Sunday’s Trib report on enrollment at local school districts and charter schools might at first glance seem to offer little new. Yes, enrollment at school districts such as Midway and China Spring continues to grow. Yes, charter schools are drawing more and more students. Yes, student numbers are relatively flat in Waco Independent School District. In the old days, we labeled this scenario “white flight.” Some of it likely still is.

Today marks the 230th anniversary of an event of global significance. On Sept. 17, 1787, many of America’s greatest thinkers put their stamp on a founding document as misunderstood and misquoted nowadays as the Bible. Presidents, preachers, legislators and jurists on both the left and right have sought to twist and confuse its meaning. Political movements have cherry-picked what provisions they will abide by — while ignoring or even defying the rest.

After several seasons of victory, limelight and national envy, the Baylor Bears would seem to have fallen into old ways — and so have some of the fans. If this isn’t obvious around the water cooler, consider Facebook comments on Trib stories about the first two games of 2017. Blame is cast on everything from the offensive line to new coach Matt Rhule’s leadership to the decision to raze Floyd Casey Stadium. As Melissa Stamps notes: “As a Nebraska fan going through it for years now, new coach, new players ... but one thing stays the same: Fair-weather fans suck!”

The long, drawn-out fund-raising campaign to erect a proper memorial to Waco-reared, World War II hero Doris Miller has by now slipped into the realm of irony, not because of its own commendable reason for being but because of the ugly times it has spilled into. Today too many Americans feud over long-ago statues commemorating rebels fighting a scandalous and corrupt cause — and too few national and state leaders demonstrate the political courage to lead us out of our increasingly divisive times.

For a decade now, the Waco Tribune-Herald has strongly advocated for expansion of state mental-health hospital beds, not only to better address a problem far more prevalent in society than many of us might realize but also to relieve a major burden placed on long-suffering law enforcement agencies and hospital emergency-room staffs. Our humble efforts have gone hand-in-hand with striking research by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas, which has laid down the foundation for solving mental-health problems statewide.

Given the humiliation that Baylor University has experienced over sexual assaults the last couple of years, losing Saturday’s season-opener to Liberty University, of all contenders, might seem a relatively minor flap, but it was nonetheless a bitter pill for alumni, students and players to swallow. None of it was made any easier when, on the eve of the game, fans learned that former head football coach Art Briles, fired in 2016 for administrative failures in the scandal, received last May a letter from Baylor recommending him to potential employers.

Tuesday’s announcement by the Trump administration that it was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive policy has sparked outrage nationwide, much of it justifiable in terms of American values. Of all those swept up in the furor over immigration, few are more worthy of genuine sympathy and understanding than the “Dreamers” — those brought to our country illegally by parents or guardians and now Americans in every sense of the word except for the letter of the law. President Obama implemented this policy by executive order to give Congress time to decide the fate of this young population, reportedly some 800,000 strong.

Reports indicate President Trump and Republican congressional leadership may at least temporarily shelve earlier plans to cut $1 billion or so from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a border wall because of mounting relief costs required to help tens of thousands of Texans left homeless by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. If true, Trump and Republicans deserve our praise.

Last week’s “Gathering for Racial Unity” at First Presbyterian Church of Waco, put together in response to an increasingly venomous racial divide nationwide symbolized by the violence in Charlottesville, proved a thoughtful, warmly reassuring affair, complete with testimonials from folks on all spots of the political, religious and racial spectrum. Organizer Berkeley Anderson, the Rev. Leslie King and church officials rate our deepest thanks for its execution.

Tuesday morning the clouds over Waco cleared, the sun took center stage and a soft breeze helped usher out the humidity that has stifled Central Texans much of the summer. And the temptation was to think, at least for a moment, all was right with the world. But all is not right, especially in Texas. Millions of Americans — Texans, no less — are hurting. And while clouds also have parted in Houston, some residents’ future there is clouded in anxiety and fear.

It’s enormously tempting to assume Marlin Independent School District Superintendent Michael Seabolt, in openly claiming the Tribune-Herald makes up negative facts about the district, seeks to channel President Trump for his own purposes. After all, Trump’s rallying cry of “fake news!” resounds whenever some story appears in the mainstream news media and the facts don’t match the president’s boisterous balderdash.

Students might be back in school, but the Labor Day holiday weekend beckons — and that means many Americans might make one final summertime jaunt to our national parks and monuments, including Waco Mammoth National Monument. In that cheerful context, we praise Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s reported decision to preserve those national monuments whose designations suddenly appeared in doubt.

When it comes to eclipses of the sun, 2024 is clearly our year. According to NASA projections, Waco will be smack-dab in the middle of a narrow band across much of the United States where folks can behold a total eclipse. While totality will last but a couple of minutes, the spectacle will be enough to prompt a healthy respect for our truly inconsequential place in the heavens. It also guarantees you visits from relatives you see even less than solar eclipses.

In the Texas Legislature’s summertime march to crush local governance, state Sen. Brandon Creighton’s bill to block removal of Confederate statues appears belly-up as the special session now seems to have ended prematurely. Filed midway through the session, it obviously sought to play to far-right passions of those who champion what others see as a treasonous rebellion bent on keeping black people in chains for generations to come.

Given the Aug. 5 death of former Texas Gov. Mark White, the many eulogies praising his rare leadership and his final fight for accountability and transparency on the part of leadership at his alma mater, one can’t help noting the irony of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge involving White’s beloved Baylor University. The court ordered Baylor to furnish local attorney Jim Dunnam with notes, recordings and other relevant information from the controversial Pepper Hamilton investigation that reportedly uncovered administrative indifference regarding sexual assaults involving Baylor students.

In light of the growing divide between Americans over border walls, racial profiling and curtailing even legal immigration, one can only marvel at transcripts of President Trump’s frantic telephone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — a conversation in which Trump whined, pleaded with and begged Peña Nieto not to tell the press that Mexico wouldn’t pay for any border wall, no matter how often and how loudly Trump promised just that while campaigning for president. So much for the idea the president of the United States can treat the president of Mexico like a subservient peón.

If any simmering initiative during the Texas Legislature’s special session best symbolizes the growing rift in American conservatism, it’s the infamous “bathroom bill” restricting what public restrooms transgender individuals can and cannot use. It divides those of us who recognize conservatism as a set of liberty-oriented principles primarily economic in nature and those intent on turning our republic into a Bible-thumping, Leviticus-quoting, fire-and-brimstone theocracy. And the Founders — studied representatives of the Age of Enlightenment — sure never meant for this to be a theocracy.

To those who champion politicians strictly by party, Mark White defies easy categorization, which is why he goes down as arguably Texas’ finest governor in generations. Even though he was a Democrat, he didn’t hesitate to provoke many in his own party and powerful teacher groups in his concerted effort to reform public education. That included putting a strong emphasis on retaining only truly skilled teachers — and reducing the heavy emphasis on school sports at the expense of academics.

Again taking a cue from Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow to call out those state legislators who defy his agenda during the Texas Legislature’s ongoing special session, we call out legislators who supposedly represent our area but are more intent on undermining local control. That means calling out Sen. Brian Birdwell for complying with Abbott’s demand that the state uproot local tree ordinances — a matter ideally left to town councils and the neighborhood folks who elect them. By contrast, Reps. Charles “Doc” Anderson and Kyle Kacal support a more thoughtful approach respectful of local control.

Taking a cue from Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow to call out state legislators who defy his agenda during the Texas Legislature’s ongoing special session, we today begin calling out state legislators who supposedly represent our area but are more intent on undermining local control. And that means calling out state Sen. Brian Birdwell regarding the Texas Senate’s bid to scrap local ordinances that, when enforced, can save cherished lives from distracted driving.

U.S. Sen. John McCain’s return to Capitol Hill last week after learning that he suffers from brain cancer should inspire all red-blooded Americans to emulate his courage, duty and honor — qualities rare in the halls of power in Washington. Yet his speech pressing fellow lawmakers — including Republican brethren who control the Senate — to scrap the crass partisanship that renders government increasingly dysfunctional and to instead build consensus among all political comers might as well have fallen on deaf ears.

Those pressing for better relations between police and citizenry across the United States can view the local situation with great optimism. Not only are Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt and city leaders moving ahead on the employment of body cameras for Waco police officers, they give every indication of doing so in a thoughtful and deliberative way.

For nearly an hour Tuesday night, students, parents and educators pressed the Waco City Council to nix a proposal ending funding for Project Promise, a transformative summer program that not only bolsters academic resolve in low-income gifted and talented students but expands their potential in college, careers, cultural appreciation and business. All who spoke were eloquent in their pleas to continue the funding, students past and present especially. They were concise, articulate, smart and, rare for this day, civil. No surprise there. One of the Project Promise classes offered to its 60 students this summer: citizenship.

If Republicans’ example of reforming health insurance is any indication of how they plan to run this country the next few years, we’re all in trouble. For several years during the much-hated Obama administration, Republican lawmakers whipped constituents back home into frenzied delight with their vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something more comprehensive and market-driven.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has decided the best way to begin a special legislative session heavily focused on destroying local control is by declaring he will compile what can only be called an enemies list. During remarks to the Texas Public Policy Foundation this week, he vowed to call out state lawmakers who don’t back his 20-item agenda: “We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out — who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”

Beyond the obvious tragedy of three lives lost and families and friends left to grieve, Tuesday’s horrific, multi-vehicle smashup on northbound Interstate 35 through Waco — immense and gnarled enough to shut down traffic for several hours — begs troubling questions about how motorists conduct themselves in concert with one another. We may never fully know just what happened in this latest instance, so many possibilities are ripe for consideration.

Consider the rollicking reaction to Trib coverage of the couple rankled at both the city of Waco and Magnolia Realty for “deceiving” them after someone plowed his car into their North Waco “Fixer Upper” home. Consider, too, the debate and even outrage over another “Fixer Upper” home of just 1,050 square feet being put up for sale for a whopping $950,000. This much is undeniable: HGTV’s insanely popular TV show “Fixer Upper” and home-renovation experts Chip and Joanna Gaines continue to enliven our community and our daily discourse. So much for quiet summers.

For many years, we’ve watched our state lawmakers indulge locally elected officials by hearing out the latter’s concerns and complaints at least once or twice a biennium. Topping the list of grievances: unfunded mandates by the Texas Legislature — laws requiring that cities, counties and school districts undertake some particular course of action without the Legislature’s providing the money to fund it. This means local taxpayers get stuck with the bills. And, to add insult to injury, the more poorly informed of taxpayers promptly blame the local governing entities for subsequent tax hikes while then re-electing the very state officials responsible for this bit of chicanery. Worse, there’s little indication that state officials who loudly claim to be principled conservatives actually grasp the unprincipled demands they make of local entities. Why should they? They can pretty well count on the public not figuring all this out.

Today’s wildly fractured thinking in America makes it increasingly difficult to properly gauge alleged lapses in leadership, which must leave some with exceedingly mixed feelings about former Baylor University regent Neal “Buddy” Jones’ emails branding as “perverted little tarts” and “very bad apples” female students he suspected of drinking alcohol. Much of society nowadays holds that leaders be held accountable for deeds, not words. Even many supposed evangelicals now excuse malicious rhetoric in favor of Christian actions and works.

Now that the hot dogs, fireworks and Fourth of July oratory are behind us for another year, it’s time we get down to the work of actually protecting cherished rights, including the sanctity of voting. And there’s plenty of reason to worry about how our state officials handle a request from an exceedingly dubious federal voter-fraud commission co-chaired by conspiracy theorist Kris Kobach. His request last week for voter rolls, including partial Social Security numbers, from all 50 states represents a threat to citizen privacy in all sorts of confounding ways.

With mere months left before the firing shot goes off for the 2018 mid-term campaigns, national publications are awash in articles and columns asking what political analyst Dan Balz asks in the Washington Post this weekend: “Beyond opposing Trump, do Democrats have a message?” Given the stinging defeat of Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s highly publicized special election for its sixth congressional seat in the face of a historically unpopular Republican president, the question is fair. Democrats may well squirm in settling on useful answers.

For more than seven years now, those critical of the Affordable Care Act have blanketed newspapers such as the Trib with letters to the editor decrying how Democrats back in 2010 “rammed” Obamacare down the public’s throat. Now that Senate Republicans are doing much worse — crafting a repeal-and-replace health care bill behind closed doors without so much as a legislative hearing — these same hypocritical critics are as quiet as crickets in winter. Ditto regarding the House Republican health care package passed this spring without a single hearing for the public to scrutinize and sound off.

Pronounce us not only impressed but even astounded at the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness Report Card that parents of school students receive this month. While some of the infighting over education in the Texas Legislature this past spring must surely discourage parents, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency staff have produced a document that not only better communicates to time-pressed parents how their children did on STAAR testing but how parents can help them strategically improve. And if the TEA report card doesn’t give them enough information, they can log on to a state education website to learn more about their children’s strengths and vulnerabilities in testing.

If any incident can tug at the heart strings and beg for immediate and compassionate resolution, it’s that involving Nicki Stone, a gutsy young police officer and single mom of two fighting breast cancer who now finds herself at the center of attention over a city sick-leave policy. It’s also another instance that more broadly highlights the hypocrisy of a society that so often claims to be pro-life but can’t ever quite manage it day in and day out.

If there’s ever a right time for a McLennan County department head to accidentally hike his pay, this isn’t it. Homeowners are rankled over property appraisals and crying foul; the McLennan County Commissioners Court is preparing to enter the tedious, often contentious period of setting the budget and tax rate — typically a time of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth; and, finally, concerns over one commissioner’s forgetfulness in county affairs has spilled over into a public display of racially charged accusations of witch hunts and plots hatched behind closed doors.

Even in this increasingly polarized society where so little is left that surprises us anymore, the fact a possibly politically motivated gunman would open fire on a bunch of Republican lawmakers innocently preparing for a baseball game with their Democratic counterparts must astound. Baseball is America’s sport — and in Washington, D.C., it’s one of the very few pursuits left where ugly partisanship is confined to the dugout.

Self-appointed county watchdog Randall Scott Gates’ convincing a justice of the peace in another county to issue felony warrants for Precinct 3 McLennan County Commissioner Will Jones’ arrest for organized crime suggests two things: First, it’s further evidence for demanding that justices of the peace have law licenses to perform their duties. Second, it justifies far better continuing education courses mandated by the state regarding judges’ official duties and informed decision-making.

In the days since former FBI director James Comey gave his compelling if hardly overwhelming testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Trib has published columns aplenty from all political perspectives, ranging from those who believe Comey’s comments actually open up President Trump to even more allegations of wrongdoing to unbending Trump apologists who believe the real conspiracy is by rabid Democrats, old-styled Republicans dismayed at their party’s turn of late and, of course, the news media, always handy for vilification when all else fails.

Tuesday’s show of support organized by the local NAACP and McLennan County Democratic Party for Precinct 2 County Commissioner Lester Gibson at a commissioners’ meeting percolated with outrage over an alleged conspiracy to undermine and oust Gibson. No less than NAACP President Peaches Henry, in organizing the protest, claimed that Gibson, who is black and a Democrat, was the victim of “character assassination” and that it was “important that the African-American community stand together in these perilous times.”

It should go without saying that our national parks and monuments are taxpayer-funded shrines that preserve unique ecosystems, geological wonders and places of historical significance. It also should go without saying that any desecration or vandalism of such parks and monuments is an offense against the public that owns and cherishes them. It also should go without saying that anyone who would deface or disturb these hallowed places in supposed ignorance must give every indication of having been born in a barn and raised by livestock.

President Trump’s decision to pick a fight with the mayor of London as that great city struggles to right itself after a terrorist attack only heaps further dishonor and shame on the United States. In a crisis such as this, our president should be leading in expressing solidarity with our greatest ally. Instead, Trump this week attacked the Muslim mayor of London by taking the latter’s comments out of context. Sad.

No less than 15 people applied to fill the remaining term of Waco City Councilman Wilbert Austin, the ailing, 76-year-old Baptist pastor whose grass-roots civic engagement included cutting overgrown lawns of poor widows and confronting brazen drug merchants conducting nefarious deals in the open. One wag suggested all applicants should furnish the specifications of their lawn equipment if they’re really serious about stepping into the Rev. Austin’s shoes.

This weekend the Trib has devoted a generous amount of ink and paper to differing views on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord. Those opinions range widely, from Washington Post journalist Ben Adler’s concern for both environment and economy, increasingly dependent on renewable energy and green initiatives, to conservative Texas scholar Merrill Matthews’ fears that the accord made too many demands of developed nations for environmental change, which he suggests (and with strong evidence) is already being positively affected by free-market forces. Today Baylor University administrator Smith Getterman places his hope in coming generations, rather than any politician, to act as devoted stewards of our planet.

If anything neatly caps the impact of Mission Waco’s 25 long years of work in our community bolstering children’s education; training jobless for meaningful employment; helping the addicted kick booze and drugs; and providing shelter for the homeless, it could be found in last week’s testimonials by two people who spoke at Mission Waco executive director Jimmy Dorrell’s $9 million fund-raising pep rally targeting the next challenging quarter-century.

Only a few years ago, no newspaper editorial board would have needed to note the sort of disgrace heaped upon the good name of Texas by those involved in a near-rumble in the Texas House of Representatives on the final day of the 85th legislative session. But given that our society today is fast crumbling into political and racial tribalism of the sort we once condemned in third-world countries, we now condemn all who contributed to this Memorial Day melee on a day when we’re supposed to honor our war dead.

To hear some of his election challengers through the years, Waco City Council member Wilbert Austin Sr. was something of a throwback, hardly up to representing East Waco and its heavily African-American community in the 21st century. But to others, such criticism only conjured a period when sometimes ordinary men and women took strong stands for racial equality and a more vibrant role in self-governance.

Days before the Texas Legislature concludes its 85th session, threats fly fast and furious between the legislative chambers over such wildly inconsequential matters as the so-called “bathroom bill” and where the infrequent transgender person should do his or her business. Meanwhile, the state of Texas risks getting itself stuck in a damning predicament from which it was recently freed — one requiring federal approval before the state can make any change in Texas election law.

State legislators take an oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States. Republican lawmakers are prone to pulling a copy of the U.S. Constitution from their jackets, just to drive home the point to constituents that they literally and figuratively grasp its principles and keep them close to heart. And Democrats are equally quick to cite from the Bill of Rights, given so many rights seem under repeated assault these days.

Sunday’s Trib report on enrollment at local school districts and charter schools might at first glance seem to offer little new. Yes, enrollment at school districts such as Midway and China Spring continues to grow. Yes, charter schools are drawing more and more students. Yes, student numbers are relatively flat in Waco Independent School District. In the old days, we labeled this scenario “white flight.” Some of it likely still is.


What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

One wonders if U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican, a conservative and in our opinion an insightful jurist, has misgivings about his 2013 opinion dismantling a key part of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 by arguing, in effect, that times involving race had changed, rendering unnecessary standards long ago placed into the act. Ever since that ruling, appeals courts that report to him have been kept busy swatting back voter ID laws quite obviously intended to suppress minority voting.

Cynics might dismiss the idea that anything of consequence could come of several hundred folks of different backgrounds and missions assembling one day to brainstorm how to battle local poverty. But then that would dismiss some exciting ideas that first took root at Prosper Waco’s debut conference way back in February 2015.

Plenty of Baylor Bears fans were understandably outraged by Rice University’s marching-band halftime show lampooning Baylor University’s ongoing scandal over Title IX issues. After all, some Baylor rape victims reportedly faced administrative indifference; Baylor’s president and head football coach were dispatched amid protests for and against them; and questions loom over BU regents’ oversight.