Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s press release last month contending that 95,000 non-U.S. citizens with driver’s licenses or ID cards also had voter registration records in Texas — and that some 58,000 had voted in at least one election — has by now proven one of the most botched debuts of any state official in recent memory. To compound matters, in last week’s Senate confirmation hearing, the interim secretary displayed stunning ignorance about matters he should have definitively nailed down, given the certainty of state senators’ questions.

Advocates seeking to shift city of Waco municipal operations to 100 percent renewable energy in the near future may voice frustration at the pace of change, but last week’s meeting of the Sustainable Resources Practices Advisory Board should hearten all, given the discouraging tone of January’s meeting. The worthy topic of renewable energy last month became entangled amid discussions of protocol and propriety involving a formal board recommendation to the Waco City Council.

Bipartisan bail-reform legislation introduced in the Texas Legislature offers two worthy provisions all of us should get behind: First, it addresses growing societal inequality and, specifically, poor folks who cool their heels in jail on minor charges while the more economically blessed among us buy their way out of any wait behind bars. Second, this legislation takes into greater account whether the accused has a violent history before allowing his or her release. You might well think: How can such legislation lose?

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht’s call to arms in Wednesday’s State of the Judiciary address about partisanship tainting the state judiciary is hardly new. Even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, one of the most partisan politicians in Texas, has raised legitimate concerns about constituents voting onto the bench individuals whose chief asset is they have been good and faithful members of one political party or the other. Yet Hecht’s brief call for merit selection and nonpartisan retention election of Texas judges comes after a blue wave transformed much of the judiciary last fall.

Except for when partisanship fogs our glasses, most of us embrace the idea of rule of law. We agree it’s vital to keep us from descending into anarchy and tyranny. We generally agree no one should be above law’s reach. Problem is many of us don’t know much about state and federal laws. We have only fleeting insight into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Happily, Baylor University and its stellar law school offer occasional opportunities at some enlightenment — and very often for little to no cost.

When pressed about state leaders’ concerted effort to legislate tighter revenue caps on cities, counties and school districts, Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver expressed not only grave disappointment but the fact local control has long been championed as a conservative tenet, a principle that invests faith and trust in that level of governance closest to the people. Not anymore. Your father’s conservatism has degenerated into something very different. State leaders today find it politically convenient to vilify town councils, county government and school boards across Texas for problems that, ironically, state leaders helped create.

If Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has any self-respect, he should be shaking his head in embarrassment. His December appointee as Texas secretary of state, David Whitley, has clearly presided over not-ready-for-primetime shenanigans involving discovery that “approximately 95,000 individuals identified by [the Texas Department of Public Safety] as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in Texas, approximately 58,000 of whom have voted in one or more Texas elections.” Since making this widely disseminated announcement on Friday, Whitley’s office has been quietly walking back the claims.

Most of us don’t come face to face with state government except on two occasions: We’re stopped by a highway trooper for speeding or neglecting to use our seat belt or we go to the local Department of Public Safety outpost to obtain or renew our driver’s license. Getting ticketed on a roadside can sting financially, but spending hours waiting to get a clerk at a driver license office that never seems fully staffed can leave one feeling abused and angry at our almighty state government.

Considering how easily businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump outmaneuvered U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in combative primary elections to win the Republican nomination for president in 2016, one might have hoped Trump studied more closely the senator’s earlier political failures so he could smartly avoid them himself. By now it’s pretty clear he didn’t scrutinize the astonishment if not anger that many Capitol Hill Republicans had when in 2013 tea party Republican Cruz briefly shut down the federal government over Affordable Care Act funding without a political exit strategy. In the end, the Republican Party got blamed for the mess. And Republicans in turn blamed Cruz’s self-indulgence and ego.

Texas has long been deferential to the business sector. So what, you might ask, could possibly go wrong when a group of savvy business proprietors along Waco’s historic La Salle Avenue resolve to capitalize on the presence of former HGTV mega-stars Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Table eatery on the adjoining traffic circle; approach city leaders with a plan to permit only certain sorts of businesses on La Salle going forward (and with certain architectural standards); and City Hall actually takes them seriously? We saw the answer on Tuesday: Other proprietors along La Salle voiced fears of how such an overlay district might impact their future.

One complaint of many Texans concerns the corrupting access and influence certain lobbyists with deep pockets enjoy with lawmakers. In fact, politicians on the campaign trail like to rail about the supposed evils of lobbyists. It’s an easy applause line. So what then to make of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s decision (or that of his proxies) to give a Texas Senate press pass to the right-wing lobbying group Empower Texans? Colossally poor judgment? Or something more insidious?

Waco City Councilwoman Andrea Jackson Barefield’s first town-hall meeting for constituents residing in East Waco and other parts of District 1 was different in tone and protocol than fellow council member Dillon Meek’s very successful town-hall gathering last month in North Waco — and no less worthy of celebrating at a time when state and federal officials balk at such gatherings out of fear of community hostility. Barefield found fewer questions posed than Meek but offered a robust presentation of how City Hall is working for constituents, complete with informative mini-reports from city officials involving such critical needs as street and sewer repairs.

In an age when misinformation and outright lies invite gullibility daily, let’s be grateful for those increasingly rare occasions when truth does triumph. Last Friday, the State Preservation Board unanimously voted to remove a controversial, wildly misleading “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque from the State Capitol. For nearly 60 years, it has informed Capitol visitors that, no, slavery was not the cause of the Civil War in which some 620,000 Americans from both the Union and Confederacy perished.

In Wednesday’s Tribune-Herald, we published a letter from a San Antonio resident with clear pro-wall sympathies. He proposed a border-security compromise: funding for a wall along the United States’ southern border; a pathway to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers” (or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applicants) but not the parents who brought them across the border illegally; and a requirement all employers use E-Verify, complete with seriously punitive consequences for all caught knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, whether those employers are farmers, construction contractors or high-tech firms. Like this plan or not, the letter writer at least offered a compromise. Good for him.

The 86th Texas Legislature gaveled into session Tuesday. Dare we hope this is one session conducted by grownup legislators with grownup priorities, free of such distracting right-wing nonsense as the bathroom bill of 2017? Most talk suggests the interwoven issues of property-tax reform and school finance are top priorities this time around. Relief from Hurricane Harvey will also demand state cash as well as, we hope, some smarts on how to prevent further disaster. And there’s Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s promise to hike teacher pay by an average of $10,000. We’re eager to see how this is done without heaping more unfunded mandates on school districts.

Thanks were expressed and tales were told during Thursday’s high-spirited swearing-in ceremonies for new McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson, which is as it should be. Given the allegations of cronyism and worse that prompted voters to oust his predecessor, Johnson will need all the best wishes he can corral as he seeks to return accountability, transparency and integrity to the district attorney’s office. The banner at the Baylor Law School lecture hall where oaths of office were taken had it right: “Justice and fairness for all.”

Shortly after last year’s midterms turned control of the U.S. House of Representatives over to the Democrats, some Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill began salivating at the tempting prospect of shutting down the federal government to force passage of legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of the Trump swamp. Why not, some Democrats thought. Republicans use this maneuver enough (or threaten to use it) to press their ends. Shouldn’t Democrats be allowed the same privilege more often?

A peek behind the curtain as 2018 draws to its chaotic close: The Trib editorial board had planned today to celebrate in this space the criminal justice reform bill passed by Congress last week, doggedly pushed by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and brimming with good ideas drawn from Texas’ work battling recidivism. To give credit where due, this bipartisan bill might not have passed without President Trump pressing for it at the very end. Kudos, right?

Hewitt Mayor Pro Tem Steve Fortenberry gets it. Council member-elect Erica Bruce gets it. And we presume the Texas Rangers get it, even if their long-running, ongoing investigation has some folks by now wondering: “Walking quorums” might strike some governmental leaders as an extra-efficient way of getting city business done without all the hassle of public input, but such scofflaws miss a critical point: State lawmakers passed the Texas Open Meetings Act to ensure local governmental leaders, at least in Texas, are accountable to the people who elect them and pay the bills.

A Tribune-Herald editorial board member haunting last week’s Texas Department of Transportation local open house witnessed pretty grim faces studying maps of what much of Interstate 35 through Waco will look like by 2023. The contorted looks represented not so much their thoughts on highway engineering prospects for I-35 just north of 17th Street (roughly parallel with Fuego Tortilla Grill) to North Loop 340 but rather the daunting idea of three and a half years of highway construction and congestion. Yet this work is way overdue.

In an era when faith in governmental institutions at so many levels is crumbling, how encouraging it is to see Waco District 4 City Councilman Dillon Meek actually risk public criticism by conducting a real town-hall meeting in North Waco Wednesday night. Meek updated about two dozen constituents on various city programs and initiatives, ranging from brush removal to an ambitious street maintenance agenda to entrepreneural programs. Several constituents voiced appreciation, too, including Wannika Muhammad — and she doesn’t even live in District 4.

During remarks to the local business community at the recent Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce State of the Nation Luncheon, Republican Congressman Bill Flores highlighted the prosperous economy but expressed concern about bipartisan solutions to pressing problems such as health care, national debt and immigration. After all, Democrats are taking over half of Capitol Hill in January.

At its simplest, the newly unveiled Doris Miller Memorial along the banks of the Brazos in downtown Waco celebrates a rousing story of all-American heroism about which most of us can cheer wildly: Amidst a sneak air attack by the Japanese on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, an African-American mess cook in a racially segregated Navy keeps his head despite the chaos and bloodshed, pulls wounded men afforded certain advantages denied him to safety, then mans an anti-aircraft gun to fight off their collective enemy. City Councilwoman Andrea J. Barefield, whose district encompasses the memorial, wonderfully addressed the selfless valor during Friday’s dedication ceremony.

Whether in the corridors of power or the halls of justice, we in the legitimate news media know that no storyline is ever quite so simple as that bandied about the proverbial water cooler or spread on social media to provoke outrage. Nuance, details and context matter. Certainly, further explanation is warranted regarding the controversial plea bargain arrangement proposed by McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office for former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Walter Anderson, indicted in 2016 on four counts of sexual assault.

Former President George W. Bush famously remarked that accurate appraisals of one’s political legacy must wait years after a president has left office. His father’s legacy as an American president and patriot isn’t quite so pristine as we’re likely to hear today during his funeral in the National Cathedral. Yet President George H.W. Bush’s policymaking, judgment and sense of decency easily eclipse those of latter-day Republican and Democratic politicians. That’s well worth acknowledging and honoring.

While this newspaper welcomes U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ rebuke of President Trump for dismissing a lower federal court ruling as the handiwork of “an Obama judge,” it comes a little late. Regardless of Trump’s ignorant rant last week, the federal judiciary’s reputation has been crumbling for years, at least since the controversial 2000 presidential election.

Based on bracing experiences gained when George W. Bush, a resident of nearby Crawford, was president of the United States and we were more engaged with the D.C. press corps than now, we’re pretty confident the White House Correspondents’ Association cares little what we think or say. But as the work-a-day press, we believe the association made the right decision in jettisoning comedians from the annual correspondents’ dinner next spring and enlisting instead a serious speaker — Ron Chernow, who has written remarkable biographies of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

Highway analysts dispute the old saw that traffic volume is at its yearly peak the day before Thanksgiving — today, for instance — but many do agree it’s in the annual top 10 and that traffic during this holiday weekend is often at its absolute worst the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. That said, any white-knuckle anxiety in Interstate 35 travel through Waco today may well pale alongside I-35 rigors yet to come.

Critics lost little time attacking U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ newly unveiled regulations mandating college and university protocols involving sexual-assault claims. Some protest may be justified, but those who witnessed the chaos and conflict involving earlier administrative failures at Baylor University in properly addressing sexual assaults should welcome the opportunity to discuss such regulations by light of day. This should mean congressional hearings — and without all the grandstanding and histrionics.

This week’s tempest over a decision by local military veterans to cancel Monday’s Veterans Day Parade amid forecasts of rain, high winds and plummeting temperatures reminds us of the dilemma occasionally faced by school superintendents amid forecasts of snow or ice: If one cancels school and the weather proves temperate, the superintendent appears the fool. If he or she doesn’t cancel and a winter storm strikes, outraged parents howl how the superintendent has imperiled the lives of students and teachers.

The Texas Legislature doesn’t convene till Jan. 8, but this week state legislators began filing bills. Let’s hope Central Texas legislators do nothing to encourage the distracting sideshows we witnessed during the 2017 legislative session, including discriminatory legislation regarding public bathrooms. Let’s demand they add thought and muscle to adequately and equitably fund public schools and reform property-tax appraisals to more accurately reflect our property values.

Tuesday night, after hard-fought statewide victory was finally his, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz considered the narrowness of his re-election — specifically, the fact that 49 percent of Texans voting cast ballots for someone else, primarily Democratic dynamo Beto O’Rourke. And uncharacteristically, the junior senator showed some humility regarding that 49 percent: “I am your senator as well.”

In our travels around the county to gauge political sentiments, we seldom see a display of campaign signs such as the lineup in the yard in Woodway pictured above: Three signs tout the election of Democratic candidates, including Mike Collier for lieutenant governor and Beto O’Rourke for Senate; the fourth, however, expresses the resident’s wish state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, a longtime Republican, be re-elected to the Legislature. And while we immediately guessed the reason — and while we can offer excellent reasons why Katherine Turner-Pearson deserves a shot in this pivotal post over Anderson — we respect the thinking behind this mixed batch of signs off Stony Point Drive.

Revising the 14th Amendment: Campaign tactic for the midterms or earnest policy? With this president and his preference for playing to crowds rather than studied governance, who can tell? This much we know: Republicans and conservatives repeatedly howled that President Obama was constitutionally wrong to use a 2012 executive order to delay deportation of certain individuals brought to the United States illegally as children. If that was indeed a lawless undertaking, then by simple logic President Trump’s vow to use another executive order to overturn a constitutional amendment must also be illegal. Or are the president and his supporters guilty of double standards?

Baylor University officials seem upbeat about the Big 12 Conference’s formal blessing of their success in implementing reforms to not only discourage the sexual assault of students but correct administrative indifference regarding assault victims’ welfare. However, the fact the Big 12 slapped Baylor with a $2 million penalty for “reputational damage to the conference and its members” signifies a big change in conference policy, one sliding with uncertainty into the domain of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Last week, a voter stepping warily into the First Assembly of God voting center took one look at the long line coiled around the place and wondered aloud if she should get in queue or try later. To which a voter in line deadpanned: “Depends on how you plan to vote.”

Wanted: Political office-holders in state government who do their jobs without grandstanding, corruption and electioneering on the taxpayer dime. Sterling example: Republican State Comptroller Glenn Hegar. Whether you like his conservative ideology, there’s no question that he sets an exemplary model of what more of us should expect of those who seek our votes .

The urbanization of America has had one serious consequence: Too many city residents fail to grasp the significant challenges facing agriculture, including the devastating impact of drought, floods, water shortages, tariffs, regulations and disease on farming and ranching. This is no place for amateurs — and anyone who claims to be earnest and concerned about agriculture today has no option but to vote to elect Kim Olson as state agriculture commissioner.

Many of us past a certain age turned a bit older on Monday. News of Sears’ bankruptcy filing conjured youthful days of homes where the Sears Roebuck & Company catalog was almost as dependable and faithfully consulted as the family Bible, where Sears appliances washed and dried our clothes and refrigerated our food. Almost everyone knew someone who had lived in a Sears Roebuck house.

Regardless of whether you found Christine Blasey Ford a credible witness in her allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C., surely Republicans and Democrats can agree that victims of crime need our compassion and prompt assistance — and this goes whether crime victims are adults or children, whether they have been sexually assaulted or brutalized by beating.

Hallelujah. After months of fighting, debate and stubbornness beyond the point of all reason and studied deliberation, the decision over whether Bellmead homes and businesses should be protected from fire is now inscribed in all but stone. Two new fire trucks are on the way. Trib staff writer Cassie L. Smith reports that the first is due within the next few months.

There’s a huge difference between tax reform and tax cuts. While this newspaper through three different owners and editorial boards over the years has supported measures to make our federal tax code more equitable and fairer, we last year voiced reservations about the Republican-crafted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It is contrary to what used to be a Republican principle in that it cut taxes while engaging in deficit spending. The Trump-signed measure offers only the sketchiest promise of increased tax revenues to cover what sure looks like runaway spending by a Republican president and a Republican Congress.

The intensely partisan Kavanaugh battle over a vacant Supreme Court seat is over, but many Americans are left to reflect on bad feelings only exacerbated by the Senate confirmation fight, including rampant victim-blaming and wildly unsubstantiated allegations. The midterm election season now shifting into high gear offers a chance for all to readjust moral compasses and pursue the high road going forward. So who among us will take that road — and who will succumb to temptation to once more pour salt on oozing political wounds, just to score one more hateful hit?

Affidavits alleging former Baylor University Board of Regents chairman Richard Willis credited Baylor’s football success to “n----- football players” and “the best blond-haired, blue-eyed p---- in the state of Texas” just a year before Baylor imploded over stunning Title IX failings should be considered with the cool, studied detachment one might have hoped would accompany the national debate over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s legal and moral fitness for the Supreme Court.

Motorists inconvenienced for a year or so by $3.6 million in major repairs reinforcing the State Highway 6 Twin Bridges over Lake Waco, prepare to let out another collective groan: State officials confirm that while the short-term work is complete, the bridges strongly rate overhauling, maybe even replacing. Huh?

For all the overdue lessons offered our country by the recently empowered #MeToo movement, spurred by decades of sexual assault and sexual harassment gone neglected, one is astonished that only one conservative Republican on the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee Friday had enough of a conscience to demand an FBI investigation into allegations dogging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The fact other Republicans were ready to pass this nominee along in the process without due diligence is a national disgrace.

Although Wilbert Austin was best-known for mowing the lawns of elderly constituents and his early work fighting for single-member districts to ensure minority representation on the Waco City Council, some of us also remember the late Baptist pastor and councilman’s frustration in efforts to ensure East Waco shared in the development bonanza characterizing not only downtown Waco but much of West and South Waco. So it’s with irony we note some community resistance to his dreams more than a year after his death.

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s press release last month contending that 95,000 non-U.S. citizens with driver’s licenses or ID cards also had voter registration records in Texas — and that some 58,000 had voted in at least one election — has by now proven one of the most botched debuts of any state official in recent memory. To compound matters, in last week’s Senate confirmation hearing, the interim secretary displayed stunning ignorance about matters he should have definitively nailed down, given the certainty of state senators’ questions.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that President Trump would declare a national emergency as a pretext for building The Border Wall™ — Sponsored by Mexico (disclaimer: wall will not be sponsored by Mexico). It’s a broken campaign promise that’s right up there with classics like “Read my lips, no new taxes” (George H.W. Bush) and “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it” (Barack Obama).

Flashback

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

Hearty congratulations to the League of Women Voters of Waco for not only staging an engaging and informative candidates forum Tuesday at Knox Hall but pursuing a more active role in helping voters better acquaint themselves with both candidates and issues. At a time when more and more dubious sources on social media mislead if not outright lie to Americans about politics — and when too many of our so-called “friends” are happy to oblige the enemies of democracy by posting such filth — the nonpartisan league in its newly reinvigorated incarnation seeks to provide deeper insight into those individuals vying for our votes.

The past six Sundays, the Waco Tribune-Herald has again offered, as a public service, lengthy Q&As with local candidates in contested races in the upcoming primary election. In coming days we’ll offer Trib editorial board recommendations of certain candidates who particularly impressed us with their grasp of the issues (many of them complicated), their ability to offer practical solutions to problems and, yes, their talent for consensus-building. As we’ve said before, such recommendations are sometimes based on their politics but more often we ascertain candidates as if they were in a job interview: Based on their answers and demeanor, who would you hire to work for you?

Cruel ironies arise from the latest mass shooting, this one at a South Florida high school where a gunman took apparent revenge on students and teachers in halls he once walked. One irony: the cries of supposed grief and anguish from national leaders for young victims, even as many of these same leaders do everything they can to exile nearly 2 million young individuals whose only crime is they were born in a foreign land and came to America through no fault of their own.