Tag Archives: Greg Abbott

Why write about red-light cameras? Here’s why

A social media acquaintance of mine — and I do not know this fellow personally — posed a question about why High Plains Blogger keeps writing about red-light cameras.

He implies that I am fixated on the issue, suggesting I reckon that I am devoting too much attention to it.

Hmm. Here’s my answer to my acquaintance — who’s a frequent critic of this blog.

I write frequently about the issue because I consider it a public safety matter. I also believe that cities that deploy these devices are correct to rely on a technological advance that assists police departments in their enforcement of traffic-safety laws and municipal ordinances.

It’s merely a matter of opinion and I am aware that others do not share it. I believe in the technology. I believe the Texas law that allows cities to use it is not being abused by local authorities.

The Texas Legislature stipulated some strict provisions on the law. It requires cities to use revenue generated by fines paid by motorists who run the red lights strictly for traffic improvements. I urged the Legislature to act while I was working for the Amarillo Globe-News; I wrote personal columns and editorials on behalf of the editorial board imploring the Legislature to act. I have continued beating that drum in my retirement years. I also have applauded Amarillo’s resistance to taking down the cameras despite the overheated protests from a vocal minority of residents.

The cameras take a picture of offending motor vehicles; cities then mail the citation to the registered owner of the vehicle, who then is required to pay the fine. He or she can appeal the fine to the municipal judge.

I answered the social media acquaintance with a semi-snarky response, telling him that I intend to keep writing about it. I’ll reiterate my answer here.

Public safety is important enough for this blog to keep raising the issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott vows to urge the next Legislature to rescind the enabling law, provided he’s re-elected on Nov. 6. If he does and the Legislature follows his lead, you can bet I’ll have a whole lot more to say on this issue.

That, dear reader, is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Is this a one-issue race for governor?

Honest to goodness, I usually don’t vote for public office based on a single issue. I regret, though, that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott might have tossed at my feet the one issue that might make me vote against him.

Gov. Abbott said not long ago that the Texas Legislature needs to rescind its earlier approval for cities in the state to deploy red-light cameras at dangerous intersections to help deter motorists from running through stop lights.

If he’s re-elected, Abbot said he would ask the 2019 Legislature to pull the plug on the cameras that have been deployed in cities across the state.

To be fair, I have been looking for a reason to support Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez. The campaign for governor has been so devoid of compelling issues, I cannot commit fully to supporting the former Dallas County sheriff.

Back to Abbott … I wish he wouldn’t have ignited the red-light camera discussion. I continue to support cities’ attempts to deploy this technological ally in their effort to curb dangerous motorists’ behavior. Amarillo, where my wife and I lived until this past spring, is one of those cities.

A former city commissioner, Ellen Robertson Green, once declared that the best way for motorists to avoid getting slapped with the $75 fine is for them to “stop running red lights.” Duh!

Abbott says the cameras haven’t improved traffic safety sufficiently. He said something, too, about an increase in rear-end wrecks at intersections as motorists try to avoid running through yellow lights that turn red.

What about city officials’ concerns about the hazards created by those who continue to run through these street lights? And don’t Texas Republicans traditionally cede these decisions to local authorities, preferring to keep the state out of matters that can be decided locally?

I’m still grappling with how I’m going to go on this race for governor. I hate the idea of leaving that ballot spot vacant when it comes time to vote.

I also hate deciding an important election campaign on the basis of a single issue. However, if I must …

Abbott vs. Valdez: Texas campaign snoozer

Oh, man. With all the hype and hoopla being delivered on the race for Texas’s U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Ted Cruz, I was hoping the state’s race for governor might generate some energy, too, among voters.

Silly me. The race between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez has been an all-American snoozer.

The Cruz Missile is in the fight of his political life against Democrat Beto O’Rourke. I remain hopeful — but not entirely confident — that O’Rourke will defeat Cruz in this year’s election.

Abbott, though, is looking like a shoo-in against Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff. In at least a couple of aspects, though, Valdez has made Texas political history already.

She is the first Latina in Texas history to be nominated for governor; she also is the first openly gay candidate to run for the state’s highest office. Neither aspect, though, has become an issue in this contest.

It’s not that I think Abbott has been a terrible governor. It’s just that I was hoping Valdez would have made it more of a race. Polling data I’ve seen suggest that Abbott will win handily, maybe by 20-plus percentage points.

Abbott and Valdez have engaged in their only political debate. It didn’t change anyone’s minds. Or, as they say, it didn’t “move the needle.”

Oh well. Maybe in 2022 we can get a truly competitive race for governor. I was hoping we’d have one this time.

SBOE switches gears: They were ‘heroes’ at the Alamo after all

The Texas State Board of Education came to its senses, with a little push from Gov. Greg Abbott.

The SBOE had voted tentatively to remove the term “hero” from its description of the men who died at the Alamo in 1836. Hey, we all know that they died heroically while defending the mission against superior Mexican armed forces.

SBOE reverses course

The board of education, though, almost knuckled under to some form of “political correctness” by deciding they weren’t heroes after all. Abbott said the SBOE should resist such PC activity. Late this week, the 15-member elected board reversed itself and said the heroes at the Alamo will be labeled as such in Texas public school curricula.

I’m not a native Texan, but I certainly accepted the idea long ago that the men who died in the Alamo battle were heroes. That’s how we were taught in Oregon when I was growing up and studying these historic events.

I’m glad that the SBOE has declared what the rest of us knew already: Those men were heroes.

Gov. Abbott, have you lost your mind?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has given me a reason to vote against his re-election. I mean, doggone it, anyhow!

Abbott wants to unplug the red-light cameras that have been deployed in cities throughout Texas. The cameras are meant to deter motorists from breaking the law when they run through stop lights and, thus, endanger other motorists and pedestrians.

This is a deal-breaker, Gov. Abbott. Have you gone around the bend?

Cities charge violators $75 when they run through intersections. The Legislature established strict rules on how cities should spend the revenue they collect: They pay the vendors who operate the equipment and then dedicate the revenue specifically to improve traffic enforcement and other matters related to that critical issue.

But then the governor says the cameras aren’t working as they should. He wants the state to pre-empt local communities’ desire to use technology to help police officers enforce traffic laws. Some cities have taken the cameras down. Others, such as Amarillo, where I used to live and work, have stayed the course. Good for Amarillo!

“Red light cameras have been like the white whale for many conservatives who have tried to ban them in Texas by arguing they harm individual liberty or are unconstitutional,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Eliminating red light cameras is a low cost way to appeal to conservative legislators whom the governor will need to pass his agenda.”

Harm individual liberty? We don’t allow motorists to drink and drive. We require drivers and passengers to wear seat restraints. Do those rules “harm individual liberty”? I wish the professor was kidding. I also wish Gov. Abbott is kidding when he says the state needs to unplug the cameras.

Sadly, they aren’t.

This petition is, um … tempting

I don’t sign petitions. A career in journalism precluded me from signing political documents that put my name into the public domain as a supporter or a foe of this or that politician or cause.

A petition, though, is making the rounds and it is providing a temptation I have to struggle to overcome.

It demands that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott remove five Texas Tech University System regents for their no-confidence vote against Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The targets of the petition are Rick Francis, Ronnie Hammonds, Christopher Huckabee, Mickey Long and John Steinmetz. These are the five individuals whose no-confidence declaration essentially forced Duncan to announce his retirement effective Aug. 31.

As others have noted, Duncan is a serious Boy Scout who toiled for years in a profession known to produce more villains than heroes. He served in the Texas Legislature before becoming chancellor four years ago; he also worked as chief of staff for Sen. John Montford, another legislator of renown who became a Tech chancellor.

If there is a blemish on Duncan’s exemplary public service record, then someone will have to ask him to show to us, because no one has found one.

The planned Tech college of veterinary medicine appears to be at or near the center of this tempest. Tech wants to build a vet school in Amarillo, but is getting serious pushback from Texas A&M University, whose chancellor, John Sharp, has been leading the fight against Tech’s vet school plans. A&M operates the state’s only veterinary medicine school and doesn’t want Tech to meddle in what had been A&M’s exclusive educational domain.

So now Bob Duncan has been caught in that undertow. Shameful, I’m tellin’ ya.

Meanwhile, I am hereby renewing my demand for the regents who want Duncan out to explain in detail why they cast their vote to boot out the Boy Scout.

‘Interesting’ doesn’t begin to say enough

“Interesting” is such an, oh, interesting adjective. It usually says not a damn thing about the subject being addressed.

Such as the editorial in today’s Amarillo Globe-News that talks about an “interesting” tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding his apparent skepticism about the effectiveness of red-light cameras in cities throughout the state.

The editorial is attached to this link. Take a look.

I can’t tell if the Globe-News no longer favors the red-light cameras, which I suppose makes the editorial “interesting.”

I’ll fill in a blank or two.

The red-light cameras are doing what they’re supposed to do in Amarillo. They are deterring idiotic motorists from disobeying the red lights’ instructions to stop, do not proceed until the lights turn green.

As for cities’ “raking” in big money, I need to remind y’all that the Legislature instituted some strict provisions in allowing cities to install the cameras. Any revenue derived must first pay the vendors for the cameras and then be earmarked specifically for traffic-safety improvements. Amarillo recently coughed up some dough to do precisely that.

Gov. Abbott thinks there’s “no evidence” that the cameras are making our streets safer. That’s not what I have heard from Amarillo city officials. He ought to talk to them directly.

The governor might get some “interesting” details.

Debates do matter, Lt. Gov. Patrick

The word is out: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t want to debate his opponent before Election Day.

That’s too bad. Actually, it’s a shame. Hey, I’ll even say it’s a disgrace to the cause of learning all we can about the individuals who want to represent us at the highest levels of state government.

Patrick, the Republican, is running against Democratic challenger Mike Collier, who has been needling Patrick for weeks about debating.

I cannot quite fathom why Patrick is so reticent. He comes from a media background; he was a radio talk-show host before entering politics as a state senator from Houston.

The Texas Tribune reports: “It’s no secret Lt. Governor Patrick relishes debates, but since his opponent shows no sign of grasping even the most basic rudiments of state government, our campaign has no plans to debate him,” Patrick strategist Allen Blakemore said in a statement to the Tribune. “There isn’t anyone in the Lone Star State who isn’t absolutely clear about where Dan Patrick stands on the issues. He told us what he was going to do, then he did it. That’s why Dan Patrick has the overwhelming support of the conservative majority in Texas.”

OK, I’ll come clean: He doesn’t have my support. He has sought to yank the state into far-right territory that makes me uncomfortable. The Bathroom Bill he sought in 2017 is the example of what I’m talking about. He sought to make it illegal for transgendered individuals to use public restrooms in accordance with their current gender; he intended to make the use restrooms that matched their birth certificate gender. The bill died in a special session.

That’s out of the way.

He should debate Collier. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez are likely to debate each other, even though Abbott is going to be the prohibitive favorite to win re-election.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican, will likely debate his Democratic foe, Beto O’Rourke. That contest figures to be a whole lot closer.

So, the lieutenant governor isn’t likely afraid to meet his challenger head to head. Why not just quit playing games, Lt. Gov. Patrick?

Step onto the stage and have it out with your challenger and make the case on why you should be re-elected.

And, yes, if that’s what happens on Election Day, it will be in spite of the ballot I will cast.

You’re even less funny now, Gov. Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went to a gun range a year ago, shot a few rounds into a target and then bragged about the tight grouping of bullet holes he put into the piece of paper.

As Time reported: “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” according to the Texas Tribune. 

That’s a serious knee-slapper, ain’t it?

I didn’t laugh at the time. I am seriously not laughing now in the wake of what happened Thursday in the newsroom of the Annapolis (Md.) Capital-Gazette, where five people were slaughtered by a gunman.

Do you know what I’d like to hear now from Gov. Abbott? A statement of remorse over his tasteless quip. That would help quell at least some of the hatred that’s being fomented against members of the media by politicians in high places.

Here’s how Time reported it.

What do you think, Gov. Abbott?

Alternative energy deserves props, too, Gov. Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is proud of the role his state plays in achieving national energy independence.

He wrote via Twitter: Because of Texas, America is now energy independent. Because of TEXAS, we will NEVER AGAIN depend on Foreign Oil Cartels for energy.

Boy, howdy, governor.

Except that his tweet and the accompanying hashtags suggest to me that he is ignoring another key element of this nation’s quest to free itself from foreign energy sources.

Alternative energy.

Wind power. Hydro power. Solar power. Nuclear power. C’mon, Gov. Abbott. Offer a word as well to those energy sources that received some federal government assistance during the previous administration … yes, the one led by Barack H. Obama.

President Obama gave way to Donald J. Trump in January 2017 and the new president began dismantling some of the rules and regulations that gave energy producers incentive to search for alternative sources of energy.

Trump said he wanted to restore the fossil fuel industry. Oil, natural gas and coal have been pushed to the front, while he has all but ignored any public discussion about those alternative sources.

Clean air? Clean water? The president and his Environmental Protection Agency director, Scott Pruitt, have stripped away those regulations, too. Trump and Pruitt call them “job killers.”

The nation achieved its energy independence in the years immediately preceding Trump’s election as president.

Sure, we still need oil. West Texas oil fields are pulling a lot of it out of the ground. Let us remember, though: Those fuel sources won’t last forever.

The wind will be around for long after we pump the final barrel of oil. So will the sun. Both of those sources are, shall we say, a whole lot cleaner and a whole lot more sustainable.