Friday, October 17, 2014

Time to shut down Texas Lotto | Last Word

Last week a legislative committee took up the question of whether Texas should abolish the state lottery.

If you haven’t been paying attention, the suggestion sounds outrageous.

Doesn’t the Lottery bring in billions of dollars and isn’t it a major source of funding for our public schools?

The answer is yes and no.

Friday, October 10, 2014

We don't really "elect" judges | Last Word

Some years ago I endorsed a young lawyer running for a Bexar County bench based on just one factor.

Getting her a regular paycheck was likely the only way taxpayers would recover the money we had lent her for law school.

The voters didn’t buy my argument.

Now comes, via Express-News Columnist Gilbert Garcia, news of another judicial candidate who had defaulted on his student loans.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Police medical benefits under fire | Last Word

I’d like to begin this piece by once again thanking Ronnie Parker, an excellent copy editor at the Houston Chronicle.

Some years ago I wrote a column about how the Houston police union was in serious, if tough, negotiations with the city while the firefighters’ union was posturing and making outrageous demands.

My lead began, “There’s an old Texas saying that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.”

Ronnie called me over to his desk and said, “Rick, you’re writing about the police union. Do you really want to use a metaphor about pigs?”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Learn about "Telling: San Antonio" | Sept. 26, 2014

Over the past few decades, thousands of veterans have returned from wars to live in San Antonio. They all have stories, but few of us get to hear them. Playwright Jonathan Wei has come up with an innovative way to help us. He turns veterans into actors, and their stories into theater. We talk to Wei and one of his veterans/actors to learn about "Telling: San Antonio" and its impact.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Will Gov. Perry really fight injustice? | Last Word

Last week Gov. Rick Perry flew to Lubbock to dedicate a memorial statue of Timothy Cole, a Texas Tech student who was wrongly convicted of raping a fellow student after a badly botched police investigation.

Cole died in prison in the 14th year of a 25-year sentence.

The highlight of last week’s ceremony was when Perry said, “This statue will serve as a reminder that justice must be tempered with wisdom and that we all must stand vigilant against injustice, wherever it may be found.”

Gov. Perry should keep that imperative in mind as he reconsiders the case of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Willingham was the Corsicana man who was executed for setting an arson fire that killed his three children as they slept.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Oil boom wasting lots of gas | Sept. 12, 2014

While the Texas oil boom, driven by fracking, has raised concerns about groundwater and earthquakes, recent reports has generated a different buzz.

Two San Antonio Express-News reporters spent a year looking at something much more visible: thousands of well-site flares that light up South Texas skies. They found a massive waste of natural gas, pollution and very light regulation. We talk to the jo

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tesla plant might be a risky bet | Last Word

When it was reported that the Tesla Motor Corp. would build a promised $5 billion lithium-ion battery “gigafactory” in Reno rather than San Antonio, our disappointment was salved by the rationale that Reno is close to the nation’s only lithium mine.

How can anybody compete with that?

But it turns out there may have been another factor that leads to another question.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Texas school funding ruled unfair | Sept. 5, 2014

The way we fund public schools in Texas has been ruled unconstitutional ... again. We talk to one of San Antonio's top superintendents about what it means in San Antonio, and to a man who knows as well as anyone why the Texas Legislature hasn't been able to solve this problem.

Friday, September 5, 2014

New mayor tackles how city grows | Last Word

In her campaign to replace Mayor Julian Castro, Ivy Taylor made two promises to the voters – the voters being her fellow council members.

One was that she would not run to hold onto the office in next May’s election.

The other was that she would not be a caretaker.

There is speculation that she may not keep the first promise, but she’s leaving no doubt about the second.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Should city allow ride sharing? | Aug. 29, 2014

Uber and Lyft are two ride-sharing companies operating in town that let customers use a smartphone app to get rides. Cab drivers don’t like the competition, and the city's transportation code does not allow for such a free-wheeling set-up. City officials must decide whether to change the code or shut them down. We ask two City Council members what should happen.