Tag Archives: Garry Mauro

Coastal protection: It’s a big … deal!

Protecting our coasts ought to be among the top issues facing members of Congress. It is with that admonition that I welcome news about legislation designed to do precisely that in the wake of a monster hurricane that stormed ashore in Texas.

The U.S. House is considering the most expensive coastal protection project in history. It’s called the National Defense Authorization Act and its pricetag is a doozy: $34 billion.

Hurricane Ike roared across Galveston Island in September 2008, threatening the Houston Channel and putting the nation’s petrochemical industry in dire peril.

Now, I have no intention of taking credit I don’t deserve, but I happen to be one journalist who’s been talking about coastal protection for decades. It became a favorite issue of mine when I worked for the Beaumont Enterprise from 1984 until 1995. I became acquainted with a Texas land commissioner, Garry Mauro, who also deemed coastal protection to be critical to our national survival.

Coastal erosion long has been a hazard to the Gulf Coast, with wetlands being consumed by rising gulf tides every year.

I am heartened to see the aggressive measures taken by Congress. As The Associated Press reported, “The Texas coastal protection project far outstrips any of the 24 other projects greenlit by the bill” under consideration by the House.

Hey, it’s a big deal! How big? Consider that one particular project calls for the construction of a coastal barrier the size of a 60-story building laid on its side that aims to prevent storm surge from entering Galveston Bay and endangering the Houston Ship Channel.

Construction will take two decades to complete.

Got it? That’s big! It’s also important!


‘Don’t Mess With Texas’? Let’s make it count

We all know the phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas.” It has become some sort of political battle cry. Right-wingers have adopted it as a defiant call to those who might want to, um, “reform” certain laws and customs.

It truth the phrase was born in the 1980s as an anti-littering slogan during the time Garry Mauro was serving as the state’s land commissioner. The General Land Office took up litter abatement as a critical issue facing the state.

Mauro and those who have followed him into the Land Office, though, have yet to take the next step in the effort to rid the state of litter that sullies our state’s vast landscape.

I want to bring up an issue I’ve raised before in other forums.

I bring you the Bottle Bill.

A bottle bill works in the states that have them. I grew up in Oregon, where the bottle bill has become a way of life. Rather than tossing bottles into the garbage, you save ’em and take ’em to the store where you get a return on the deposit you paid when you purchased the beverage the bottle contained.

The Oregon bottle bill, as I recall it, was enacted during the time Republican Tom McCall was serving as governor. The Legislature approved it in 1971 and has amended it a couple of time since then.

I remember a study done by media in Oregon that examined the amount of trash tossed along Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River; they also looked at the same length of highway on the Washington side of the Columbia. They found much more trash — namely glass bottles — in Washington than in Oregon.

OK, what does this mean for any other state, especially Texas, where my family and I have lived since 1984? It means the state hasn’t discovered what residents of other states, including my home state, have learned: bottle bills help abate litter.

I know that the grocery lobby opposes any effort to enact such a law in Texas, or any state that doesn’t have such a law on the books. They contend it is costly to process the bottles brought in by customers.

I don’t expect the next Texas Legislature to move on this matter. There is no interest among legislators to approve a law that requires such a fundamental change in consumer attitudes.

Sure, many communities have vibrant recycling programs. My wife and I live in Princeton and are happy to fill our recycling bin with items to reused/repurposed. They include glass bottles.

Still, we see a lot of litter strewn along our state’s thoroughfares. To their shame, too many Texans are still “messing with Texas.”

Texas coast remains in dire peril

I want to give a shout out to my former neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast.

They are working diligently to preserve one of the state’s most underappreciated resources: its beaches.

The Texas coast is in peril. It is disappearing before our eyes. It has been disappearing for, oh, many decades. I took an interest in the coast when I moved there in 1984 to take up my post writing editorials for the Beaumont Enterprise.

The Texas Tribune reports that Jefferson County officials are working with a consortium of industry officials, environmental activists, outdoorsmen and women and others to protect the coastal wetlands from drastic erosion.

According to the Tribune: Subsidence, sea level rise and storm surges have all contributed to significant land loss, averaging 4 feet per year along the state’s coastline, according to the Texas General Land Office. In some places, more than 30 feet of shoreline disappears underwater annually.

Todd Merendino, a manager at the conservation-focused group Ducks Unlimited, said sand dunes used to line the shore near the Salt Bayou marsh, forming a crucial buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and the millions of dollars’ worth of industrial infrastructure that lie inland. The dunes are “all gone now,” he said.

“One day, you wake up and you go, ‘Wow, we got a problem,'” Merendino said. “And it’s not just an isolated problem where one swing of the hammer is going to fix it.”

The problem has inspired a coalition of strange bedfellows in Jefferson County. Local leaders, environmental activists and industry representatives are working together to execute a variety of projects — some bankrolled by BP oil spill settlement funds — to rehabilitate the marsh and protect the area’s industrial complex.

The massive deep freeze that is paralyzing the Deep South and the Atlantic Seaboard notwithstanding, the worldwide climate change that produces rising sea levels is a major culprit.

Gulf Coast officials are seeking to build a berm along the coast at the McFaddin Wildlife Refuge. I’ve been there. It’s a jewel along the coast. It’s a haven for all manner of waterfowl. It is a gorgeous part of the coastal region.

It’s also vanishing.

Here is the Tribune story

The Texas General Land Office once placed coastal preservation near the top of its public policy agenda. I am unaware of where that issue stands today. The GLO has welcomed the likes of David Dewhurst, Jerry Patterson and now George P. Bush as land commissioner since Mauro left the office in the late 1990s. I trust they, too, are committed to saving the coastline for future generations of Texans to enjoy.

I am heartened to hear about the hard work being done along the coast. It’s good, though, to bear in mind that Mother Nature can take whatever she wants, whenever she wants.

At least the state is not going to give it away without a fight.

Mauro: Texas is ‘no battleground’

Garry Mauro knows Texas perhaps as well as any politician who calls Texas “home.”

So, when the former state land commissioner says that Texas isn’t a “battleground state” in the upcoming presidential election, it’s time to throw in the towel and ceded the state to Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

Or is it?


Mauro has signed on to help Hillary Clinton win the presidency. He’s as loyal a Democrat as you’ll find.

I used to know Mauro pretty well. He’d call on us at the Beaumont Enterprise back when he served as land commissioner. He had placed coastal erosion and protection as a top priority of his office, an initiative we appreciated way down yonder on the Gulf Coast.

The last time I saw him was in 1998 as he ran for Texas governor against incumbent George W. Bush. Mauro lost big.

Then he left elected public service.

Even though Mauro believes Texas is still a red state, he is offering a glimmer of hope for Democrats in the form of the man who’s going to lead the GOP ticket this fall.

As he told the San Antonio Express-News: “The prospect of a Clinton race against billionaire Donald Trump — who has offended a variety of groups including Latinos and women with his intemperate comments — will make it easier to get out the Democratic vote, Mauro agreed.

“’With Donald Trump on the ticket, we now have a way to get our voters out,’ he said.”

Therein lies the chance upon which Clinton will depend if she hopes to turn Texas from Republican red to possibly Democratic blue.

The key might lie in the Latino vote. Let’s face it, Trump has managed to deliberately offend that demographic group. He’s called illegal immigrants criminals; he’s declared that an American judge cannot adjudicate a Trump University lawsuit solely because of his Mexican heritage. Trump is going to “build a wall” along our southern border.

Will that bloc of voters turn out? Mauro hopes so, as does Clinton … obviously.

The flicker of cynicism in me makes me wonder if Mauro isn’t low-balling expectations with the hope of pulling a major surprise on Nov. 8.

Hey, he’s a politician, right?

Protecting the Texas coast? What a novel concept!


Well, ruffle my hair and call me Frankie!

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush has made a commitment to a portion of the state that has been, well, seemingly kind of put on the back burner for too long.

Bush has pledged to make coastal protection a top priority of his during the 2017 Texas Legislature.

The last land commissioner to make such a pledge — and then follow through with it — was a Democrat. You might remember him. His name is Garry Mauro who, in 1998, had the misfortune of running for Texas governor against an incumbent named George W. Bush. Gov. Bush mauled Mauro by more than 30 percentage points while cruising to re-election.

It was a shame that Mauro didn’t do better against George P.’s Uncle W. He had held statewide office for well more than a decade and had done a creditable job as land commissioner.

I got to know him while working along that coast, in Beaumont. I was editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise and witnessed a lot of Mauro’s commitment to protecting the coast.

He started coastal cleanup operations; he sought to protect wetlands from further erosion. He was a coastal region champion.

That emphasis went by the wayside at the General Land Office during the administrations of David Dewhurst and Jerry Patterson.

Now we have another Republican, a first-time officeholder at that, committing publicly to protecting the coastline.

Bush already has taken steps to make good on his pledge, according to the Texas Tribune. As the Trib reports: “The office has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a long-term plan to address problems in the Houston Ship Channel and the Corpus Christi area in order to ‘ensure that Texans receive fair treatment following tropical storms and hurricanes.”‘

My wife and I moved from the coast to the High Plains of Texas more than two decades ago, but my own interest in coastal matters has remained high … even though I haven’t written much about them on this blog.

I am heartened to hear the land commissioner make a public commitment to strengthening the coast, which faces hazards every year during our hurricane season.

The coast ought to matter to the entire state.

I’ll offer George P. Bush one suggestion: Get on the phone and call Garry Mauro and ask him for some advice on how to proceed with ensuring greater coastal protection.

Hey, you can do it private, P. No one has to know.

Can HRC carry Texas in '16? Not a chance

I’m enjoying reading the stories about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s many friends in Texas organizing her presidential campaign, some of whom are deluding themselves into thinking she actually has a chance of winning the state’s 38 electoral votes in November 2016.

Do not hold your breath.

The Texas Tribune article attached here looks back when she and her boyfriend, William J. Clinton, worked diligently to register Democratic voters who, they hoped, would make the 1972 party nominee, George McGovern, president of the United States.


One of their better friends was a young man named Garry Mauro, who went on to serve as Texas land commissioner from 1983 until 1999. Mauro said he knew McGovern was going to lose Texas in 1972. I’m guessing the young couple — Clinton and Hillary Rodham — knew as well.

I figure these days, Hillary Clinton’s best hope is to make Texas competitive. Even that’s a long shot.

The last Democrat to win the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976. It’s been downhill for Democrats ever since. Two years later, Texans would elect the first Republican governor since Reconstruction — and that’s when the tide began to turn from solid Democrat to even more solid Republican.

I figure, though, if Clinton — who I will presume will be the Democratic nominee — can make any inroads with her party’s natural constituency, African-Americans and Hispanics, then the Republican nominee will have to spend more time and money on Texas than he otherwise would spend.

Democrats keep talking about their hopes for turning the state into a political battleground.

So far, though, it’s just talk.


More than a filibuster, Sen. Davis?

One filibuster does not a governor make.

Pay attention, Wendy Davis. You’re trying to ride a single political event into the most visible — if not the most powerful — office in Texas.

It likely won’t work.


Davis, the state senator from Fort Worth, is running for governor as a the Democratic Party nominee. The latest polling on the race shows her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, with a 12-point lead. That’s a good bit of ground to make up for Davis, who burst onto the national scene by filibustering an anti-abortion bill nearly to death in 2013. It came back to life in a special legislative session and became law shortly thereafter.

Davis’s filibuster, which occurred a year ago this week, made her a celebrity with the reproductive-rights activists.

She should be able to mount a stout challenge to Abbott. However, as the summer progresses and the autumn campaign season approaches, it’s beginning to look as though Davis hasn’t yet found her voice.

My sincerest hope is that Texas can become a place where Republicans and Democrats can battle each other on a level playing field. It hasn’t been that way in Texas for more than two decades. Ann Richards was the most recent Democrat to become governor, and that was in 1990. John Sharp was re-elected comptroller in 1994 and he was the most recent Democrat to be elected to any statewide office.

It’s been Republican-only ever since.

The preferred outcome is for both parties to be strong so they can keep the other party bosses honest, keep them alert and keep the crazies from infiltrating them. The Texas Republican Party has been hijacked by its very own tea party wing. Formerly mainstream Republicans — such as Abbott — now are tacking far to the right, apparently in keeping with the prevailing mood of Texas voters.

Democrats? They’ve been languishing in the political wilderness.

Many Democrats saw a superstar in the making when Davis burst onto the scene. Her campaign has been floundered. Her campaign manager quit, so she’s starting from scratch.

Yes, Davis has banked a lot of campaign money. Her task will be to spend it wisely and effectively.

Relying on the feelings of those who thought her filibuster against the abortion restrictions was an act of heroism isn’t going to get the job done.

“Anybody that thinks that this campaign is over, or somehow she’s irrelevant, isn’t thinking,” said Garry Mauro, a former Texas Democratic land commissioner. Then he added, “Nobody with $20 million is irrelevant.”

Money talks. What’s it going to say about Wendy Davis?