Who is Violating the First Amendment?

Who is Violating the First Amendment?

A current favorite game played by the media is to accuse the “government” of violating the First Amendment. This is at or near the peak of hypocrisy compared to what the media does. The media often slants its “news” to favor their higher paying advertisers. They do “news” stories that are nothing more than advertising (puffery). True investigative reporting often gets shorted when the “proper” political and or monetary factors come into play.

In the Sunday, May 19, 2013 edition of the Cleburne Times-Review, an editorial by the holding company (CNHI) of the Times-Review was printed. CHNI was justifiably upset about the US Justice Department’s secret seizure of the Associated Press phone records. Every US citizen and every media outlet should be concerned about the Justice Department’s breach of the First Amendment.

What is the First Amendment?

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.

The Free Press Clause protects publication of information and opinions, and applies to a wide variety of media. In Near v. Minnesota (1931) and New York Times v. United States (1971), the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected against prior restraint—pre-publication censorship—in almost all cases. The Petition Clause protects the right to petition all branches and agencies of government for action. In addition to the right of assembly guaranteed by this clause, the Court has also ruled that the Amendment implicitly protects freedom of association.

Now that we have been refreshed on what the First Amendment says, back to my editorial. The First Amendment is a two-edged sword, even though the second edge is often overlooked. The government must be held accountable to the Constitution. On the other edge, the media must be held accountable to the Constitution.

I know of many letters to the editor of the Cleburne Times-Review that were not printed because they were not in line with the political agenda of the editor or the editor feared that printing them might jeopardize the Times-Review’s revenue from its advertisers.

I have an email from the editor of the Cleburne Times-Review stating that I “might as well save your paper” because he was not going to print anything I sent him.

Until recently when I have brought issues before the City Council, the Cleburne Times-Review reporter pointedly closed his notebook and put down his pen.

It is totally hypocritical for the Cleburne Times-Review to accuse the Justice Department of violating the First Amendment while the Times-Review is violating the First Amendment itself.

Alden Nellis
603 S. Walnut
Cleburne, Texas 76033
817-641-9646

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CISD is in the Bottom Seven Percent

The Bottom Seven Percent

by Alden Nellis 

Dr. Tim Miller said that being in the bottom 7% of Texas schools is not acceptable. “We should be in the top 7%,” he said. 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has given CISD academic ratings 17 of the past 18 years. During those 17 years, there were six campus ratings of Exemplary, 46 of Recognized, 104 of Acceptable, and 4 of Unacceptable. This puts CISD on the low end of the performance curve – at just barely acceptable. 

There was one bright star in those 18 years. Adams Elementary got four out of the six exemplary ratings. WhenAdamswas getting Exemplary and Recognized ratings, the campus was alive with the “Gator Spirit” – students, teachers and parents, all. Then the Board and Administration decided to fix what wasn’t broken. They built a newAdamscampus and redistricted.Adamshas not been the same since. 

Except for a couple of small upticks the trend in ratings over the 18 year period has been down (lower). Trustee Teddy Martyniuk was right at a recent Board Meeting when he said we have been talking about changing for three different administrations and it is now time to stop talking and start doing. The doing must come from within the Board and the administration. It cannot come from an outside foundation which is trying to usurp the functions of the Board and Administration. It cannot come from the “naysayers” (as Trustee Jay Wilson recently called them) who try to influence administrative decisions.  Change must come from within a motivated Board and Administration. Change MUST come. When you are in the bottom 7%, you cannot continue the downward trend or you will soon be the absolute bottom. 

Trustee Wendell Dempsey also made a good point at a recent Board meeting when he said “We can motivate the teachers and motivate the administrators, but until we get the students motivated, we aren’t going to go anywhere.” My wife, Micki, had a mother who used to say, as they rested a minute in the shade while chopping cotton, “You go to school and get a good education and you won’t have to work like this the rest of your life.” All the kids finished college with honors. Today we would say the odds of a dirt poor, uneducated and culturally ignorant backwoods Oklahoma family having four college graduates would be close to zero. They were motivated. 

Retired administrator Carolyn Cody recently told the Board that CISD had made great strides in the past three and a half years. That is not true with respect to academic ratings. She is right about administrative management and finances. Even that was not a change that was done voluntarily or willingly. It was done because of TEA sanctions and by the monitor TEA appointed to oversee operations at CISD. It did have the unanticipated effect of getting CISD in a position to weather the financial storm currently raging throughTexas. (Thank you “naysayers” for getting that ball rolling!) 

Now we need to make a similar change in academics at CISD. This will not happen with the good ole boy club operating “as we always have.” The Board will have to shed their good ole boy uniforms and become motivated CISD reformers, just as the Adams campus was motivated when it was excelling. The Administration will have to look past “that is the way we have always done it inTexas education,” and try some innovative techniques. 

With one or two possible exceptions the Board is capable of making that change. 

Dr. Miller is young and inexperienced, so maybe that is good. At least we can hope he will be open to new and innovative ideas. 

There has been a lot of talk and even blame placed on “sub pop” groups – Blacks, Hispanics, English impaired, economically disadvantaged, etc. The sub pops are not the problem. We have had them as far back as I can remember. The problem is the way we teach the sub pops. Good education has never been a one plan fits all process. No matter how much lazy administrators and teachers and computerized programs try to make one plan fit all, it will not happen – except at the peril to some students. As our population becomes more diverse, the number of at-peril students will increase. 

In the past we had one room schools with one teacher and eight grades. Each student was treated as a unique person and allowed to develop to the maximum of his ability. I know we cannot go back to that, but maybe we can step back and relearn some of the teaching techniques used in that environment.

 Being in the bottom 7% ofTexasschools is not acceptable. We must move up the TEA rating scale. To do that we have to change the way we educate. 

C-Scope may sound good – get all campuses teaching the same level material in each grade. But, let’s look at it. A campus like the original Adams that is motivated to excel will be dumbed down by the C-Scope governor to the lowest denominator. Lazy administrators / teachers and cookie cutter computer programs are going to produce lowest common denominator student cookies – students without the inspiration, motivation and drive to excel. The past 18 years at CISD has proved that. We must change the way we teach. 

If previous generations had taught the way we do at CISD, would we have the great standard of living we now enjoy? Would we even have the great country we have? Or would we all be dumbed down slaves of China or India or some other super power? 

The trend of the past 18 years is taking us to the position of the bottom school in theTexaseducation system. We do not want to go there. 

Dr. Miller was right. Being in the bottom 7% is not acceptable. Teddy Martyniuk was right. It is time to stop talking and start doing. Wendell Dempsey was right when he said it takes motivated students. 

Let us try changing the way we teach at CISD. If our first attempt at change does not work, then let’s try something different. Let’s keep trying until we establish an upward trend in our TEA ratings.

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If it ain’t broke … City is about to change garbage pickup

 

If It Ain’t Broke … City is about to change garbage pickup
 
See attachment:
 
If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it!
 
We are talking trash pickup here. First, I want to complement everyone involved in the current system of trash collection. It works very well and all employees are efficient and professional. I appreciate them. To consider any major changes to this service is misguided.
 
What is being considered is eliminating one day a week of trash pickup, requiring all residents to use big plastic trash receptacles in front of their houses. Trash would still have to be placed in plastic bags, but the city would stop furnishing garbage bags. The city would give the resident one  plastic trash container, but the resident would have to buy additional cans if one is not enough to hold a week’s garbage. If it is stolen or damaged the resident would have to replace it at his own expense. The cans would have to be wheeled out to a specific location so the truck could automatically pick them up on trash day. The city is considering picking up from only one side of the street. That means half the people would have to wheel their cans across the street and leave them at their neighbors’ house. If you are on the side of the street that gets the pickup, you would have to tolerate your neighbors’ trash cans until they come and get them or the wind blows them away. No racks to hold the trash receptacles in place would be furnished. Elderly people will have a hard time wheeling the 90 gallon containers around – they would be about three times the size of the normal trash can that you see sometimes around town.
 
The city is, in essence, considering changing a system that works well and reducing the services to one-third the present level with no reduction in fees. That is the equivalent of a 300% increase in cost to the customer. If the fee is reduced in keeping with the “savings” to the city, it would result in a $5.00 reduction per month in the average customer’s bill.
 
By the city’s figures, the change would save them about $600,000 per year. None of that savings would be passed on to the customers. It would be wasted by the city on other things.
 
The trash cans would be an unsightly mess along our streets all day long. The current bags disappear when picked up by the crew. The cans will remain to be blown around the neighborhood all day. I have been to towns that use this system and a lot of houses have two of these big cans in front of or beside the house – ugh! Atttached are some photos of what we might expect our neighborhoods to look like with this system.
 
The council is considering hiring Toter, Inc. to do a pilot trial in certain areas of the city. What are the chances that the trial runs will be made in any of the neighborhoods where the mayor, council members or city staff live? (Maybe their trial run will give us a chance to take photos of the real blight.)
 
I can see where some well-intended bureaucrat thought this would be a good way to increase city coffers by $600,000 a year. In typical bureaucrat logic he/she never considered that this is actually fraud against the city’s customers.
 
We do not need to be spending taxpayer money to conduct a study on a system that is functioning well. The city council is going to consider this matter at their meeting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at City Hall. They need to be encouraged to vote against this expense and to drop consideration of any major change to our trash collection system.
 
See attachment for photos of what will probably be in store if the city implements this change.
 
Alden Nellis
 
cc: Justin Hewlett, Mayor, justin.hewlett@cleburne.net
John Warren,, SMD4, Mayor ProTem, john.warren@cleburne.net
Bob Kelly, SMD1, robert.kelly@cleburne.net
Gayle White, SMD2, gayle.white@cleburne.net
Dale Sturgeon, SMD3, dale.sturgeon@cleburne.net
Rick Holden, City Manager, rick.holden@cleburne.net
 
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Texas is 44th in School Spending – What Does That Mean?

Texas is 44th in School Spending – What Does That Mean? 

By Alden Nellis
June 3, 2011 

I am sure most of you have seen the ads featuring Tommy Lee Jones and other “icons”, which state that Texas is 44th among the states in spending on education. The ads go on to state that is unacceptable. 

What does 44th in spending mean? Nothing. 

Regardless of the rank in spending, what counts is how we spend – how much education bang we get for the buck. 

Just for the record, Texas is actually 37th. That doesn’t sound nearly as bad as 44th, which is probably why they chose the inaccurate 44th for their ads.

 I know of no one who think our Texas schools are not in trouble. Our schools are in trouble because, for decades, our Trustees and Administrators have been spending, spending, spending without regard for how much education they get for the dollars spend. 

The Texas Legislature recognizes the problem and is taking the right approach to curing it – cutting the budget. They are saying to the school districts, “We are cutting your funds. Where you trim your fat, where to get lean and mean, is up to you.” They are leaving control in local hands instead of dictating everything from the state level. 

Local Trustees and Administrators have to step up and give us the same or more education for less money. Simple. All they have to do is forget the luxury of past excesses and move forward from where they are now. Politicians, including Trustees and Adminstrators, are inclined to “fix” all problems by piling on more money. We can have better education for less, but it will take more effort than they are used to. 

There is a new organization in the school district, Cleburne Education Foundation, which proposes to help the district with private donations. That is a noble endeavor. My advice to them is to attach some strong strings to their donations to assure they go where intended. If strings are not attached, the donors will be amazed at how quickly the $50 million CISD budget will gobble up their little quarter of a million dollar contribution.

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