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Fighting for Texas Again Gov. Ann Richards spoke to the Texas Democratic Party convention on June 4 in Fort Worth. That speech, edited for length, follows: IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE that it has been almost three and a half years since we met on the bridge down by the IBEW hall [in Austin, on inauguration day] and gathered ourselves up and set ‘off on this great adventure. It was an incredible, emotional day. I remember looking up at the buildings and seeing people leaning out of the windows, smiling and waving…If we did not know it before that day, I think we all realized at that moment we had done something truly extraordinary. We took back this state for the people of Texas. That day was our declaration of independence…independence from every outmoded idea, wrong-headed policy and thin-lipped power broker that was holding this state back… Most of you remember what was going on. It was a time when the courts were threatening to close the public schools of Texas. It was a time when there was a revolving door in our prisons and my Republican predecessor was letting 150 inmates out a day, sometimes literally in the dead of night. It was a time when the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal said that things were hopeless in Texas and economically we were washed up and I am telling you after three and a half years there’s a new pride in Texas… We started out with the understanding that change has always been a friend to Texas…and we wanted to put change to work for us again. We came on strong, determined to shake up the bureaucracy and open the doors of government to all of the people of Texas. And we have done that, my friends. We knew it was not going to be easy…and we knew it would not happen overnight. And we knew that when we took on the status quo, we were taking on a fight. But that’s OK with me, because I am a fighter and I will always fight for Texas… Our fight is for the families of Texas, the women and men who go to work every day and pay their bills; who worry about how to provide for their kids; and who worry about how they’re going to care for their parents as they get older; who too often feel that government is something that takes their money and gives them nothing back but potholes and excuses. Our fight, my friends, is for the peace officer who walks the beat, putting their lives on the line every day; it’s for the firefighter who is ready to answer the alarm and it’s for the teacher who makes learning fun and exciting for our kids. Our fight is for older Texans living on a fixed income, who have a tough time making ends meet. Our fight is for the small business owner who strains to make a profit, it’s for the industry that cares about clean air and clean water. Our fight is for our community and it’s for that sense of belonging and for that that sense of security…and hope that our town or our city is a place that we can be proud to call home. This fight…is for the people of the state of Texas. I don’t care whether it is battling, insurance companies that are charging outrageous rates, or nursing homes who sacrifice care of older Texans on the altar of the almighty dollar, or polluters who don’t care about the world our children grow up in. We have taken on all corners… We have done our best to take the fight out where it belongswhere it makes a difference in people’s liveswhether it involved working with the employees at General Motors in Arlington to help them save their jobs, where the union got together to help them create more jobs, or working with kidssome of them already in troublein youth summits to help them find out how we can help them take back our schools…or moving the Capitol out of Austin and into the towns of Texas… We have worked hard for these first three and a half years, so when DPS and law enforcement tells me that, because we have stopped that revolving door [in prisons], we have cut back parole for violent, offenders and we have committed to build the prison beds to make sure that every felon serves his sentence, the crime rate is down more than 18 percent in the last two years, I know we have made a difference. But when I hear about someone being attacked in their own driveway, when I read the headlines of some kid who was accosted by another kid on the way home from school, I know that our fight is not over yet… People say to me, what does it mean…about Texas that we’re going to have 75,000 new prison beds? It means that if you come to Texas and commit a crime, we’ve got room for you in the penitentiary. When the dropout rate is as low as it’s ever been…and our students’ SAT scores are at a 14-year high, I know that you and I will say the difference in the quality of education has something to do with it. But when I hear that . seven and a half percent of our high school seniors are not passing the TAAS exit test, I know the fight is not over yet. And I will guarantee you that our fight is not over until all our teachers get a professional salary that they deserve. We put $700 million of lottery money into education, and none of it would be better invested than it would be in a good teacher’s salary… When I am told that, for the last three years in a row, we have created more jobs in Texas than any other state in the United States, that there are a half-million more people working in Texas today than there were when I raised my hand to be sworn in, I know we have made a difference. But every time I hear about a Texan who is out of work or every time I hear of a so-called downsizing…I know our fight is not over. We passed the most far-reaching environmental legislation in Texas history. We extended immunization from childhood disease to every child in Texas, regardless of their ability to pay. We turned on the tap lines and the sewer services in colonias in Texas, along our border, that had never had water or sewer services before. And we extended our major university systems into South Texas, which is the fastest growing Governor Ann Richards FILE PHOTO/PATRICIA MOORE 22 JUNE 17, 1994