Evan Smith—The Texas Tribune

Posted by on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 in Blog

Reported by Leslie Bagby

President Sara Pantin called the meeting to order right at noon. James Gavin led the pledges and Scott Spears gave the invocation. Rich Fikani led us in reciting the “FOUR WAY TEST.” Aaron Schmidt was our greeter at the top of the stairs and David Palmer checked-in our visitors and guests.

President Sara introduced our newest member, Lenny Krasnow, sponsored by Michael Portman. Welcome, Lenny!

Todd Coleman announced that the Rotary Club of Austin is once again sponsoring the annual Back-to- School Splash Bash on Saturday, August 5, 2017 at the Helping Hand Home for Children. Many Rotarians are needed to help with the fun. Contact Todd or Dean Murray for more information and to volunteer.

Harold Benkoski announced the August 4th wine tasting at the Benkoski home. Email Julia Benkoski jbenkoski17@gmail.com if you are planning to come. Attendees are to bring a bottle of wine. Food will be provided. Bringing a dessert is optional.

President Sara reminded everyone to sign up with Meetup.com. She also announced that there is a Breakfast Cluster meeting this Thursday at Waterloo Ice House on Burnet Road at 7 am. On a sad note, former Rotary Club of Austin member, Venton Lee Doughtie passed away on July 19, 2017.

Ann Graham presented the Thank Goodness Basket and nine Rotarians lined up to give $20 to the Austin Rotary Club Foundation and speak to the club. These Rotarians included: Ronney Reynolds, Peter Pfeiffer, Reggie Nisbett, Bill Baker, Mike O’Krent, Harold Benkoski, Lillian Aaron, Hannah Walker and Scott Spears.

Past President Sherry Workman introduced the speaker, Evan Smith, CEO of The Texas Tribune. Evan reported that The Texas Tribune has provided news on public policy for over 8 years. Their publication is non-partisan and strives to produce “engaged citizens who are knowledgeable about public policy.” Evan noted that everything on the site is free including the graphics, and is used as headline news in many markets.

Texas ranked 50th (out of 51) for voter turnout in the last election. The challenges are numerous, but include redistricting and poor choices for candidates. In addition to producing the publication, The Texas Tribune hosts over 50 events during the year to make the elected officials available to their constituents. Our own Representative Paul Workman has participated in Tribune-sponsored events. The Texas Tribune Festival will be September 22 – 24, 2017. There will be 60 – one hour sessions addressing the important issues.

From the 2017 legislative session, the most “combustible” issue was the bill Banning Sanctuary Cities. This
was so heavily debated that after it passed both houses, Governor Abbot signed the bill alone in his office.
The Special Session, which began July 18th, hopes to address 20 bills including:

  • Whether state law is sovereign over local laws
  • The Sunset Bill
  • The Bathroom Bill
  • Legislation on abortion
  • The School Finance Bill

Looking forward, Texas will likely be going to Federal Court over Voter ID, Sanctuary Cities, Foster Care and the Bathroom Bill. The 2018 mid term election will be about President Donald Trump. Young people are outraged and protesting, but this alone does not create change. Getting them to the polls to vote is key.

“Three Quick Points”

1) The population of Texas is expected to double by 2050 to over 50 million people. Will we have theinfrastructure to support this kind of growth?

2) Texas is truly an urban state. Six of the 20 largest cities in the country are located in Texas. Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso.

3) The demographics of Texas are rapidly changing. Hispanics will most likely be the majority in all age groups, with the exception of 60+ years of age, by 2040.

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