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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 13, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas Page 4A - Herald-Zeitung — Sunday, March 13, 2011 FORUM Other Opinion Let the sun shine all across Texas By the Dallas Morning News Then’ is a galaxy of mandates that state law places on local governments, based on common sense. ()ne is a section requiring open records and open government. T hat makes it a crime for city council or school board members to do the public’s business in back halls or over the phone. The prevailing rationale is shining the light of day, to the greatest degree |X)ssible, on decisions that have an impact on the public. That principle is not upheld, unfortunately, in several bills filed in Austin this year that would shift legal notices away from newspaper publishing and onto government websites. Local governments — counties, cities and school boards — are now required to take out legal notices for certain bids, purchases and meetings. It’s the established, reliable way to assure wide distribution to both citizens and to potential bidders that want a piece of business with local government. Substituting some or all of those legally required notices with self-published government notices weakens public access and opens the door to mischief. A local government’s notice to bidders involves big contracts paid out of the public till, and government shouldn’t be self-publishing for that business on their own websites. A third, independent party assures an arm's-length relationship with a verifiable, permanent record of the notice. (Xirrent publication requirements guarantee a broad spectrum of readership, well beyond internet users who may visit an agency's website. Notices in daily newspapers are typically published online as well, multiplying the number of potential readers. The number of visitors to a government website is dwarfed by total daily newspaper and online newspaper readership. In addition, the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and Texas Press Association maintain a website — www.texitslegalnotices.com — that benefits potential bidders. The site provides a searchable database of current foreclosure, meeting and business notices taken out in newspapers. Ixtcal governments are free to post those notices on their websites as well, for the sake of even wider distribution. Some do that now, and they should be commended for keeping information as accessible as possible. Scaling back that level of access is not in keeping with the same spirit. T he author of one bill (HB1668), Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, said she filed it in response to requests from local school administrators and teachers who are looking to trim operating costs and potentially save jobs. We respect the motivation, but the legislation could defeat that goal by crimping the number and quality of bids. T axpayers might not be pleased with that turn of events. Today’s public-notice laws have worked well to keep government dealings out in the open. Weakening that effort would be an experiment with too high a threat of backfire. Herald-Zeitung Vrvmf New Hmunfets and (Jamal ( aunty since I8S2. New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852, New Braunfels Herald was founded 18% The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958 Editor and Publisher Doug Toney Managing Editor Autumn Phillipe Circulation Director Jeff Fowler Business Manager Rosie Willingham PUBLIC-NOTICE BILLS ■ HB 507, authors Angie Chen Button, R-Garland, and Diane Patrick, R-Arlmgton — Would allow school districts, cities and counties to self-publish, on their internet sites, a portion of legally required public notices, as opposed to the current requirement of two newspaper notices ■ HB 1668, author Linda Harper-Brown, R-lrvmg — Would allow school districts to self-publish all public notices, on their internet sites, with no requirement of newspaper notices ■ HB 1082, author Hubert Vo, D-Houston — Would allow smaller school districts to self-publish, on their internet sites, all public notices if no newspaper is published in the district ■ HB 1833, author Mark M. Shelton, R-Fort Worth — Would drop the requirement of newspaper publication for certain notices of hearings and meetings by school board members Letters to the Editor Article about mother who survived baby tragedy was compassionate Thank you so much for your sensitive and informative article concerning the death of little Mya. Printing the article written by a mom who has survived a similar tragedy was both compassionate and enlightening. I hope that people in this community will put aside judgments and offer this grieving family the support they so desperately need. Nancy Nye New Braunfels Perry, Republican-controlled Legislature created this fiscal disaster Nearly 2,800 Guadalupe and Comal employees are about to lose their jobs. The Texas Education Agency projected in its Feb. 22 report that, because of cuts in state funding for education, Comal County and Guadalupe County will lose about $47 million for fiscal year 2012. These funding cuts will translate into the loss of nearly 1,150 school district employees based on the average Texas school employee salary. Even worse than that is the projected economic impact on the private sector where the Center for Public Policy Priorities reports an expected loss of 1,630 employees. While many believe that this is all due to a bad economy, a little research will show you that in reality our governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature have created this fiscal disaster. They’ve cut taxes on the rich and covered the budget shortfall by raiding dedicated funds like the gas tax, which is supposed to pay for roads and bridges but has instead been dropped into the general fund. Now that the dedicated fund is essentially broke Gov. Perry wants to toll every road in sight. To recap, our governor and his Republican colleagues in the state Legislature have given away the store and now they’re willing to force the counties to cut over 1,150 school teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers as well as let our roads and bridges crumble all in the name of lower taxes for a few rich friends. I wonder how many of those unemployed teachers will lose their homes to foreclosure. JC Dufresne Cibolo Today in History Today is Sunday, March 13, the 72nd day of 2011. There are 293 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History On March 13,1781, the seventh planet of the solar system, Uranus, was discovered by Sir William Herschel. On this date: In 1884, Congress officially adopted Eastern Standard Time for the District of Columbia. In 1901, the 23rd president of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, died in Indianapolis at age 67. In 1911, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard was born in Tilden, Neb. In 1925, the Tennessee General Assembly approved a bill prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution. (Gov. Austin Peay signed the measure on March 21.) In 1928, hundreds of people died when the San Francisquito Valley in California was inundated with water after the St. Francis Dam burst just before midnight the evening of March 12. In 1933, banks began to reopen after a “holiday” declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1964, bar manager Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, 28, was stabbed to death near her Queens, N.Y. home; the case generated controversy over the supposed failure of Genovese’s neighbors to respond to her cries for help. In 1969, the Apollo 9 astronauts splashed down, ending a mission that included the successful testing of the Lunar Module. In 1980, Ford Motor Chairman Henry Ford II announced he was stepping down, the same day a jury in Winamac, Ind., found Ford Motor Co. innocent of reckless homicide in the fiery deaths of three young women in a Ford Pinto. In 1996, a gunman burst into an elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and opened fire, killing 16 children and one teacher before killing himself. Ten years ago: France announced its first case of foot-and-mouth disease, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to suspend imports of livestock and fresh meat from the European Union. Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian national arrested with a carload of explosives just before New Year’s Eve 1999, went on trial in Los Angeles on charges of plotting to bomb Seattle and other U.S. cities during the millennium celebrations. (He was convicted of terrorism the following month.) A day like no other, a day that will not be forgotten This past T uesday, one of our colleagues and dear friend, a 25-year-old mother, unknowingly left her precious 6-month-old daughter in her car when she came to work that morning. She forgot to drop her baby off at the daycare. This happy baby, who already showed signs of having the same cheerful personality as her mother, perished in that car in the Herald-Zeitung parking lot. Her mother discovered her daughter, in the car seat in the back seat, as-she got in her car to leave work. Her coworkers heard the screams and ran to her. The anguish in her screams will not be forgotten by any of us who were at the newspaper that evening. The building was filled with people crying. The baby's father arrived, driven over by a coworker from his job across town. The couple’s anguish filled our building and weighed on our hearts. Such sadness. DOUGTONEY Doug Toney is editor and publisher of the Herald-Zeitung. The ambulances. The police. The detectives. The flashing lights. The first responders and the police officers were remarkable. Several, if not all of them at the scene, are also parents. They did their best to keep their "game faces” on. They were consummate professionals. We made offices available for the detectives to interview employees. A second ambulance arrived to take the mother and father to the hospital. The baby was pronounced dead in the other ambulance as it was parked by the hospital. The “what ifs...?” Each of us, in our minds, retraced our day. Had I walked by the car? Walking through the parking lot is so routine, so normal. Did 1 walk in that part of the parking lot that day? I could not remember. But others, especially those who parked next to or near her car, knew they had been near the car. What if ...? Earlier in the afternoon, I had sat next to the mother in a meeting in our conference room. How could she—or I or any of us—not have sensed this? The “what ifs” will never go away. For reporter Jackie Larson and news editor Shawn Lewis, they knew they had a job to do. They had to find their “game face” too. We had a newspaper to publish. They asked me about the story. “Handle this story the same way you would if it had happened in a shopping center parking lot,” I said. "It’s our job.” Jackie, who has worked at several newspapers during her career, said this was the third story like this she had covered. Her elbows were on either side of her keyboard and her head in her hands. In a couple of hours, the investigators were gone. Those employees who had worked the day shift and who had been interviewed, had gone home. Only reporters and editors remained. The building had become incredibly quiet. I could only hear the light staccato taps on keyboards and the occasional crackling sounds of the police scanner. I checked on the newsroom: "Every body OK? Is there anything more I can do?” Shawn replied, “We’re good. We’ve got a plan.” Jaclde looked up from her computer screen, tears in her eyes, and with a sadness-laden face said: “We’re OK.... It’s our job.” As I got in my truck to drive home, I thought about how much we all enjoyed watching our friend through her pregnancy. I thought about the baby shower that her friends at work had organized and the times she brought in her baby to show us while she was on maternity leave. It seemed to be an especially dark night out as I waited at a stoplight. Though my two sons and two daughters are grown, I pulled out my cell phone. With the three older ones, I got their voice mails. I did not want to worry them, so I said the same thing each time: “Hi, I’m driving home from work and I was just thinking about you. I just called to say, T love you.’” When I called my youngest, he answered the phone. I told him. “Oh, dad! I’m so sorry,” he said. “Thanks,” I said. “She loved her baby.” That was all I could say. United States Government PRESIDENT ■ Barack Obama 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20500 SENATE ■ Kay Bailey Hutchison Russell Senate Office Building Room 284 Washington, D.C. 20510 Telephone: (202) 224-5922 Fax: (202) 224-0776 Web: http://hutchison.senate.gov/ (Send e-mails through Web site.) SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 145 Duncan Drive, Suite 120 San Antonio 78226 Telephone: (210) 340-2885 Fax: (210) 349-6753 ■ John Cornyn Russell Senate-Hart Room 517 Washington, D.C. 20510 Telephone: (202) 224-2934 Fax: (202) 228-2856 Web: http://cornyn.senate.gov/ (Send e-mails through Web site.) AUSTIN OFFICE: 221 West Sixth St., Suite 1530 Austin 78701 Telephone: (512) 469-6034 Fax: (512) 469-6020 SAN ANTONIO OFFICE 600 Navarro, Suite 210 San Antonio 78205 Telephone: (210) 224-7485 Fax: (210) 224-8569 CONGRESSMAN ■ Lamar Smith Rayburn House Office Building Room 2409 Washington, D.C. 20515 Telephone: (202) 225-4236 Fax: (202) 225-8628 Web address: http://lamarsmith.house.gov/ (Send e-mails through Web site.) SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 1100 NE Loop 410, Suite 640 San Antonio 78209 Telephone: (210) 821-5024 Fax: (210) 821-5947 ■ Henry Cuellar 1404 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Telephone: (202) 225-1640 Fax: (202) 225-1641 Web address: http://www.house.gov/cuellar SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 615 E. Houston St. San Antonio 78205 Telephone: (210) 271-2851 Fax: (210) 277-6671 GOVERNOR HOWTO CONTACT Texas Government ÌIMlìiiiilÌifi ■ Rick Perry State Capitol, Room 2S.1 P.O. Box 12428 Austin 78711 Telephone: (800) 843-5789 Fax: (512)463-1849 STATE HOUSE ■ Doug Miller EXT E1.216 RO. Box 2910 Austin TX 78768-2910 Telephone: (512)463-0325 Fax: (512) 463-5896 ■ John Kuempel Rm. CAP 3N.06 Austin TX 78701 Telephone: (512) 463-0602 STATE SENATE ■ Jeff Wentworth 1250 NE Loop 410, Suite 925 San Antonio 78209 Telephone: (210) 826-7800 WHILE IN AUSTIN: Telephone: 888-824-6984 E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org NEW BRAUNFELS CITY COUNCIL 424 S. Castell Ave. RO. Box 311747, New Braunfels, TX 78131-1747 (830) 221-4000 ■ Mayor Bruce Boyer email@example.com Telephone: Extension 4507 ■ Dist. 1 Councilor Richard Zapata firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: Extension 4501 ■ Dist. 2 Councilor Mark Goodner email@example.com Telephone: Extension 4502 ■ Dist. 3 Councilor Mike Ybarra mybarra@ nbtexas.org Telephone: Extension 4503 ■ Dist. 4 Councilor Sandy Nolte firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: Extension 4504 ■ Dist. 6 Councilor Kathleen Krueqer kkrueger @ nbtexas.org Telephone: Extension 4505 ■ Dist. 6 Councilor Steven Diqges sdigges@ nbtexas.org Telephone: Extensio n 4506 Comal County Commissioners' Court 199 Main Plaza, New Braunfels (830) 221-1100 ■ COUNTY JUDGE SHERMAN KRAUSE email@example.com Telephone: (830) 221-1105 ■ PCT. 1 COMMISSIONER DONNA ECCLESON firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (830) 221-1101 ■ PCT. 2 COMMISSIONER SCOH HAAG email@example.com Telephone: (830) 221-1102 ■ PCT. 3 COMMISSIONER GREG PARKER firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (830) 221-1103 ■ PCT. 4 COMMISSIONER JAN KENNADY email@example.com Telephone: (830) 221-1104
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