The suffering from the Hurricane Harvey floods continues in many corners of our city. But so does the recovery effort. Recently the recovery marked two milestones. Soon after the hurricane, County Judge Ed Emmett and I created the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and asked the public to donate money to help victims with pressing needs. There was no way for us to know how much money would arrive. We were so grateful when the donations eventually reached $113 million, showing that we are truly a community that helps its own in times of trouble. None of the money went to city or county government. Instead, at our request, the Greater Houston Community Fund used its vast experience to identify 124 proven, grassroots nonprofit organizations to use the money to help the most needy victims of the disaster. The last of the $113 million was distributed a few days ago, bringing the total of Houston households helped to 190,000. The funds provided cash assistance, temporary housing, food, clothing, furniture, health services, case management and more to families all over the city. In the next few weeks, however, federal housing assistance that the city has sought ever since the hurricane will finally start arriving, including $1.17 billion for housing replacement and repairs. Hurricane Harvey was Houston’s worst natural disaster and also its best inspiration for charity and good works. Our strong spirit will carry us through as those displaced and disadvantaged by the floods continue to put their lives back together.
Sylvester Turner, Mayor
City of Houston
LOVE THE TRIBUNE!
I just finished reading The Tribune cover to cover and, as usual, I am so impressed with the area coverage, technicolor photos and the four individual segments produced with each issue. In contrast, the other local paper and magazines go only from our driveway into the recycle bin each week, along with the copious amounts of inserted advertisements. You keep the neighborhoods united and excited! You get a 10-plus rating! The subjects that drew our latest attention: The Humble High Veterans annual ceremony with Dan Crenshaw speaking. Then, I am a fan of The Tidelanders Barbershop group that has sung for Chuck Cagle’s annual veterans event in the Civic Center. What a performing group of men! I learned of their concert coming and will apply for tickets when I finish this typing to you. Next, I enjoyed learning of the progress of Precinct 2’s Atascocita hike-and-bike trail. As an original creator of United Airlines’ “Great Adventures Series,” faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and post surgeon for the VFW Post in Kingwood, I know we should all understand the value of getting out into the oxygen-rich environment that the trees, shrubs and flowers provide for us … peace and quiet is a secondary positive benefit. Thanks, Jack Morman, for your due diligence on this. And lastly, I certainly was honored when Mike Penn pointed out my successful combat missions in SE Asia. Add an additional 67 completed missions to the 600 he mentioned, and he is spot-on. Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam certainly deserved the attention as well as all of the veterans at the Walden CC luncheon. It takes every skill to keep the military rolling mightily around the entire planet.
My dog Spots and I recently had the following conversation:
Bill: What kind of dog are you?
Spots: I’m a little girl dog.
Bill: What makes you think that you are a girl dog?
Spots: Because I’m built to have puppies.
Bill: Who built you?
Spots: No one built me. My father’s sperm fertilized my mother’s egg, thereby initiating an autonomous cell-division process that culminated with my birth.
A devout Christian, Jew or Muslim would disagree with Spots’s last statement, for such a person would say that God built her. Such persons invoke God to explain everything that occurs. That’s why they pray (prayer = a wish addressed to a supernatural being); they think that God answers prayers. They are blind to such events as The Holocaust, where some 6 million Jews perished in Hitler’s concentration camps. Surely many of those Jews prayed for help. Instead of helping them, God stood idly by and watched men, women and children (including 15-year-old Anne Frank, her sister Margot, and their mother) be slaughtered. Science was born the day someone had sense enough to say, “From now on, I will not invoke God to explain natural events.”
Thank you for supporting the residents of Oaks of Righteousness as they seek life transformation. In God’s plan, Oaks of Righteousness loves, transforms and equips female ex-offenders to become independent, prepared, empowered and productive members of society. Thank you for partnering with us to positively encourage the success of each resident.
Beth Whitter, Founder
Oaks of Righteousness
MIGRANTS TO THE U.S. AND EUROPE
Central American migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexican border at Tijuana. Pictures of them being tear-gassed as they tried to illegally breach the fence have created shock waves. It shouldn’t. The migrants are not asylum seekers. Fleeing a country due to crime or lack of economic opportunity does not make someone politically persecuted. Mexico offered refuge, but the migrants rejected that as their goal is the United States. This shows that they are not seeking asylum; they are shopping for the best place to live. Need proof? Pregnant Honduran migrant Maryury Serrano Hernandez recently snuck across the border with her husband to subsequently give birth to a bouncing baby American citizen, and she described giving birth in the United States as a “big reward.” By the way, the American taxpayer paid for her medical expenses. Europe, too, is experiencing a migration crisis, but theirs is largely self-inflicted. When the West adopted regime change for Libya and Syria, tens of thousands of refugees were created as a result of the wars that were unleashed. With Libya now a failed state, thousands more refugees from Africa, this time economic refugees, are coming through it to attempt passage across the Mediterranean. These countries now don’t work, and the people who live there see no reason they can’t head north to greener pastures. Toppling Muammar Gaddafi and trying to topple Bashar Assad, however bad as leaders, is not worth the havoc created. These challenges are not going away. There will be more migrants of undereducated masses in caravans headed for the U.S. and Europe. They do not care about national immigration laws and will not assimilate. Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel “The Camp of the Saints” is proving prophetic.
COURT-ORDERED EQUITABLE EDUCATION FINANCING
The Texas State Legislature soon begins its biennial session. One priority is to improve school funding after the state Supreme Court ruled the current system – called “Robin Hood” because it requires property-rich districts to share their tax revenues with the state to be disbursed to poorer districts – awful but lawful. Finding a scheme to fund schools adequately is a great challenge, and legislators need to work their best to come up with a principled plan to keep the topic out of the courts. Kansas, where I attended college, and New Jersey, my former state, offer warnings to Texas. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Kansas ordered the state legislature to create a more equitable funding scheme. The legislature implemented a new plan, but the efforts were ruled unconstitutional, read insufficient, again in 2017 and earlier this year. But, there are questions some districts may not be using their money effectively. Some lawmakers want to strip the authority of the state Supreme Court of making school financing rulings. New Jersey has it worse. Court-ordered additional educational funding to low-income districts since 1981 (and subsequently reconfirmed) have barely improved student performance compared with students in other districts. In 2016, Gannett newspapers of New Jersey surveyed the districts that receive court-mandated, additional funding and found that over the course of 10 years, the achievement gap, variously measured, stayed the same, although graduation rates closed. In some places, despite the additional funding, the achievement gap actually grew. Some low-income districts complain of the burdensome administrative process that fosters programs on districts that they feel aren’t needed. When new lawsuits appear, what is the solution the Supreme Courts of Kansas and New Jersey order? More money. Hence, the warning.