Long-time political reporter and my close friend Ross Ramsey retired May 1 as executive editor and featured columnist of The Texas Tribune.
Ross, 65, former owner and editor of Texas Weekly, joined former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith and financier John Thornton in 2009. and built the Trib into 100-plus people doing the best state government coverage in the nation.
Ross’s final column April 29, trimmed:
Texas is a great state, but there’s much work to do – what Texans really want. The political class won’t do this on its own.
2022 is an election year, a chance for Texas voters to tell their representatives what the state needs, and doesn’t — to emphasize our biggest problems and ignore distractions from that important work.
Texas’ 5.5 million public school kids need tools to continue the work, and the pandemic set them back. Teachers can tell you that, and parents, and the students. It’s an urgent problem, and should top the list. The future is at stake.
For years, the state government has done too little (for) Texans needing basic services or a safety net: foster children, those needing better health and mental care, rural residents needing hospitals and better infrastructure, people in blighted areas of cities and suburbs, who need some of the same services, prisoners, adults needing training, help to get on their feet, and everyone left out . . . because of race, nationality, religion, gender, ideology, background, or other differences that shouldn’t matter in government and law.
The border with Mexico needs coherent, humane policies for immigration, commerce, education and welfare, not angry politicking — treating thousands trying to reach the U.S. (like a) state-run pest control issue that ruins local border communities, and immigrants seeking better lives.
Law enforcement needs support: better training, reconsidering police duties — whether mainly enforcing the law or backstopping a social services network that’s underfunded and ineffective.
Taxpayers need attention. Texas property taxes exceed all but five other states, and continue rising, despite legislative efforts to tame them. Texas has no income tax — or evident appetite for one among the public or politicians — making funding harder to solve. But underneath the need for better schools, policing and other services is a real issue with the cost of government, and who pays.
An incomplete prompt for action. But make your own list and do something with it. 2022 is an election year, and those we send to Austin, Washington, city hall, county courthouse and school board need support and instruction.
Texas is a great state, but there’s much work to do, starting with the public — what Texans really want. The political class won’t do this on its own.
A personal note: This is the last of the regular columns I’ve been writing since 2010, shortly after we started The Texas Tribune in 2009, and I want to thank you; Evan Smith, our indomitable leader; and the rest of my beloved Tribbies, past and present, for the opportunity to report and write about the country’s most interesting politics, government and people. It’s been a blessing, and I’m very grateful.
My biggest question when we started the Trib was whether Texans would be interested in the things we set out to reveal, explain and try to put into context. Civics and politics, honestly, were the classes I was most likely to ditch in high school and college; I found it was more interesting in real time, a noisy battle over ideas, life-and-death issues, silly and hilarious incidents, important events, some really boring meetings, and lots and lots of interesting people. Journalists get a backstage pass, a chance to see things not everyone gets to see, and all we have to do in return is tell the world what we’ve seen and to try to make some sense of it.
Readers make it fun to write columns, whether they are fans, crabs, experts, innocents or passersby, responding with everything from “Hey I want more of this,” to “What the hell were you thinking and when are you going to shut up?” And I want to nod to the biggest group of all — the quiet readers who don’t write back but have come along for the ride, hoping each column would give them some information, a laugh, a bit of insight or a chance to spit their morning coffee on the wall.
And my startup worries were quickly dispatched: Texans are interested in society and culture, in our communal efforts to understand and cope with it all, whether they’re actively involved or not. Thanks for that. We didn’t make this a success. You did.
I’m retiring with a full heart, excited and confident about the future of Texans, Texas and The Texas Tribune.
God bless you. It’s been a hoot.