All posts by kanelis2012

Rep. Price makes the grade, according to Texas Monthly

Texas Monthly is an entertaining and informative publication.

Its most popular regular feature arguably is its annual Bum Steer Award issue that highlights the antics of the weird throughout our vast state.

The next most popular issue is the one that features the Best and Worst Legislators. Guess what, dear reader: One of the Panhandle’s own made the Best list.

I’ve long been proud of Walter Price IV — aka Four Price — the Republican state representative from Amarillo. He’s a friend and a supremely good guy. According to TM, he’s also one of the Legislature’s most effective members.

The TM list was compiled by veteran political journalist R.G. Ratcliffe, who knows his way around the Capitol Building in Austin.

Price is the only Panhandle delegation member to make either list from the 2017 Legislature. That is not to denigrate the others: Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo and Charles King of Canadian, or Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, all of whom are Republicans in the heavily GOP Legislature. It’s interesting to me, though, that GOP Sen. Charles Perry from just down yonder in Lubbock made the Worst list, but since he’s not from the Panhandle, I won’t say any more about him.

TM cites how Four Price — a lawyer by training — often gets overlooked because he makes legislating look easy. As TM notes: “It’s not. As chair of the Public Health Committee, Price introduced more than a dozen bills to reform how Texas cares for those with mental illness, a historically neglected population. Probably the most significant was House Bill 10, which designated a state ombudsman to oversee access to behavioral health care and push insurance companies to cover treatment for mental health the same as they do physical ailments. It passed the House on a 130–13 vote, and the Senate sent the measure to the governor with only one dissention.”

Read the entire article on the Best and Worst legislators here.

I am sure Rep. Price is going to get his share of pats on the back from his friends throughout Amarillo and House District 87, which includes Potter and Moore counties.

That said, I want to join them in offering a good word to a sharp and energetic young man who works hard on behalf of the community that keeps sending him back to the Legislature.

When it’s built, MPEV will benefit entire city

I’m still trying to process the news today of the arrival of a AA baseball franchise in Amarillo.

The meter is now running. The San Antonio Missions are moving their franchise here in time for the start of the 2019 Texas League season. That means the multipurpose event venue — aka the ballpark — will need to be completed in time for the first pitch.

The MPEV is the reason the Missions are coming here. They want to play in a shiny new venue. They want to play hardball in the downtown district.

It’s going to cost about $45.5 million. Yes, it’s more than the $32 million price tag attached to the November 2015 citywide referendum that voters approved. It doesn’t bother me that the cost escalated. Why? Because the plan is for the MPEV to be funded through hotel occupancy tax revenue.

The grumbling has begun. Some folks might not want the ballpark to be built. They believe the city has too many other needs that attention. Roads and streets; parks, police and fire protection … those kinds of things.

I’ll concede that I am not an urban planning expert. I have gotten around the country a good bit over the years and I’ve noticed that vibrant cities have one thing in common: a bustling, busy and active downtown business/entertainment district.

My wife and I just returned from a nearly 3,800-mile road trip. We witnessed plenty of pizzazz in places like Nashville and Memphis, Tenn. We saw more of it in Roanoke, Va., a city that’s quite a bit smaller than Amarillo, but which boasts a highly attractive downtown district. I do not know all the particulars of those communities, so my perception is based on first impressions.

I do know a bit about Amarillo’s personality and my sense is that the city’s population — which is on the cusp of 200,000 people — is going to respond positively to the development that will follow once the ballpark is built.

Moreover, the word will get out. The city’s marketing gurus need to find creative ways to send the message well beyond Amarillo’s corporate borders that this city is a happening place.

What, then, might happen? Those hotels that have sprung up all along Interstate 40 are going to fill up. Revenue will pour in. The city will be able to invest that revenue in the kinds of projects that will improve the city’s image and lure even more activity into this community.

The announcement today completes just the first phase of the city’s redevelopment and revival. The City Council, the senior city administration and the Local Government Corporation have received the commitment they wanted from a professional sports franchise to relocate here.

The ballpark is the critical element that lured that franchise to this city. There’s little time for dawdling and delay. Work needs to begin soon.

And when it’s finished, I am willing and ready to suggest that the entire city will reap the reward.

Hoping the council will share the credit with predecessors

I noticed some pictures today of the announcement that a Double A baseball franchise is coming to Amarillo.

I saw plenty of dignitaries and the chairman of the team that’s coming to the Panhandle. They’re excited as the dickens at the prospect of building that shiny new ballpark downtown. They should be!

But when they finish the job, when they chalk the field for the opening game of the 2019 Texas League baseball season at the new place in downtown Amarillo, I am hoping that the City Council will be sure to extend an invitation to the festivities to the individuals who did much of the work to make it happen.

I refer to the previous City Council.

Amarillo voters turned over the entire five-member council this past May. The new folks took over and then watched the Local Government Corporation hammer out the details of the San Antonio Missions’ baseball franchise relocation.

This, of course, didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t even transpire in the span of a month or two. It took years to cobble together this agreement.

I recall when President Obama strode to the microphone in May 2011 to announce the killing of Osama bin Laden. He made it clear that the effort was done after years of diligent work by intelligence and military agencies over the course of two administrations.

He has said the first call he made when he new bin Laden was dead and the commandos who killed him were out of danger was to former President George W. Bush.

I don’t intend to put too fine a point on this, but Amarillo’s next big step forward is the work of a lot of individuals and local agencies. Yes, I was critical of the previous council over a number of issues. However, it was that council’s hard work that brought about the big announcement today.

My candidate for throwing out the first pitch in April 2019? Former Mayor Paul Harpole.

Let’s not set a new water-use record, OK?

Amarillo residents think they need to be No. 1 … apparently.

City Hall staff reports that water usage Tuesday tied an all-time daily record, set in August 2002. Residents and businesses pumped 92 million gallons of water in a single day.

That’s a lot of, um, lawn irrigation, car washes and pool fillups.

The city’s Every Drop Counts water conservation mantra needs to be placed on the top of residents’ minds.

Yes, the city took a lot of rain early this month. My wife and I were on the road, but we heard about it. Our favorite playa, Lake McDonald, has been revived thanks to the abundant moisture.

News about heavy water use does concern me. I’m sure it concerns you, too.

I want to harken back about two years ago when the city’s administrative staff was run by a certified water expert. City Manager Jarrett Atkinson could talk water policy, conservation and management with the best of ’em. Then he quit as city manager because — as I understand it — he had difficulty working with the then-new City Council majority. He landed in Lubbock, where as city manager he is now lending his water-conservation expertise to that city’s governing council.

The message ought to remain the same in the city Atkinson left behind. Our water is not infinite.

I get that it’s hot! Summer has arrived. However, every drop of water does count. Really. It does!

Now we get to wait for the first pitch

I likely won’t be around when they throw out the first pitch, but I’ll be cheering the event nevertheless.

Amarillo’s Local Government Corporation has secured a deal that brings organized baseball back to the city. It comes in the form of the San Antonio Missions, which will depart the Alamo City and relocate in the Panhandle in time for the start of the 2019 season.

This is a good deal. It’s a huuuge deal. It revives the hope of those of us who want to see the city build that multipurpose event venue downtown and want to see the city’s central district restored in a new fashion.

The Elmore Sports Group, owner of the Missions, wants to move to Amarillo because of the promise of the downtown ballpark that will be erected across the street from City Hall. It will cost $45.5 million — give or take — and it will be funded primarily with hotel occupancy tax revenue.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News: “We are very excited,” said D.G. Elmore, group chairman. “We have moved teams at various times in our 36-year history of owning ballclubs, and as I reflect, I don’t think there is a time we have seen the level of business support like this.”

“In many ways, it’s unprecedented,” Elmore said. “This type of support is fantastic.”

Is this project criticism-free? Hardly. We are going to hear from those who do not believe the city should invest so heavily in its downtown district. They want the city to spend money on other areas, on other neighborhoods, on other projects.

What I see happening is a revival that is going to ripple across the city. The MPEV/ballpark will generate considerable interest for the city’s downtown district. That interest translated directly into revenue for the city. That revenue can be spent — wisely, of course — on myriad projects and improvements all across Amarillo.

Now that the LGC has received the commitment it wanted from the Missions, work can begin in earnest on specific design plans for the MPEV. Crews have cleared out the lot. The Coca-Cola distribution center that once occupied that downtown property has relocated to a business park on the east side of the city.

The sounds of baseball being played downtown will be new to those who have lived here for any length of time. My wife and I have called Amarillo home for more than two decades. Our life is set to change in due course as we continue to prepare for our relocation.

The city’s life is about to change, too. Also for the better.

Affiliated minor-league baseball is returning to Amarillo, which used to be home to the Gold Sox, a team affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League. And that makes the Missions’ relocation somewhat poetic and symmetrical, as that team also is part of the Padres organization.

There’s much to do. But with the announcement today that the Missions have signed on the dotted line, the LGC can claim much work has been done already.

Let’s get busy.

So much for the Democratic ‘tide’ forming in Georgia

Jon Ossoff got thumped. Karen Handel is the new congresswoman from Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.

It was supposed to be a potential sign of a Democratic Party “wave” that could sweep the minority party back into control of the House of Representatives.

One little thing happened, though. Democrats fielded a candidate with an eligibility problem. He doesn’t live in the district. 

Ossoff lives about six miles outside the district; he’s sharing a residence with his fiancée. Ossoff said he grew up in the district, he knows it well and the fact that he didn’t abide by the electoral rules didn’t matter. Well, actually, young man — it does matter. A lot.

As for Handel, she tied Ossoff at the hip to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose name has become a four-letter word among Republican political operatives.

Did I want Ossoff to win? Sure. I’ve said that already. I did express some concern earlier about this residency issue and how it might nip him in the backside. It did.

The Sixth District is a reliably Republican one. It’s former representative, Dr. Tom Price, now serves as health and human services secretary. Donald J. Trump carried the district by a percentage point in 2016, while Price was being re-elected by double digits.

If Democrats have any hope of peeling off GOP districts in the future, my suggestion is to find better-quality candidates to carry the message forward.

They can start by ensuring their candidates actually live in the district they seek to represent.

Moment of ‘truth’ on alleged WH tapes on tap

Donald J. Trump could have prevented a lot of the hubbub surrounding his presidency. He chose to keep it roiling.

The president is now supposed to tell the nation Thursday whether he actually recorded conversations he had with former FBI director James Comey.

Few people close to the matter believe that Trump recorded them, yet he managed to tweet something right after he fired Comey that the former FBI boss had “better hope” there are no tapes.

Come clean, Mr. President.

The president once again has demonstrated the behavior of a juvenile delinquent. He and his White House staff have refused to answer the question: Did the president record conversations with Comey? Rather than answer the question, the president has played coy in a stupid and childish game of political chicken. So have his press spokespeople.

Suppose on Thursday that the president declares he was just kidding. He didn’t intend to threaten the release of tape recordings. He was trying to run a bluff on Comey and the media.

Will that end this discussion? Will it put to rest the idiotic notion that this guy disseminates public policy via social media? I doubt it seriously.

I suppose it’s fair to wonder whether the president’s penchant for social media petulance will ever enable him to win the trust of Americans and our nation’s allies. If he puts to rest the ridiculous report of audio recordings, then how can we believe anything that this guy says going forward?

Then again, if he has tapes stashed away, we’re talking about a serious game-changer.

I’m going to stick with the notion that Donald Trump will seek to wiggle away from that moronic tweet.

Wake up, Congress, to greater civility

Ted Cruz believes this past week’s shooting at a baseball practice that wounded several of his fellow Republicans should be a “wake up call” for members of Congress.

The Texas U.S. senator is right, of course. He almost seems to state the obvious, that the tenor and tone of current political discussion has been filled with too much poison.

Five people were hurt in Alexandria, Va., while practicing for Congress’ annual charity baseball game. The shooter was angry at Donald J. Trump and, apparently, at GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who was wounded by a rifle shot from the gunman. Scalise’s condition is improving and for that we all are grateful.

The gunman died in a shootout with police.

“We may disagree on whether the federal government should have a simple flat tax or a massively confiscatory federal income tax, but those differences should not lead to demonization, vilification and personal attacks,” Cruz said in remarks to supporters.

But that’s what we’ve been hearing. It goes back many years. It’s been a bipartisan mantra. Democrats and Republicans point at each other across the aisle on Capitol Hill and question each other’s motives for whatever it is they seek to accomplish.

Politics used to be a noble calling. That’s not the case these days. It has become a contact sport. Some suggest politics has turned into a blood sport.

The dips*** shooter in Alexandria exemplified the danger of letting our emotions get the better of us.

Top lawyer ‘lawyers up’; more to come, maybe?

If you’re keeping score, it’s good to know how many of Donald J. Trump’s key administration staffers have hired lawyers to represent them.

You have the president’s son-in-law and senior public policy adviser, Jared Kushner seeking outside counsel; Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer to represent him and might be able to use campaign funds to pay for the counselor’s advice; today we got word that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has joined the lawyering-up club.

And oh yes, the president himself has hired a team of lawyers.

Why all this legal eagle activity? You know the reason, but I’ll mention it anyway. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers, who tried to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Of all the people mentioned here, I find Sessions’ decision to be most interesting. He’s the nation’s top lawyer. He runs the Department of Justice. He also has recused himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation.

Throughout all of this Russia investigation, we hear the president toss out terms like “witch hunt” and “fake news.” He doesn’t condemn the notion that Russian government goons might have sought to influence the election.

The special counsel has a lot of information to sift through. The former FBI director, James Comey, told Senate committee members that the president pressured him to back off a probe into the Russia matter. The president launches into those tweet tirades that seem to undermine his own message, not to mention his legal defense against whatever might be tossed at him.

We’re a long way from knowing the truth behind all of this.

The high-priced legal community is riding a serious gravy train, thanks to the concerns being expressed by the president of the United States and some among his senior team members.

Tragedy reveals tale of heroism

The word “hero” arguably is one of the most abused words in the English language. We hang that description on athletes and actors.

Word has come out about the truest form of heroism. It came in the actions of U.S. Navy Fire Controlman First Class Leo Rehm Jr., who saved the lives of 20 of his shipmates before drowning in a tragic collision in the Sea of Japan.

Rehm was one of seven sailors who died when their ship, the destroyer USS Fitzgerald, rammed a merchant ship near the Japanese coast.

The Fitzgerald was struck below the water line. It took on water rapidly. Rehm managed to get 20 of his mates out of danger, and then went back down — only to have the hatch closed behind him as the crew sought to prevent the ship from sinking.

That’s when Rehm died along with the six other sailors.

Rehm was slated to retire soon from the Navy. He would return to his home state of Ohio.

This information is heartbreaking in the extreme.

The Daily Beast wrote extensively about Rehm and his actions aboard the stricken warship. Read the full piece at The Daily Beast.

Heroes are among us. They serve in many capacities. They are first responders. They are Good Samaritans who run to aid others in need. They wear our nation’s military uniforms.

They are men like Leo Rehm Jr.