PAYING FOR PROP. B
This apparent vote result presents city government with a new set of huge obstacles. The costs will be steep, as I have warned for months. Under our city charter we don’t have a way to raise taxes to pay for this. The only way out is cuts in spending, and by far our biggest spending is on payroll. So the apparent passage of Prop B puts us on course for layoffs. Some firefighters who had hoped to benefit from Prop B will lose their jobs instead – while older firefighters get a 29 percent pay hike. Regrettably, the fire department budget alone will not be able to absorb these additional costs. Other departments such as police, solid waste, parks and libraries will be adversely affected. I hope and trust the residents of Houston will bear with us as we work to balance the city’s budget with an an additional $100 million a year added to our expenses. Another obstacle is how to interpret and carry out the language of the proposition, which is vague and ambiguous. Under our ordinances, the proposition on the ballot had to mirror what was on the petition that made the election necessary. Mistakes were made in the petition language, which is why the city legal department will seek advice on how to go forward.
Sylvester Turner, Mayor
City of Houston
FAIR PLAY AND RACE
In reply to Michael Eheman’s letter to the editor (“It Wasn’t A Trial,” Oct. 30), a standard of fair play where an accusation must be proven to some degree is an essential component to justice and the American way. So, it should be applied when reviewing a judicial appointment. True, the Kavanaugh hearings weren’t a trial, but they were hardly a job interview once Professor Christine Blasey Ford and the other accusers injected themselves into the scene. The accusations against Judge Kavanaugh were serious but not substantiated. Senator Feinstein never intended to have an additional investigation because she withheld the accusations until they could do the most potential damage, which makes them more suspect or perhaps merely faulty memories at play. Keep in mind, the FBI conducted many previous background investigations on Kavanaugh during the course of his government service.
On race, I did not inject that into the story. Clearly, race should have no role here as the key players were white, as Eheman notes. But women, specifically white women, were pointedly criticized for supporting Kavanaugh. Eve Ensler, author of ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ wrote “A Letter to White Women Who Supported Kavanaugh” that appeared in the Oct. 4 online version of Time magazine that accused them, generally, of supporting men over women. Alexis Grenell, a Democratic media strategist, editorialized in the New York Times (“White Women, Come Get Your People,” Oct. 6, the day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation) that white women were upholding “patriarchy.” White women with wrong views get targeted. Hillary Clinton blamed her loss on, among many others, white women who voted in a slight majority against her. Women of color apparently voted correctly. Race, particularly the white race of women, was inappropriately brought up during the Kavanaugh hearings. It is absolutely not inappropriate to mention that.
A man recently entered a synagogue and murdered 11 Jews (wounding six others). Per CNN, the alleged shooter told a SWAT officer that he wanted all Jews to die. No baby is born hating anyone, so what transpired after that man’s (or Adolph Hitler’s) birth to turn him into a hate-filled killer of Jews? I don’t know the answer, but in my opinion, too little is said about the tremendous contributions to mankind Jews have made over the years. For example, thus far, 902 individuals have won a Nobel Prize. Of that number, 203 (or 22.5 percent) are Jews, even though Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the total population. And many Jews have won Academy Awards. Such winners include Barbra Streisand, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Ali MacGraw, Goldie Hawn, Natalie Portman, Kate Hudson and many others. Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), a Hungarian immigrant who arrived here at age 17 speaking little English (but fluent in German, French and Hungarian) was a Jew. Wikipedia lists his occupation as “Publisher, philanthropist, journalist and lawyer.” He became a very successful newspaper publisher and amassed a net worth of $30.6 million. His will established the Pulitzer Prizes that are awarded annually for excellence in newspaper journalism, literary achievements and musical composition. Let’s don’t forget Albert Einstein, a German Jew who immigrated to the U. S. in 1933 to escape Hitler’s effort to exterminate Jews. How can anyone possibly want to harm such folks who have contributed so much to our lives? I salute and admire all of those Jews!
NON-RELIGIOUS MORAL CONVICTIONS
In the aftermath of the midterms, the Trump administration took an important step for liberty. The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor finalized rules allowing employers, universities and nonprofit organizations to refuse birth control coverage due to “sincerely held religious beliefs” in one rule and “non-religious moral convictions” in a second. The Obama administration had created an accommodation for religious nonprofits and, after the Hobby Lobby decision, for closely-held, for-profit organizations that had religious objections. The new rules extend the accommodations.
The second exemption rule is particularly important. While religion provides a moral underpinning for behavior, people who may view themselves as spiritual or philosophical, including atheists, should be allowed to practice their morality as well, particularly where taking life is concerned. Briefly defined, non-religious moral convictions are deeply and sincerely held beliefs that are ethical or moral that impose a duty.
When former Secretary for Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius mandated birth control coverage, she forced irreligious or immoral beliefs on religious or moral people while making them pay for the privilege. With the new rules, refusing birth control coverage broadly extends to those whose moral or philosophical views are not based on religion; the ‘forcing religion on people’ argument withers. Recognizing and extending legal protections to individuals whose morality is not based on religion is a great development.
Worryingly, the new rules are government-provided exceptions to a government-mandated activity. In short, it could be said that government is allowing people to be moral. The new rules could be taken away. This is why living in a democracy requires constant vigilance. Were we to expect less of our government, we would have fewer of these kinds of arguments. And our elections would be less fractious.