- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Odessa American. April 22, 2018.

Barbara Bush led a long and remarkable life with the ear of two presidents and her own agenda to improve literacy in the United States.

Feisty and formidable, the former Barbara Pierce was one half of another remarkable event - a 73-year marriage to former President George H.W. Bush. It was the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. And she was one of only two first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.

The family, long before moving to the White House, became Odessans for a time short time in the 1940s. One of the three homes they lived in while in Odessa, the Bush House, now sits on University Blvd., behind the Presidential Archives And Leadership Library.



The former president has been quoting as saying it was in Odessa that the couple became Texans.

Barbara Bush was laid to rest Saturday. Her legacy is much more than first lady and the mother of a president.

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy began during her White House years with a goal to improve the lives of disadvantaged Americans by boosting literacy among parents and their children.

The foundation partners with local programs and had awarded more than $40 million to create or expand more than 1,500 literacy programs nationwide as of 2014. “Focusing on the family is the best place to start to make this country more literate, and I still feel that being more literate will help us solve so many of the other problems facing our society,” she wrote in her 1994 memoir.

She also reached out to many who were hurting and became one of the early voices calling for compassion for all who suffered from AIDS and HIV. She gave generously of her time and name to help charities around the country both during her time in the White House and after.

“I had the best job in America,” she wrote in a 1994 memoir describing her time in the White House. “Every single day was interesting, rewarding, and sometimes just plain fun.”

Mrs. Bush raised five children: George W., Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. A sixth child, 3-year-old daughter Robin, died of leukemia in 1953.

We celebrate Barbara Bush and the aid and compassion she showed to others. She was dignified and someone we are proud to call a former Odessan.

It was reported that her husband was at his wife’s side when she died and had been holding her hand all day.

We would have suspected nothing less from this remarkable love story.

In her 1994 memoir, she her and her husband as “the two luckiest people in the world, and when all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. We have been inordinately blessed, and we know that.”

She later told C-Span that she didn’t fear death for herself or “my precious George.”

“I know there is a great God, and I’m not worried,” she said.

Again, remarkable. The world is certainly less cheerful with Barbara Bush not in it. But heaven gained an angel.

___

San Antonio Express-News. April 22, 2018.

Four San Antonio judges will be serving on the newly created Judicial Commission on Mental Health.

This type of representation can’t help but benefit this community - and the state.

The commission, created through a joint order of the Supreme Court of Texas and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, will be taking a long overdue look at the problems facing the criminal justice system due to the lack of services for those dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse.

San Antonio appointees to the 31-member commission include 226th District Judge Sid Harle, who is also the administrative judge for the 4th Judicial Region; retired probate court judge Polly Jackson Spencer; and Ernie Glenn, drug court magistrate.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Barbara Hervey of San Antonio is co-chair of the commission, along with Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown.

State officials’ decades-long failure to adequately address the needs of people with mental health and drug abuse issues has resulted in billions of tax dollars spent each year on unnecessary emergency room visits and incarceration.

Across the state, some communities - such as Bexar County - have been successful in developing individual stopgap measures to slow the revolving door into the jail that many mentally ill and substance abuse patients pass through.

However, the lack of a uniform state policy and protocol for such cases is creating major headaches for an increasingly frustrated judiciary.

Every day, they face limited options on where to send defendants who would be best served by medical treatment rather than incarceration.

We must stop this revolving door through the criminal justice system for an underserved population. Simply, it is promoting unequal justice.

According to the Texas Judicial Council’s 2016 Mental Health Committee Report, about 1 million adults among the 27 million people in Texas experience serious mental illness. In addition, about 500,000 children younger than 17 have a severe emotional disturbance.

Substance abuse numbers are equally alarming. An estimated 1.6 million adult Texans and 181,000 children ages 12 to 17 have substance abuse disorders.

This is not a new problem that Texas is facing. It has been festering for decades, but no one has tried to tackle it head-on. Instead, there have been piecemeal efforts and workaround plans, none of them very successful.

It is encouraging to see this important issue finally taking on a higher profile with state leaders.

___

Houston Chronicle. April 23, 2018.

In Genesis, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of withered and dried up grain devouring ripe heads as a reliable drought forecast. Then with unusual foresight, Pharaoh decided to prepare in advance for the expected shortage of water. With Joseph in charge of planning, Pharaoh’s people were ready for the lean years when they came to pass.

Although Joseph may be the only person to have predicted a drought’s exact duration accurately in advance, Pharaoh shouldn’t be the last leader to listen and proactively prepare for a shortage of water.

The long hot days of summer are bearing down on us and if history is any guide, the next drought right around the corner. Mayor Sylvester Turner should act now to appoint a commission of civic leaders, including appropriate representatives from the city, environmental groups and the business community such as the Greater Houston Partnership and the Center for Houston’s Future who could recommend policies to curb excessive water usage and who would help educate residents as to their benefits.

These policies could include conservation rate structuring and limits on the number of days residents can irrigate their lawns along with incentives for residents to convert turf grass to native landscaping.

While civil engineers with experience in construction of water projects should be part of the group, they shouldn’t drive the conversation.

But Houstonians don’t have to wait for the city to act. Civic groups, neighborhood associations and individuals can heed the lesson from Genesis and get prepared on their own. The simplest, most cost-effective and least painful way for most people to contribute to water conservation is to cut down on unnecessary irrigation of lawns and green space. Lowered consumption not only helps save our rivers and streams, but it pares back water bills, and in the long run, curtails the need for expensive water treatment and processing plants.

Less irrigation doesn’t even require a sacrifice of civic pride in lawns as studies show that homeowners have a tendency to overwater landscapes by as much as two to three times the amount of water needed. Currently in Texas, the amount of water that single family households use to water their lawns is staggering: it could fill 590,000 football fields with one foot of water, according to Water Conservation by the Yard, a report prepared by Texas Living Waters Project, a collaborative effort of Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter and National Wildlife Federation.

Outdoor watering restrictions were widely implemented across the state during the peak of the 2011 drought, but only a handful of cities kept the restrictions in place after the long awaited rain starting falling, including Fort Worth, Austin, and Dallas, according to the report. Even in non-drought periods, these cities continue to see reductions in outdoor water use. They’ve also succeeded in elevating the conversation around the use of native plants which are adapted to survive on less rainfall.

Based on the 2017 State Water Plan, this single water conservation strategy would be highly effective, and the municipal savings made possible would meet between 43 and 91 percent of Texas municipal water needs in 2020, according to the report.

We’re truly lucky to live in a sea of green. But we can’t take our area’s comparative water wealth for granted. Due to overdevelopment, population growth, and climate change, Cape Town South Africa is expected to run out of water this summer, with other cities around the world expected to follow suit.

Let’s not blow our opportunity to continue to thrive by squandering water and necessitating massive water projects. Our city should start preparing for the future now by figuring out more strategies to reduce water waste.

___

Corpus Christi Caller-Times. April 23, 2018.

Gov. Greg Abbott did the right thing for the people of Congressional District 27 by clarifying that he can call an emergency election sooner than state law would have allowed to replace disgraced former Rep. Blake Farenthold.

A special thanks, also, to Attorney General Ken Paxton for being expeditious in responding to Abbott’s request for an opinion - and for the answer being yes, Abbott can do that.

Abbott sought the opinion for all the right reasons. He pointed out that the people of the district need a representative in the U.S. House as soon as they can get one. As the governor noted in his request to Paxton, much of the district continues to suffer the damage of Hurricane Harvey and will be in recovery for years to come. And if he were to follow current existing law, Abbott said, the soonest he could call an election is Nov. 6, the day of the general election. That is, of course, the same day District 27 will choose its representative for the next full term.

It’s safe to assume that the laws governing a special congressional election weren’t intended to leave District 27 without representation for such a long period. The writers of those laws couldn’t have anticipated that on April 6, 2018, Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, an accused sexual harasser whose accuser was paid a settlement with tax money, would resign to avoid a rebuke from the House Ethics Committee, or that in August 2017 a hurricane would leave thousands of Farenthold’s constituents without their homes, their children without schools to attend, and employers without the businesses they had built.

Until the seat is filled, the office will function with its staff only, under the direction of the same chief of staff who was accused along with Farenthold in the sexual harassment complaint and who other ex-staff have described as abusive.

Having a governor who is a lawyer and former attorney general and Texas Supreme Court justice turned out to be advantageous to his constituents in this time of need. Abbott recognized both the limits he faced in acting with the speed that the situation calls for, and the legal way around it. He could have shrugged and said his hands were tied, and been correct. Instead he untied his hands, quickly, with Paxton’s help.

Whether the two of them acted in concert or not, Paxton’s role in this is no mere charade. The logic that underlies his favorable legal opinion is clear and solid. No reasonable person should want to dispute that the governor should have or does have this emergency power. And no one who is reasonable should want to stand in the way of Abbott calling an emergency election as soon as possible. There is no defensible motive for further delay.

No matter what day the election, the timing will be awkward and inconvenient for the voters and the candidates, and there won’t be much of a term left for the winner to serve. Blame Farenthold for all of the inconveniences, including his choice of the waning moments of a Friday afternoon to resign.

Nevertheless, voters should feel motivated to vote and candidates should be anxious to run. The voters will have the rare opportunity to vote three times as of Nov. 6 for their District 27 representative - in the May 22 runoff, the emergency election and the general election.

All voters and all four runoff candidates should strongly favor the soonest special election date possible for the unexpired term. And any of the four runoff candidates who doesn’t want to run for the unexpired term isn’t really a worthy candidate for the full term. They all would risk that if they win the runoff but lose the emergency election, they may face the emergency election winner in November, or at least go into the November election having lost once.

Running for office involves risk. It isn’t for the risk-averse.

___

Beaumont Enterprise. April 24, 2018.

At this point it’s not even clear that Andrew White will prevail over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the May 22 runoff for the Democratic nomination for governor. And candidates of both parties will say a lot during campaigns to get attention or fire up their base.

Even with those qualifications, however, White has done something worthwhile for Democrats … and Republicans. He has put forth several interesting proposals on improving public education in Texas. Unless Texans are satisfied with the status quo - and we don’t see how they could be - these ideas should be part of the campaign for governor - and the next session of the Legislature.

Ironically, a key part of White’s proposal might be a non-starter - legalizing casino gambling in Texas to raise more money for education.

Lots of Texans would support the second part of that but not the first. More gambling of any kind probably won’t get through the Legislature as long as Republicans control both chambers.

In all, White wants to devote $6.5 billion more to education and cut local property taxes by an additional $2.5 billion. To help pay for the $9 billion plan, he wants to divert $1 billion from border security (which he maintains the federal government is paying for now) and close a $5 billion loophole in commercial property taxes.

Even if casino gambling is not in the future, members of both parties seem to understand that Texas has to spend more on public education - or at least halt the continuing erosion of state aid that forces local taxpayers to spend more.

State aid has dropped from 48 percent in 2008 to 38 percent now. That’s an unfunded mandate if there ever was one, and it’s hard to imagine better schools if that trend continues.

Gov. Greg Abbott has his own ideas on education, from more pre-K to fewer bureaucratic restrictions on local school districts. When Abbott debates either White or Valdez this fall, Texans deserve to hear serious, realistic ways to improve a public education system that must at least meet national averages, if not exceed them.

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