Dallas Morning News. Feb. 18, 2021.

Editorial: ‘Only the strong survive?’ That isn’t the society we want. Former Colorado City Mayor Tim Boyd has government all wrong

If there’s one thing people freezing inside their own homes didn’t need, it was an elected official hopping on social media, preaching about only the strong surviving, and lecturing us on government overreach.

We aren’t surprised at the backlash former Colorado City Mayor Tim Boyd is getting from the same social media universe where he felt compelled to use a genuine crisis of public health and welfare to crow about excessive reliance on government. Social media is a mob ever in search of a target, and Boyd’s lack of empathy made him an easy one.

The mob will soon move on. But there’s something here that’s worth digging into beyond the unraveling of a minor political career.

There’s an entrenched cliché in our politics about rugged individualism versus the nanny state that distorts how government should function for us.

There are areas where government is not only necessary but crucial. Ensuring public welfare, safety and order during a crisis is right there at the top.

The good news is that Boyd is an outlier. All around us we see government officials — not to mention nonprofits with armies of volunteers and just plain old neighbors — who are doing everything they can to help people in need endure the worst of the weather.

Dallas council member Paula Blackmon was among those this week. She gathered up dozens of care packs that normally would be distributed to the homeless and personally took them to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, where hundreds of people were trying to escape dangerously cold temperatures. She made sure people who were cold got warm and those who were hungry got fed. One young woman showed up outside the convention center in flip-flops, waiting in subfreezing temperatures to get inside. Blackmon went inside and got her a pair of socks. She didn’t make any social media pronouncements about it. She just did it.

We saw the same from McKinney Mayor George Fuller, out delivering supplies to households without power, going door to door to help ease a hard time for the people he serves.

That’s as it should be. We live in community together. When our neighbors’ power is out, we open our doors and invite them in. Or we keep our thermostats low to conserve the power we have so that others might have some at all. It’s about being a community. We look out for each other.

None of us wants to live in a world where only the strong survive. We want to live in a world where the strong help those who aren’t as strong, who aren’t as fortunate, and who need us. Tomorrow, who knows, we might need them.

In a crisis we need everyone — government, church, nonprofit and neighbor — to help see us all through.

It’s never perfect, and things have been far from perfect this week. But if we look closely, we can see we aren’t alone, and we wouldn’t want to be.

___

San Antonio Express-News. Feb. 19, 2021.

Editorial: Texas leaders lack humanity, so people suffer

The storm, so beautiful at first, morphed into a sprawling humanitarian crisis. While the arctic blast that froze Texas was unstoppable, it was forecast, and with the right investments and policies, the pain and suffering could have been mitigated. This was a crisis unleashed by the unharnessed power of nature, then magnified by the consequences of past policy decisions and poor leadership.

The winter storm that blanketed the state with ice and snow left 4 million Texans without electricity, hundreds of thousands without water and dozens of people dead. But words can’t capture the stress and suffering Texans endured.

The Book of Proverbs says “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

The great tragedy isn’t when the haughty and prideful fall from their own missteps but when the innocent is buried in the destruction or actions and words express indifference.

There are few people as haughty as Texas politicians, puffed with “Texas Pride,” boasting about the superiority of our beloved state in all things that don’t include providing adequate health insurance, education and social services.

A power grid disconnected from the rest of the nation and from federal regulations is an extension of that haughtiness. It’s a reflection of the belief that a reservoir of do-it-alone independence flows as naturally through Texas as does oil and natural gas. Except when it doesn’t.

The power grid collapsed because the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages it, didn’t believe winterizing the system was worth the price of investment.

ERCOT officials have said the system was seconds or minutes away from catastrophic failure before blackouts were implemented, which would have made it weeks before Texans had power.

Much worse, we understand, but to have people living in darkness and cold with diminishing supplies of food and water is also a catastrophe.

Independent of the winter storm, in any night in San Antonio and throughout Texas, there is great want among people for whom every day is a “winter storm,” leaving them without appropriate sustenance and shelter.

Like COVID-19, this storm magnified existing inequities while proving that wealth and living in high-end neighborhoods doesn’t inoculate anyone from the pain. As Texans, we are in this together, even if some of our leaders don’t behave that way.

There will be time to better understand the failures at ERCOT and the decisions made locally at CPS Energy and SAWS. But the immediate failure in state leadership is a punch to the gut.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s instinct during his first national interview about the power outages was to score political points about the Green New Deal. He was intellectually ineffectual.

Sen. Ted Cruz decided this was a good week to skedaddle to Cancún, throwing his daughters under the bus — or on the plane — by saying they wanted to go.

And former Gov. and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, in the most stereotypical hubristic statement of a Texas politician, blubbered, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”

We don’t know what Perry’s living conditions were like this past week, but among his fellow Texans are people, including children and the elderly, who lived in frigid darkness; whose homes were flooded from burst pipes; who have lived in cars or emergency shelters; rationed oxygen and baby formula; stood in lines in subfreezing weather to get into a store; had no water and little food; who hugged their children tighter and longer, not just because they love them, but so they can keep them warm.

Texans deserve so much better. And better is out there. You can find it in the Texans who are responding to this humanitarian crisis with humane responses, and who are ferrying food and water to strangers, making calls for them and picking up their medications.

It’s not only Texans. People across the country are opening their hearts and resources to the Lone Star State. They understand that while Texas and the rest of the nation aren’t connected through power grids, all are connected through our humanity.

___

Amarillo Globe-News. Feb. 19, 2021.

Editorial: Cultural foundation a great vision for Panhandle

The recently announced Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle is a thoughtful and insightful initiative that will help shine light and spark interest in a region that is rich in history and heritage.

The foundation, announced recently, will unify the shared interests of the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, producer of the “Texas” outdoor musical, and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum through the creation of this entity, an advisory group comprising a board made up of individuals from across Texas, according to our recent story.

Preserving and promoting the culture of the Texas Panhandle are the primary objectives. The boards of the group that oversee the museum and the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation each unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding last month, creating foundation.

“I think the Panhandle is an amazing place to be for so many reasons,” WTAMU President Walter Wendler said in our story. “I think to the extent that we can, in a sense, publicize or make known these various very positive attributes of the Panhandle like the museum and like the (outdoor musical) ‘Texas’ production, we benefit, everybody benefits from that.”

Overtures to create the advisory group gained momentum recently when both the Panhandle Heritage Foundation and the museum were in leadership transitions and seeking new executive directors. The idea that the two entities share an executive director and at the same time create the new cultural foundation was an opportunity to share resources and also to build greater visibility across the state and beyond, which can translate to greater fundraising opportunities for both as well.

“I think we could be a model, here in the Panhandle, for other parts of the state,” Wendler said. “My hope is that this would have an impact beyond the Panhandle, but what we are trying to do is make a statement that says we are proud of where we are from. We are Texans. We are proud of this part of Texas and here is why.”

There are few more visible distinctly Panhandle treasures than the musical and the museum. “Texas” has become must-see entertainment for people making the trek to the amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon State Park and take in the stunning production while the Panhandle-Plains Museum has more than 3 million artifacts, the largest collection in the state, and tells an equally compelling story in a different way.

“When I think of it, the Texas Panhandle is kind of the real Texas,” Joel Hogue, president of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society and a member of the cultural foundation board, said in our story. “When we think about the Old West, that’s what this region really is. Whatever we can do to help make sure that history is preserved, that that culture is made known to, not only the Panhandle region but a wider audience.”

There are more reasons to be proud of the Texas Panhandle than we can possibly list here, but we know the “Texas” musical and the museum are two which bring people and interest to the region. We support this vision and look forward to its efforts in the days ahead, which are certain to regularly demonstrate the unique charms of the Texas Panhandle – and the people who have called and continue to call it home.

END