“The nature of humanity, its essence, is to feel another’s pain as one’s own, and to act to take that pain away. There is nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy, a grace in forgiveness.” – John Connolly
At some point I’m going to run out of words to describe my love and affection for this city. I face the same kind of challenge when attempting to describe how much I love and appreciate my sweet wife. There simply aren’t enough synonyms.
This past week has been one for the ages. That, for many of you, is likely to be somewhat of an understatement. Surviving sub-zero weather with not much, if any, means of relief is not only scary, it is life-threatening. No heat, no water, no electricity, ruptured pipes, dead batteries, undrivable roads in a city with most of its businesses facing similar issues and therefore closed, Waxahachie was under full assault from Mother Nature. Same holds true for the rest of the state but atop my priority list is Waxahachie and our surrounding communities.
Equally memorable to the weather onslaught is the way in which you, the people of Waxahachie, responded. Space and time won’t allow me to list every act of compassion I was blessed to witness this past week but suffice it to surmise that there is no end to how much you care for each other. For those of you who’ve lived here a long time, Waxahachie’s compassion may seem common but take it from someone who has lived in many communities across the country, Waxahachie’s collective compassion is the exception rather than the rule.
Even when a great state like Texas is exposed for having a poorly managed, brittle and weak power grid – for lack of a better description – people were determined to rise up and meet the needs of others. Truth is, what I witnessed last week gives me the hope and confidence that we, as people, can together overcome whatever we face. Mother Nature is never to be taken lightly or mocked especially when, for reasons we don’t quite understand, she ratchets up the strength of her already enormous power and makes genuine compassion our only real play of response. As long as we have mutual compassion, we can conquer anything. Without it, we become helpless to overcome even the smallest of challenges.
That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring to light the incompetence that has made the state of Texas perilously vulnerable. No one will ever accuse me of being some kind of power grid expert, but I know incompetence when I see it. Although staunchly conservative in my views, I have plenty of contempt for men and women whose identity, and therefore every action, is embedded in a letter that follows their name. Whether Republican, Democrat or any other one-letter monogram, if constituents aren’t being authentically, selflessly represented and their needs put first, I have no regard, much less any respect, for such a politician. None, nada, zero, zilch.
You may now be aware of ERCOT. The acronym has, after all, been a frequent topic in the news lately. In case you don’t know, it stands for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. In one of the better descriptions I’ve read of ERCOT, Thomas Miller of KWTX in Waco describes the entity this way: “It is an organization responsible for maintaining 90 percent of the integrity of the Texas power grid called the Texas Interconnection. Texas has a unique advantage in that the state maintains its own power grid whereas most of the lower 48 states receive power from either the Western Interconnection or the Eastern Interconnection, which are federally controlled.
“The only exceptions in Texas include El Paso, serviced by El Paso Electric, a portion of the panhandle which is supplied by the Western Interconnection, and a portion of East Texas which is on the Eastern Interconnection. ERCOT is governed by a board of directors that is overseen by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. The nonprofit group schedules power generation among energy producers across Texas in order to maintain grid integrity. During peak power consumption, which is usually encountered during particularly harsh winters or extreme summer heat, the organization often begins what are known as “rolling blackouts” where different generation stations across the state are brought off and online to prevent catastrophic failure of the power grid. Oncor, the entity that maintains distribution for 90 counties in Texas, works directly with ERCOT as well at the Public Utility Commission of Texas to ensure distribution makes it from the power station to your home or business.”
In other words, ERCOT is the group of people responsible for how Texas responded to what happened last week. Making matters worse, oversight of ERCOT is the responsibility of the Texas Legislature. ERCOT’s CEO is Bill Magness. Along with Magness, nine others make up its executive team. The chair and vice-chair of ERCOT’s board are Sally Talberg and Peter Cramton. It just so happens that neither of them lives in the state of Texas. Including Talberg and Cramton, there are 16 board members. According to its own website, ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by the aforementioned board of directors.
All said, 26 people and the Texas Legislature, presided over by Greg Abbott, watched as whatever kind of protocol was devised to avoid what happened last week, failed … abysmally so. As I’ve often written, America, in this case her greatest state, now has but one more example of how inept bureaucrats are when it comes to managing real world problems. They can play politics all day long but when it comes to effectively managing a state, especially in a crisis, they often fail. And, like most of you, I have had enough.
On one hand, Waxahachie represents the best of what life has to offer. Compassion, kindness, service, and goodness define this city whether faced with everyday challenges, a crushing pandemic or a winter storm that will never be forgotten. On the other hand, ERCOT and a rotten political system in dire need of real leadership, represent the opposite.
Don’t ever forget that.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at 972-316-7712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.