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March 7 editorial, “We love gun buybacks. But do they make a dent in gun violence?“
At the most recent gun buyback, one editorial board member spoke with dozens of people handing over rifles and handguns to get a sense of why they participated. Typically middle aged or seniors, they drove up in all sorts of vehicles — everything from pickups to Teslas — and drew from a broad range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. We agreed to use only their first names for security reasons.
Rudy, from Acres Homes, brought in two old handguns. “I have no use for them anymore, so I want to get the gift certificates,” he said. “I can use the money. I have had them for a long time, they were actually given to me. I have other guns, several other guns in the house, so I can get rid of these.”
He wasn’t alone in bringing out-of-use weapons. Time and again, participants said the guns they handed over were from deceased relatives or that they had other firearms they planned to keep. Of the 820 weapons turned in, many didn’t function. Only 57 were semi-automatic long guns.
If the goal of the program is to reduce the number of guns in the hands of violent criminals, well, the researchers are likely right that other measures would be a better use of our tax dollars.
The $2 million the county and city are spending on gun buybacks ought to be spent on programs that are backed by evidence. Asheley Van Ness, a criminal justice expert at Arnold Ventures, told us that violence interruption programs, or street outreach, have been shown to work. Credible messengers are sent into communities to defuse tensions. She also held up environmental improvements such as street lights as proven violence reduction tools. Even trees help by reducing stress and keeping people cool, in terms of both temperature and temperament.
— Houston Chronicle Editorial Board
San Antonio Express-News
March 7 editorial, “Lax oversight of charter schools raises questions about vouchers.”
Consider a January article by Edward McKinley and Eric Dexheimer, of Hearst’s Austin bureau, that detailed the brazen manner in which some of our state’s charter schools are purchasing land, which is then removed from tax rolls, according to Texas Education Agency data.
The article included the highly publicized wild expenditures by IDEA Public Schools, our state’s largest charter school network. Despite a whistleblower’s complaint about spending that dates back to 2015, IDEA Public Schools signed a $15 million lease for a luxury jet in 2019, purchased luxury boxes at San Antonio Spurs games, paid for lavish travel expenditures for executives, acquired a boutique hotel in Cameron County for more than $1 million and faces other allegations of irresponsible or improper use of funds.
What does any of this out-of-control spending have to do with educating students?
We thought we had heard it all until we read in that same article about how the nonprofit foundation of Universal Academy, a Texas charter school with two campuses in the Dallas area, purchased a luxury horse ranch and equestrian center that had been listed for $12 million. The ranch features Normandy-style cathedral ceilings and a 120,000-square-foot climate-controlled riding arena as well as a viewing pavilion with kitchen and bathrooms. The Texas Education Agency granted it permission to create a new elementary campus on the property’s grounds.
And then there is the too-sweet deal struck by Fernando Donatti, the Houston superintendent and founder of Diversity, Roots and Wings Academy. The academy’s most recent financial report reveals signed lease agreements to pay Donatti and his companies more than $6.5 million through 2031.
How is it not illegal for a superintendent to lease property that he personally owns to the school that he runs? It’s hard to imagine a superintendent of a traditional public school district getting away with this type of financial arrangement. But charter schools don’t receive the same attention as their traditional public school counterparts.
— San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board
Dallas Morning News
March 8 editorial, “Texas GOP cancels one of its own over gun safety, same-sex marriage.”
The Republican Party in Texas demonstrated again this past weekend that it prefers to operate in a private echo chamber instead of an inclusive big tent. And that’s not a recipe for a conservative governing coalition.
On Saturday, the Texas GOP’s executive committee overwhelmingly voted to censure U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, a thoughtful, steady conservative lawmaker who is being punished for breaking with party orthodoxy. The executive committee lambasted Gonzales for favoring legal protections for same-sex marriages and for supporting the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that, ironically, Sen. John Cornyn helped broker. The executive committee’s bill of particulars also found fault with Gonzales for opposing a controversial package of House rules and a border security bill.
Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush built the modern GOP around conservative governing, not ideological litmus tests to cancel independence. The party’s transformation in the past decade has forced moderate Republicans to retire or endure extreme partisan competition in party primaries. Gonzales is hardly the first target of the state Republican Party’s increasingly extreme political apparatus. In 2018, the state party censured Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate from San Antonio, after accusing him of breaking with the party’s conservative agenda.
Governing requires growing support from the middle out, adding and multiplying support instead of dividing and subtracting from the ranks. Nationwide and in Texas, the GOP should beembracing, not ostracizing, thoughtful conservatives like Gonzales who believe in core conservative principles like limited government, lower taxes and modest regulation. The gun issue is particularly of importance to Gonzales, whose congressional district along the U.S.-Mexico border includes Uvalde, the site of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School last year. However, Gonzales’ political independence on a handful of issues was enough for the party to turn on him and open the door to supporting a challenger to him in the next primary.
The state GOP’s insistence on total political fidelity is a shortsighted, vindictive threat to meaningful conservative candidates who can win general elections. Punishing a conservative lawmaker who voted his conscience on issues important to his district signals the state party’s inability to allow diverse views within its ranks. In the long run, such insularity will shut out moderate candidates and policies that tend to gain broad support from the political middle where most Americans feel comfortable. There are few better paths to ensuring a Democrat represents Gonzales’ district in the future.
— Dallas Morning News Editorial Board
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
March 9 editorial, “Shocker! Stupid state law on ‘defunding’ police has unintended consequences for Tarrant.”
Legislation drafted and passed in a time of impending crisis sometimes doesn’t hold up on a second look. Instead of preventing a problem, it conjures up silly debate and even confusion.
The Texas Legislature’s efforts to prevent cities from “defunding the police” is one of these. It was passed in 2021 when a handful of cities were tossing that idea around in the midst of incredible racial tension over policing. Now the specifics have returned to haunt Tarrant County law enforcement, a ghost of legislatures’ past if you will, stirring up controversy and wasting time and resources.
County commissioners are currently trying to determine how to handle what should be a simple staffing matter. The Commissioners Court voted, 4-0, this week to create a bailiff position in one of the county’s criminal courts, to be filled by transferring an employee in from another area. However, officials are concerned it could violate the state law that bans local governments from cutting law enforcement budgets. So they’ve sought a legal opinion from the District Attorney’s Office.
Of course, transferring an employee from one department to another is not remotely close to cutting a budget with the intent to “defund” police. But as Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks noted, when redistricting changes for justices of the peace and constables caused an unbalanced workload, the county couldn’t transfer deputies under state law.
Plenty of complicated issues require legal advice; this should not be one of those times. In fact, transferring an employee, rather than hiring someone new, seems efficient, cost-effective and exactly how we want local government to work. Just when it has that chance, it runs into a wall put up by the state.
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board
The Lufkin Daily News
Feb. 25 editorial, “Tipping Point: With inflation skyrocketing out of control, none of us can afford the nonstop requests to tip on every purchase we make.”
Would you like to leave a 15%, 20% or 25% tip for the writer of this editorial?
If “huh?” is your answer to that question, then join the club, as that’s the same reaction we have when confronted with prompts to tip everywhere from retail establishments to the fast food drive-thru to convenience stores and seemingly everywhere in between.
Now don’t get us wrong — we have no problem leaving tips for waitstaff, bartenders, hair dressers, pizza delivery drivers and other professions for which it has long been standard to leave a gratuity. Servers, for example, rely on gratuities because “tipped minimum wage” — which has remained unchanged since 1991 — is just $2.13 an hour.
But why should we tip someone making minimum wage or higher for doing the job for which they’re already being paid? And why are we suddenly being presented with so many requests to leave tips even as inflation has doubled — and in some cases tripled — the cost of almost everything we buy?
Some blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the trend. As service industry workers put their lives on the line to ensure citizens continued to have the necessities they needed, many of us showed our appreciation by tipping workers who were not traditionally tipped. And as mask wearing and cleaning protocols made traditionally tipped workers’ jobs more difficult — and as shutdowns and capacity restrictions made them less lucrative — many of us also left larger than standard gratuities.
But too many business owners are taking advantage of the trend — which many are calling “tip-flation” — to allow themselves to pay their employees less than a livable wage while the consumer subsidizes those salaries through tips. It’s kind of like a larger-scale version of the nearly universal practice in restaurants called “tip share,” in which business owners lower salaries below minimum wage and force their tipped employees to pay a percentage of their sales into a pool to distribute to those non-tipped workers in order to increase those salaries to what is legally required. How that practice is legal is beyond us, as we’ve stated in previous editorials.
— The Lufkin Daily News
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