Sunday, December 9, 2007

What Is Texas To Do?

I agree with the opinion stated in Swimming in a Sea of Red’s blog titled “Primary Derby.” When considering the already low voter turnout in Texas, it is obvious something needs to be done to get more involved. That said, our state faces obstacles. Presidential candidates on either side probably do not feel the need to pander to our great state because they know we swing right. Anyone running for office knows they need to put their time and resources into swing states. And as long as our state sits idly by, things will not change. The only time we will have a chance to see candidates will be at the $2300 a plate fundraisers previously spoken of.

So what is Texas to do? First, we should recognize our obstacles and find ways to work around them. Even though candidates know we swing right, we should still encourage them to come and have rallies and town hall meetings. Being a native Texan and not use to the treatment New Hampshirites, Iowans or other swing staters receive from candidates, having Rudy Giuliani or John Edwards in my living room seems unreal. Presidential candidates need to know Texans have questions too. And we should expect them to answer them on a more personal level. This problem also relates to another common problem. Most youth today feel they are overlooked by candidates who seem to give more time to older generations. This could be because older generations have bigger questions and appear to be more researched in their opinions. Young Americans are often viewed as flighty and undereducated. In the end, the loudest voices are often most heard. Texans should unite and take a stand for their most personal beliefs. Democracy works best when all voices are heard.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Criminal Rehabilitation: Good or Bad?

Many in Texas have their opinion about how to handle those entangled in the criminal justice system. The typical conservative is for the death penalty and harsh prison sentences. Liberals are usually against the death penalty and push for inmate rehabilitation. Others are stuck in the middle. Whatever your view may be, all can agree something must be done. Currently Texas spends $2.8 billion on adult prisons a year, which is triple the amount spent in 1990.

While I may agree with the harsh prison sentences, I also see why people argue for rehabilitation. I do not believe people should be let off easy for crimes they commit. And prison itself should not be a cake walk. Upon exiting prison one should have it in their mind that that is one place they never want to go again. With that said, I think rehabilitation could help some. When most exit prison they have no money, no skills and no back up plan. Many may feel a life of crime may be the only way to attain an income. With odds stacked against them, they wind up back in jail. The state of Texas realizes this, and has subsequently expanded rehabilitation services by way of giving $217 million this year for these programs. Perhaps by providing rehabilitation services for present and former inmates, drug treatment programs and psychological counseling some will feel a sense hope and determination. Knowing they have skills under their belt, they may be more likely to try to join the working population. Many argue against rehabilitation, feeling that it is not our responsibility to take care of criminals. But I look at it from a different point of view. Giving a person job skills will give them the hope of a life without criminal activity and a brighter future. If crime goes down, our communities will be safer. And who can argue against a safer world for both ourselves and generations to come?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Roots or Politics? I say neither.

I agree with the opinion stated in atexansopinion’s blog titled “Roots or politics?” To often in today’s culture we form opinions on others based on outward appearances. In the political world I image this problem to cause the most damage on a more local level. In an everyday Texas small town there are those who have the right last name and right resources to quickly push themselves to the forefront. Others face the challenge of surpassing the more well known candidate at election time. Also, if they are not independently wealthy they are forced to fight for contributions. After all, most are likely to donate to someone who they believe will win. They must also hope that their political platform impresses those in the community more than that of their opponent. The odds may be stacked against them, but they can overcome if people better inform themselves and make decisions based on principles rather than name recognition.

I believe this way of thinking goes beyond voting a person into office. Research should be done on anything prior to voting. The clich├ęd expression “knowledge is power” applies here. Before a proposition comes up for vote one should educate themselves on both sides of the issue and then make a reasoned decision on how to cast their ballot. As Texans and Americans we should demand our lawmakers be held accountable for their actions. Ask questions. Get involved. Never take anyone’s word and do not trust someone to have your local or state government in best interest just because of who they are or who they know. With Texas’s already low voter turnout rate, making an informed decision can only help to insure that democracy is practiced with the highest regard.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why YOU Should Vote November 6th

Many will not vote November 6th. Some will not because they feel their votes do not count in the grand scheme of it all. Others may simply feel that there is no need to get to the polls because there is no presidential or gubernatorial position up for grabs. Whatever their reason - they are far from correct with this reasoning. While electing officials into office is certainly vital, there are other issues that can be addressed by the everyday Texan next week if they go to the poll. As both Americans and Texans we should become more involved and cast our ballot because this constitutional election deals mostly with our money. As Secretary of State (and also the state's Chief Elections Officer) Phil Wilson puts it, "If we want to protect democracy in this state, we must get more Texans involved in the elections process. Our right to vote is one of our most important rights as Americans and I hope that all Texans will join me in casting their ballot to let their voices be heard."

What is on the ballot you might ask? Well, let me fill you in. Some deal with education, such as Proposition 2 that promises to provide for the issuance of $500 million in general obligation bonds to finance educational loans. Others deal with equipment needed for the state; Proposition 4 will authorize the issuance of up to $1 billion in bonds. Proposition 6 gives a tax exemption of one motor vehicle for individuals. My personal favorite, Proposition 9, would authorize a tax exemption for a disabled veteran's residence. Proposition 12 wants to give up to $5 billion for highway improvement project funds and Proposition 16 would promise up to $250 million in assistance to economically distressed areas. Twelve of the sixteen propositions deal with money in one way or another. And this leads to the big question: Where will the money come from? From our taxes of course, so as citizens and tax payers we all should have a say as to where our money goes. So before you completely write off taking part in the election process this coming week, I ask that you become informed and cast your vote. The only way democracy can ever reach its full potential is for everyone to participate and not just a select few.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vicente Fox: Revolutionist or
Just Plain Ridiculous?

Recently in the Houston Chronicle former Mexican president Vicente Fox’s new book tour was discussed. (For the article, see link at bottom of page.) Written by Dane Schiller, the article touched on various interviews Fox has done during tour stops. So far it seems his main fight is for rights for Mexicans to become permanent American residents.

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion on immigration, I take issue with the way the article was written and the way Fox was presented. The first sentence stated, “Former Mexican President Vicente Fox doesn’t get many breaks these days.” The article went on to build sympathy for the former president, even giving a quote from a former Mexican citizen now living in America saying he is the “greatest.” The author feels that the news programs Fox has been on have not given him a break; alleging they hammered away to harshly at him concerning the immigration issue. What I cannot seem to understand is why the article caters to him but does not have any real data to back up why we should listen to and agree with Fox. Instead the writer attempts to sway the readers with emotion. The article also fails to mention how illegal immigration negatively affects America. Instead Americans are portrayed as xenophobes who are fearful of immigrants and view them as terrorists. The article gives examples of Fox naming the good qualities of Mexico; furthering the argument that he is a man who loves his country. The way I see it the big questions should of been: If one loves their country and wants to see it thrive, why would they encourage their people to go to another country to live and work? Why would they not instead want to build the economy, strengthen the school system and get rid of the corruption present in the government? These are some of the questions the author should have asked instead of making Fox sound like the revolutionist he believes he is.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Proposition could mean a more open government

Proposition 11, put forth by Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas) could mean a more open government for the state of Texas. If approved in the November election, Texans would add a piece to the current constitution that would require lawmakers' votes to be recorded and subsequently placed on the internet for public viewing. Both sides of the issue are passionate about their stance. Those for the proposition feel that this would serve the public better and ensure a more open government. Those against the proposition feel that it is unnecessary because the House and Senate already have an unspoken rule concerning recording votes. They also argue that mandated vote recording would increase partisanship and only weaken lawmakers’ ability to work together across party lines.

I agree with proposition 11. By voting 'yes' the public would be voting for a more accountable and open government. As citizens we decide who we place in the state legislature. If not for our votes, state senators and representatives would not be able to hold their respective offices. That said, they should have no problem owning up to the votes they cast. If I vote someone into office it is based on my own beliefs and therefore I expect them to carry out the platform promises on which they ran. The article stated that there are three different times votes are cast within the legislature. Proposition 11 only covers the final vote. I believe it is necessary to have full disclosure at all levels; hopefully someone will argue for this sometime soon. I completely disagree with the argument that record voting would increase partisanship and hinder lawmakers' ability to work together in a bipartisan form. As elected officials, they should be open and honest about their stances and still be able to maintain a civil and productive work environment. Excuses should not be made for grown adults. Government should be open and honest and so should the people we place in it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Law could send more juvenile offenders to adult prisons

The newly passed Senate Bill 103 was seen as an answer to the problems within the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) concerning the alleged conditions of widespread abuse. At issue most is the provision that will forbid TYC from housing the offenders past their 19th birthday. Some agree this bill will help solve some of the problems plaguing TYC about the handling of the offenders. The provision states that more youths could be certified to stand trial as adults if the crimes they committed were considered serious enough to require extensive rehabilitation. Some feel that this is the wrong way to handle the juvenile offenders and want to push for complete rehabilitation to take place at a TYC facility, and not an adult prison.

I think this article is worth reading because it affects our society and how we choose to deal with criminal acts and those who commit them. I believe that as a society we should make attempts to aid in the rehabilitation of criminals. That said, I also believe in the old adage of "do the crime, do the time." If a 15 or 16 year old commits murder I feel they should be held responsible for their misdeed and not receive a lighter sentence on the grounds of age. Both sides of the argument have points, but it is up to us to ensure that criminals are held liable for their actions.