Every Texas Tribune event adds to the public discourse — or at least that's the idea. We convene more than 50 gatherings a year, always on the record and open to the public and almost always livestreamed, in the hope that grilling elected officials and newsmakers before a live audience will force the woefully inadequate level of civic engagement that afflicts our state to tick up a few clicks. Voter turnout may be low, but attendance at our events continues to grow: More than 10,000 of our fellow citizens joined us over the past 12 months for breakfast or lunch or for most of a full day in places like Lubbock, Edinburg, Texarkana, San Angelo, Odessa, Prairie View and, yes, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.
In chronological order, here are my 5 favorite Trib events of 2017.
DeRay Mckesson, 1/13. In the opening keynote conversation of our daylong symposium on race and public policy — a week before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and seven months before Charlottesville — the activist and educator who was an early leader of the Black Lives Matter movement talked about what the incoming administration and the politics of the moment would likely mean for communities of color.
Dan Huberty, 2/28. The newly named chairman of the House Public Education Committee presaged the combative relationship between the two chambers of the Legislature in the 85th session when he characterized the Senate’s school choice proposal as dead on arrival in the House. Ultimately, the fate of a possible school finance overhaul was decided by the inability — or unwillingness — of lawmakers to come to an agreement on choice.
Joe Straus, 9/23. Weeks before the Speaker rocked the Texas political world with his announcement that he would not seek re-election in 2018, he was jocular and punchy on subjects ranging from the “bathroom bill” to the House Republican Caucus’ proposed bylaw changes. It was a high point in Straus’s journey from humble, conflict-averse presiding officer to feisty champion of economic competitiveness and icon of bygone Republican moderation.
Harvey and the Coast, 10/17. In the first of our conversations about the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in the history of the state, four small town mayors talked movingly and bracingly about the challenges they and their constituents faced. Their early skepticism about promised government funding and well-intentioned rebuilding efforts proved alarmingly prescient.
Dawnna Dukes, 11/7. Defiant and unapologetic, the embattled state representative from Austin finally talked publicly about her year-plus in the legal crosshairs in her first sit-down since the Travis County District Attorney dropped all charges against her. Among the targets of her wrath: fellow Democratic House members Donna Howard and Celia Israel, the Austin American-Statesman and everyone who thinks she’s unfit to represent her House district.