Odessa American. August 30, 2020

Healing continues in Odessa

The one thing that many of us have heard during the last week or so is “I can’t believe it has been a year.”

An entire year since Odessa and Midland were rocked by the senseless tragedy caused by a deranged gunman.

Seven people were killed and 25 others injured after Seth Ator took to the streets of Odessa and parts of Midland shooting at random people before law enforcement shot him to death near Cinergy Theatre.

It is still stunning to know that this type of thing happens anywhere. But especially here. How anyone could set out to harm random people, including children, is almost beyond comprehension.

What good can ever come from an act of evil?

There were so many that day who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to help others. There were so many first responders and civilians who jumped into action to try and aid those who were injured.

During the last week we’ve heard story after story about the unnamed cop or fireman or good citizen who jumped into action when help was needed.

And help didn’t just come on Aug. 31, 2019, the day of the shootings. Help has come over and over through fundraisers and blood drives and memorials.

None of that can ever bring back a lost loved one or erase the trauma of an injury from that dark day. But it does show the love of a community for others and the desire to help others through a terrible ordeal.

Many events have been planned to commemorate the day and to honor those who were killed or injured. That includes a moment of silence on Monday. Organizers are asking Odessans to be still for 32 seconds at 3 p.m.

You can also still hang a yellow ribbon to show support.

We thank everyone who has taken the time to come up with a way to honor the victims. Everything from a quilting group making quilts to the yellow flags at Memorial Gardens Park to honor them – there are many, many ways that folks are being remembered.

Remembering is a very important part of healing.

We’re glad to see a memorial will take shape at the Memorial Gardens Park hopefully during the next year. It’s another way to remember and to honor those lost.

Public donations will help fund the memorial project. Find more information at odessaarts.org


Amarillo Globe-News. September 3, 2020

Texans still have time to do their part and respond to 2020 US Census

Time is running out, and neither the state nor the region is doing well with regard to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Without a doubt, the pandemic that begin disrupting life in March and continues doing so today has been a factor. Likewise, so have concerns about how census information might be used beyond its original intent of providing a detailed snapshot of the country’s population. It is also no secret the census has been politicized to some extent, adding to issues associated with it.

Now, though, the census is its final 30 days, and according to a story from the Texas Tribune earlier this week, the state’s self-response rate is just above 60%. Follow-up work has moved the needle to 79.5% as of this week, but Texas lags far behind other states and is below the national average. In fact, only 10 other states and Puerto Rico have lower response rates.

Locally, the self-response rate numbers for Potter County were at 55% while Randall County was at 66%, according to an update from the Potter County Commissioners court in early August. Lubbock County’s self-response rate was at 60 percent, according to our story earlier this week.

As we have written before, the census, federally mandated to take place every 10 years, is critical. Data from the census is used in determining funding for early childhood programs, highway planning, construction and numerous other important community-building initiatives.

Census numbers also determine the distribution of political power, including congressional representation and the boundaries of political districts. Early projections indicate Texas could gain as many as three additional seats in Congress.

In other words, a great deal of the state’s future for the next 10 years will be determined by how well the final month of census work goes, making a full and accurate count paramount for a state that has seen an estimated increase of almost 4 million new residents since the 2010 census.

The possible ramifications of a dramatic undercount finally got the attention of state officials, who have launched a $15 million campaign to raise awareness and education around the importance of the census. Unfortunately, this initiative may be coming too late in the game to have a significant impact.

The good news is it’s not too late. Thousands of census takers are working across the state, going door-to-door and collecting information while observing public health protocols. They typically make several attempts at households that have not responded and leave a note with details on how to self-respond.

For those who have not taken part in the census, they can self-respond online at 2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020 in English and 844-468-2020 in Spanish. The bureau also has a mobile questionnaire assistance program that takes place at locations across the state, including grocery stores, food banks and places of worship. During this time, census workers can help people fill out a census form and answer questions.

We continue to urge those who have not completed a census form to handle this civic responsibility, to ask questions as necessary about the process and to do their part to ensure the state’s count is as complete and accurate as possible, which will benefit every Texan.


Fort Worth Star-Telegram. September 4, 2020

Tarrant elected leaders make six figures but are in line for a raise? Are you kidding?

Did anyone tell our local elected officials we’re in a recession?

First, Fort Worth and Arlington school districts called elections for huge property tax increases. The city of Arlington decided to go ahead with a vote for a quarter-cent sales tax increase for economic development.

And now, Tarrant County commissioners will consider a 3% pay increase for county employees — including highly compensated elected officeholders such as themselves.

We can’t believe we even have to say this: When Texans are struggling to keep their jobs, taking pay cuts and pondering the grim unknowns of where the pandemic might take the family finances, their representatives at all levels of government should at least look like they’re trying to help.

Commissioners (who already make about $183,000 a year; the county judge gets $10,000 more) should remove themselves and other county elected officials from the increase when they meet Tuesday. And if they don’t, every constable ($119,000 a year), justice of the peace (more than $133,500) and commissioner should turn down the additional pay.