FEEDBACK: Valuing our human infrastructure

Valuing our human infrastructure

For years, politicians have talked about the under-funded public infrastructure like highways, water lines, sewer systems and basic transportation.

There is another infrastructure that is being under-funded in this city and state in particular: our “human infrastructure.”

In educational terms, we are regressing.

When I was growing up, my school district supplied the basics for a well-rounded education. I took what I learned and then expanded my knowledge at my local county-funded library, and went on to graduate with honors at Angelo State University.

Today’s children receive a poorer quality education because Texas no longer properly funds public schools K-12, and our public libraries are being starved of resources. A university education that cost me $4 a credit hour has now increased 10 times or more since I went to school.

While libraries are being destroyed by budget cuts, the need for a strong library is greater than ever. The population that our schools serve face greater challenges since so many come from homes where English is not the first language in the home.

Despite this challenge for children and adults, ESL class funding has been slashed. Dallas Independent School District has a 50 percent dropout rate, and GED class funding has been slashed.

The state of Texas has eliminated funding for the online databases for K-12 and DISD has reduced the number of school librarians.

Each of these reductions by other government agencies has increased the demand by citizens of Dallas and other Texas cities to use public libraries; however, the city of Dallas has reduced our library spending by approximately 40 percent over the last three budget years.

We would be lucky were our library merely “decimated,” i.e. reduced by a tenth. We now spend less money per capita on libraries than Fort Worth, Austin, Houston or San Antonio. Despite this lack of funding, demand at Dallas Public Libraries has increased.

In the 2006 bond program, the voters approved approximately $60 million in funding for eight new or replacement libraries; unfortunately, those buildings are now short staffed and short of materials.

Each branch except for Hampton Illinois has only a branch manager for 2 ½ days a week since the branch managers cover two branches. The branch manager for North Oak Cliff also is responsible for West Dallas. By dividing their time, they barely have time to manage their branch, let alone get to know their neighborhoods.

Many branches no longer have children’s librarians even though it is critical to encourage children to love reading if they hope to succeed in life. Texas prisons are filled with men who read at a fourth grade level.

Our city is filled with unemployed men and women who lack the necessary job skills to compete in our global economy. If we do not invest in our children, our future as a community is doomed to failure.

It does not matter how much money we give in tax breaks if our citizens cannot read the English language. Companies may locate here but employ suburbanites who have better funded schools and libraries.

The choice is clear: Either we as a city invest in our library system, our cultural institutions where children and adults learn, or we are known as a city with beautiful monuments and a high unemployment rate.

If you want to change this situation, I would encourage you to contact your City Council member and the mayor of Dallas.  The proposed budget can still be changed. If you would like to help improve the Dallas Public Library System, you can join the Friends of the Dallas Public Library or your local branch Friends Group. If your branch does not have a Friends group, I can help you start a group.

Stan Aten, president, Hampton Illinois/Oak Lawn Library Friends

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Republicans won’t help economy

Why did the president of Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans give no evidence in his commentary (“Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2) as to why the GOP will help your pocketbook?

He couldn’t. They won’t. They never have.

Take stocks, the way many generate retirement, as well as current income:

DJIA up 223 percent during Clinton’s eight years, down 25 percent during the George W. Bush eight-year reign of error, and up only 46 percent during his daddy’s four-year term.

Jobs? More than 11 percent increase annualized during the Clinton presidency, under 1 percent when George W. Bush was in the White House.
How do I know the above information? I googled it.

Don’t be misled by Republicans who talk about being better on pocketbook issues. You only have to check with Google to know the Democrats have consistently done better.

Dave Gershner, Dallas
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Is Schlein nuts?

In re: “Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2, by Rob Schlein.

Is this guy nuts? Bring back “don’t ask, don’t tell?” A federal defense of straight only marriage amendment? America got it wrong in 2008?
Hundreds of millions of Americans think not.

Can we not be trusted to vote intelligently? How about we all do away with votes and have a permanent Republican government and bring back President Bush to save us from the recession he caused.

What kind of gay man would dare show his face and tell us to vote for the most homophobic party in politics? He must be very stupid, or on the GOP payroll.

Nathaniel Ash, via the Internet
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Flawed premise

Rob Schlein’s article about why he will vote Republican (“Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2) reminds me of the argument that many slaves were better off in bondage than they were after they were freed.

No level of economic privilege can compensate for the loss of basic civil rights. I will not live as a second-class citizen and hide in the closet, even if it buys me a nicer car and gets me a higher paying job.

Even if I accepted Mr. Schlein’s premise that voting Republican would lead to higher economic opportunities for the average person — which I don’t — the price is still too high. That’s why I will vote Democrat, no matter who is running. And I hope you will too.

Mark Swaim, Dallas

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dewhurst is neither dear nor a friend

Lieutenant governor’s email touts disastrous budget cuts as a success, says he’s preparing to share some ‘exciting news’

PHYLLIS GUEST | Contributing Columnist

As the Special Session of the Texas Legislature ended, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst posted a “Dear Friend” letter online.

The Internet being what it is, the letter also went to those who do not think him dear and do not consider him a friend.

In it, he touts what he considers the accomplishments of “[w]e conservatives.” These include cutting state spending by nearly $15 billion, balancing the budget without raising taxes, preserving Rainy Day funds for future budget balancing, enacting a strong voter ID law, passing legislation to reduce frivolous lawsuits, and protecting the unborn.

Let’s look at a few of the people and services that got the axe:

• School teachers

• School librarians

• Public library services

• Nursing home care

• Stipends for college

• Access to contraceptives

• Access to low-cost health care

• Food, etc., for prisoners

The list goes on and on. But the list is sad, while the letter is funny — assuming you enjoy black humor.

The first funny thing is that Dewhurst reminds readers five times of his position on the political spectrum. In addition to noting what “[w]e conservatives” did to make the 82nd Legislature “one of the most successful in Texas history,” he mentions his conservative record, his conservative values, the Lege’s conservative victories, and the wonders of conservative change.

Also funny is his claim to having reduced current state spending by almost $15 billion. Does he think we have forgotten that he and Gov. Rick Perry never mentioned, during the last re-election campaign, our state’s shabby fiscal condition? Only later did we learn that our state was $25 billion in the hole. That’s give or take a few billion, according to State Comptroller Susan Coombs.

Even funnier is his pride in the passage of the voter ID law “to protect the integrity of our elections.” Remind us how many unqualified individuals have dashed to the polls, desperate to vote? How distressing it was to wait for hours, in pouring rain or blazing sun, to get to a voting machine? Apparently it is true that a handful of ineligible people have voted, and some have been cited for technical violations. However, far more Texans turned out for the Dallas Mavericks parade than for the Dallas mayoral runoff. Go Mavs!

Funnier still is that he boasts of providing “pregnant women the opportunity to see a sonogram of their unborn child.” Does he believe no such opportunity had existed before? To his mind, and that of his colleagues, have clinics and clinicians across the state refused pregnant women access to ultrasound technology available even in (gasp!) Africa and Asia? As to his companion boast of “requiring a 24-hour waiting period” before a woman can get an abortion? Only a stupid straight or a closeted queen could deem that the state’s business.

Finally, Dewhurst probably thinks clamping down low-cost health care is a real knee-slapper. The June 29 Dallas Morning News reported that the new state budget cuts funds to Parkland’s family planning clinics by more than half, or about $5 million. Statewide, $63 million was cut from family planning programs. So the Lege is punishing not only an organization that refers women for abortion services — Planned Parenthood — but all low-income women. Men, too, of course. And the unwanted children who will be born as a result.

The 82nd Legislature on which Dewhurst was “proud to report” tore a $467 million hole in the state’s already frayed social safety net, lopping off chunks of the Medicaid program that would have helped, according to the DMN, poor children, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and the disabled.

But here’s the best part of the Dewhurst letter. After assuring readers that he and his wife, Tricia, had prayed over his future, he reports — in bold face type — “we will have exciting news to share with you about what we will do next.”

Be still, my heart.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist and member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Contact her via editor@dallasvoice.com.

—  John Wright