Category: Viewpoints

Dear Editor: Animal Cruelty

Dear Editor, Keiko and James Holland deserve jail time, not a slap on the hand.  If these people have been in the small dog-breeding business for 24 years and the animals that were rescued are any indication of how they’ve run their business, a court cost of $211.00 is repulsive. If a 4×4 cage was good enough for those dogs, then an 8×10 should be sufficient for the Hollands.  For Mr. Holland to challenge the vet’s medical findings is delusional. A reimbursement fee to the Humane Society of North Texas of $23,126.00 is a start.  I just hope the Hollands actually pay it, even though I think a prison term of 2 years would have been appropriate. The reason animal cruelty reigns supreme in the state of Texas is because there is no serious jail time.  And, County Sheriff Jeremy Shipley’s statement, “I hope this is a warning for residents in Freestone County that animal cruelty will not be tolerated,” is devoid of serious consequences. I wonder how many other animals suffered and died over the last 24 years while under Keiko and James Holland’s “concentration camp.” There are not enough adjectives to describe what I think and feel and the Hollands. Nanette Piotrowski Fairfield,...

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In Praise of Pragmatism

by Lee H. Hamilton As you watch the healthcare proceedings on Capitol Hill, imagine what things might be like if we lived in more functional political times. In particular, what if Congress were run by pragmatists? It would not change the issues at hand. On the one side, you’d have the Republican majority in Congress, which for the most part believes that the healthcare system should be left to the private sector. On the other side would be Democrats who, to varying degrees, see an important role for government to play. What would change would be how the two sides reconciled their differences. Rather than maneuver the proceedings for political gain or worry first about their political bases, they’d be dead-set on a healthcare overhaul that improved the system and was politically sustainable. I don’t think our system can work without such an approach to our problems — healthcare and everything else. So what do I mean by “pragmatism”? At heart it’s a mindset, a preference for a practical, workable solution to problems. It recognizes the diversity of our country and the need for compromise, negotiation, dialogue, and consultation in order to reconcile conflicting interests and viewpoints. Pragmatists ask themselves how they can best navigate the differences, factions, and political frictions inherent in any substantive issue so that everyone can leave the table having achieved some gain. Let’s be...

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Lots of Money, Little Transparency in Texas Bond Campaigns

by Kenric Ward San Antonio officials say their $850 million bond won’t raise the local property tax rate. So asked how much tax bills would drop if voters turn down the record debt package at the May 6 election. “We don’t answer hypothetical questions,” a city spokeswoman responded. Straight answers and financial transparency are in short supply whenever Texans are asked to approve bond referendums. As the nation marks “Sunshine Week” to promote open government, San Antonio’s rear-engineered debt package is the city’s latest, biggest example of government operating in the dark. A group of local taxpayers last month filed an open-records request for bond financials. Citizen activist Stan Mitchell roughly calculates the full cost of the bond somewhere north of $1.3 billion — $500 million more than the price listed on the ballot. City accountants have yet to produce records to confirm or refute Mitchell’s math, but interest charges on the bond will likely exceed even its largest component: $445 million for streets, bridges and sidewalks. To help Texas voters better understand what they are voting on, the state Legislature is considering several disclosure bills. –House Bill 1658 (Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont) would require the requesting government or school district to disclose its current outstanding debt and to list its current debt payments – along with any projected tax increase. –HB 1310 (Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney) would...

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Former teacher, Austin area activist effectively uses Texas Public Information Act

Open Government Champions EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in an occasional series of opinion pieces on legislators and other Texans who are openly committed to sustaining government transparency and accountability. The articles are being prepared and distributed by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the Texas Press Association.    As an elementary school teacher more than a decade ago, Zenobia Joseph often found herself wondering why students entered her fourth-grade class “unable to write a complete sentence.” For Joseph, who was chosen Teacher of the Year at Austin’s Norman Elementary School in 2005, it marked the start...

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Texas Must Act Now to Repair Damage to Public Information

We Texans are fortunate when it comes to access to government information. Correction. We were fortunate. For more than 40 years, Texas’ open records law was one of the nation’s strongest. The Texas Public Information Act, originating during a time of scandal in the early 1970s, presumes all government records are available to citizens, unless there’s a specific exception preventing release of the document. But our modern era of openness shifted dramatically with two state Supreme Court decisions in 2015 known as the Boeing ruling and the Greater Houston Partnership ruling. Both put many government financial records off limits...

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