Dallas Morning News. Aug 1, 2020

We love Texas high school sports, but the UIL should be prepared to delay them further

Like many Americans, we had hoped that, with proper precautions, sports could resume as the pleasant distraction they have long been in our lives. Whether pro, college or high school, the games our athletes play are important to many of us. They bring us joy and (too often in Dallas lately) sadness. They give us something to share with one another that matters.

But with the worrisome restart of Major League Baseball, and the obvious problem that case counts and communal spread are nowhere near under control, it is time, especially for high school sports, to be prepared to continue to delay seasons.

The University Interscholastic League has postponed Class 6A and 5A football and volleyball for five weeks to Sept. 7 with other sports teams and lower classes remaining as scheduled for August. With these schedule changes came the league’s announcement of its “Risk Mitigation Guidelines,” which include the following: “Parents must ensure they do not send a student to participate in UIL activities if the student has COVID-19 symptoms (as listed in this document) or is lab-confirmed with COVID-19.”

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Houston Chronicle. July 31, 2020.

Time to make America care again

Early in the dispute over the wearing of face masks, supporters explained that the coverings weren’t so much about protecting the wearer as about shielding others.

Even if the masks were annoying and itchy, wasn’t that a small price to pay for protecting the vulnerable from the horrible effects of COVID-19?

The answer for many was a barefaced, spittle-flecked, “Not just no, but hell no.” They argued the rights of individuals trumped concerns of others and especially the government’s efforts to regulate private citizens.

Despite the eventual medical and scientific consensus that facial coverings are essential to containing the virus and even after 4 million Americans have been infected and 150,000 COVID-19 deaths recorded, opposition to masks has only hardened.

In a moment of great national peril, our politically polarized country seems incapable of summoning the empathy and self-sacrifice that Abraham Lincoln called in even more divisive times “the better angels of our nature.”

Our society’s current famine of compassion was brought into even sharper relief last week as we marked the anniversary of a moment when the nation’s leaders put aside their many differences and self-interests to help a smaller group forced to live as outsiders in their own country.

When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law on July 26, 1990, he committed the nation to what even now seems like an impossible goal: changing the design, structure and purposes of buildings, streets, transportation, communications, every facet of daily life, to accommodate those whose physical and mental differences had barred them from full participation in the American dream.

It was a shared sacrifice for those who were vulnerable.

Almost one out of every four Americans lives with a disability. That is about 60 million residents today. Before the ADA, many were unable to attend college, get a job, ride a bus or even enter some buildings because of design and structural problems.

The measure drew opposition all along the political spectrum, from business interests and universities concerned about costs to others alarmed at government overreach. In an editorial titled “Blank Check for the Disabled?” the New York Times complained that “the legislation is vague” and the “costs could be monumental.”

And yet, the ADA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 91-6 in the Senate and 377-28 in the House.

In his comprehensive “Enabling Acts: The Hidden Story of How the Americans With Disabilities Act Gave the Largest US Minority Its Rights,” University of Illinois at Chicago professor Lennard Davis explains how the political miracle came about in part because some of the key players — Democrats and Republicans — had personal experiences with what it meant to be disabled in a world designed by and for the non-disabled.

Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who suffered debilitating injuries to his arms and back during World War II, was the most obvious. Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy’s sister Rosemary was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and his son, Teddy, lost his leg to bone cancer. Bush often talked about his daughter who had died young of leukemia, a son with a learning disability and an uncle who had survived polio.

They were convinced that America needed to do better by those who faced special physical and mental challenges. It was a goal no less ambitious or noble than going to the moon. And they did it.

“I think when people think about disability they think, ‘Oh this is just a few people,’” Davis told the editorial board. “It’s kind of a ‘them’ situation. We’re all normal and then there ‘they’ are. But when you look at the numbers, the number of people with disabilities make up the largest minority in the United States.”

Davis, an internationally known specialist in disability studies, said the key is getting past the “us vs. them” mindset, something he had hoped would have happened during the pandemic. The new restrictions and impediments we face should make us more empathetic to those who live their lives wearing masks to protect their immune systems, or struggle to communicate through barriers or deal with the isolation of seating arrangements in restaurants and sports arenas. Many disabled people leave the house regularly with the uncertainty of what obstacles they will have to overcome.

It could be drawing us closer if we only realized we are all in this together — there is no us vs. them.

“A disability is not like a Martian coming down from outer space; it’s in your house, it’s in your family,” Davis said. “You want those people to have the same accommodations and abilities that you have because one day it could be you, but it is definitely your aunt, your uncle or your grandmother.”

Davis, who was invited to the White House for the 25th anniversary celebration of the ADA in 2015, says he has talked to a lot of lawmakers who don’t think the bill would pass Congress today.

“There is a partisan divide that I think has a lot to do with regulations,” he said. “It’s ‘don’t tell us what to do’ thinking.”

It’s the same view that will only deepen and prolong the damage of the coronavirus pandemic. In a nation of great individual rights, too many Americans have lost appreciation for the things we have gained through shared sacrifice and concern for others.

It is time to become what Bush called “a kinder, gentler nation.” It is time to make America care again.

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San Antonio Express News. Aug. 2, 2020.

Early voting extension the right call

Gov. Greg Abbott made the right call allowing voters more time to cast early ballots for the November general election.

The extension of the early voting period by six days will help minimize lines at the polls for an election that is expected to draw a record turnout.

In Bexar County, primary runoff elections generally garner a 2.6 percent to 5.3 percent voter turnout. A double-digit turnout in last month’s elections has Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen anticipating 60 to 65 percent of the county’s more than 1 million registered voters will show up at the polls for the November election. Presidential elections generally bring out about 50 percent of registered voters.

Preparing for the large voter turnout will take more time and effort this election cycle due to public health concerns, and the need for physical distancing and personal protection for poll workers and voters.

The better solution would have been to ease the restrictions on who can cast a mail ballot. Given the current political climate, this is unlikely to occur any time soon, which means those who can vote by mail need to take advantage of the opportunity to reduce the health risks for themselves and others.

Texas election law allows mail balloting only for those who have a disability, are 65 or older, or will be be out of the state during the election.

One-fifth of Bexar County’s registered voters are 65 or older. During the spring primaries, 23 percent of the voters 65 and older cast ballots. Most of these voters appeared in person at the polls.

If you are eligible to vote by mail, skip the line. Don’t put yourself or someone else at risk. Applications for mail ballots can be submitted now. The application is on the Bexar County Elections website.

If all 234,802 Bexar County voters who are 65 or older would cast mail ballots, it would significantly reduce the line at the polls during the early voting period and on Election Day.

Early voting for the general election starts Oct. 13 and ends Oct. 30.

If you can’t vote by mail, make sure to wear a mask, even though they are not required at the polls; treat other voters with kindness, even though they might be voting differently than you; and show appreciation to the poll workers, many of whom are older. They are taking great risk to keep democracy humming.

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