New Braunfels Herald Zeitung, August 22, 2001, Page 6

New Braunfels Herald Zeitung

August 22, 2001

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Issue date: Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Pages available: 43

Previous edition: Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Next edition: Thursday, August 23, 2001

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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - August 22, 2001, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A — Herald-Zeitung — Wednesday, August 22, 2001Forum Contact Managing Editor Margaret Edmonson at 625-9144 ext. 220. Nkw Braunfels Herald-Zeitung New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Doug Toney, Editor and Publisher Margaret Edmonson, Managing Editor Brian Grant, News Editor www.herald-zeitung.com (830) 625-9144 Editorial-- Water fight goes to court The fight over Canyon Lake water now heads to court. The Friends of Canyon Lake filed a lawsuit Monday in a Travis County District Court over the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority’s new permit to take 90,000 acre feet of water out of Canyon Lake every year. This is a battle that was fought before the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, which denied the Canyon Lake group status in any talks regarding GBRA’s amendment application. TNRCC instead asked GBRA and the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited to negotiate an agreement, and that’s what they did. On Aug. 9, GBRA got its permit amendment, which means more surface water can be diverted to western Comal County, Kendall County and, yes, Bexar County. Trinity Aquifer users are looking forward to tapping this water because the aquifer is unstable, and some neighborhoods are having to truck in water because their wells cannot keep up with the demand. The Canyon Lake residents and businesses also have their own water concerns, chief among them is how lower lake levels will affect tourism, recreation and business at the lake. The Canyon Lake group says it has no problem with providing water to western Comal County and the people who truly need it; they just want to make sure that Canyon Lake is protected. GBRA general manager Bill West said he was not surprised the Friends of Canyon Lake filed suit. He should not have been. The Friends of Canyon Lake were ignored once before by TNRCC; they had no reason to expect TNRCC would listen to any more pleas. Water is the next Texas gold, and Comal County is finding out how valuable that gold will be in terms of attorneys and court costs. Today in History- By The Associated Press Today is Wednesday, Aug. 22, the 234th day of 2001. There are 131 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Aug. 22, 1851, the schooner America outraced the Aurora off the English coast to win a trophy that became known as the America’s Cup. In 1485, England’s King Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Don’t mess with Veterans’ Day There never seems to be a lack of well-intentioned, but ill-conceived ideas. A case in point is the National Commission on Federal Election Reform proposal to combine Election Day with Veterans’ Day during even-numbered years. The intent is to make voting more accessible by observing Veterans’ Day on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, which is when Election Day is held. By combining Election Day with a national holiday, so ^he theory goes, voters would have more free time to access their precinct polling places, hence more would vote. While I’m all for encouraging more citizens to vote, I can’t imagine changing the date for honoring those who served in our nation’s wars, which has long been November ll. These fine men and women sacrificed so much on our behalf, and often suffered extreme hardship, injury and death. Is it too much to ask for a day dedicated solely to their memory? I admit I’m biased toward veterans. I happen to be one, my dad was one, and so were my grandfathers and their fathers. I also believe the right to vote is sacred. However, I’m convinced voters — at least those in Texas — Letters Policy The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung encourages letters on any public issue. David Dewhurst have ample opportunities to cast their ballots and don’t need a national holiday to make their voices heard. In Texas, early voting is available from the 17th day before Election Day, to the fourth day beforehand. During this period of about two weeks, registered voters can cast their ballots at any early voting site in their counties, in contrast to Election Day, when they must vote in their precinct polling places. Some communities even have mobile early voting at places like senior activity centers, shopping malls and grocery stores. It’s also possible to vote early by mail in Texas, provided you are either 65 or older, disabled, or will be out of your county on both Election Day and the early voting period. For details on early voting by mail, please contact the early voting clerk in your county, or visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Web site at www.sos.state.tx.us. Surprisingly, only a dozen states offered early voting for their citizens Letters to the Editor do the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung P.O. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78131-1328 Lamar Smith prior to last year’s Election Day. As Texans have clearly shown, many would rather have a couple of weeks to vote at their convenience, during normal hours, at any early voting site in their counties, than to stand in a long line at their precinct polling places on Election Day. Before we break a time-honored tradition by moving Veterans’ Day to Election Day, all states should first implement early voting. If that isn’t convenient enough, I doubt lumping Election Day with Veterans’ Day will make any difference either. On behalf of our men and women in uniform, both past and present, please make your feelings known to Congress. Tell them we want Veterans’ Day to remain Veterans’ Day, and Election Day to remain Election Day. Our veterans and elections are both vital and merit their own distinctive special days, which is how it’s been for many decades. Let’s show our gratitude to America’s veterans by continuing to honor them every Nov. ll. It may not seem important to some folks, but it means a lot to those who served in our wars, and to those who honor them. (David Dewhurst is Texas Land Commissioner and chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board.) Equality of opportunity Recently I witnessed a heart-warming scene. On a sunny day in San Antonio, I saw two mothers each pushing their young child in a baby stroller. They walked side by side, chatting happily, oblivious to the world around them. As I smiled inwardly and outwardly, an unpleasant thought intruded. One mother and child was brown, the other mother and chilli was white. The unsettling thought was that each child might not be treated equally, though they appeared to be similarly situated. I thought how innocent those children were about the controversy over affirmative action. I guessed that when the children grew up both would be offended that special treatment for one was needed or justified. Maybe I’m idealistic, but I believe that people deserve equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Noted Black-American scholar Thomas Sowell has pointed out three weaknesses in affirmative action. First, it runs the risk of promoting inadequately trained minority members over adequately trained nonminorities. Second, the minority student or contractor or police officer runs the risk of being scorned by peers for having gained their position because of color rather than merit. And third, affirmative action casts a shadow over the entire group being favored and is therefore ultimately unfair to the minority who is qualified. How do we eliminate the discrimination that still exists? How do we make sure that every child has adequate opportunities? When it comes to government policy, common sense should be the guide. And the answer lies in narrowly focusing on the problem and helping only those who have not been given equal opportunities. I don’t think that these two mothers or, in years to come, their two adult children, would want it any other way. (Lamar Smith represents District 21 in the U.S. House of Representatives.)Texas’ justice system not fair to minorities, poor AUSTIN — OK, let’s try this again, Texans. We now have one of the highest execution rates in the entire world. Here are the numbers according to Amnesty International and some math: In 2000, four countries around the world accounted for 88 percent of all the executions — the United States, Iran, China and Saudi Arabia. Nobody else is even in the game, though there is no reliable information from Iraq. In 2000, Texas alone, one state out of 50, was responsible for 47 percent of the executions in America. Here are the best estimates for numbers per capita (using the highest guess, not from Amnesty, of 1,700 executions in China — the number that sent the human-rights people into a frenzy over the Beijing Olympics): Iran executes one for every 874,000 people, China executes one for every 742,000 people, Texas executes one for every 521,000, and the Saudis one for every 170,000. So we’re not rock bottom, we’re doing better than the Saudis — a role normally Molly Ivins played for us by Mississippi. Let’s not try for the Olympics anytime soon. I saw a great pro-death-penalty cartoon the other day in “Thaddeus and Weez” (a Texas cartoon strip): two little angels with halos are flying together, and one asks the other, “Were you killed by a teen-age murderer or an insane murderer or a retarded murderer or a just plain murderer?” Then they fly off holding hands. The message is obvious: It doesn’t make any difference to the victim why it happened, dead is dead. But the law makes all kinds of distinctions in all kinds of crime. Michael Sharlot, former dean of the UT Law School, who is “agnostic on the death penal ty,” points out that the difference between misdemeanor theft and felony theft is one penny. You don’t hear prosecutors going around saying, “Well, this guy didn’t steal $100, but he did steal $99, so let’s go for a felony conviction.” Napoleon Beazley wasn’t 18 when he committed a terrible crime, he was 17. The law says you can drink legally when you are 21 years old, but not when you are 20 years, ll months and 29 days old. In a lot of states, the law says you can be executed for murder if your IQ is 70, but not if it’s 69. A pregnant woman can get an abortion in the first trimester for almost any reason, but by the third trimester she must show a serious threat to her life or health. If you look at law, it’s one long process of drawing distinctions. Until 1898 in Texas,’you could • not be convicted of statutory rape if the “woman" was older than nine. Such decisions are not handed down from on high to Moses, they’re handed up from the bowels of the Texas Legislature — which should only be seen by consenting adults. In addition, Beazley is black and he killed a prominent white man. If you’ve lived in this state long enough to consider yourself a Texan, you know a white man who kills a black man is unlikely to get the death penalty. Highly unlikely. It has happened exactly three times. It’s not only the race of the murderer and the race of the victim that skew the system — we give radically different sentences in Texas from one jurisdiction to another. As a rule, you’ll be punished much more harshly in a small city or rural area — especially if the local prosecutor is looking to make his bones before the next election — than you would be in a big city, where there’s so much crime they plead a lot of cases out to avoid the expense of a trial. None of this makes Napoleon Beazley innocent, but it does make the system unfair. Of all the things that throw our “justice system” out of whack, the biggest is poverty. Straight out, the thing that’s most likely to get you the death penalty in this state is being poor. That’s when they give you the lawyer who sleeps through the trial, is under the influence during the trial; the lawyer who is overworked, overwhelmed, underpaid arid inexperienced; the incompetent lawyer; the lawyer who doesn’t investigate your case or find your witnesses; the lawyer who doesn’t present your DNA evidence; the lawyer who doesn’t file your appeal in time; and so on through the long, horrifying fist of everything that goes wrong. Murderers who don’t get the death penalty aren’t less guilty, they have better lawyers. If you think the death penalty in this state is crock, try the rest of it. The death penalty is the tip of the iceberg. We’ve got kids with first-offense felonies as minors and no one hurt doing 50 years, and Murder Two perps doing IO. Our whole system is bollixed up throughout by race, poverty and unequal sentencing. (Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.) ;

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