Between March and June, 2015, making national news seemed to be a frequent occurrence for Texas as Austin, Garland, Waco, Overton, and McKinney experienced unprecedented media coverage. Meanwhile, as the Tea Party conservatives maintained control of the legislature, Texas also gained notoriety in many other areas.
The Texas Tea Party has a history of avoiding issues...Texas ranks first in the amount of executions, first in the amount of uninsured citizens, first in the amount of toxic chemicals released into water, and first in the amount of hazardous waste generated. On the other hand, they ranked last in mental health expenditures, last in the percent of students who reach graduation, and last in worker compensation coverage. In addition, they are in the bottom five for tax expenditures that directly benefit their citizens, the number of poor people covered by Medicaid, and the number of people included in employer-based healthcare. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, November 17, 2012)
The city of Austin recently had a training mission to teach staff members how they should work alongside a female majority on the council. The training included the following statement: "Women don't care about the math, they don't read the briefings, they'll drown you in questions." Austin's female council members, rightly shocked and outraged, blasted the briefing for being ignorant, archaic, and offensive. (DMN, 3/16/15, p 24A Hit and Misses Nitwits on parade) In the city's defense, its spokesman said those ideas from the visiting consultant were "timely and relevant". Really?
As the media continues to focus on mass shootings and the mounting number of gun deaths, Texas legislators continue to make it easier to carry guns everywhere--grocery stores, college campuses, and on city streets. On May 2, two gunmen opened fire at the Culwell Event Center in North Garland at the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest" featuring controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The shooting occurred as the event was concluding, Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said. The two gunmen were killed, but the incident thrust Texas into the national spotlight again. (CNN News, May 4, 2015)
Two weeks later, the horrific May 17 shooting in Waco between the police and two motorcycle gangs, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, left at least nine people dead and 18 hospitalized. Three weeks later, the Waco police, who had arrested 177 bikers following the deadly shootout, still had filed no charges in the killings. Nearly half the bikers remained in jail on unusually high bonds, and more than a few legal experts -- including former prosecutors -- are wondering what is going on in McLennan County? (Texas Tribune, June 10, 2015)
Following the deadly incident in Waco, the police in Overton, Texas continued the media frenzy but, this time by shutting down a lemonade stand run by two little girls, ages 7 and 8. Andria and Zoey Green were trying to raise $100 for a Father's Day present. They had been selling lemonade and kettle corn for an hour - and made about $25 - when officers showed up and told them they need a $150 permit to sell their lemonade.
"It is a lemonade stand, but they also have a permit that they are required to get," Overton Police Chief Clyde Carter said, "as well as to be approved by the Health Inspector."
The sisters, smart entrepreneurs even at an early age, decided to reopen the stand. Instead of selling their lemonade, they chose to give it away for free and accept donations. They made about $1,000. (ABC Eyewitness News, KTRK, June 11, 2015) I hope these youngsters stay in Texas and inspire our state politicians to adopt some commonsense approaches to problem solving.
In early June, Eric Casebolt resigned from his post as a corporal for the Police Department in McKinney, Texas days after a video went viral online showing him yanking a 14-year-old bikini-clad girl to the ground and kneeling on her back. Prior to the police intervention, white residents began to harass the swimmers. When one woman told the teens to "go back to Section 8 housing," a fight broke out. The black girl, who was assaulted by the policeman, was invited to the pool party by one of the residents at the complex.
While the media prefers to report on heinous vs heroics, thousands of officers perform good deeds without much recognition. Even though the good deeds don't often make the national news, it important to notice, remember, and praise the men and women who serve our communities. Below are just a few of their heroic deeds that were in print, but were hard to find, and didn't receive much national press...
In the freezing temperatures of January, Odessa Police Corporal Jeremy Walsh was seen kneeling next to the homeless man and giving him a pair of boots and a bottle of water. (Yahoo News, January 21, 2014)
In February, Plano Police Chief Rushin was on his way home from a speaking engagement when he saw three young ladies walking along the shoulder of State Highway 75. Their vehicle had run out of gas. He drove the women to a gas station so they could purchase gas, and then transported them safely back to their car. (CBS/DFW February 5, 2014)
On April 19, Mesquite police officers Ryan Nielson and Autumn Soto pulled a man from a burning car moments before it was engulfed in flames. (The Independent, June 18, 2015)
Just as citizens should respect the job done by most police officers, the Texas legislators need to respect the laws of our land, and welcome same sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act as part of Texas' future. Instead of taking the opportunity to reinforce and unite our country, Governor Abbott chose to divide us by stating Texas won't comply with these new Supreme Court rulings.
Texas needs to join the 21st century and envision a path forward that will enhance our image, both with the citizens and the media, rather than diminish and tarnish it.