Category Archives: State News

Editor’s Corner: The COVID mandates are being lifted; How are you going to handle it?

I must admit, I was a bit aghast when I heard that Texas Governor Greg Abbott was putting an end to the mandate he put in place about 8 months ago to wear masks, and he plans to re-open 100% of the state, come March 10.

Recent reports say that to-date, the COVID virus has caused over 42,000 deaths in Texas alone. Unfortunately, I got a close-up view as to what this virus can do, as complications of COVID took both of my in-laws last December. I realize that the number of COVID cases and deaths have dropped significantly in the past few months, aloing with the number of hospitalizations resulting from the virus.

I also know that the mask mandate was hardly enforced in my area (Dallas/Fort Worth) and much of Texas as a whole, depending on the person and the business. Most businesses let customers in without masks. Why give up sales that may have been few and far between just because a customer is not wearing a mask? Because it’s been proven to slow down the spread of COVID – that’s why!

Abbott’s plan will also take away the restrictions on the number of patrons that businesses are allowed to serve in their indoor dining rooms.

Abbott said that even though restrictions will be removed, it is still up to each person to be responsible about their precautions against COVID spread. I understand that, but I know there will be many people who will be more than happy to throw their masks away.

This is like a mentally ill person who says they feel better and stops taking their medications. The illness comes back pretty quickly, and the person may have done things that they wouldn’t do while medicated, or things that led that person to seek help in the first place.

It sounds like a case of, “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” as governors from other states have already eased up on mandates that were in place to help prevent the spread of COVID. As of today (March 3), California and New York are the only states that have reported more deaths from COVID than Texas.

Many health experts are expressing their concerns about lifting mask mandates. The winter storm had many people sheltering together, whether it be with family, friends or in warming stations. Basically, these are the places where COVID is spread the most easily if no prophylactic measures are taken.

These experts also predict a rise in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths if most people stop wearing masks, whether they have received a vaccine or not.

Abbott had the statewide mask mandate put into place in July 2020, during a surge in COVID cases. But with less-than-ideal enforcement (some members of sheriff departments refused to enforce the mandate at all), the pandemic dragged on and the numbers climbed. Abbott even said at one point that quarantines don’t work.

In Austin, the mandates caused tension between Abbott and the Republican party, which is his own party. There was even a protest outside of the governor’s residence. At the same time, Abbott was getting flak from the mayors of some of the largest cities in Texas, claiming that he needed to do more.

Now, in 2021, while COVID numbers are falling, there are still cities that haven’t found much relief.

The City of Laredo, which major demographic is Latino, has experienced higher numbers of outbreaks than other large Texas cities. They have been running out of beds in ICUs as recently as January. Laredo is an important international trade hub and has been one of the top Texas cities to lay down the law about the mandates. Leaders in Laredo are getting concerned about what results the removal of the restrictions will have.

The lifting of the rules is going to happen. There’s nothing I can personally do about it except use common sense, keep wearing my mask, using social distancing and washing my hands a lot. Do I enjoy doing this? No, not really. But it’s WAY better than contracting COVID.

Stay safe healthy out there!

First-time Texas voters: Here’s what to expect

Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, which experts said may garner one of the highest voter turnout rates of any election in recent years, many Texans will likely be voting for the first time this fall.

While the actual voting method can vary based on the polling location and type of election, voters in Texas can expect the in-person voting process to follow the same basic steps.

According to VoteTexas.gov, upon arrival at the polling location, the voter will be asked to present one of the seven acceptable forms of photo identification unless the voter has a permanent exemption on the voter’s registration certificate.

Read more from Community Impact…

‘It is time to open them up’: Gov. Greg Abbott announces Texas bars can reopen in qualifying counties effective Oct. 14

Texas bars will be able to reopen and operate at 50% capacity in qualifying counties starting Oct. 14, according to an Oct. 7 video announcement from Gov. Greg Abbott.

“It is time to open them up,” Abbott said in the announcement. “Initially, they can open at a 50% capacity provided that they follow the safety protocols. If we continue to contain [COVID-19], then the openings, just like other businesses, should be able to expand in the near future.”

Facial coverings must be worn by bar employees and bar patrons when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained or when seated to eat or drink, according to health protocols released by the Abbott’s office Oct. 7. Additionally, outdoor bars will not be subject to an occupancy limit.

Read more from Community Impact…

Texas Education Agency promises funding for school districts offering in-person instruction through first half of 2020-21 regardless of enrollment

School districts across the state offering in-person instruction are guaranteed to receive their anticipated funding through the first half of the 2020-21 school year regardless of changes in student enrollment or attendance rates due to COVID-19, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Officials announced Oct. 1 a six-week extension to the minimum funding guarantee established due to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure flexibility and financial security for school districts, according to a press release. Remote instruction will also be fully funded for those who wish to learn from home as previously announced by TEA officials.

“Given the uncertain nature of this public health crisis, we are giving as much support and flexibility as possible to school districts to ensure that we are balancing the need for student learning with our desire to help all our state’s students, teachers, staff, and families remain healthy and safe,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement.

Statewide, school districts have generally seen a slight decline in enrollment in 2020-21 due to the pandemic, and officials said the extension allows time for enrollment to become more stable. Districts taking advantage of this extension must identify and locate students who are not currently participating in either in-person or virtual instruction.

Funding adjustments for the second semester will be based on data gathered through January, according to a press release.

To read more, visit Community Impact…

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, gyms can reopen at 75% capacity as early as Sept. 21

“Data from the state’s 22 hospital regions will dictate the rate at which Texas reopens its retail stores, restaurants, office buildings and gyms, among other businesses,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during a Sept. 17 press conference.

“[COVID-19] hasn’t suddenly disappeared in Texas,” Abbott said during the press conference, “but we are now armed with the personal safety standard and some medical advancements that can ensure we can continue to tame [COVID-19] until more treatments and vaccines become available.”

“Relying most heavily on hospitalization data will help distinguish the severity of the coronavirus pandemic between regions of Texas, since not all parts of the state are being impacted the same way by COVID-19,” Abbott said Sept. 17.

Read more from Community Impact…

Texas U.S. Attorneys Announce $18 Million in Domestic Violence Prevention Funding

The Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) will direct more than $18 million in grant funding to Texas to support efforts to curb domestic violence throughout the state, announced U.S. Attorneys Erin Nealy Cox, Ryan K. Patrick, John F. Bash, and Stephen J. Cox.

As the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, reports indicate that many cities – including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio – may be experiencing surges in domestic violence.  Because of the virus, many domestic violence victims feel they’re safest inside their homes, but that may or may not be the case.

Research shows that intimate partner homicides are troublingly common. According to the CDC, roughly 1 in 6 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. Tragically, Texas accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s domestic violence homicides.  Armed

abusers are especially dangerous. Research shows that abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners than abusers who don’t have access to a firearm.

Given these troubling statistics, in June 2019, Attorney General William P. Barr formed a Domestic Violence Working Group in order to encourage prosecution of armed domestic violence offenders.  (Federal law bars domestic violence offenders – those subject to certain protective orders or convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or felonies – from possessing firearms.)

Districts across the nation, including all four districts in Texas, have prioritized their own initiatives designed to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. In the 18 months since the first federal domestic violence initiative kicked off in Dallas, federal

prosecutors in Texas have charged dozens of armed abusers with gun crimes.

However, the federal government is just one in a host of stakeholders determined to end the scourge of domestic violence – and only a portion of domestic violence cases fall within federal jurisdiction. The OVW grants announced today will provide resources to local prosecutors, victim service providers, healthcare professionals, training organizations, and academic researchers, including several with national scope.

Read more from Texas Police News…

Gov. Greg Abbott says he will freeze cities’ abilities to increase property tax revenue if they cut police funding

By Nola Valente

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Gov. Greg Abbott announced a proposal Aug. 18 to keep cities from increasing property tax revenue if they decrease police department funding. (Screenshot of April 17 press conference)

Gov. Greg Abbott said Aug. 18 he will freeze cities’ abilities to increase property taxes at the current level in response to cities making cuts to police department funding, just days after Austin City Council approved a budget that will cut police funding by one third and reinvest the money in social services.

“They will never be able to increase property tax revenue again if they defund police,” Abbott said. “Cities that endanger residents by reducing law enforcement should not be able to turn around … and get more property tax dollars.”

Abbott’s press conference was held in Fort Worth with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen in Fort Worth on Aug. 18.

Read more from Community Impact…

Gov. Abbott calls for firing of Dallas teacher over assignment comparing police, KKK

By ShaCamree Gowdy

Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 9.47.15 AMAn assignment from a Wylie Independent School District social studies teacher in Dallas seemed to compare police officers to the Ku Klux Klan, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants the teacher fired because of it.

Fraternal Order of Police vice president Joe Gamaldi brought attention to the eighth grade class assignment via Twitter last Thursday. He tweeted a cartoon collage that shows men dressed as police officers, slave owners and members of the KKK, holding their knees on a Black man’s neck as he struggles to say the words “I can’t breathe.”

It’s clearly in reference to George Floyd, who grew up in Houston’s Third Ward before dying in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day.

Read more from The Houston Chronicle…

Financially challenged Irving residents face homelessness as assistance becomes hard to find, benefits running out

By Stacey Doud

Jones

Anthony Craig Jones

Anthony Craig Jones was known around the Irving area for almost four decades as a local homeless person that residents often saw as they drove or walked through town. He was most likely mentally ill but was a peaceful person.

His body was discovered in July in a building on a property across from an elementary school. The medical examiner estimated that he had been dead for about six months. He was identified using his dental records.

No one knows exactly what happened, but Jones was found under a blanket in a sleeping position. His death is not currently considered a homicide, and there is no information about any involvement with drugs and/or alcohol. He was estimated to be in his late 50’s at the time of discovery.

Shack copyA Memorial was held for Jones on August 8, organized and officiated by Pastor Dennis Webb of Bear Creek Community Church. Those who knew Jones said that he was a good guy with a lot of problems and no real resources.

Irving, like most cities and towns, has a percentage of the population that has no address except for a sidewalk or a park bench. There are some resources for food and clothing, including some churches that open up as emergency shelters, and there’s even very limited housing for homeless teens, but there is no shelter or “one-stop shop” for those in dire straits to visit. As it is difficult for the homeless to move around from place-to-place, even these resources can be out of reach.

However, these days, even residents who have homes or apartments are struggling with rent and mortgages, and some have even joined the homeless population, whether it be for a short or an extended time.

Right now, this is not a situation that is unique to Irving. It is a state and nationwide issue. From real estate fraud to scams that take advantage of the collective fear of COVID-19, folks are seeking help from landlords and banks, only to be told, “No,” or to have a fraudulent plan suggested to them to, “keep a roof over your family’s head.”

There have been people in drastic situations that have taken their financial needs to the Internet. Sites like GoFundMe.com are experiencing a significant uptake in the number of fundraisers posted.

RiveraRosa Rivera, a local resident, started a GoFundMe account after her apartment management gave her a 30-day eviction notice. She is unemployed because of the pandemic and her husband has been in and out of the hospital, finally losing a foot to complications of diabetes. He was the sole provider for the family at that time.

The description in her fundraising account lays out not only her need, but her embarrassment for having to ask for help as well, which is very common.

“I’m reaching out to all my family and friends for help. I currently find myself in an embarrassing and humiliating situation that I never thought I would be in,” said Rivera. “As a strong woman, we will try every last avenue to solve an issue until you have to humble yourself and realize that you have to ask for help because it’s what’s best for your kids.

“My apartment complex of more than 10 years provided me with a 30-day notice to vacate my apartment. The property manager will not renew my lease because of me consistently being late on my rent. I have tried to make arrangements with both the leasing office and the Corporate office with no results,” she posted.Fortunately, Rivera was able to contact an effective lawyer at Legal Aid and get her eviction deadline pushed back from 8/20 to 8/31. She updated her fundraising site to update those that had been helping. She used a portion of the $3,000 raised on GoFundMe to negotiate this change.

“My attorney in Legal Aid finally made contact with the property manager, allowing me more time. Instead of vacating on 8/20, I now have till 8/31. Of course, I had to pay the rest of the rent [which was] $461, which is where some of your blessings were applied to. I’m still looking for a place to accept me with my situation,” she posted.

Rivera is far from being alone. Many families are wondering where they will go, as many landlords and banks/mortgage companies are not working with customers in an effort to reach a compromise, or an agreement, that will benefit both parties.

For more information about coronavirus scams, click HERE.

To read some tips for personal financial recovery under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act (CARES), click HERE. The CARES Act deals primarily with businesses right now, but there are some helpful links to sites that may assist homeowners or renters find aid or recover their finances.

And, of course, there is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which helps place families in need of housing. Unfortunately, their waiting list is fairly long because of COVID. To learn more, click HERE.

To learn more about legal aid services in Irving, click HERE.

While this housing climate is not unique to Irving, it is up to the City’s “Powers that Be” to craft a plan for aid, resources, and perhaps even shelters, as November is quickly approaching.

Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Bonnen announce legislative proposal on police funding

downloadGov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen held a press conference yesterday in Fort Worth where they announced a legislative proposal to discourage defunding law enforcement in Texas.

With this proposal, any city that defunds its police department will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level. The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker were joined by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, State Sen. Jane Nelson and Representatives Giovanni Capriglione, Charlie Geren, Craig Goldman and Stephanie Klick.

“Part of our job as state leaders is to ensure the safety and security of all Texans, and we will not allow this core function to be undermined by cities that seek to defund and dismantle law enforcement agencies that have a sworn duty to protect our communities,” Abbott said. “Defunding the police puts Texans in danger and invites lawlessness into our cities, and cities that endanger their residents should not be able to turn around and raise more taxes from those same Texans. I strongly urge the Texas Legislature to take up this important issue next session to protect their constituents and ensure law enforcement have the resources and support they need to protect their communities.”

Price said: “It’s an honor to host Governor Abbott in Fort Worth for an announcement in support of funding public safety. As I have previously stated, I do not support defunding the Fort Worth Police Department and will not entertain any conversation around defunding, or even dramatically reducing, the budget for FWPD.”

“In July, Fort Worth residents voted with overwhelming support to dedicate a half-cent sales tax to our Crime Control and Prevention District for another 10 years,” Price said. “Using that funding, Fort Worth will successfully respond to concerns about police-community relations by prioritizing enhanced public safety, training and other measures that will ensure our police department is serving our residents to the highest degree.”

Source: The Texas Police News