Sherry Sylvester

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9th Street And Congress

O’Rourke’s Anti-Texas Debate

It makes absolutely no sense for the media to be in charge of political debates in Texas or anywhere else. They don’t even pretend to be neutral players anymore. They are on the liberal Democrat side. 

Which makes it all the more telling, now that the only Texas gubernatorial debate is over, that almost none of the media’s post-debate analysts named Beto O’Rourke the winner. What is amusing is that media analysts can’t seem to understand how, after literally years of biased and dishonest coverage of Texas conservative leadership in general and Gov. Greg Abbott in particular, O’Rourke managed to lose a debate against a man they demonize and misrepresent every day. 

With the media in charge, the debate questions on Friday night all leaned in O’Rourke’s favor. There were no questions about the Texas energy policy and how O’Rourke’s support for the Green New Deal would cost millions of jobs and devastate the Texas oil and gas industry. 

There were also no questions about parental rights and school choice which Abbott and a majority of Texans support and O’Rourke opposes. Instead, the media’s education questions were focused on the issues teachers’ unions care about—more money for schools and more pay for teachers and retirees. Student outcomes took a back seat to whether the New York City mayor had actually contacted Abbott’s office about busing migrants there.   

And, of course, they didn’t ask O’Rourke to define what a woman is or if he thinks boys should be allowed to play girl’s sports.

Still, O’Rourke’s prospects seemed good going into the debate.  Polls show 54% of Texans think the state is going in the wrong direction. Texas has had a very difficult couple years, which include the pandemic, a horrifying mass shooting followed by an inexplicable failure to respond by law enforcement, a deadly freeze that paralyzed us and a Supreme Court decision on abortion that has divided Texans.  

O’Rourke clearly went into the debate thinking he would blame Greg Abbott for all that. Using his entitled, rich kid persona, he ignored the rules and launched flailing attacks that repeatedly fell flat. The old suggestions by a previously star-struck media that O’Rourke is, somehow, the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy are laughable after his debate performance.

O’Rourke attacks repeatedly noted that Abbott has been in charge for the last eight years—he clearly thought it was a killer punch.  

But he doesn’t understand Texans. The Texas Public Policy Foundation conducted focus groups last year asking Texans across the state what they believe about the Lone Star State. We learned that Texans, regardless of race or ethnicity and even most Democrats, are proud of being Texans because, they said, Texas is a state that does things right. 

They listed things like the state’s low cost of living, no income tax, available jobs and reasonable regulations—all results of conservative pro-Texas policies moved forward by Abbott.

No recent pollster has asked Texans if they believe the last eight years would have been better if Democrats were in charge, but if they did, I am confident the answer would be a resounding no. Right next to the right track/wrong track number on most polling results is the disapproval rating for Democrat President Joe Biden, which stands at close to 60% in Texas. Only 37% of Texans approve of his performance and even members of his own party don’t want him to run again. At the same time, a majority of Texans approve of Abbott.  

O’Rourke missed the fact that while Texans believe the state is going in the wrong direction, they don’t blame Abbott. Instead, polls have shown again and again, that Texans’ most urgent concern is the crisis at the border and the 2.1 million people who have crossed illegally since President Biden has been in office. Texans support Abbott’s border policies.

A basic rule of politics is to never believe your own press, but O’Rourke doesn’t seem to realize that virtually all the Texas mainstream media is his press. That’s probably why he misjudged his rude and condescending attacks on the governor and crossed the line of good Texas manners. He thought he could badmouth Abbott because he thinks Texans believe the daily mainstream media headlines screaming that Texas is a backward state whose conservative policies have left it in shambles. But most Texans don’t buy that. It doesn’t ring true with the reality of their lives.   

Republicans finally took control of all three branches of Texas government in 2003, and now, after a generation of reversing the liberal policies of high taxes, intrusive regulation and trial-lawyer packed courts, conservative principles are part of the Texas DNA, right next to liberty and freedom.

If someone is going to overthrow the state’s top conservative leader, he or she will need to be a genuine Texan who understands that the Lone Star State became the country’s top job creator and the top destination for Americans moving from other states because of conservative policies that have rebuilt our state after almost 100 years of Democrat rule. 

O’Rourke showed he doesn’t understand that hard-working Texans know how the economy works because they can see the difference in Texas and blue states around the country. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be putting a higher statewide minimum wage at the top of his platform. Texas voters would never support a plan that would kill both jobs and businesses.    

The media is saying that Abbott stacked the deck by only agreeing to one debate, but Texans saw all they needed to see on Friday night. O’Rourke demonstrated he’s not in tune with the priorities Texans care about. Hopefully, we are seeing his last run for public office.

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Texas still one of the best places to live and work, even if left-wing CNBC stacks the deck

CNBC used to stand for the “Consumer News and Business Channel.” but it is now part of NBC and the left-wing media.  Its job now is to demonize conservative states, especially Texas, as dismal backwaters filled with miserable, uninformed and misguided voters.

But because CNBC is still a business channel, focused on the economy, the workforce and markets, trash-talking the Lone Star State is very difficult to do.

Year after year, the data has forced CNBC to acknowledge that Texas is the best place in the country to do business—or at least one of the best—on their annual “Best States for Business” ranking.  Since they started keeping score in 2007, Texas is the only state to have ranked No. 1 four times.

It was ranked No. 2 eight times and until this year it has never been ranked lower than No. 4. In 2022, CNBC ranked Texas No. 5.  The network also decided to change the way they trumpeted its list. Instead of focusing on the business metrics—workforce, infrastructure, strength of the economy and the cost of doing business—it pumped up its previously described “quality of life” metrics to include “inclusion” and pushed out a new list of 10 states it called “the Best Places to Live” in America.

It’s not exactly clear exactly what metrics they used to determine the “Best Places to Live,” but among other things, they looked at crime rates and “inclusiveness in state laws, including protections against discrimination of all kinds, as well as voting rights.”  Adding crime rates made it impossible for California to climb above a No. 29 overall ranking, but on CNBC’s new woke “inclusiveness” scale Texas ranks No. 49—allowing CNBC to pronounce Texas as one of the worst places to live in the country.

The “best state to live in,” according to their new measure is Vermont, followed by Maine, Hawaii and North Dakota. CNBC’s “inclusiveness” list is clearly designed to give blue states a chance to dig out from the bottom. Washington and New Jersey are also in the top 10 “best states to live” list even though New Jersey, had the highest percentage of people moving out of any state in 2021 and Forbes included Washington on their list of states people are fleeing because of the high cost of living.

In Texas, we all know that when the left says “protections against discrimination of all kinds” they mean that boys are allowed to play on girls sports teams and parents have the right to experiment on their children with risky puberty blockers, hormonal therapy and even surgery. As for voting rights, CNBC apparently didn’t see the poll conducted by the Texas Association of Business before the most recent election reforms which confirmed that Texans of all races and political parties overwhelming support our election laws. Fully 95% of Texans say it’s easy to vote here.

You have to wonder how folks sitting around the conference table at CNBC deal with the fact that their own data shows that the state they have declared the worst place to live in America is where so many Americans want to live. Over a thousand people move here every day. Last year CNBC reported that Houston was number one on the list of top 10 cities people are moving too. San Antonio, Dallas and Austin were also on the list.  Texas was the only state with more than one city on the list.

Texas also just beat out two big blue nation states, New York and California, for the most Fortune 500 companies in the U.S.

And at the end of June, CNBC reported a better than expected jobs report that showed 372,000 workers added to payrolls nationwide.  Their news story did not point out that 82,500 of those jobs—22%—were in Texas, which created more jobs than any other state.

Woke businesses pushing boycotts against Texas haven’t convinced people that Texas isn’t a great place to live, and CNBC is not likely to be successful by stacking the deck on the “Best States to Live” list either.

In 2021, the Houston Chronicle predicted the state would lose $31 billion and 223,000 jobs if they passed proposed election reforms. The reforms passed, voter turnout broke records and the economy continues to soar.

California has banned travel for state workers and universities to Texas, and a couple of dozen other states, because of Texas laws supporting women’s sports and privacy. Since it first passed that law, the number of states on its list has almost doubled and even some major California newspapers are urging them to repeal the ban since it is obviously making no difference.

By contrast, Texas has become a mecca for business and innovation. That is no accident. The conservative policies passed by Texans over the last several decades create jobs, help business flourish and ensure that the state continues to effectively compete in the global economy. The CNBC annual rankings that consistently put Texas at the top show how well this is working for Texans and the world. CNBC should not only report that Texas is at the top, it should also report why.

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Articles

Red McCombs Should Demand His Money Back

It has been said that Texas is the best expression of the American idea—and Red McCombs is one of the best expressions of everything it means to be a Texan. He came from a tiny town in the southern panhandle, started as an Edsel salesman in Corpus Christi and went onto become one of the richest men in the world. McCombs has been enormously generous in so many ways throughout his life—a gift to the Lone Star State that keeps on giving.

An advertising genius who, literally, invented product placement, McCombs’ business successes have contributed to Texas’ growth and economic prosperity in a dozen different ways. In my hometown of San Antonio, he is known for bringing NBA basketball to our city with the Spurs. The key for him in his first professional sports venture was understanding the importance of television in moving San Antonio onto a national stage.

When the movie “The Alamo” was being filmed in 1960 at Bracketville, McCombs sought out John Wayne and got him to agree to open the film in San Antonio, pulling the klieg lights and red carpet out of Hollywood and into downtown San Antonio again, putting Texas on the map.

McCombs also brought Formula 1 racing to the United States after he learned that over 1 billion people watched those races. The possibilities of a billion viewers around the globe all looking at Texas motivated him to make sure the “Circuit of the Americas” was located here.

McCombs has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to all kinds of charities in Texas including the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In 2000, he contributed $50 million dollars to establish the Red McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, a gift which leveraged an additional $100 million to ensure that the state that has repeatedly been identified over the past two decades as the best state for business anywhere in America has a first-class business school.

Knowing what McCombs has done for the state and for the University of Texas, you can imagine how outrageous it was to see that when the template for the fall schedule at the McCombs School was released this week it included a warning for students that some business topics may be “traumatic.” Professors must promise to give their students a heads up if some really scary business topic is about to be discussed.

Are they kidding? Anyone who knows Red McCombs knows he is not afraid of anything.

There are also directions requiring every professor to “identify their pronouns (she/he/they/zhe).”

Zhe?

They seem to be serious. There is an entire section on “personal pronoun preference.”

Farther down in the syllabus template, professors are directed to let their students know that they “acknowledge that we are meeting on the Idigenous [sic] lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now North America.” They must also affirm: “I would like to acknowledge that Alabama-Coushatta, Caddo, Carrizo/Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa, Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and all the American and Indigenous Peoples who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories of Texas.”

The Comanche arrived in Texas after the Spanish, so why aren’t those great minds over at the prestigious “40 Acres” acknowledging that they are on the lands of Carlos III de Bourbon, His Most Catholic Majesty and King of Spain? And the “Turtle Island” reference is nonsense. It’s a creation story from native tribes in the Northeast, not Texas.

The point is, why aren’t professors at the McCombs School of Business required to inform their students that if it weren’t for Red McCombs, they wouldn’t have a building, desks or, indeed, a business school?

Furthermore, McCombs School of Business students should know that McCombs is one of those Texas giants who understood from the beginning that Texas—now the best reflection of the American idea—is not an accident. It has been and continues to be a hard-fought battle to maintain a state where freedom and liberty are harnessed to ensure businesses are free to innovate to create jobs and prosperity for all. McCombs never walked away from that fight.

Texas universities are on very shaky grounds these days. Enrollment is plummeting because students are no longer willing to pay outrageous tuition to have a steady diet of “pronoun protocols” and “land acknowledgements” shoved down their throats. They have also had it with the constant drum beat of so-called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI), which actually means exclusion, injustice and essentially a stacked deck for anyone who does not genuflect to the woke ideology that is destroying our colleges.

Other states are fighting back. Florida passed a “Stop Woke” Individual Freedom law designed to eliminate these kinds of ridiculous and divisive antics on campus and to affirm the principles of actual equality, merit and hard work. It requires that students be reminded that in America, we work together to overcome challenges and hardships—we don’t band together to blame others for them.

The University of Texas needs to wake up before somebody shows this syllabus to Red McCombs—and he demands his money back.

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9th Street And Congress

The Big Lie in Houston – and the Big Truth

What an ugly irony that the Houston Chronicle—which may be the most out-of-touch and Texas-hating newspaper of the metropolitan big five—has just won a Pulitzer Prize for a series they called “The Big Lie.” 

Predictably, the left-wing Pulitzer crowd is lauding a series written by four editorial writers that they say “reveals voter suppression tactics…” in the Texas election reforms that were adopted in the 2021 legislative session. Like the New York Times’ repeatedly debunked 1619 Project, the Chronicle’s “Big Lie” insists that election politics in Texas has been rooted in racism since reconstruction. It demonizes Republicans and insists efforts to increase transparency and public trust in elections is all a ruse. The editorials claim:

 “[Election] Integrity is no more the goal for them than it was for the white primary associations of the 1900s. Only today’s voter fraud warriors have laser pointers.” 

The series mostly forgets that it was Democrats who established those “white primary associations” at the turn of the century, while the Republican Party was the party of reform, primarily comprised of African-American Texans. 

The Houston Chronicle editorial writers rail against requiring a photo ID in order to vote, a Texas law that passed in 2011, as well as what they describe as the refusal of the state lawmakers to allow voting “innovations” like 24-hour and drive-in voting. 

The Pulitzer committee apparently didn’t bother to fact check the series, or they would have learned that it wasn’t just Republicans who support requiring a photo voter ID in order to vote—nearly 85% of all Texans support it, including Democrats. 

As for the charge of “voter suppression,” a Texas Association of Business poll (TAB) conducted in 2021 during the election reform debate found that fully 95% of Texans surveyed—again, that is people from both parties—say it is “easy” to vote in Texas elections.   

And there’s no voter suppression. Since photo voter ID has passed in Texas, there have been record breaking voter turnouts in both presidential and gubernatorial year elections. 

Voter turnout in Texas increased 40% in the 2020 presidential election and 76% in the 2018 gubernatorial election. In 2012, 58% of registered Texans voted and in 2020, almost 67% voted. 

The news hook for the “Big Lie” editorial series were blaring headlines in Texas and nationwide that 12% of Texas mail-in ballots had been rejected in the March primary election. Always looking for ways to demonize Texas, almost none of the news stories on mail-in ballots in the primary reported that those ballots, which required verified identification of either a driver’s license or a social security number, included only about 1% of the total ballots cast in the election. Since it’s not clear how many of those voters went on to vote in-person anyway, like Willie Nelson, the percentage could be even smaller.

But actual numbers didn’t distract the Houston Chronicle’s writers from pushing their ugly theory that racism motivated Texas Republican leaders, who they charge with manipulating Republican voters into believing that protections against voter fraud were needed. It apparently didn’t matter to them that it isn’t just Republicans who want election security—Democrats support it too. The TAB poll also found 85% of Texans in both political parties believe mail-in ballots should require the same identification as in-person voting. Voter fraud in mail-in balloting has never been a secret in Texas, even among Democrats.   
In 2007, when photo voter ID was first being debated, Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a leading Democrat leader from Dallas, spoke against expanding photo voter ID, by using the argument that where real reform was needed was in ballot by mail: He said: “…vote by mail that we know is the greatest source of voter fraud in this state…” requires no identification. 

Still, the story of the 12% mail-in ballot rejection moved forward in both the state and national press unchallenged by any reporter. However, a new poll from RMG Research suggests that even people outside Texas didn’t really buy it. In early May, when asked about the 12% of mail-in ballots that were rejected in Texas, RMG found, predictably, that a third believed what they’d heard in the media, but a larger number—almost 40 percent—believed the rejected ballots indicated that there had been more voter fraud in the past and the new rules were finally able to catch it. 

A Pulitzer fact check would have revealed another “big lie” in the Houston Chronicle’s “Big Lie.” Before election reforms were passed in 2021 the Chronicle wrote that the “state stands to lose more than $31 billion in economic activity and 223,000 jobs by 2025…” because of backlash over the legislation. In fact, Texas, which was among the first states to recover from the pandemic, lost no money and zero jobs because of the election reforms. 

This piece is riddled with many snide little lies, too, and ignores how Texans feel about the Texas House Democrats who shut down the Texas House and flew to Washington, D.C. to protest the election reforms bill. A Texas Public Policy Foundation poll showed that Texans opposed the walkout by a 2-to-1 margin.

Far from being an award-winner, the Houston Chronicle’s “Big Lie” series is just one more in what has become a staple of the Texas press. Texans are portrayed as gullible rubes at best—if not evil, calculating racists. The media doesn’t seem able to accept that conservatives don’t win elections in Texas because of rigged election rules; over the past two decades, conservatives have won with whatever rules were on the books. 

Texans elect conservatives because they share their principles and they like their ideas. They also win because Texas liberals haven’t had a good idea in at least two decades. That’s the Big Truth! 

Sherry Sylvester, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is a political communications and public policy expert who has directed multi-million dollar statewide campaigns in New York, New Jersey and Texas. Campaigns and Elections Magazine has called her a “respected veteran” of hard-fought elections and in 2005, her alma mater, the Graduate School of Political Management, now at George Washington University in Washington D.C., named her “alumni of the year,” for her accomplishments in the field of professional politics. Early in her career Sherry worked as the Communications Director for U.S. Senate candidate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman ever nominated for Vice President on a major party ticket. She also worked for David Dinkins, the first African-American to be elected Mayor of New York City. In Texas, she served for over a decade as the spokesperson and a strategic advisor to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the most successful tort reform organization in the nation. She was a member of the original campaign and transition teams of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and she managed his 2018 re-election campaign. She served for seven years as Senior Advisor to the Lt. Governor.
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9th Street And Congress

Every parent should read ‘Gender Queer’

In virtually every news report of parents demanding that public school librarians do their job and remove inappropriate or pornographic materials from school libraries, the book Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe is at the top of the objectionable titles list. So many librarians and school board members are defending the book that I figured I should read it. Since the Texas Education Association just released guidelines for library acquisitions that include parental monitoring, every Texas parent should probably read it too.

Gender Queer is an autobiographical graphic novel chronicling the first 30 years of Kobabe’s life, focusing on the difficulties she faced being a girl. Being a girl is no walk in the park, but what is striking about Kobabe’s story is that she determines early on that there is no path forward for her as a female.

As she tells her story of growing up, her parents have only cameo roles and are portrayed as self-absorbed hippies. She has siblings, but there’s no close family, there’s no community, no faith or church, no mentors at school. She says she is suffering from gender dysphoria — she wants to be a boy — but at no point does she or anyone in her family mention counseling or a medical consultation.

She believes she was arbitrarily assigned her female gender at birth, and she is convinced it was a mistake. She reports that as a child, she finally found her true self by reading pornography and stories by people who were also gender dysphoric.

Adults who define themselves as something other than straight or gay represent about 1% of the population, but almost everyone Maia comes into contact with in her book defines themselves this way.

She describes herself as nonbinary for a while, but the term apparently wasn’t unique enough for her. (Some say so many teenagers are using it that it has become the new “goth.”) At age 29, Kobabe decides to call herself “gender queer,” which will probably stick, since her book with that title is now a bestseller (due to the controversy it has caused).

The book includes graphic and gross descriptions of sex and masturbation. Any reasonably competent school librarian should be able to see in an instant that it is not appropriate for a public school library. Nevertheless, it has been found in schools all over Texas. Parents in a number of Texas towns, including Prosper and Keller , have demanded that it be removed.

Last week, the National Coalition Against Censorship joined most of the state’s newspaper editorial pages in chastising Texas parents for demanding that these kinds of books be taken out of public school libraries. The NCAC alleges the parents are “censoring books and denying students the well-rounded education that is essential to preserving a healthy democracy.”

They can’t be serious. Clearly, they have not read Gender Queer. Whether the book is pornographic is up for debate, as pornography always is. But there is no censorship here. Determining what kinds of books are in public school libraries paid for by taxpaying parents is very different than saying Gender Queer shouldn’t be in any library. No one is saying that.

Parents should read this book for two reasons: first, to see what not to do when rearing adolescents. Kobabe’s story includes so many opportunities for her parents to intervene and help, but they never do. Instead, she is given carte blanche approval to pursue a quest that ultimately can lead to dangerous puberty blockers and surgery and put her at higher risk for suicide.

It is no accident that Black Lives Matter advocates getting rid of nuclear families altogether so that children will not be hindered from saying they are boys when they are girls and vice versa. These activists insist that “everyone should choose if they are a boy or a girl or both or neither.”

Parents should read the book to be aware of how their children are being indoctrinated into phony notions of gender fluidity. Ridiculous terms such as “assigned female at birth” and “nonbinary” have become normalized in our schools.

But even kindergartners understand that sex is binary — boys are boys, and girls are girls. That’s apparently why there has been such blowback in Florida over legislation to stop the teaching of homosexuality and gender identity to children aged 3 through 7.

Again, they can’t be serious.

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9th Street And Congress

Texas Rules for Mail-in Ballots Are Working

Calls from the left and the media to repeal the updated rules for mail-in ballots are predictable. They opposed requiring photo voter identification to vote too. The attack on the reforms to mail-in ballot rules defy the data—and common sense.

First, the numbers. Opponents of the new law highlight that over 12% of mail-in ballots were rejected in the last primary election. That sounds high until you consider that more than 3 million people voted, making those rejected mail-in ballots less than 1% of all ballots cast.

But even that would overstate the problem, because the Texas law requires officials to work with voters to try to reconcile rejected ballots. Famously, Willie Nelson’s initial ballot was rejected, which he then reportedly fixed and resubmitted. There are surely others who did the same.

Additionally, once a voter received word their ballot was rejected, they could have decided to vote in person instead. We don’t know how many did, but while opponents of the law are attempting to claim that “confusing new rules” were responsible for large numbers of supposedly disenfranchised voters, the truth is that even if there was some initial confusion, it only affected a tiny fraction of votes cast. There is no reason to repeal the new law.

And now for some common sense. Elections have rules because without them we cannot trust the results. The two most basic rules for ensuring election integrity are that voters must demonstrate they are who they say they are and that they are eligible to vote in the election. Most voters do this by voting in person and showing an election worker a photo identification card that has both the voter’s picture and address on it, verifying identity and eligibility.

Mail-in ballots are inherently less secure. There is no way to guarantee that the ballot was received or filled out by the voter who applied for it. The identity protections for mail-in ballots that existed before the new law, such as matching signatures, proved meaningless.

A system in which some votes are verified and others are not is unacceptable. That’s why the Legislature was compelled to act last year. Texas has strong protections and relatively easy procedures for voting in person. Now the same is true for mail-in ballots.

Not only is this common sense, but the new measures are supported by the vast majority of Texans. In polls taken during the debate over the new rules last year, 89% of Texans said they support photo voter ID and 81% said voting in person and by mail should have the same voter identification requirements.

Every rejected ballot is one that couldn’t prove voter identity and/or eligibility. The increased number of rejected mail-in ballots is evidence that the law is working to prevent the inclusion of unverified and potentially fraudulent votes, which protects the legitimacy of election results, just as Texans want.

Do voters make honest mistakes? Of course. But there’s a process for reconciling mistakes for mail-in voters who neglect to put their address or even their own name on a mail-in ballot.

Texas voters don’t buy that the updated rules are too “confusing.” Fully 80% agree mail-in ballots should include either the identification number of a valid government ID or a partial Social Security number.

In the March primary, over 99% of voters were able to understand the rules and vote successfully without issue. For the tiny fraction of those who didn’t, there’s a process for making it right. Texas’ election reforms strengthen protections for every ballot and improve confidence in election results. It’s a better system that clearly works.

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9th Street And Congress

Opinion: Texas fails victims of sex trafficking. Overhaul child welfare services now.

By Sherry SylvesterAndrew C. Brown, J.D.|April 27, 2022This commentary was originally published in the Houston Chronicle.

Texans were horrified to learn of the Department of Family and Protective Services’ mishandling of allegations that children in its care were sexually exploited at a shelter intended to protect victims of sex trafficking. In the weeks since the story made it clear that DFPS has broken its promise to children to take them to a place that is safer than the place where they were in, the Texas House and Senate convened emergency hearings to get to the bottom of what happened, as did the judge overseeing the decade-old federal lawsuit against the state’s foster care system.

This outrage is just the latest in a long line of heartbreakingavoidable incidents that are rooted in organizational dysfunction and a toxic internal culture. Private providers, foster parents and even its own employees have described the department’s approach to internal management and external oversight as “punitive,” “crisis-driven,” fear-based, and lacking a unifying vision and clear guiding principles.

This toxicity permeates the organization, rendering it utterly incapable of protecting the children in its care. And it’s resistant to change. Efforts at reforming the department have either been ignored, delayed or poorly implemented.

The problems plaguing DFPS have been well-known for at least a decade. In 2011, Texas was sued in federal court on behalf of children in its permanent care. The lawsuit alleged that conditions in the state-run foster care system were so bad that they violated the constitutional rights of the children. In 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that children in the custody of the department routinely leave more damaged than when they entered. As part of her ruling, Jack required the state to comply with a series of remedial orders intended to fix the problems with the system.

Following Judge Jack’s ruling, the Texas Legislature got to work enacting reforms to give the department the tools needed to turn things around. In 2017, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 11, which laid out a blueprint for reform, including standards that should have prevented anything like this from ever happening. For example, the legislation sought to increase accountability for DFPS and providers on delivering optimal outcomes for children, establish a quality assurance framework, strengthen standards for child protective services investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect, and improve monitoring of DFPS contractors.

SB 11 represented a fundamental transformation of the Texas child welfare system designed to make it safer and more responsive to the unique needs of children, while increasing the role of local communities in caring for their most vulnerable.

Yet, nearly five years after the bill was signed into law, it has yet to be fully implemented.

In response to DFPS all but completely ignoring the Legislature, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst passed Senate Bill 1896 to address continuing safety problems within the foster care system and spur the full implementation of past reforms. Again, the Legislature has been ignored.

Gov. Abbott made foster care an emergency item during the 85th Legislature, including it on the call for multiple special sessions, convening workgroups and directly ordering the commissioners of both DFPS and the Health and Human Services Commission to comply with the remedial orders. Yet DFPS remains entrenched in the same cycles of failure.

More funding is routinely touted as the solution to the problems plaguing the Texas foster care system but the data show substantially increasing funding for DFPS has not been a path to positive outcomes for foster children.

The Legislature has increased the department’s budget by more than $800 million since 2015 and has authorized hundreds of millions of dollars in additional emergency appropriations during that same period. The problems have only gotten worse.

A major focus of this infusion of cash has been increasing caseworker salaries to reduce turnover and maintain manageable caseloads. In late 2016, the Legislature approved an emergency request by DFPS for $150 million to immediately raise caseworker annual salaries by $12,000 and hire an additional 829 employees. After the investment, staff turnover dramatically decreased in 2017 and caseloads began coming down. However, these gains proved short-lived. Staff turnover began increasing again in 2018 and spiked to its highest rate in a decade by 2021. While it’s likely the pandemic played some role in that spike, it doesn’t explain why in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the percentage of staff turnover was about the same as the turnover percentage in 2019. Clearly, infusing more money into a broken system isn’t the answer.

There is one promising solution that has been recommended for years but hasn’t been attempted yet. It calls for a complete reorganization of DFPS, with a focus on transforming the agency’s management and culture. This recommendation has been repeated by numerous outside experts hired by the state to provide guidance on ending the crisis.

In 2014, for example, the Stephen Group noted that “the missing key ingredient” was a “unifying vision that clearly defines success and demonstrates how to get there.” A 2016 progress report on the implementation of the Stephen Group’s recommendations found that while some progress was being made, the department was struggling to embed changes into practice and had yet to develop a positive culture of transformation and excellence. Earlier this year, an expert panel report published in connection with the ongoing federal lawsuit stated the need for leadership to “immediately adopt and apply a set of shared values and principles” and work to rebuild relationships between the department and service providers.

The latest scandal sparked immediate action from legislative leaders. Within 24 hours of the story breaking, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick established the Senate Special Committee on Child Protective Services. The special committee is tasked with investigating the department’s continual failures and putting all options on the table to transform the agency.

That’s a good start. If it follows through with this directive, the special committee has the opportunity to bring long-overdue change to DFPS and enable Texas to once again keep its promise to the state’s most vulnerable children.

Categories
9th Street And Congress

Texas Hispanics Reject Democrats’ Left-Wing Woke Agenda

Despite constant efforts by the Texas media and their collaborators in the progressive left, to divide us by race and ethnicity, a new statewide survey of Hispanic Texans conducted for the Texas Public Policy Foundation finds that 84% say they are proud of being Texans and almost 60% say they have the same access to the American dream as Anglo Texans.

Focus groups conducted last fall found that Hispanics, like most Texans, say they are proud to live in a state that does things right—where the cost of living is low, there are jobs and business opportunities, and the economy is strong.

Progressives and the media have also lost Texas Hispanics in the war against history. Fully 72% of Texas Hispanics view the story of Texas history as their story, including the Texas Revolution, the Alamo, along with the image of the Lone Star State as a beacon of liberty and freedom. While all recognize that Texas has very dark chapters in our history, Texas Hispanics don’t buy the narrative put out in a book last year by a Democrat operative and a couple of reporters that Texas history is a lie.

When South Texas trended largely toward Donald Trump in the 2020 election, flipping a half-dozen counties from blue to red, Texas political watchers finally recognized that Texas Hispanics cannot reliably be counted on as part of the left-leaning progressive base. As my colleague Rafa Bajar recently pointed out, the TPPF survey clearly shows that whether they live in the Rio Grande Valley or elsewhere in the Lone Star State, Hispanics in Texas say they are mostly conservative or moderate on most issues.

This trend has been showing up in Hispanic voting trends in Texas for at least a decade. In 2014, South Texas Hispanics soundly rejected then-Sen. Wendy Davis in the Democrat gubernatorial primary. Davis,’ only claim to fame is a pro-abortion filibuster against a bill that passed a few weeks later. She has just had a movie released about the failed filibuster, but South Texas Hispanics gave her a thumbs down from the beginning. Reynoldo Madrigal, an unknown who was running against Davis for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, beat Davis in 20 South Texas counties even though she had spent millions and he spent nothing.

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, Davis’ favorability rating among Hispanics was only 19% back then and in June of 2014, Hispanics picked Gov. Greg Abbott over Davis as the better leader on taxes by 10 points.

Granted, 40% of Hispanics voted for Davis that year, but compare that with the almost 80% of African Americans who voted for her and you can see the huge Hispanic gap in the Texas liberal base. Abbott trounced Davis by 20 points in 2014.

Last month, the same poll found that only 21% of Texas Hispanics had a very favorable view of the current Democrat candidate, Beto O’Rourke, the same amount as view him unfavorably. Only 42% say they plan to vote for O’Rourke in November, but again, compare that to the 62% of African American Texans who say they will vote for him.

In 2017, two-thirds of Texas Hispanics told UT pollsters that they do not believe there is a right to an abortion in the U.S. Constitution—a statement that is heresy for liberals and progressives.

Another heretical statement for the left is the views of Hispanic Texans when it comes to school choice. TPPF’s survey did not phrase this hot-button question ambiguously. They asked: Do you support or oppose the concept of school choice if it gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to whatever school, public, charter or private school that best serves their needs? The results: 78% said yes and only 16% said no.

School choice is anathema among even moderate Democrats, but Hispanic Texans put the well-being, success, and happiness of their children above the woke and anti-parent agenda of the teacher’s unions.

Support for their children is also clear in the findings of a study released last fall, which found that 64% of Texas Hispanics support banning boys from girls’ sports, rejecting another Democrat platform plank.

Hispanic Texans have also rejected the woke agenda being pushed by the left including the anti-family effort that drives the push for Critical Race Theory in public school curriculums along with the so-called gender identity movement. These attacks on parents’ rights and traditional family values are both planks in the radical left-wing platform.

In the run-up to November 2022, liberal activists are scrambling to figure out why Texas Hispanics are not reliable Democrat voters in the same way that African Americans are. One answer maybe have emerged last week as part of Gallup’s annual World Happiness Poll. Gallup pollsters found that a key factor for those who report happiness is a strong family and multigenerational environment. According to them, that’s why most Latin American countries are among the top 50 happiest countries, despite poverty in the Central and South America regions.

Strong multigenerational families are also part of the Texas Hispanic culture. Liberal progressives will not be successful in reversing Hispanic voting trends in Texas as long as they push anti-family initiatives and anti-Texas rhetoric.

One final note to progressives and the Texas media—97% of Texas Hispanics reject the silly woke term, “Latinx”—so you might want to stop using it.