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EDITORIAL Heckuva Year! 111. his is the final Observer issue of 2005. It was a quite a year in politics: a newly reelected president saddled with approval ratings in the 30s; the first indictment of a serving White House aide in more than a century; and, in the Jack Abramoff investigation, perhaps the biggest scandal Washington has seen in decades. In Texas, we witnessed three sessions of the Texas Legislature, the tragic death of State Rep. Joe Moreno, and the rise of the Kinky for Governor movement. Looking back, though, two related storylines stand out: the continued fallout from Congressman Tom DeLay’s 2003 scheme to redraw the state’s congressional districts, including the congressman’s entanglements with the criminal justice system; and Texas’ repeatedly clumsy attempts to reform how we fund and operate public schools. On November 22, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited judgment on the state’s school finance system. The Court declared that the current method for funding Texas schools amounts to a statewide property tax and therefore violates the state constitution. Justices gave the Legislature until June 1 to devise a new tax structure. As for the poorly and unequally funded public schools, which school districts argued also violates the state’s constitution, the Court decided the situation was bad, but not severe enough for them to forcibly open the Lege’s pocket book. “More money does not guarantee better schools or more educated students,” the majority opinion reads. That may be true, but without more money for education, Texas will never meet the demographic challenge that is before it. In any case, the court has left the spending decisions entirely up to the Legislature, a prospect that should fill every Texan with dread. We’ll spare you a rehash of the Lege’s Keystone Kop efforts to pass a school finance package. Let’s just say that even by the standards of the Texas Lege, this was a miserable year. They’ll get another whack at it this spring during an expected special legislative session on school finance. And there’s still a chance that the three branches of Texas’ government, all dominated by Republicans, can muster a school finance system that benefits at least a majority of Texans. The record to this point, though, isn’t encouraging. As for DeLay, the Hammer was indicted and re-indicted this fall by Travis County grand juries. DeLay and his attorney Dick DeGuerin then got into the Christmas spirit early with a little judge shopping. Three judges later, they ended up with San Antonio Democrat Pat Priest, who denied DeLay’s motion to quash the most serious charges against him. The former majority leader will likely stand trial early next year for allegedly laundering campaign money. Even as DeLay faced prosecution, the last piece in the scheme he helped hatch in 2002 came to light. A 2003 Justice Department memo unearthed by The Washington Post revealed that six lawyers and two analysts in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division concluded that DeLay’s redistricting map violated the Voting Rights Act. Unfortunately, they were overruled by a GOP political appointee. It’s been three years since the 2002 election that provided this brand of right-wing Republican control over all branches of government, in Austin and in Washington. As is so often the case with revolutionaries, the contempt they showed for the rules on their ascent to power could well spell their ultimate downfall. Regardless, three years later, the record shows that this group of Republicans ideologueswhich rose to power as political insurgentssimply can’t make the responsible, nonpartisan decisions required for functional governance. People of all political persuasions are starting to realize that we can’t subsist much longer on this diet of cronyism and incompetence. THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 97, NO. 24 I A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Lara George Art Director/Webmaster Matt Omohundro Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editors Roxanne Bogucka, Laurie Baker Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Editorial Interns Kyle Keller, Sofia Resnick, Kelly Sharp, Elizabeth L. Taylor Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Molly Ivins, Susan Hays, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto Ocaiias, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Sharron Rush, Ronnie Dugger In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ righted 2005, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break between non-profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone E-mail World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. DECEMBER 16, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3