complaints about regulation. But higher standards also reduce the costs of insurance and the public costs of cleaning up after a storm.
This discussion will get more complicated as sea levels rise. Some communities on the Atlantic coast already are talking about billions of dollars of public money to protect infrastructure from increasingly frequent flooding. The discussion about how the coast should be managed is important, and Texans ought to be a part of it.
Third, we need affordable insurance. Hurricane Ike exposed the weaknesses of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. Six years later, the system is still not what it should be.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Sept. 14, 2014.
Injustice to Tim Cole eventually was followed by truth and honor
What happened to Timothy Cole should never happen to anyone. He was an innocent man sentenced to prison for a crime he didn't commit, and died behind bars.
The unveiling of a 13-foot-tall bronze statue of Cole by the city of Lubbock and the Innocence Project of Texas in an area to be dedicated as Tim Cole Memorial Park is an honor due him, but can never make up for what was lost by him and his family.
Nonetheless, it serves as recognition to all who pass by what Cole's family knew all along — he was innocent.
In a larger sense, we hope the memorial will be a grim reminder our justice system isn't perfect.
Cole's story — told by the Avalanche-Journal in 2008 — led to the first posthumous pardon in Texas history and changes made in the way police use witness identification.
At the 1999 funeral of her son, the late Ruby Cole Session said, "Today the world knows Tim as a convicted rapist. But one day the whole country and the world will know who my son is."
She suffered a horror other parents can only imagine — to see her child accused, convicted and sentenced to a terrible crime and to know in her heart he wasn't guilty.
Session also feared for her son's health. She knew of his asthmatic condition, which eventually took his life. She remembered trips to the emergency room when he was young and had nightmares about his health when he was in prison. Cole was repeatedly transferred among hospital prison units and cells in several parts of Texas.
The painful suffering of Cole himself can only be imagined. He knew he wasn't guilty of a crime and didn't deserve the humiliation of incarceration. On top of that, he struggled with his health in a difficult environment for an asthmatic.
A lesser person would have lapsed into bitterness or possibly even hatred over the injustice he suffered. But in his letters to family members and in visits with them, he was upbeat about his circumstances and encouraging to his brothers to pursue education and good jobs.
Cole spent 13 years in prison before he died of asthma complications in 1999. It was to be several more years before the truth about Cole would come to light.
Then-Avalanche-Journal reporter Elliott Blackburn received a letter about eight years after Cole's death from a convict who admitted committing the rape.
Blackburn pursued the story and wrote an award-winning three-part series, published in 2008 and called "Hope Deferred," that proved Cole's innocence. Blackburn and other A-J reporters have written numerous other stories about the case.
The A-J's coverage not only led to the posthumous pardon, it helped bring about the Timothy Cole Compensation Act and the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions.
We're pleased we were able to play a role in clearing Cole's name, but would really be happy if we never did the story because the injustice didn't happen.
The statue of Cole will be unveiled 28 years after his wrongful conviction. His brother, Cory Session, said the family was appreciative of the City of Lubbock for an apology and the honor that will be paid Cole.
"It's reconciliation, I think, for this to happen. There are no hard feelings," Session told A-J Media.
Cole had good reason to be proud of his family, and he would be pleased with them today and how they've handled a tragic situation with grace.