Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

What about small towns?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A headline in the Texas Tribune speaks loudly about some mayors’ response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to pull back his mask-wearing mandate.

It said: Texas’ largest cities will keep requiring masks in municipal buildings even after statewide mandate ends

I have no problem with what those mayors are doing, saying and how they are reacting to what I believe is a premature decision by Gov. Abbott.

My question is this: What are small-town and smaller-city mayors doing? Are they going to have the same reaction?

I live in a small town. Princeton, Texas, is home to about 13,000 residents, give or take a few hundred. We are perched along U.S. Highway 380 between McKinney to the west (population 200,000) and Farmersville to the east (population 5,000). I am acquainted with the mayors of Princeton and Farmersville. My strongest hope is that they, too, will invoke mask mandates in municipally owned buildings.

The Texas Tribune reports: Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso’s leaders announced Wednesday and Thursday that masks will be required to enter city-owned indoor spaces like libraries, police and fire department headquarters, convention centers and transportation hubs.

“I am going to issue an order mandating masks at all city-owned buildings. We have to do what we are legally allowed to do to get people to wear masks,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said on Twitter Thursday morning. “We also still need to practice social distancing. And we still need to avoid taking unnecessary risks. The pandemic is not over.”

Texas’ largest cities will require masks in municipal buildings | The Texas Tribune

No. It is not over. It is not yet close to being over. I will acknowledge, though, that the arrival of a third vaccine — from Johnson & Johnson — means that the end of this horror might be approaching.

Given that our smaller communities don’t get the kind of media attention that the big cities get, I want there to be a significant push by those city halls to get the word out immediately to their constituents. They need to let them know through any means necessary.

Of course, this strategy should apply to small cities and towns all across our vast state. Gov. Abbott can declare, I suppose, that state-owned buildings need not carry “Mask Required” signs. A state governed by politicians who adhere to the “local control is best” mantra should have no trouble allowing city halls to set their own rules regarding the best way to battle the COVID virus.

Let us not forget that President Biden has ordered masks and social distancing in all federal buildings at least for the first 100 days of his administration. My gut tells me he likely will extend that mandate well beyond that artificial deadline.

I will await word from my mayor, Brianna Chacon, on what she intends to do. I hope she stays the mask-wearing course.

ERCOT hardly ‘reliable’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is angry.

He can join millions of other Texans who share his dismay, his disgust with a major supplier of electrical energy to the vast state he governs.

We are going through massive, widespread power outages while the state battles an unprecedented winter freeze. We are going through it in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Millions of us lost power for days. It’s back on at our house in Princeton, but to be brutally honest, I continue to fear it could go sideways in an instant.

Abbott and several state legislators want to launch a thorough investigation into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; I emphasize the term “Reliability” because ERCOT has been anything but a “reliable” provider of electrical energy.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said in a statement. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”

ERCOT is a non-profit organization that manages the electrical grid that covers about 90 percent of Texas. Hmm. Let’s see, Texas comprises about 269,000 square miles, which means ERCOT manages electricity for about 242,000 of that vast real estate.

It hasn’t done too well as the provider of electricity for a state facing the crises it encountered when the Arctic blast blew in from points way up yonder.

The Tribune reports further: The governor’s latest announcement came hours after Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, asked two committees in the lower chamber to hold a joint hearing later this month to review the outages. Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, requested the House State Affairs and Energy Resources committees convene for the hearing on Feb. 25.

“We must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders about the factors that contributed to generation staying down at a time when families needed it most, what our state can do to correct these issues and what steps regulators and grid operators are taking to safeguard our electric grid,” Phelan said in a news release.

Texas power outage prompts calls for investigation into ERCOT | The Texas Tribune

I’m just a consumer, a taxpayer, a longtime Texas resident who has come to rely on “reliable” energy to heat my home and to protect my family. ERCOT has failed us.

Listen up: Texas cannot secede!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Is it OK to presume that every state legislative body has a wacky caucus in its ranks? If so, then Texas isn’t alone in the legislative wackiness that presents itself from time to time.

Consider this from a Republican state representative, Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg, who has pitched a resolution calling for a statewide election to determine whether Texas can secede from the Union.

Yes, the secessionists have returned! Oh, my. When does the madness stop? Don’t answer that. I know that it will never stop. It will never end.

The Texas Tribune reports what many of us know already, that the state cannot secede legally. The Civil War took care of that, right?

Texas seceded once already, joining the Confederacy in trying to break apart the United States of America. It went to war against the government, against fellow Americans. The issue? Slavery. The Civil War ended correctly, with the Union prevailing.

The Tribune wrote this about Biedermann’s idea:

“It is now time that the People of Texas are allowed the right to decide their own future,” he said in a statement announcing the legislation.

The bill d oesn’t appear to have much of a chance. And even if it did, experts say, Texas can’t just secede.

“The legality of seceding is problematic,” Eric McDaniel, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Texas Tribune in 2016. “The Civil War played a very big role in establishing the power of the federal government and cementing that the federal government has the final say in these issues.”

Texas can’t secede from the U.S. Here’s why. | The Texas Tribune

Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836. We joined the Union in 1845, adopting a resolution that contained language that said the state could partition itself into four parts if it wanted. Indeed, a former Texas Panhandle legislator, David Swinford of Dumas, once pitched the notion as recently as 1991. I asked Rep. Swinford whether he meant it as a serious proposal … and he did not say he was joking. 

Secession, though, is a non-starter. The Tribune cites a bit of wisdom offered by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “The answer is clear,” Scalia wrote. “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘one Nation, indivisible.’)”

Good luck, Speaker Phelan

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.

Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.

One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”

Dade Phelan elected speaker of the Texas House | The Texas Tribune

What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.

I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly  legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.

“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”

Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.

I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”

Texas AG sues city and county for toughening rules? Weird!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Surely I am not the only Texas resident who finds this legal squabble disturbing.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued Austin and Travis County for — and this is pretty strange — invoking get-tough rules designed to protect residents from getting a killer virus.

Paxton says Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown lack the authority to go beyond the order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott.

But … wait! Adler and Brown are concerned about the pandemic outbreak that is occurring in their community, so they are taking measures to fight it. Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what local officials are charged to do?

According to the Texas Tribune:

Paxton filed a petition for temporary injunction and a temporary restraining order in Travis County District Court targeting orders made by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown. Citing an increase in COVID-19 cases, they announced that dine-in food and beverage service must be restricted indoors and outdoors from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting Thursday and ending at 6 a.m. Sunday. The measure did allow drive-thru, curbside pick-up, take out, or delivery services.

“Mayor Adler and Judge Brown do not have the authority to flout Gov. [Greg] Abbott’s executive orders by shutting down businesses in Travis County and our state’s capital city,” said Paxton in a statement. “The fact that these two local leaders released their orders at night and on the eve of a major holiday shows how much contempt they have for Texans and local businesses.”

Huh? Eh? What the … ?

Is this another one of those Republican vs. Democrat disputes where one side places greater emphasis on safety measures than the other side? If that is the case, then we are in a hell of a pickle as we try to fight this damn disease.

FBI now probing Texas AG? Wow!

(Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The hits just keep coming.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who’s been indicted and is awaiting trail on charges of securities fraud, is now under investigation by the FBI for allegedly doing favors for a political donor.

Good grief! The AG should resign! His credibility is in tatters. Several of his top legal eagles filed a whistleblower complaint against him, urging the feds to examine what they contend are a series of transgressions, which happen to include bribery.

Now we hear from The Associated Press that the FBI is taking a hard look at what Paxton allegedly did.

As the Texas Tribune has reported: Two unnamed sources told the AP that the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton’s campaign in 2018.

Oh, man! Don’t we deserve to have a chief state law enforcement officer who is clear of any sort of question or suspicion of wrongdoing? I happen to believe we do deserve better than we’re getting from this Republican attorney general.

I stand by my call for Ken Paxton to resign. I don’t much care about his future. I do care about the questions that have sullied the high office he occupies.

Lt. Gov. Patrick offers election fraud ‘bounty’ … weird!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick needs to pipe down and concentrate on running the Texas Senate, which is set to convene its regular legislative session in January.

The Houston blowhard is offering a $1 million reward — or “bounty,” if you’ll excuse the comparison — to “incentivize” the search for any evidence of voter fraud in the presidential election.

Let’s be clear. There is no evidence, none, zero of widespread election fraud. Every state and every county in the nation worked diligently to protect the integrity of the electoral system, which chose Joe Biden as president of the United States in a free and fair election.

Patrick, though, is among a horde of Texas Republican politicians who won’t accept the obvious: that Biden is the new president and that their guy, Donald Trump, got thumped at the polls.

According to the Texas Tribune: Patrick said that anyone who provides information that leads to a conviction will receive at least $25,000. The money will come from Patrick’s campaign fund, according to spokesperson Sherry Sylvester.

So, I guess Patrick believes that voter fraud occurred. Hey, here’s a thought: If he’s so sure of it, he ought to produce evidence himself. Has he done so? Oh, heavens no!

Instead, he’s looking for saps who can chase phony leads down blind alleys, keeping a bogus issue at the front of the public’s attention for as long as possible.

Get to work on your real job, Dan … and stay the hell out of the way of President-elect Joe Biden’s task of preparing for the toughest job on Earth.

Texas sets the pace

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s not often I get to brag about the politics of the state of my residence.

I will take that opportunity to boast about a key development that has unfolded in Texas, where I have called home since the spring of 1984, when I moved my family here to take a job with a newspaper on the Gulf Coast.

The Texas Tribune reports that 9.7 million Texans voted early for president, or about 58 percent of all registered voters. Why is that reason to boast? The vote total exceeds the entire number of ballots cast during the 2016 presidential election. The percentage of turnout looks to be on pace to soar significantly past 60 percent of all voters when Election Day comes and goes next Tuesday.

My wife and I were among the 9.7 million fellow Texans who voted early. We cast our ballots on Oct. 13, the first day of early voting in Texas.

That day was a big deal for my wife and me. We usually vote on Election Day. The coronavirus pandemic — coupled with pleas from most Democratic politicians — persuaded us to vote early. We did so in Princeton, near our home. We took all the precautions called for: masks, social distancing, washed hands, sanitizer … you name it, we did it.

We got our votes cast and logged into the Collin County electronic system.

What fills me with pride is that Texas answered the call in a manner that set the pace for other states across the nation. We voted early because we felt concern about whether our ballots would be counted would we have voted by mail.

I long have hoped for the day when Texas could become a competitive two-party state, when it could break the Republican vise grip on the political structure. I don’t know if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will win this state’s 38 electoral votes, but I feel confident in suggesting that they are going to be highly competitive on Election Day. Moreover, so will the myriad congressional and legislative races on the ballot as well.

My center-left political sensibility hopes the Biden-Harris ticket can win the state’s electoral votes and that Democrats can gain control of the Texas House of Representatives. If it happens that Biden-Harris carries the day at the top of the ballot, then it’s “game over” for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

To be sure, that would be enough to make me possibly shout my joy from the front porch of my home.

For now I will settle for the pride I feel that Texans have answered the call to vote early and possibly portending the kind of overall turnout that delivers Texas into a new political era.

Texas is voting early, but … wait

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here is some good news and some, oh, wait-and-see news.

The Texas Tribune reports that as of Monday, 46 percent of Texas registered voters had cast their ballots. Early voting ends on Friday. The good news is that the tally so far exceeds the total percentage of early votes cast in Texas during the 2016 presidential election.

Is this reason to rejoice, that Texas finally is going to finish far from the bottom of all states in voter turnout? I am not yet going to do that.

You see, what too often happens is that greater early vote totals do not necessarily translate into greater total vote turnout. It means only that more folks vote early. Period.

There well might be a change in this year’s vote total, given the enormous effort being expended chiefly by Democratic operatives to gin up the early vote. The message likely is being heard in Texas.

Harris County smashed early vote records. Same with Dallas and Travis counties. All of them are strong Democratic bastions. What’s more, even heavy GOP-leaning counties reported record number of voters casting their ballots early.

All of this is causing many folks to consider Texas to be a “battleground” or tossup state as the campaign staggers its way toward the finish line.

I am heartened by the early vote turnout. I am not yet willing to cheer until we get all the ballots counted at the end of this arduous Election Season.

Texas could determine this election

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I won’t predict this, given that my political predicting skills are quite suspect, but I want to offer a possible scenario to ponder as Texas prepares to commence early voting for the presidency.

If the state decides to grant its 38 electoral votes to Joe Biden when the ballots are counted, it will be “game over” for Donald Trump.

We keep hearing about astonishing early-voting turnouts in states where it has begun. The clarion call for early voting has come mostly from Democrats who encourage Americans to cast their ballots early to ensure they get counted. Five million-plus have done so, reportedly a huge increase over the early votes cast at this time in 2016.

Is Texas going to join the early-vote parade? I hope so.

Thus, it might be a harbinger of a major surprise for the Trumpkin Corps that believes — and they have some reason to hold onto that belief — that Texas will remain in the Republican column. The latest Texas Tribune poll puts Trump ahead by 5 percentage points; the Trump lead has been teetering a bit during the campaign, but that’s what it is at the moment, according to the Tribune.

Trump carried Texas by 9 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. A nice margin, to be sure, but far less than what Mitt Romney rolled up in 2012 against President Obama and even less than John McCain’s total in 2008 against Sen. Obama.

My point, I guess, is that Trump’s hold on Texans’ vote might not be as secure as he and the Trumpkins believe.

If Biden even cuts deeply into the Trump margin in 2016, then we still might be in store for a Biden blowout.

Please … don’t hold me to this. I’m just thinking out loud, man.