Category Archives: local news

This guy got the Texas Senate 31 outcome wrong

Jay Leeson is a Lubbock businessman and radio personality who writes something called “The Other Side of Texas.”

The Amarillo Globe-News published a column from this fellow, who said in his essay that state Sen. Kel Seliger squeaked by in his March 2018 Republican Party primary race for re-election to the Texas Senate 31 seat.

Actually, Leeson has it dead wrong.

Seliger didn’t eke out a narrow victory. He won a three-way contest against two capable GOP primary opponents — one of whom was well-funded by a far-right political organization called Empower Texans — by avoiding a runoff.

Sen. Seliger won with about 51 percent of the ballots cast. The other two men — former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal — each collected less than half the total that Seliger rang up. Therefore, I would submit to you, dear reader, that Seliger didn’t squeak by; he won big. How? Because Canon and Leal both split what I consider to be the GOP nut-job vote between them, leaving Seliger to harvest the rest of the mainstream Republican primary voters to win the party’s nomination to another term in the Senate, which Seliger first joined in 2004.

Canon did lose narrowly to Seliger in a two-man GOP primary in 2014. Leal brought significant name familiarity that threatened to chew into Seliger’s Amarillo and Panhandle base of support; Leal, though, didn’t register much in the campaign.

The way I see it, Seliger’s primary victory over more than one opponent was far from a squeaker. He won decisively

Seliger was re-elected in November by crushing a Libertarian candidate. His path to re-election was made significantly easier by his smashing win in the GOP primary against two capable and articulate spokesmen for whatever arch-conservative doctrine they were espousing.

There. I’m glad to have set the record straight . . . as I see it.

Blogging brings a particular joy

My calling as a full-time blogger gives me so much joy, it’s difficult to chronicle all of it.

It keeps me in the game of public policy and politics-watching; it allows me to have my voice heard and my “throat” cleared; it reaches a wide audience that includes those who like what I have to say and those who, well, dislike my message.

I want to speak to the particular joy I receive from those critics, the folks who take the time to give me grief.

They aren’t likely to comment on those matters with which they agree. I have some series going: I write about my Chihuahua mix dog, Toby; I comment on the retired life my wife and I enjoy; I now am writing about the joy that my career as a journalist gave me over nearly four decades.

When I turn my attention to issues relating to Donald Trump and my critical view of the man’s presidency, that brings out the critics. They dust off their weapons and fire away.

Yes, I enjoy getting ’em riled. Not because I want them fired up, that I want to cause them heartburn or cause anxiety attacks. My joy comes only in knowing they, too, are engaged at some level.

Bear in mind this important note, though: No one is required to read these musings. We’re all free to look the other way, to ignore whatever it is that is posted under the name of High Plains Blogger.

That these critics choose to read it and then to comment tells me that (a) they want their blood pressure to increase or (b) they cannot get enough of whatever anger they have pent up inside of them.

Whatever, man.

I know it’s too much to ask these critics to share these messages. I ask only one thing: Just keep reading.

Many thanks to you all. Some of you keep me humble. All of you, though, keep me energized.

Student pregnancy: no longer grounds to disappear

I am acutely aware of the many changes in our culture, how what used to be forbidden has become part of living.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t miss the old days. I consider myself to be a 21st-century man. However, this afternoon I noticed a sign in front of a building that seemed to slap me in the face.

At the corner of El Dorado Parkway and Craig Street in McKinney, Texas, I saw a sign for the McKinney Independent School District office in charge of “Childcare Services.”

Hmm. I thought. Childcare, eh? I presumed initially that they refer to students who give birth to children and who need to provide care for those little ones while Mommy and/or Daddy are attending public school classes. I have learned that the services are set aside for employees.

You know what? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that students would be able to use those services, given what I have witnessed on high school campuses over many years. Indeed, times have changed from the long-ago era when I was in high school.

I graduated from high school in Portland, Ore., in the Summer of Love . . . 1967. In those days, student pregnancy was, shall we say, something one didn’t just pass off as one of those “normal occurrences” if you were a student in junior high or high school.

I remember quite vividly one girl who attended the same high school as I did. She got involved in a relationship and — boom! — she became pregnant. When word leaked out that she was “with child,” this girl disappeared from view. She was gone. Never to be seen or heard from again. I have no idea where she went or what happened to her. I always presumed she was shipped off to live with a relative in another state. I hope she lived to grow old like the rest of us.

It’s a good thing that public school systems have pulled their heads out since those dark days when girls and their sexual partners were scorned. Yes, underage girls and boys have been producing babies since the beginning of time.

As one might say: Stuff happens, man.

Every so often, though, one gets reminders of how our culture has evolved over time. It reminds us of how it used to be . . . and it makes glad we live in the here and now. 

Hooray! Blog sets page view/visitors record!

I am now going to use this forum of my very own making to boast just a bit. I’ll be brief.

High Plains Blogger has just set a record for yearly page views and unique visitors. The end of the year is still about three weeks away.

This blog has increased annual page views every year since its inception. Perhaps the news that it’s setting a record isn’t much to boast about.

Too bad. I’ll do it anyway.

I owe the good year for this blog to one tremendous month. February brought this blog its biggest single day of page views and unique visitors; the daily average for February was by far the best monthly average I’ve recorded. It carried me to the end of the year on put this blog on pace to set a record.

I want to thank those of you read the blog. Whether you agree with its world view is beside the point. I appreciate your readership very much. I also appreciate those who share my musings with your own social media networks, with the hope that those with whom you share are spreading the word even farther.

The next year allows me to turn the page, to start over. I hope 2019 is even better than the record-setting year we’ve just recorded.

How’s this for religious bigotry?

To think that Texas’s third-largest county is home to a cabal of religious bigots who want to oust a local Republican Party vice chairman because — get ready for it — he’s a Muslim!

Ye gads, this story disgusts me.

At issue is the faith practiced by Shahid Shafi, a Southlake trauma surgeon. He ran twice for the Southlake City Council and was elected on his second try. He was informed by friends that as a Muslim, he would have difficulty being elected to any office in Texas in this post 9/11 era.

That didn’t dissuade him. So he ran and won eventually.

Now he’s vice chair of the Tarrant County GOP. But wait! He barely had taken office when a local Republican raised a phony alarm. A precinct chairwoman, Dorrie O’Brien, urged the county’s GOP chair, Darl Easton, to pull Shafi out of the vice chair’s office.

The bigot said, without any evidence, that Shafi believes in Sharia law and that he’s a closet terrorist.

Good grief!

I feel the need to remind everyone yet again that the U.S. Constitution is unambiguous about this point: There shall be “no religious test” applied for anyone seeking elected office in the United States of America. It’s written in Article VI, Clause 3 of the nation’s founding government document. Yep, that includes city council member and political party leadership.

The bigoted move has drawn immediate condemnation from some high-profile Republicans, such as Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and lame-duck Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. The Texas GOP Executive Committee has approved a resolution endorsing religious freedom in a move to stop the xenophobia that might erupt if the Tarrant County removal motion is allowed to proceed.

Here is how the Texas Tribune reports it

Yes, this story sickens me. It should sicken anyone who has an understanding of what the Constitution says about religion in politics.

Then there’s the issue of innuendo and unfounded accusation, which has become one of the dubious trademarks of the nation’s top Republican, Donald Trump.

Disgusting.

USS Arizona artifact honors the fallen

Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell’s mission is accomplished.

A piece of an iconic historical treasure is now in display at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial. It is a small section of the USS Arizona, the World War I-era battleship that was sunk 77 years ago today at the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese fighter pilots.

The event thrust the United States into World War II.

More than 1,000 men died on the Arizona.

Houdashell made it his mission to bring a piece of the sunken ship to Amarillo, to display it at the War Memorial, which honors the men from the Texas Panhandle who fell in battle in conflicts dating back to the Spanish-American War.

The judge told KFDA NewsChannel 10: “Pearl Harbor, the Arizona, is a cemetery,” said Judge Houdashell. “There’s hundreds of men still buried on that. We have a piece of a national relic and it’s a sacred relic. Very few people have a piece that big. There’s a little bitty piece at the WWII Museum but we have a huge piece.

He meant to welcome the display on Pearl Harbor Day, when the nation remembers the event that mobilized the nation into a new era of industrial and military might in the fight to quell the tyrants in Europe and Asia who sought to conquer the world.

I am delighted that Ernie Houdashell accomplished his mission, just as he worked to bring the F-100 Super Sabre jet fighter and the UH-1 Huey helicopter — both Vietnam War relics — to the War Memorial grounds at the site of the former Randall County Courthouse Annex in south Amarillo.

These displays are important to Houdashell, who served two tours in the Vietnam War himself and who wears his love of country on his sleeve. Indeed, they are important to all Americans, all of us who understand the sacrifice made by those who fell in battle. The names of the Panhandle sons who fell are inscribed on the stone tablets that stand on the memorial grounds.

They now are accompanied by yet another historical artifact, a reminder of the horror of the bloodiest war the world has ever seen. May it stand as the worst the world will ever see.

Here’s an endorsement: Re-elect Ginger Nelson

I might be climbing out on that proverbial limb. Then again, maybe I am not.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has announced she is running for a second term. I wish I could vote for her. I cannot, because I no longer live in Amarillo, my city of residence for 23 years.

However, I can use my voice — as “heard” through this blog — to officially endorse her bid for re-election. So, I will.

Amarillo needs to return Mayor Nelson to the center chair on the five-member Amarillo City Council.

I am glad her “campaign announcement” on Wednesday turned out to be code for a re-election effort. The nebulous language contained in a campaign “announcement” could have meant something quite different.

Yes, the city’s momentum is taking it forward. Mayor Nelson inherited a post that has helped push the city forward. Her two predecessors, Paul Harpole and Debra McCartt, got the wagon moving. Nelson has done well in her first term as mayor to keep the wagon between the lanes and out of the ditch.

She ran in 2017 on a number of campaign promises. Chief among them, as is usually the case, is economic growth. The city’s growth has been tangible, visible and is demonstrably beneficial.

Nelson wants a safe city. Her re-election campaign announcement speech included talk about her efforts to improve public safety. Police Chief Ed Drain has reinvigorated the city’s community policing program and for that he and the mayor and the council deserve high praise.

The city is working well. It’s being rebuilt from stem to stern. Downtown is in the midst of its major makeover. So are highways running through the city (thanks to the work being done by the Texas Department of Transportation). And of course we have the street repair.

The city is on the move. The mayor is a significant player in the city’s movement. It’s going in the right direction.

Re-elect Ginger Nelson.

Run again, Mme. Mayor . . . run again!

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has scheduled what has been called a “campaign announcement” Wednesday morning.

Hmm. What will she do? I haven’t a clue. For that matter, I barely know Mayor Nelson. I’ve shaken her hand. I’ve had some conversation with her. This all occurred when she was running for mayor in 2017.

She won the mayor’s race that year, joining an entirely new Amarillo City Council that took office that year. She is one of three women to serve on the five-member council, giving the city it’s first ever female majority on its governing body. Nelson is the second woman ever elected mayor of Amarillo; Debra McCartt was the first.

I want her to run again, even though I cannot vote for her. All I can do from a distance now that I’ve moved away is suggest that she needs to be re-elected. She needs to keep her hand on the municipal till as it steers toward what I perceive to be a bright — if still unknown — future.

The city’s new downtown ballpark is under construction; its new AA baseball team has a goofy, but oddly charming, name; the team will play start playing hardball in April 2019. More change is occurring downtown. The city’s streets — seemingly damn near all of ’em — are under repair, rebuilding and renovation.

Progress can be painful.

Hey, it just occurs to me I might be getting ahead of myself. Maybe the mayor will announce Wednesday she’s had all the fun she can stand after just a single two-year term.

I doubt that will happen. I hope Ginger Nelson runs again.

Let there be water!

One of life’s occasionally uncomfortable experiences involves the unexpected disruptions in the flow of a most valuable — the most valuable — commodity of all.

Water. You turn on the spigot, flush the toilet and you expect the water to flow. It didn’t this morning in our residence in Fairview, Texas.

Our first thought was: Oh, crap! The pipes froze! It was nominally below freezing when we rolled out this morning. The water was trickling out of the sink faucets. Then it stopped altogether.

This is just great! Ah, but then came news that a water main had broken. Virtually the entire town of Fairview was high and dry.

The city got to work. Quickly, indeed. Less than an hour after we awoke, we got word that the water had been restored.

Great day in the morning!

So, what’s the lesson here? It is that the people who fixed our city’s water main — not to mention the city manager, the mayor and the town council — have skin in the game, meaning that their water flow was disrupted, too!

Therefore, they got right on it!

Many thanks from one household. Well done.

Freedom Caucus loses a member . . . more to follow?

Jeff Leach has just emerged as one of my favorite members of the 2019 Texas Legislature.

The Plano Republican state representative has just bolted from the Texas Freedom Caucus, a cabal of far-right wing legislators intent on steering the Legislature toward ultra-conservative government policies.

Leach says his goal now is to “unite” the Republican majority in the House. The Freedom Caucus — which morphed from the TEA Party wing of the Republican Party — has fought with fellow Republicans through the past legislative session. It tangled with outgoing Speaker Joe Straus and other GOP moderates who want to chart a more reasonable and, yes, “moderate” course for the state to follow.

It’s too bad Straus won’t be around after January when the next Legislature convenes. The new speaker-to-be, Dennis Bonnen, R-Arlington, appears at first blush to be more in the Straus model of legislator than the Freedom Caucus model.

That’s fine with me.

It’s also quite fine with me that the Freedom Caucus’s numbers have been diminished by one; it’s down to just 11 members, a tiny fraction in the 150-member Texas House. These yahoos, ‘er, legislators do have an outsized influence on the rest of the legislative chamber.

The Texas Tribune reports that Leach’s departure from the wacky Freedom Caucus appears to be an amicable one: “There appears to be no hard feelings between Leach and caucus leadership, at least publicly,” the Tribune reports.

Even if there are hard feelings, my own sense is . . . too bad.

Welcome back to the real world of legislative moderation and good government, Rep. Leach.