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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - August 6, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A — HERALD-ZEITUNG — Sunday, August 6, 2000Opinions FORUM Letters _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 Michael Cary, News Editor (830) 625-9144 Editorial^Marriage penalty' not fair to working couples Republican lawmakers have their work cut out for them when they return next month to override President Clinton’s veto of a bill that would eliminate the so-called “marriage penalty" tax. Because of the way the tax code is structured 25 million working couples have to pay more income taxes than if they filed separately. Clinton chose early Saturday morning to veto the Republican-sponsored bill — and then played a round of golf. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who wrote the legislation, said “(Working families are paying attention, and they know the president has run out of excuses. The Republicans have just nominated a presidential candidate who w ill give marriage penalty relief to working families.’’ Like so many other issues facing Washington, D.C., the marriage penalty bill has fallen victim to the party politics that prevail during a presidential election year. Unless the GOP can get the two-thirds majority to override Clinton's veto, married couples in this country w ill have to wait to get the justice they deserve under the faulty tax code. Gov. George W. Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney quickly criticized the veto while on the campaign trail Saturday. Vice President Al Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said he supported the veto but not the idea of repealing the marriage tax. Clinton w rote to Congress, saying die plan “provides little relief to families that need it most, while devoting a large fraction of its benefits to families with higher incomes." The issue over the marriage tax is not about income; it is about correcting a policy that unfairly penalizes a couple for filing jointly. If the Democrats are serious about repealing the marriage tax and they don't like the one put on Clinton’s desk, they need to come up with one. So far, in this election year, the Republicans have stepped forward w ith a plan to correct a serious tax code flaw that touches millions of American families. All the Democrats have done is shoot that plan down. Today in History By The Associated Press Today is Sunday, Aug. 6, the 219th day of 2000. There are 147 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Aug. 6, 1945, during World War ll, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing an estimated 140,000 people in the first use of a nuclear weapon in warfare. On this date: In 1787, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia began to debate the articles contained in a draft of the U.S. Constitution. In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire went out of existence as Emperor Francis I abdicated. In 1825, Bolivia declared its independence from Peru. Letters to The EditorBuilding turnarounds might alleviate problem Dear Editor: In regards to our traffic situation, I highly agree with the recent letters asking why they are working on two major intersections at one time. I, for one, think this is crazy. Why can’t they finish one project at a time.? It is my opinion that they should build some sort of turnarounds under both of these intersections, like they did on Texas 46. First, that would relieve a lot of this traffic hassle. A lot of people are just trying to get to the other side to get back on the highway to get to work in San Antonio or to get to a business in a shopping center. I, for one, had to wait in front of Wal-mart the other day almost 45 minutes on the frontage readjust to get to the other side to get back on the highway to get to work in San Antonio, which made me late for work. Because every time the light would change, the traffic at the Walnut exit was backed up to the end of the exit. After they were let off, there was not enough time for anyone else to get through. And then just when you think you’re going make it, some worker stops traffic to let the big dump trucks through. I think before it gets much worse and the buses for school start to run, they need to come up with some sort of solution to this problem or a lot of kids will be late for school. My daughter already catches the bus at 5:45 a.m. Is she going to have to catch it even earlier to make up for this traffic in order to get to school on time? Building turnarounds would be a simple solution for all, I believe. Marilyn Olney New BraunfelsTraffic situation in NB becoming tragic Dear Editor: Traffic has become so slow here in New Braunfels, that as motorists, we could get tickets for loitering. On July 26, about 10:30 a.m., I left home for my normal 15-minute trip to and from my bank across IH-35. It quickly became an 85-minute nightmare. The traffic count at IH-35 and EM 725, Texas 46, Walnut Street and Rueckle Road must have exceeded 400 cars and trucks in a slow' moving motorcade. I contacted the City of New Braunfels, which referred me to TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation). TxDOT’s response to my comments was, “What do you expect us to do — all roads are open. There are just too many cars on the road.” The roads are open to one-way and/or detoured traffic with no evidence of any law enforcement assistance, despite the traffic logjams. It appears that TxDOT planning is less than1 adequate to afford the public suitable and reasonable access to necessary business and medical facilities. Emergency fire and police services surely are also adversely affected. The mere explanation of road closings and detours by TxDOT does not provide the public the required vehicle access throughout the community. All concerned citizens of New Braunfels and those tourists who frequent our community should speak out to our public servants and elected officials to help alleviate what has become a tragic situation. James Markiewicz New BraunfelsBoat ramp needed in New Braunfels Dear Editor: I am an avid fisherman living in New' Braunfels for about five years and because of the highway construction, the boat ramp under IH-35 bridge has been closed until May 2003. The city of New Braunfels owns a large tract of land behind the softball fields off Kuehler Avenue currently referred to as Comal Park. Beyond the softball field is a perfect location for a boat ramp, fishing pier and large picnic areas for families to go and enjoy themselves. Fishing and outdoor activities bring a lot of money for New Braunfels, and this city is in need of a good location where people can fish in Lake Dunlap with their children or just enjoy the outdoors. There is a long frontage on Lake Dunlap and would give ample area for people to fish if they would like. I do know there are several locations or parks on the Guadalupe River for public access but these are not prime fishing locations to take a child to fish. The fishing in Lake Dunlap offers a chance for perch, bass and catfish, just to name a few species. I would like to attend a city council meeting if necessary and bring others to voice our opinion on the ramp and picnicking facility, much-needed for the families of New Braunfels. Please pass this on to the city officials and maybe this is needed more than trying so hard to attract retired people. I am in my early 50s and enjoy the outdoors as much as anyone else, but I prefer my time on the water rather than on the golf course. Martin R. Wingard New BraunfelsRecognize veterans in obituaries Dear Editor: I’m writing to request that a small American flag be placed beside the name of each military servicemen and servicewomen in the obituary section of the New' Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. Let’s recognize and honor the men and women who have served in our nation’s military.Doris M. Brown Canyon LakeLaw keeps government open without defying common sense “Thepeople, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide w hat is good for the people to know' and what is not good for them to know.... “This act shall be liberally construed in favor of the granting of any request for information. ' -Texas Public Information Act This past week, about 30 public officials from New Braunfels, Bulverde and Comal County, along w ith a few new s gatherers, met in the new emergency operations center at the Comal County Jail with two attorneys from the state’s attorney general’s office. County Judge Danny Scheel asked for the meeting and should be commended for doing so. The topic was the state’s Open Meetings Law and Public Information Act. These two laws are supposed to define what public officials and bureaucrats must do to allow citizens their rightful access to meetings and governmental records. Both of the attorneys from Austin appeared to try their best to answer ques- DOUG TONEY lions from local off icials and newspaper types such as myself. I lowever, when an attorney for the state’s top legal enforcement agency starts an answer by saying, “Well, there’s actually two answers to that question,” that should tell you not all is cut and dried in the world of open government in Texas. The law is ambiguous, but that shouldn't surprise anyone who is familiar with the Texas Legislature. One of the first steps the legislature took when it devised the Open Meetings Law was exempt itself, and that little trick should not surprise anyone either. Yet, as complicated and convoluted as the laws seem, they work, albeit not without some occasional confusion. The citizens of Comal County should be encouraged and pleased that County Judge Scheel took the initiative to bring the experts from Austin to Comal County. When thanked for putting together the meeting, Scheel explained he realized there was a need for the meeting because of a phone call he had received. Apparently, according to the county judge, an assistant district attorney reported to him that city attorney Floyd Akers had called saying the county commissioners were violating the Open Meetings Law by talking to one another when they were not in a public meeting. Scheel, when asked about that incident, replied that he just thought it would be best to have a meeting with representatives from the attorney general’s office to clear the air. The attorney general’s lawyers, at least on this particular issue, were clear. C ommissioners and city council members can be in the same place at the same time, as long as it is not a quorum (majority) of the governmental body, without violating the law. They can talk with each other outside public meetings without violating the law. County commissioners, school board members, city council members and — other public bodies can discuss the issues of their constituents w ith each other. They just cannot deliberate and decide the public’s business in private. It def ies common sense that lobbyists and special interest groups could have more access to individual commissioners or counci I members than public officials have with each other. The city attorney at least appears vigilant, although somewhat misguided, about the public’s right to know. So my hat’s off to County Judge Scheel and all those public off icials, including city attorney Akers, who attended the meeting this past Tuesday. Maybe now that the air has been cleared, no more city committees will feel compelled to exempt themselves from the Open Meetings Law. Many such committees are not legally bound to comply with the Open Meetings Law because these groups do not pass law s or create policy. I lowever, in the city of New Braunfels, by-law s for these appointed committees are drafted to include the committees’ agreement to follow the Open Meetings Law, f ormer Mayor Jan Kennady is credited  . u..............  -r---    ......■■■■•"    /--------     - w itll draw ing up these by-laws and Mayor Stoney Williams has supported continuing that position. Both should be praised for their commitment to the public’s right to know and what that means to the citizens of New Braunfels. Maybe now that the misinterpretation has been resolved, the hotel occupancy tax committee can agree to play by the same rules as all other city committees. Confidence in city government is low. Though the members of the hotel occupancy tax committee might be committed to conducting its business in public, it surely would put to rest some rampant skepticism if they would reconsider their action and follow the same rules as every other committee in New Braunfels city government. That one sentence in the Public Information Act comes to mind: “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know....” (Dong Toney is editor and publisher of the Herald-Zeitung.) J I V ;