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Waskom outlaws abortion, becomes Texas' first 'sanctuary city for the unborn'

The city of Waskom took a stand against abortion Tuesday with the City Council unanimously voting to make the procedure illegal in the city, declaring itself Texas’ first “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

Waskom Mayor Jesse Moore said the City Council was happy to support Right to Life of East Texas in the historic move by adopting a resolution and an ordinance.

“Right to Life approached us because the abortion laws are changing in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi that the abortion clinics may start moving to Texas,” Moore said. “With Waskom being the first city, 18 miles (west) from (Shreveport) Louisiana, they were anticipating one moving over here.

“The citizens in Waskom, they don’t want to have an abortion clinic in Waskom, so they presented the board last night with an ordinance and resolution that will make abortions in the city of Waskom a criminal offense,” the mayor said.

He said the action won’t stop abortion clinics from moving to Waskom, “but if they do, they’ll be breaking the law.”

The passing of the ordinance comes at the heels of legislation signed Friday by Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits cities and counties from doing certain business with abortion providers.

According to cbs.com, the bill, which takes effect Sept. 1, specifically prevents local governments from entering into reduced tax and lease agreements with such organizations.

It also prevents cities and counties from “advocacy or lobbying on behalf of the interests of an abortion provider or affiliate.” It does not impact hospitals or doctor’s offices that perform fewer than 50 abortions a year.

Moore said when approached by Right to Life about the “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinance, the city first sought counsel from the city attorney before moving forward.

“Our city attorney was not familiar with abortion clinics, the rules and regulations,” Moore said. “He said he’d have to get some lawyer friends and would have to research it. It could take weeks or months.”

The mayor said he’s glad the ordinance was passed but admits that the unknown of a clinic ever moving there is scary.

“It’s kind of scary because you don’t what’s going to happen here in the near future, but from the support shown from the citizens last night, I think we’ll be able to fight it as far as we have to fight it to keep the law (upheld),” he said.

“Waskom’s known as the gateway to Texas, and we’ll just have to wait and see, because, you know, we’re in some unknown territory that we’ve never even thought about hardly,” Moore said.

According to its Facebook page, Right to Life of East Texas is an organization that exists to promote respect for the worth and dignity of all human life, including the life of the unborn child from the moment of conception.

Mark Lee Dickson, the Right to Life of East Texas director who addressed the City Council on Tuesday, thanked the city for its support.

“Tuesday night was a great victory for life,” Dickson said Wednesday. “The City Council’s vote has had a ripple effect across the state, and people everywhere have been reaching out wanting to know how they can follow in the footsteps of Waskom, Texas, and outlaw abortion in their city.”

Dickson said the ordinance is right in seeking to align itself with the U.S. Constitution and not the Supreme Court’s unlawful court opinion in Roe v. Wade.

“Presenting this ordinance was the RIGHT thing to do,” he wrote in a statement. “Just as it is WRONG for mothers to murder their born children, it is equally WRONG for mothers to murder their preborn children.

“A surgical or a chemical abortion is the purposeful and intentional ending of a human life,” Dickson said. “It is murder with malice aforethought, and it is, and always will be, the WRONG thing to do.”

Dickson said for those who say it does not make sense for the small, vulnerable, innocent city with a population of 2,189 to pass a resolution and an ordinance outlawing abortion and declaring itself to be a sanctuary city for the unborn, he reminded them of more than 20 years ago, when Louisiana’s abortion laws became stricter.

“In the early ‘90s, when the legislation in Louisiana became more and more restrictive, the founder of Hope Medical Group for Women said: ‘If Louisiana is shut down, obviously it would make sense to move right over the line,’” Dickson recalled, referring to a Shreveport Times article during that time that quoted then-Hope Medical Clinic Director Robin Rothrock saying she will move the abortion clinic to Waskom if a federal judge upheld Louisiana’s abortion law, House Bill 112, which outlawed abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.

First Baptist Church in Waskom joined Right to Life of East Texas this past Sunday for a gathering called, “The Rally for the Right to Life,” at the church.

Right to Life of East Texas posted on its Facebook page that one of the speakers was Jon Speed from Christ Is King Baptist Church in Syracuse, New York, who presented a document called, “The Resolution for Life.”

The resolution, which was adopted Tuesday by the council, declares “that all human life, including fetal life at every stage of gestation, must always be protected and that society must protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Speed, who helped Right to Life of East Texas with the earlier versions of the ordinance, said he’s thankful for the boldness of the Waskom City Council.

“Not only were they willing to go beyond a mere proclamation and add an ordinance to the concept of the sanctuary city for the unborn, but they are willing to take this fight to end abortion to the next level,” Speed said. “They are willing to act like people who really believe that abortion is murder.”


Local
Doc's Famous Hot Links in Gilmer still sizzling after 50 years

Floyd Henderson opened Doc’s Famous Hot Links at 204 S. Wood St. in Gilmer after the owner of the former restaurant at that location died in January 1969.

He named it for his father, Floyd Clarence “Doc” Henderson, and ran it for 45 years before selling it to Terry Capps and his daughter, Mesha Capps, so he could retire.

While Doc’s is in different hands, the Cappses have kept alive a tradition that marked its 50th anniversary during a celebration Wednesday that drew more than 100 people.

Terry Capps, 61, recalled eating at Doc’s with his father while he was in second grade and said he decided to buy it from Henderson because he was already in the restaurant business. He owns a Dairy Queen in White Oak.

Mesha Capps, who marked her 40th birthday during the packed event, said Doc’s has stayed in business so long because the restaurant “offers a good product and nobody gets tired of it. It goes from generation to generation to generation.”

“That is why our motto is ‘a family tradition,’” she said. She said customers whose parents are no longer alive still patronize Doc’s because they have fond memories of eating at the counter with their parents when they were younger.

Kristi Rogers, a 20-year customer who lives in Kilgore and works in Gilmer, concurred with Capps that eating at Doc’s is a family tradition.

And, if she cannot eat inside the small restaurant, she said, “we will find somebody to bring them to us.”

Regular customers Felisha Wilson and Butch Ragland also sang praises of Doc’s.

Wilson, an English-as-a-second-language teacher who has patronized Doc’s for 34 of her 48 years, said she comes at least once a week.

“The food. The service. The people. They are always really nice,” Wilson said. “I like hot links. I kind of like the flavors of them. It is one of the things you’ve eaten your whole life.”

Ragland, 75, an insurance salesman and past president of the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce, said he has eaten at Doc’s since his teens and drops by once a month.

“Only once a month?” current chamber president Shayne Wilson asked him. “This is healthy food.”

Ragland responded, “They are tasty and good for us. It helps your cholesterol,” he said with a laugh.

Doc’s has changed little over the years, Henderson said. He said his son, Kevin, updated the cook room in an adjoining building about 10 years ago by building four stoves from heavy metal.

Doc’s also updated the menu by adding pepperjack cheese links a year ago and potato salad and beans four months ago — “just to add more variety,” Mesha Capps said.

Both the Cappses and Henderson said they hope Doc’s will still be open 50 years from now.

“It’s something that you had stuff to do with and you don’t want to see it go,” Henderson said.

Meanwhile, Doc’s is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.


Local
Consultant: Fixing 25 White Oak streets could top $6.4M

WHITE OAK — At least 25 streets in White Oak need repairs, city leaders say, but repairing and overlaying them all could cost as much as $6.413 million, not including possible bond and interest costs.

Consultants presented the findings to White Oak City Council members — who must decide if and how to pay for the repairs — during the council’s June meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

The most expensive project would be Old Highway 80, which would cost $2.2 million for significant improvements to the 3-mile stretch from U.S. 80 to South Whatley Road.

“There’s a lot of holes on Old 80,” Place 3 City Councilman Thomas Cash said. “Well, I know that Old 80 is not very good.”

Meanwhile, reclamation and overlay on nine other streets — West Whatley Road, Little John Drive, Nottingham Street, East Cottonwood Drive, Cottonwood Trail, North Thomas Road, South Orchid Drive, Leona Street and North Doma Street — would range in costs from $213,000 to $350,000, consultants with SPI Engineering of Tyler said.

The question before City Council members will be how to pay for the improvements, whether they decide to reclaim and overlay the streets, which would add at least 10 years’ life to each road surface, or if they want to apply less expensive seal coating that would add about three to five years’ life, consultants and City Coordinator Charlie Smith said.

The city could issue certificate of obligation bonds or call an election to issue general obligation bonds. Depending on how much the city borrows, the time length for the debt and possible interest rates, a successful bond could increase yearly property taxes for the owners of an average-priced White Oak home by more than $200, consultants with Specialized Public Finance Inc. of Dallas said.

Any bond election would have to be called at least 70 days before the designated election date, consultants said.

If the council desires, Smith said the city could give Public Works Director Tracey Fears a $200,000 budget, then enter an agreement with Gregg County in which the city would pay for materials and then county crews would make shorter-term repairs to as many White Oak streets as the money allows.

Smith said the council will likely make a decision by August.

“If we end up doing the bond election,” Smith said, “that’s going to put us in the 70-day time frame to put in on the ballot.”

Other streets on the city’s list for repairs include Archer Drive, East Magnolia Street, South Walnut Street, Park Way, Quail Drive, Mockingbird Street, Swann Street, Chapparel Street, Daisy Street, East Gladiola Street, East Tulip Street, Leona Circle, Ridgecrest Street, Woodhaven Street and Millridge Court.

In other business, Smith received a three-year contract extension starting Jan. 1 at about a $109,000 yearly salary.

Also, the council is poring through about 10 applications to be the city’s next fire chief, Smith said. No timetable on hiring a chief has been set.

The city also opted to move forward on a one-year economic development agreement to Black Angel Lures.

A formal contract hasn’t yet been drawn up, but the company would receive a $5,000 grant from White Oak Economic Development Corp. to buy equipment to process its fishing lure products in White Oak, Smith said.

Council members learned that a medical practice is opening in the city.

Family nurse practitioner Kelly Johnson is opening White Oak Family Medicine clinic at 103 S. White Oak Road in the former Premiere Management building, she said during the citizen comment portion of the meeting.

For information, Johnson can be emailed at whiteoakfamilymedicine@gmail.com .

Also, resident Ronnie Shields said he was trying to open a recreational site where senior White Oak residents can come together for activities such as domino games.


Local
Special Health Resources fires 7 staffers in response to court order

Special Health Resources for Texas has fired seven employees — five nurse practitioners and two certified nurse midwives — in response to a court order that barred them from seeing patients at SHRT’s Longview clinic, David Hayes, interim CEO of SHRT, confirmed Wednesday.

Hayes said the order May 15 from 124th District Judge Alfonso Charles “tied my hands,” adding it was related to the lawsuit that the women’s former employer, Zeid’s Women’s Health Center, had filed against SHRT, a nonprofit entity.

Charles’ ruling gave the seven mid-level health providers until May 31 at SHRT’s Woman and Child Health Center on Seventh Street to tell their patients that they may not see them temporarily.

Hayes, a five-year employee who has served as interim CEO after former CEO Kim Nesvig left in April, said he placed the seven women on paid administrative leave June 3 and fired them this past Saturday. Nesvig hired them in February.

“During that week, we were trying to see if there was some way to continue to see patients with those (seven) providers,” Hayes said. “They were not going to be able to see patients going forward. So, I did not have any other recourse. We have been supporting them and trying to. We have been in several hearings and trying to support the ladies, but there was no other avenue.”

Hayes said SHRT rescheduled appointments during the week the employees were put on administrative leave.

He was responding to a ruling from Charles that enforced a temporary injunction he issued March 27 in a lawsuit in which Dr. Yasser Zeid accused his former employees of soliciting his patients after going to work for SHRT.

Zeid sued SHRT March 4, seeking more that $1 million in relief from what he described as “practice poaching.”

He based his claim on clauses in employment agreements — signed by at least four employees — in which they promised not to provide women’s health services for a year after they left Zeid at any of four Longview clinics: Family Circle of Care, Trinity Clinic, Wellness Pointe and Diagnostic Clinic of Longview.

The signed “covenants of noncompetition” also forbid the providers from soliciting Zeid’s patients or staff for two years.

Meanwhile, Hayes said SHRT is trying to fill the void with a temporary certified nurse midwife and doctors helping out.

“We are still working on building our providers to a point that we are fully staffed,” Hayes said. “It is not an exact comparison with the seven we had.”

He said the clinic had 680 patient visits in April and a similar number in May.