Category Archives: local news

Incumbents all have opponents? Good! Let the debate begin!

I understand that all five members of the Amarillo City Council are facing challenges this election cycle.

To which I must proclaim: Good deal!

Incumbent officeholders occasionally become afflicted with a certain sense of entitlement. I don’t know if that’s the case with the five Amarillo council members. Frankly, I don’t know any of them all that well. I guess the council member I know best is Freda Powell, and I cannot really say I “know” that much about her.

But they all have challengers, all of whom I presume believe they can do a better job of governing the city of Amarillo.

That remains to be seen.

Still, the notion that the incumbents are going to be forced to defend their record is a good thing for a city historically suffers from abysmal local election turnout. It dips at times into single digits, which cannot possibly produce any kind of “mandate” for the candidates who win these contests.

The 2019 municipal election might develop into a series of contests worth watching.

I’m watching this election from some distance this year. I have moved away from Amarillo, but I remain deeply interested in the city’s future. I happen to believe it is moving forward briskly and I credit the City Council for the progress the city is exhibiting.

I understand there’s been some tumult relating to public comments allowed at City Council meetings. The council, as I understand it, has sought to maintain a civil tone among the comments allowed by the public. That effort seems to have riled some constituents and they have responded at times rather angrily . . . which I guess might validate the council’s effort, yes?

Amarillo’s entire City Council stands for election every other year. All five incumbents have to make the case to voters. If they are unopposed, they have no case to make, given that no one is challenging their performance in public office.

That’s not so in 2019. Representative democracy also is better served when challengers step forward to have their voice heard and they seek to make the case they can do better.

So, let the debate commence.

Pass the scented spray in the Texas Senate; this one stinks

The Texas Senate needs to be fumigated. Already!

Republican state Sen. Angela Paxton, the wife of the Texas attorney general, who is awaiting trial on securities fraud, has just introduced legislation that would give her husband, Ken Paxton, the authority to decide who is violating, um, securities fraud.

This one not only doesn’t pass the smell test, it stinks up the entire Texas Senate. Pass the scented spray!

This measure disappoints me greatly. Sen. Paxton, from McKinney, is a freshman legislator. However, she ought to know better than to step with both feet into this legal pile of dookey.

Not a conflict of interest, but it’s close

Senate Bill 860 would broaden the power to the attorney general’s office. As the Texas Tribune reports: “In doing so, the bill would grant broad powers to the attorney general’s consumer protection division, allowing it to accept or reject entrepreneurial applicants who seek to hawk innovative produces outside of the state’s current standards and regulations.”

What about the AG? Ken Paxton was indicted in 2017 by a Collin County grand jury for securities fraud in connection with an allegation that he didn’t provide proper notification that he was acting as an investment adviser. He’s awaiting trial.

Good grief! My major concern about Sen. Angela Paxton service dealt with how she might vote on matters involving her husband’s salary as a state constitutional officer. I didn’t see this one coming.

I get that AG Paxton should be presumed innocent, but why in the world would Sen. Paxton want to step so directly into this legal mess involving her husband?

This one stinks to high heaven!

Happy Trails, Part 145: Yes, we like this better

I cannot believe this question stumped me for a moment . . . but, it did.

My wife and I were closing on the purchase of our new home in Princeton, Texas, when we hit a quiet spell in the process. The title clerk asked a simple question: Do you like it better here than Amarillo? 

That’s a direct question, yes? Of course it is! However, there are some hidden complexities in it.

I froze for just a bit. I rolled it around in my head, trying to figure out the best way to answer it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Amarillo is a lovely city. It is growing. It has about 200,000 residents, which makes it a significant community. We made many friends there and we’ll miss seeing them. The major difference between there and here is that despite the size of Amarillo, it’s out there all by itself. In order to get anywhere in the Texas Panhandle, to see or do anything in a place other than Amarillo, you’ve got drive a long way. 

That is not nearly the situation in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Here, we are surrounded by, well . . . damn near everything!

We live in Fairview at the moment. Princeton will be our home in short order. Princeton is not far from McKinney, Allen, Plano, Frisco, Richardson, Carrollton and Dallas. If we want to drive just a little bit farther, we can find things to do and see in Grapevine, Arlington, Keller and Fort Worth.

It’s a fairly significant leap to move from a metro area comprising about 500,000 residents to a metro area that is home to more than 7 million folks. Thus, one can get lost in the crowd here, unlike in Amarillo, where one can see the same folks almost weekly just when you go about your day.

Of course, I didn’t factor into my answer the most significant reason why we like it “better” here than Amarillo. That would be our granddaughter, Emma, who is the primary reason we moved from there to here in the first place.

Thus, do we like it better here than we did in the place where we used to live? Yep. Absolutely!

Getting a ringside seat to watch stunning growth

I cannot predict the future. However, it appears more than likely I am witnessing a sea change in a new community my wife and I are about to call home.

Princeton, Texas, sits amid what is now considered “rural” Collin County. The sign that welcomes you to the city says it has a population of about 7,000 residents.

That ol’ trick knee of mine it tell me that figure will be revised upward dramatically when they take the next census out here in 2020. When you drive into Princeton on either side of the city along U.S. 380 you see the unmistakable orange construction barrels and cones. They’re widening and making other improvements to the highway.

Just today, as we hauled some of our worldly goods into our new home I took particular notice of the businesses under construction along U.S. 380. Fast food joints, convenience stores, a potential major retail shopping center all are either under construction, about to be under construction or are being lured by the presence of vacant land.

I welcome the urbanization of the region, within reason of course.

Princeton is just a bit east of McKinney, the Collin County seat. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex already has swallowed McKinney whole. It’s coming for Princeton.

The way I look at it, the home we are purchasing is quite likely to appreciate dramatically in value as we move along toward the future.

As I have noted already, I cannot predict what precisely the future holds. I don’t yet even know what it holds for my wife and me . . . other than we expect to spend a lot of time on the road hauling our fifth wheel RV across North America.

When we return home, my strong hunch is that it is going to look — at varying degrees each time — a bit different than when we left.

Progress almost always is a good thing. The good news is that the Princeton city planners know what a lack of control over growth can produce. The bad news is that they could ignore what they have witnessed elsewhere.

I am going to pray for wisdom at City Hall.

Happy Trails, Part 144: The move-in will commence

PRINCETON, Texas — Pardon me for showing you this picture once again. I just have to divulge that we’ve signed on many dotted lines. We did so late this morning as we “closed” on the purchase of our “forever home.”

So what happens now?

The move-in will commence. However, given that we’re now retired and given also that we have a bit of time left before our tenancy in our apartment expires, we’re going to take just a bit of time to make this move.

But . . . not too much time.

We’ve got some muscle signed up to help us. Our sons are here. Both of ’em. So we’re going to employ them for as long as we can. We’ll be moving smaller items in our vehicles over the course of the next several days.

This move is a bit different from any we’ve done before. For example, the most recent relocation before this one occurred in March 2018. We vacated our house in Amarillo and moved into our fifth wheel. We emptied the house of all its furnishings, putting them in storage. We painted the place. We replaced some fixtures, seeking to “modernize” them.

Then we accepted an offer. We intended to close a bit later than we did, but the buyer wanted in right away. We had to expedite the move before we shoved off on an RV trip we had planned. We got a little frazzled as we signed the house away.

I don’t expect any frazzling to occur with this move. We have decided to be deliberate, systematic, highly choreographed.

But today was a huge day in our retirement journey. We intended to make our apartment our “forever home.” It didn’t work out that way.

Now, however, we believe we have found the end of our rainbow.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Another Confederate monument to come down

The Dallas City Council has joined the chorus of governing bodies to speak out against the memorialization of a struggle that sought to destroy the United States of America.

Voting 11-4, the council decided to remove a Confederate war memorial from property near City Hall in downtown Dallas.

I will stand and cheer the council’s decision.

The monument, as stated at the council meeting, is “non-contributing structure for the historic overlay district.” I guess that’s some sort of code that means the structure is of no discernable value.

Bring it down! The council voted to spend $480,000 to disassemble and remove it.

Confederate War Memorial is coming down

Statues such as this have a place in museums. They don’t belong necessarily on public property. Other communities have been going through this debate for some time. They are taking down these structures — statues, plaques, engravings, etc. — that commemorate the Civil War, the nation’s bloodiest conflict.

Let’s not be coy or cagey about why the Confederacy came into being: Those states wanted to retain the power to enslave human beings, to relegate them to be the “property” of slave owners.

To preserve that hideous policy, they formed the Confederate States of America and then some Confederate troops opened fire on the Union garrison in Charleston Bay, S.C.

Thus, in April 1861, the Civil War began with an act of treason!

We shouldn’t honor such an act.

Watching the rebirth of a city’s downtown

I don’t get back to Amarillo, Texas, as often these days. My wife and I are getting set to plant new roots in a home in Collin County.

We aren’t going to cease returning to the city we called “home” for more than decades. I am getting anxious to witness the rebirth of its downtown district.

You know already that I am a big supporter of the changes that are under way in the Texas Panhandle community. I am heartened by the expected completion of Hodgetown, the baseball park that will be the home field for the AA minor-league Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball squad; the Sod Poodles open their home season on April 8. As an aside, my wife and I will be in Amarillo that day, getting ready to shove off in our fifth wheel for a trip downstate and then to New Orleans; hmm, I might look for a way to attend that opening-night game.

I simply am amazed that the city has embarked on this urban revival journey. When we arrived in Amarillo in early 1995 we saw little evidence of a municipal appetite for the pro-active approach we have witnessed unfold there. City Hall operated on a policy of letting private business fuel any significant change. The city took a hands-off approach; it didn’t want to invest public money on what it considered to be a private venture.

That has changed to a large degree at City Hall. Two mayors, Debra McCartt and Paul Harpole moved the City Council forward in pushing for development of the ballpark. It promoted what it called “catalyst projects” that would bloom in the wake of the ballpark’s completion. Those projects appear to be bearing fruit.

The city welcomed the opening of a first-class hotel; it is pledging to make major improvements to the Civic Center; Polk Street — once known as Amarillo’s “main drag” — is coming back to life; renovated buildings on Polk are welcoming something called “pop up” businesses; the Barfield Building is in the process of being repurposed into a Marriott “boutique hotel.”

This all makes my head spin.

And I don’t even live there!

Every return to Amarillo we make these days fills us with surprises. We’ll be back again soon. I await the next jaw-dropper.

Happy Trails, Part 143: ‘Forever’ comes into view

PRINCETON, Texas — This picture reveals to you where my wife, Toby the Puppy and I plan to live . . . hopefully for the duration, if you get my drift.

The “Sold” sign means we are in the process of purchasing it. Our retirement journey is taking a gigantic step forward this week. We will “close” on our house purchase in Princeton, about 6 miles or so east of McKinney in Collin County. We’ll lay down some cash, sign a large stack of papers, accept our “smart house” keys and we’ll be on our way.

My wife plans to start immediately laying down shelf liners in the kitchen. We’ll start moving the next day. We’ll take our time, but we won’t dawdle.

Yes, dear reader, this is our final stop.

What fascinates me as I think about it is that Princeton was one of the towns we considered when we first started pondering our move from the Texas Panhandle to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The thought process came right about the time our son and daughter-in-law informed us that “You are going to be grandparents.”

That was more than six years ago. It took some time for us to make this move, but we did.

I already have told you about how we came upon his dwelling.

I only want to affirm once more the idea that even old folks — such as me — are able to adapt to new surroundings. I long thought of myself as a staid fellow, resistant to change. Then career opportunity knocked in 1984 and we moved our young family from a suburban community near Portland, Ore., to Beaumont, Texas. We stayed in Beaumont for nearly 11 years; our sons graduated from high school and were finishing up their college educations when my wife and I packed up again and moved from the Golden Triangle to the Texas Panhandle. We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years. The arrival of our granddaughter in March 2013 precipitated the move that is about to conclude in very short order in the house you see pictured with this blog post.

This is going to be a huge week for us.

I await it with great joy and excitement. Retirement is no time for complacency.

Time of My Life, Part 21: What goes around, comes around

It’s no secret that newspapers are cutting staff to maintain their profitability in the face of the changing media climate that has produced declining circulation and advertising revenue.

The Amarillo Globe-News in Texas is no exception — quite obviously! — to that trend. The G-N, indeed, managed to eliminate its entire photo staff over time, instructing the reporters it has left on staff to shoot their own pictures while covering events.

Well, guess what! That isn’t a new notion for some of us who got their start in small-town newspapering back in the day.

My reporting career began full-time in the spring of 1977. I got hired at the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier as a temporary sports writer; the sports editor, one of the very few women in the business, had taken maternity leave to give birth to her daughter. The editor of the paper needed someone to fill in. I applied; he hired me; then a position opened up on the news staff and I was allowed to stay after the sports editor returned from her leave.

Part of my job was to take pictures along with reporting on events I was covering. Football games? Basketball games? Wrestling matches? I packed my notebook and pen — and a camera! Then I became a general assignment news reporter, so I took my camera to city council, school board and county commission meetings. I had to take what we called “wild art” photos we would publish without a story accompanying them.

I knew how to report on those events and how to write about them in cogent manner. Photography was a brand new concept. I had to learn about “photo composition” and how to eliminated “dead space” in pictures.

That was just part of it. I also had to learn how to develop those pictures. Yes, we had dark rooms back then. They had basins filled with smelly chemicals into which we had to dump our film. Then we had to dry the film on lines strung across the dark room. Once the negatives were dry, we then had to print what we called “contact sheets,” which were “positive” reproductions of the images on the “negatives.”

Yes, those were days when reporting and writing also include plenty of picture-taking. We were well-rounded back then, just as reporters today are being asked to become more well-rounded now.

I hope the kids today have as much fun as I did back in the journalism “stone age.”

AISD board deserves a healthy roster of challengers

Political incumbents have gritted their teeth when I have said over the years that all of them deserves to be challenged at election time.

They usually ask, “Why should anyone challenge me if I’m doing a good job?” My answer usually goes something like this: “Because no one deserves a free ride when citizens are given the chance to offer themselves as a candidate for public office.”

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees is facing a potential plethora of challengers if enough residents want to challenge three incumbents who are up for re-election this year.

Heaven knows the board has earned the challenge, based on its performance in that controversial resignation of Amarillo High girls volleyball coach Kori Clements, who quit earlier this year citing parental interference in the way she was doing her job.

The board didn’t back the coach. Neither did the AISD administration, which answers to the board.

Friday is the final day for candidates to step up to challenge the incumbents whose terms are up this year: Jim Austin, Scott Flow and John Betancourt. Flow hasn’t yet declared his candidacy for re-election.

These incumbents need to be challenged. They need to answer for their non-action in the Clements matter. They need to explain why they dummied up. They must be held to account for the shabby treatment that befell the coach of a vaunted high school athletic program.

They should be challenged even if they were doing a good job. I am sorry to conclude that this bunch has fallen short.