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June 2, 2010     Hays Free Press
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Hays Free Press June 2, 2010 OPINION Page 5A Of mad hatters and policy matters y friend had a life-threat- ening problem with his workplace. He was processing film much of every work day and had acquired a seri- ous wheeze. The room in which he worked had no ventilation for noxious fumes. He came to me. I suggested he contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. All it took was one visit from OSHA, and the problem was solved. It's a good thing he didn't go to the new Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Kentuc, Rand Patti. Paul would have told my friend to find another job, that the government has no business telling employers anything. The thing is, my friend had an- other strike against him. He was deaf. He conveyed his dilemma to me with his fingers. Oh, and strike three: He also was Hispanic. My friend would be thrice mar- ginalized, almost to invisibili in the world of Rand Paul. The Tea Party hero thinks the Civil Rights Act went too far in telling private businesses how they could deal with minorities, and also thinks the Americans With Disabilities Act is oppressive. Fortunately, Paul is the man on the outside today when it comes to policy, and minorities and the disabled are the beneficiaries of policy makers who understood that sometimes the government must intervene. Welcome to the real world, Tea Party revelers. Politics is a lot more than training a loudspeaker on a crowd of funny hats and poorly spelled placards. Indeed, with a spokesman like Paul now forced to address real- world issues -- that is, beyond the debt that seemed not to alarm said activists until Barack Obama became president-- the Tea Party is looking more like aWonderland derivative than one of Boston Harbor. What fun it is to parade around as the offended when you've never faced the offenses behind the Civil Rights Act. How jolly, for those whose health care is in- sured, to rail against government actions to make that possible for more Americans. (The hatters scream that Congress and the president ,rammed it down our throats,', Actually, the majority in Congress, and the president, ran YOUNG, on vows to do something. They got elected, then did what they campaigned to do. I think that's called democracy in action.) How symbolic it was recently for red-faced protesters at a Tea Party rally to scream at a prone counter-protester who (1) had no health insurance and (2) was un- able to stand because of Parkin- son's syndrome. Listen closely to these protest- ers. Listen closely to heroes like Paul and Sarah Palin. Ask yourself: Have they a clue? Or are they like the bandolier-bedecked military junta that takes over by force and then is bamboozled by synchro- nizing traffic lights and making buses run on time? Palin is one of the most sought- after speakers of our da for good reason: She isn't about to say any- thing at all about snooze-and-lose matters like governing or actual public policy. Who'd be caught dead doing that at $1,000 a plate? Paul?What a stand-up dude. After the press started asking him tough (OK, so-so) questions post- primary victor he became only the third person ever to duck out of "Meet the Press," the other two being Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar bin Khaled al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Palin said that like she, Paul was being victimized by "biased" interviewers. She's right. As with, say, the brutal Katie Couric, who asked Palin what magazines she read, the morning-after pursu- ers of Rand Paul wanted to know what was in his head. The Tea Party has gotten far more attention than it merits. Now when we actually ask for more information, it screams "media conspiracy" and its lead- ers head for the nearest rabbit hole-- a place where, based on the r411ies, we presumed all were invited. ]ohn Young writes for Cox Newspapers. jyoungcolumn@gmail.com Terrible theory to tax tanners on't you just hate it when you have a day off, it's raining cats and dogs, and you plan to spend a relaxing day splayed out on the sofa, reading the morning paper when you come across an article that sends your blood boiling and ruins a peaceful, lazy morning? And if you happen to be a newspaper columnist suffering froma mild case of lunacy, a story like this is like throwing raw meat to a starving grizzly. I had to jump off the couch, grab another cup of Irish coffee and get to my computer. Maw just read in some section other than the sports page of the Austin pa- per that President Obama and his cro- nies have passed legislature that will place a tax on tanning salons to help pay for their Health Care Bill. Hmmm? This sort of makes sense since there's a bunch of Americans getting skin can- cer from going into these human mi- crowaves, but isn't there, and correct me if I'm wrong, another source of skin cancer? And don't you suppose more folks get skin cancer from this other source than the small percentage of cave-dwelling vampires who must use artificial sunlight to turn their milky- white skin into bullhide? Shouldn't the government also place a tax on the people who foolishly go out under the sun between dawn and dusk? Seri- ously, if we are going to tax the prom , FROM THE queen who gets tanned under a light bulb, isn't it fair to tax the guy plowing up his seared crop of corn? Another part of this "Tan Tax" that is going to stir up the chamber pot will be that the tax will be placed on a se- lective race instead of the general pub- lic. I'm not going to toss the race card onto the poker table, but this tax will probably not affect folks of darker skin or folks with common sense. I suspect there will be lots of disapproving white folks who will pitch a fit over this, but letme set the record straight by saying I won't be one of those ivory-skinned malcontents. I wouldn't be caught dead in a tanning salon unless Harrell's Funeral Home starts a side business, which wouldn't be a bad idea. They al- ready have rows of coffins. Why not rig them with UV lights and charge young women $30 to lie in a pine tanning box for 30 minutes? It'd be extra income for funeral homes if Death takes a holiday. I can see it now... "Grampy looks so peaceful". "Yep! He looks like he's sleeping, doesn't he?" 'And doesn't he look good in his Sunday suit?" "Yeah, but where did he get that killer suntan?" What does raffle my feathers is that our president and other elected offi:' cials thought this tax was a way to fund health care when there's so much tax revenue being wasted in Washington. And what is scary is that they got away with passing this legislation. Who will they tax next?Will I get fined for having a red neck and bronze leathery fore- arms from spending too much time on a tractor?Will beach bunnies get a citation if they don't lube up with SPF 1000 Coppertone? What about a tax on gyms where steroid-infused, deeply tanned bodybuilders go to pump iron? I bet Governor Schwarzenegger didn't vote for the passage of the tan tax. Instead of taxing melatonin-deplet- ed white folks with a death wish, why not tax petroleum companies who spill toxic crude oil into our oceans? How about taxing rich athletes who aren't good role models to young im- pressionable kids? Better yet, let's fine government officials for every asinine act they perform? That should wipe out our national debt in no time. rockytop78640@yahoo.com LETTER TO THE EDITOR HOPE RESTS WITH NEW TRUSTEES Congratulations to our newest school board members: Meredith Keller, Marty Kanetzky, and Willie Tenorio, Jr. Our hopes rest on these new trustees. Last year, HCISD taxpayers spent an astounding $12,901 per student, up from $6,166 ten years ago (+109%) and our standardized test score improvement was less than the average state- wide improvement. While we understand the changing demographics of the district, with- out serious attention to academic improve- ment, all this flesh new spending is wasted. What's even more disturbing is increased spending did not make its way to the class- room. The money isn't going to the teacher. Average teacher pay in the 08-09 school year was $47,159 up from $34,336 ten years ago. Ten years ago with 6,309 students our total staff to student ratio was 7.39:1. In 2008-09 with 13,821 students this ratio was 7:05:1. Higher enrollment lead to decreased efficien- cy! While enrollment skyrocketed from 6,309 to 13,821, a 120% increase, central adminis- tration employment increased 333% during this same period! On the interest and sinking fund side, the amount that pays for debt service, we have increased our debt to over $330 million, a whopping $24,000 per student. Sixty nine fast growth districts comprise 96% of total state- wide enrollment growth. These 69 districts have average debt per student of $16,300. Hays' per student debt is 50% higher than the other fast growth districts and our method of financing debt will burden future generations for decades to come. The 2008 bond issue alone defers principal repayments for 22 years costing another $65 million in interest. Look at it this way: In 98/99, our per student debt service was $1,219. In 08/09, it was $1,665, an increase of only 37%. During this same period of time debt went from $46.4 million to $331 million, an increase of 713%! This means each new student cost us $37,000 in new debt but only $450 in debt service. That's because we're laying huge repayments off on future generations. That's shameful. Ten years ago, Hemphill, Fuentes and Elm Grove cost a combined $12.3 million. Today, Carpenter Hill and Pfluger cost over $20 mil- lion EACH. Bryce C. Bales Manchaca Ringing the bells for the old country church eCentl I heard a gospel et on television. ong the songs they were singing was one called "The Old Country Church." No doult it brought memories of growling up in a wooden church iln the country or a small ton. A certain revere takes over as we remember good tinaes that are in danger of vanishing from the Ameri- can landlscape. Singer Bob Dylan points out a bitter troth about our arrival in the 21st century;; small just doesn't cut it anymore. Fifty years has almost wiped otut the "mom and pop" stores ini favor of Walmart or CVS Phaurmacy. Not long ago small churches could compete with larger churches. White frame church- es still dot the countryside and small towns, but the churches are no longer able to maintain the type of program that was once taken for granted. The average age of parishioners among country churches is at or near retirement age while large suburban churches thrive with those in their forties or younger. The economy has a lot to do with this. A full time ministry is becoming harder and harder to maintain and we are witnessing an influx of part-time or lay pastors. The old country church may well go out of existence in a few years. Sad as that is, we are fighting a war which becomes harder and harder by the year. The church will survive but its form is rapidly changing. Going with the small country church is a way of life. We want things to be big. The song ends with a lament which seem- ingly has no answer. "How I long once more to be with my friends at the old country church!" Governor Perry calls on president to rein in EPA he state Senate Education and Higher Education com- mittees met in joint session May 24 to get input on the effec- tiveness and scope of the state's dual-course credit program that enables students to take high school courses that earn college credit. Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund A. Paredes said increasing numbers of eco- nomically disadvantaged students are enrolling. Those students, who now make up about a third of stu- dents in dual-credit programs, are underrepresented, however, when compared to the total proportion of economically disadvantaged students, Paredes said. The program lacks consistency statewide, as some areas of the state offer more in terms of structural and financial support for students looking to take college courses than others, Paredes testified. "We know there are differences in support services across the state that yield different results," said Paredes. "We have to make sure every child has an opportunity to do as well in dual-credit courses as possible." Education Committee Chair Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Piano, said the state needs to find ways to make it easier for students to get into dual- credit courses. "We are putting in place too many hurdles for those students to get there," she said. AIR QUALITY HEARINGS SCHEDULED The Texas Commission on En- vironmental Quality announced plans to host a series of meetings around the state in June and July to inform the public about, and receive comment on, potential non-attainment boundaries and designations for new ozone stan- dards. These standards were proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protec- tion Agency in January and are expected to be finalized in August. In other news, Gov. Rick Perry on May 26 said the EPA's move to enforce the federal Clean Air Act in Texas threatens to kill thousands of jobs. "I am calling upon President Obama to rein in the EPA and instruct them to study our success- ful approach for recommended use elsewhere," Perry said. A troopers arrested 622 drunken CAPITAL drivers, wrote nearly 8;511 speed- ing tickets and issued 1,937 seat ............. iG belt and 521 child restraint cita- tions. DOJ OKS CONSOLIDATION OF ISDS The U.S. Department of Justice BUCKLE UP, BACKsEAT PASSENGERS The state law requiring everyone in a vehicle to be secured by an approved safety belt took effect on Sept. 1, 2009, and until Iune 6, the Texas Highway Patrol and law en- forcement officers across the state will be on the lookout for violators during the ninth "Click It or Ticket" enforcement mobilization. "This year's Click It or Ticket campaign reminds drivers and passengers that no matter how old you are or where in the vehicle you are sitting, you must buckle up," said Texas Highway Patrol Assistant Director David Baker. "Backseat passengers no longer have an excuse for not wearing a safety belt, and we will be issuing tickets to those who are not com- plying with the law." Baker said that during the Me- morial Day holiday last year, DPS on May 25 cleared the way for the Texas commissioner of educa- tion to consolidate the Kendleton Independent School District with neighboring Lamar Consolidated ISD, effective July 1. Commissioner of Education Robert Scott in March announced his intention to close Kendleton, a small, one-campus district in Fort Bend County, because of chronic academic problems. Because the consolidation emi- hates the Kendleton school board, it was necessary for the Texas Education Agency to seek preclear- ance from the Justice Deparnent as Texas remains under restrictions imposed by the Voting Rights &eL of 1965. "Closing a school district is a somber moment," Scott said. "It is an action I take only when all other efforts to revive a district have failed .... " HURRICANE PREPARATIONS: IT'S TIME Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. The Texas Department of Insurance on May 25 encour- aged Texans to read and understand their insurance policies and to pose questions to their agent or com- pany. For starters, the department suggested a home inventory and to store the inventory in a safe loca- tion away from home. For a list of other suggested preparations, visit the Consumer Help Line: 1-800-252-3439 or visit http: //www.tdi.state.tx.us. STREET DUBBED WILLIE NELSON BOULEvARD, Austin City Council on May 27 voted to honor singer Willie Nelson by giving 2nd Street between Trinity and San Antonio streets the honor- ary name of Willie Nelson Boule- vard. Ed Sterling works for the Texas Press Association and follows the Legislature for the association. edsteding@texaspress.com.