Printed public notices at risk Late last year I wrote about a bill that was filed in an attempt to take printed public notices out of newspapers and place them on the World Wide Web. It appears that bill, and a similar one, have been referred to a House committee (Government Transparency and Operation) before they advance further.
House Bill 139, filed by Rep. John Stickland (R-Bedford, House District 92), is attempting to make it acceptable to publish certain governmental legal notices on the comptroller's website, and making it optional to publish them in local newspapers.
Another bill, House Bill 814, has a similar goal, aiming to get notices posted to a governmental body on the Internet instead of in a newspaper.
As I said before, that is a bad idea.
Printed public notices have long been found on the pages of newspapers across this nation. Such notices are published in order to increase the public's awareness of governmental actions and intent. Changing that may leave many Americans in the dark when it comes to what the government agencies are up to.
It is important for residents to be made aware of actions being considered by governing bodies, and there are a lot of people who prefer to read such notices in print.
Here are a few things to consider:
• There are many people out there, especially in rural areas, who have no access or limited access to the Internet, making it difficult for them to search for such information online. This means the elderly, the poor, minorities and rural residents run the risk of becoming disenfranchised from civic involvement;
• The Internet is not as popular with the older demographics such as 50-64 and 65-plus — age groups that are very likely to get involved and take action;
• It can also be difficult to find public notices on websites, as they may be hidden several layers within the site; and
• You've got to be aware of the myriad of governmental agencies out there to even be able to begin locating the public notices.
Newspapers provide an outlet with a readership that far exceeds any other medium, to reach a large audience. In fact, the number of print readers, combined with our online readers, makes total newspaper penetration the most attractive to anyone who must reach a mass audience. And, public notices are easy to find.
In addition, newspaper readership online, regardless of market size, is consistently much higher than readership of governmental websites. Newspapers are seen as a "go-to" source reliable and consistent information. Local governmental websites have a very small sliver of readership.
Why are newspapers fighting to keep public notices on their pages? It is not about the revenue. In fact, Texas law requires newspapers publish such notices at the lowest published classified rate. Revenue from public notices accounts for a mere 1 percent to 5 percent of total revenue at a Texas newspaper. So, yes, it would hurt to lose that revenue, but newspapers would survive.
What will be impacted most is the governmental transparency and accountability to taxpayers, something that doesn't need to be diminished as government continues to grow and take more and more control over our everyday lives.
Keep published public notices in Texas newspapers, and keep Texans aware.
Share your thoughts on this topic by contacting your state-level elected officials. Their contact information may be found along the left-hand side of this page.
Plenty to be thankful for this year The season of Thanksgiving is upon us. This week many of us will gather with family, friends or even complete strangers to share in the celebration, and there is plenty to be thankful for this year.
We can be thankful for our loved ones, our friends, our health, having a job, and countless other things. You know, when you step back and take a look at the big picture, we are all really blessed in many ways.
While the holidays are a time to spend time with those we hold dear to our hearts, many people are faced with their first Thanksgiving without a loved one.
The loss of a loved one can make the holidays difficult. Rather than having that special someone around, there is now an empty chair at the dinner table as the family sits down for the meal.
We all go through those holidays at some point in our journey through this life. What is important is that we remember all the things about our missing loved one that us laugh, made us cry, made us love them.
For those of you who are facing this reality as Thanksgiving rolls around, my thoughts and prayers are with you to make it through your first holiday without your loved one.
This will be the first Thanksgiving for my family since my paternal grandmother passed away. We faced the same situation last Thanksgiving as my maternal grandmother passed away a few months earlier.
It wasn’t easy, and this year won’t be either. However, I know we’ll make it through, and we’ll probably share some “I remember when...” stories while we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner.
Those memories are something to be thankful for. And, there will be plenty more memories made this Thanksgiving. I hope the same is true for you and yours.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, Moore County!
Mayor Pro-Tem Bonner addresses hospital issue Editor’s note: The following are comments provided by Dumas Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. David Bonner regarding the proposed hospital expansion/upgrade currently being discussed. Please read on:
The issue presented to the voters by our hospital board was regarding a bond election for a tax increase to build an entirely new hospital at a new location. The majority of the voters voted against a tax increase to support this. That election did not ask the voters if it was ok for the hospital board to update the present facility adding an adjacent structure to bring the hospital into compliance with current regulations and technology requirements, all without raising taxes. The hospital board is planning on doing this, as I understand it, without raising taxes therefore making it essentially a $20 million dollar gift to the entire multi-city hospital district.
The duty of the Dumas City Commission is not to conduct straw polls of a few citizens on the interpretation of a tax bond election. Our responsibility is to decide whether closing this section of street would be a detriment to the health, safety, and welfare of our city. We have certainly set a precedent with previous decisions of closing a city owned roadway where an entity owns or will own both sides of the roadway. I understand the Fire Chief, Police Chief, and our Public Works Director have all stated that closing this section of street is not a problem for the City.
The hospital board is appointed by the County Commission and the County Commission does not typically “micromanage” the hospital board. However, if the hospital board is acting inappropriately it should be the role of the County Commission and not the City Commission to block the hospital board’s decision. If the City Commission tries to do this, it would in my opinion, have the City putting its nose into the business of others where it does not belong. Dumas is not the only city in the hospital district affected by this.
If the City of Dumas refuses to close this section of 2nd street it could result in the hospital being forced to build its new structure across the street from its original structure. This would be a terrible inconvenience the hospital workers and we as patients would all have to suffer through.
This issue reminds me of one that the Dumas City Commission faced in the 1980s. The City Commission under the leadership of Mayor Mike Salim, Commissioner J.B. Funk and others proposed a new city hall. A bond election was held to raise the funds. The voters voted it down. Later the Cactus Feeders Corporation offered to sell its corporate headquarters building to the city for only $50,000, which was such a low price it was easily affordable to the city without any tax increase and would have been foolish to turn down.
Mayor Salim, Commissioner J.B. Funk, and the other commissioners could have said "no, we cannot accept this offer since the voters voted against a new city hall." However the commission understood that the voters had only voted against a tax increase. They accepted this generous gift without another election. Yes, there were some citizens who seemingly misunderstood the situation and criticized that commission for its decision.
As you hear this issue debated at the coffee shops you will hear some who are excited to get this new modern health care facility without an increase in our taxes. Some are excited it will be at the same location as the old facility. Others say they do not use our hospital and are not interested in helping our hospital. However, I am confident that even the most hardened opponent will feel differently if it is their time for a life crushing heart attack. When you visit with those who are publicly against this newest proposal ask them what their solution is for bettering health care facilities in Dumas. It is easy to be negative, but leadership is about providing solutions. Telling all the cities in a three county hospital district to essentially “just go to Amarillo” for hospital care is not leadership.
My four children and two of my grandchildren were born in Dumas. We have had several surgeries at our local hospital and I have performed numerous surgeries there. We have excellent doctors and an excellent hospital team. The present facility needs to be brought in to the 21st century. To do otherwise and to potentially see our hospital diminished will cost lives. Being against upgrading our local hospital care is not how our community and its leaders need to be perceived. Try recruiting new doctors or even new businesses with the reputation that Dumas and its civic leaders are against upgrading its hospital facility even when it will not involve a tax increase. That is not the reputation we need. We need to be a community that is progressive in every area, including our hospital care.
Dr. David M. Bonner, Mayor Pro-Tem City of Dumas
News-Press Editorial: MCHD expansion project Moore County Hospital District, in an attempt to further its efforts to provide quality health care to the residents of the district, has come up with a plan of action. Following a failed bond election in which taxpayers said no to a $49 million bond that would have allowed for the construction of a new hospital and assisted living center, MCHD's board and management began exploring other options. The option that they feel works best is adding on to the existing structure, relocate services there and eventually remodeling the "old" portion of the building.
This project comes at a cost of approximately $20 million. However, unlike the bond election which would have been paid for with tax dollars, this new proposed construction will be paid for through the hospital's revenue stream. Simply put, tax payer dollars cannot be used for the construction project because they are specifically collected for the funding of indigent and uncompensated patient care. The only way tax payer dollars can be used for purposes such as construction is if a bond election is approved.
The hospital district's chief executive officer, Jeff Turner, along with board president Tom Ferguson and architects working on the project, recently addressed the Dumas City Commission. The request was the approval of an ordinance to abandon a portion of E. 2nd Street between Bliss and Meredith. This, according to the hospital district, would allow for the construction of the facility expansion.
While the question at hand for the city commission was will you or will you not allow the hospital district to take over the land where the street currently rests, some members of the Dumas City Commission spoke out against the project citing the recent bond election outcome. The fear, it seems, is what the community will think if commissioners approve the abandonment of the street and a new hospital addition is constructed there.
What is important for local voters to keep in mind is that the bond election was a "no" to tax payers wanting to foot the bill for the construction of a new hospital. It doesn't necessarily mean residents are not in favor of a renovation, expansion, modernization... whatever you choose to call it. That wasn't the question on the ballot.
Three city commissioners, Mike Funk, Steve Bodnar and Vernon McDowell, voted in favor of tabling the item until further discussion could take place. Mayor Pat Sims voted against tabling the item. Dr. David Bonner was absent from the meeting.
Considering the fact that the hospital district generates the vast majority of its revenue through services rendered, not through the collection of tax payer dollars, the district does not have to get voters' permission to build something using its own private funds — just like any other business in Moore County does not have to get voter approval before adding on or remodeling.
However, as they are unable to build the addition on their existing campus without going into the street, the hospital does need the city's approval for use of the land — land they are willing to purchase.
The fate of this project, as it is proposed today, rests on the decision of the Dumas City Commission. And, it appears, the majority of the Dumas City Commissioners want more public input before taking any action on this issue.
Tax payers within Moore County Hospital District, residents in the affected area, churchgoers in the affected area, and anyone else with thoughts on the matter, please take the time to consider all the facts, and talk to your city commissioners, talk to the hospital board members, and make your opinions known. The city commission's vote in favor or against the street closure appears to depend upon your feedback. Don't miss this important opportunity, whichever side of the fence you are on.
We at the News-Press also want to know what you think. Do you think commissioners should approve the ordinance and allow the abandonment of the street? Are you in favor of a hospital addition that doesn't come from tax payer dollars? We know people are using the hospital because it is operating in the black — it is making money, and it has the means of paying for this construction project on its own.
Ask yourself this... if you were relocating to a new town, what types of things would you look at that would help you make that decision, aside from your job? Would it be entertainment options, would it be dining choices, would it be quality schools, or would it be quality healthcare?
Residents, speak up. Share your thoughts and comments by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, call the publisher, Wanda Brooks, or editor, Michael Wright, at 935-4111, or come by the office and visit.
Editor's note: This discussion will continue in Sunday's edition where we will share information from recent visits with local elected officials regarding this issue.
Remembering D-Day on 70th anniversary As we observe the 70th anniversary of “the longest day,” D-Day, June 6, 1944, I’m reminded of so many Texans who charged the coast of Normandy heeding the words of their commander, Gen. Eisenhower: “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”
One of these was long-time Waco resident Paul Marable. Several years ago, he was filmed for a PBS special while visiting the very bluff on Utah Beach where he came under heavy fire by a German tank, which nearly ran over his squad. “I can still hear the gears in that turret turning," Marable said. He lost consciousness that day and woke up later to a German soldier poking him with a machine gun. Marable was taken captive and held as a POW in a Polish prison camp for the next seven months. When asked if he felt lucky to survive, Marable said: “Oh-ho! Oh, yes!” He continued, “Because of that, I've been able, a little bit better than most maybe who haven't gone through that, to decide what's really important. I don't get disturbed easily at little frets. And then I feel that I owe some things, too.”
Paul Marable, who passed away last December at 92, dedicated his life to improving Waco for all its residents, including efforts to desegregate downtown stores and restaurants in the 1960s and establish a community college to boost access to an affordable education. He is one of many Texas heroes who risked his life to liberate France and turn the tide in World War II.
Another Texan who survived to tell of the harrowing assault on D-Day and the months following it is Frank Denius of Austin. Denius was a fire control instrument operator assigned to an artillery battalion that landed in France at Omaha Beach on D+1 (June 7th, 1944). Denius and his battalion provided fire support to the 29th Infantry Division, which made the initial assault landing on D-Day. When his officer in charge was killed six days later, Denius, then only 19, took over and directed artillery fire that allowed the infantry to advance and accomplish the mission. He later received four Silver Stars and is one of the most decorated soldiers who served in the European Theater and the D-Day Invasion in World War II.
When he was awarded the Legion of Honour—France’s highest decoration—in 2012, Denius recalled his journey from the shores of Normandy to Paris: “I crawled, I walked, I swam, and at times I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t brushed my teeth in over two months, nor had I had a bath nor change of clothes for two months.” He said, “I was barely nineteen when I went to France. And when I left in August of the same year, I’d turned forty.”
In 1990, Denius started the Normandy Scholar’s Program at his alma mater, the University of Texas, through which hundreds of students have studied the causes, history and consequences of World War II, complete with an annual visit to the beaches of Normandy and other sites in Europe.
Indeed, Texas’ contributions to D-Day and World War II are countless. We remember the unthinkable sacrifices of General James Earl Rudder and his famous Rudder’s Rangers, who lost more than 150 men on D-Day and enabled the Allied forces to secure a foothold that would lead to ultimate victory.
On a personal note, on this year’s somber anniversary, I will be thinking of my own father, now deceased, a career Air Force officer who served as a bomber pilot in World War II. On his 26th mission, he was shot down by the Nazis and spent several months in a POW camp before General Patton’s troops freed him and his fellow service members. I’ll also be thinking of my father-in-law, Don Hanson, who stormed Utah Beach on D+1 70 years ago and passed away earlier this year.
As we pay tribute to the heroes of D-Day, may we remember their sacrifices and those of their family members. May we remember their bravery and their commitment to the mission that would change the course of history. And may we all heed the words of Frank Denius, who said, “I hope that American people will always understand what freedom is and the price of freedom.”