Category Archives: local news

Cameras make streets safer, so let’s get rid of ’em!

What do you know about this?

Dallas city transportation officials are boasting about the effectiveness of the red-light cameras that the city used to deploy. They made the streets safer, but because the Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott wanted to get rid of them, the city is being forced to unplug the cameras.

What a travesty!

The city isn’t alone. The 2019 Texas Legislature enacted a law that ordered cities to do away with the devices once their current vendor contracts expired. Dallas’ time has come. The city must pull the plug the cameras.

Get a load of this, though: The city says the cameras did their job in helping the police enforce traffic laws. It contributed to a reduction in T-bone wrecks at intersections.

I long have supported the idea of cities using the devices to help police enforce these laws. The cameras take pictures of vehicles that run through red lights. The city then sends citations to the owner of the offending vehicle. The owner then must pay a fine at municipal court or, if he or she feels the citation was issued incorrectly, he or she can appeal the citation.

Yes, cities also derive revenue from these cameras. Dallas stands to lose $2.5 million to $3 million annually, according to city officials. The Legislature, though, mandated that cities must use the revenue to enhance traffic programs. Dallas officials say their traffic infrastructure needs repair and the money generated by the cameras helped fund those repairs.

As the Dallas Morning News reported: The Texas Legislature “took another tool away from us,” said Michael Rogers, director of Dallas’ Department of Transportation, forcing city officials to rethink how to reduce crashes at problematic intersections.

I don’t live in Dallas. I do live close enough to the city to be somewhat concerned about the demise of these devices, given that I occasionally venture into the belly of the traffic beast on occasion.

I am sorry to hear the news that Dallas is bidding goodbye to a valuable law enforcement tool.

What a wild emotional ride

I suppose one could say it’s one thing to experience profound sadness and great joy alternately, but it’s something quite different when you experience them both simultaneously.

Well, I am here to tell you that the latter emotional experience took over the past couple of days.

We gathered in Portland, Ore., to bury a beloved member of our family. Jim Phillips was laid to rest at Willamette National Cemetery after a remarkable service at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. They played “Taps” at the cemetery; we watched a military honor guard march with intense precision; we watched as well the folding of the Stars and Stripes that shrouded his casket and the presentation of the flag to Uncle Jim’s wife.

I joined other members of my family who had the high honor of being pallbearers for Uncle Jim. Two of Uncle Jim’s grandsons joined his son and three of his nephews in accompanying him to his eternal rest.

Now, I know that these experiences are far from unique. Other families endure grief and pain when a loved one dies. They also remember the good times with joy and laughter. We had plenty of that as well.

What I found remarkable, speaking only for myself, is the emotional intermingling of the pain and the  joy … at the same moment! Yes, I am certain that at several occasions during this time of fellowship and family togetherness that I could feel the pain and laughter competing for my heart’s attention.

Those two unique emotions need not have competed. I found that my ticker has ample room for all of it at once. I felt joyful and sad, happy and mournful. It occurred without a single bit of emotional stress.

I am home now. My heart still hurts at the loss, but my heart also is full of joy at the celebration of a great man’s full life. He was the embodiment of human exuberance.

That is what I choose to remember … even while I wrestle with my grief.

Real ‘friendships’ are rarest of relationships

PORTLAND, Ore. — Admit it. We all toss the word “friend” around too loosely, in a manner the way use the word “hero.” I have sought to forgo calling someone a “hero” merely because he is good at, say, an athletic endeavor. The real heroes are those who risk their lives to save others.

Friends also are a rare commodity.

A visit this morning with a gentleman I’ve known since the spring of 1962 reminded me graphically of how I have fallen into the “friend trap” by referring to too many acquaintances as friends.

They aren’t. Friends, that is. Not like the relationship I’ve had with the longest-tenured friend in my lifetime.

We go back 58 years together. We met in junior high school. My parents had moved us all from our home in Northeast Portland to what was then the ‘burbs in Parkrose; the city long ago swallowed Parkrose up through annexation.

But as I sat in his mother’s living room this morning, reminiscing with him, his mother and his older brother about the paths our lives have taken, I was filled with the realization that I need to get over the habit of bestowing “friendship” on others who haven’t earned the place in my heart.

Oh, sure, one social medium — Facebook — has allowed us to become “friends” with others. To be honest, I have sough to differentiate Facebook “friends” from the real thing. The only problem I face now, though, is that I refer to the “real thing” as friends when in fact they don’t rise to that level.

My friend and I hooked up immediately when we made each other’s acquaintance in our junior high school home run. We remained friends through the rest of junior high and then into high school. We shared plenty of laughs together, got into plenty of mischief together, shared some down times and heartbreak as well.

But we stuck it out. We hung in there. He remains a friend in the truest sense of the word. I was fortunate, as well, later in the day to hook up with a couple my wife and I have known for nearly 45 years. They, too, qualify as the real thing. We also have been through much together and through it all we remain as close to them as anyone can possibly be.

I just felt compelled today to express my belief that a true-blue friend is a rare find indeed. I am blessed to have found these folks, and yes, a few others, along the way.

All I could do to resist starting an in-flight incident

OK, where do I begin in telling you this brief tale of what happens when your jetliner seatmate makes what you believe is an unreasonable request?

I’ll start with this …

I boarded an Alaska Air jet this morning in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for a four-hour flight to Portland. I had booked the flight via an online agency, which means I didn’t get to select my seat; the airline did it for me.

It was a middle seat. A gentleman sat on the aisle; a lady sat at the window. They were husband and wife. The seat between ’em was vacant; it belonged to me. So, I sat down. The lady said she preferred the window, her husband liked the aisle “and no one likes the middle seat.” We both chuckled.

We took off. Then the husband and wife began passing food back and forth in front of me. Sandwiches and chips went from set of hands to the other.

Then the lady leaned over and told me that I should be sure to keep my arm off her side of the arm rest that separated her seat from mine. Sure thing, ma’am. Will do.

Then I guess I let my arm drift just a smidgen over onto her side of the arm rest. She pushed my arm back. I glared momentarily at her.

Then came the best part. The jacket I was wearing had flopped over onto her side of the arm rest. The pocket contained a couple of small items that I guess she found annoying. Then she lifted my jacket and stuffed it on my side of the arm rest.

Hmm. I glared again at her. That’s when I realized I had to sit with my arms folded across my chest. I dare not rest them at my side out of “concern” they would cross into her space.

I turned to hubby, asked him if I could get up to stretch my legs. I went to the back of the aircraft, chatted up the flight attendants who were sitting in the galley. I told one of them about my annoying seat mate; she responded with the usual “We get that on occasion” replies.

I took off my jacket, put it in the overhead bin, sat back down and then sat quietly — which is what I normally do on commercial airliners — for the duration of the flight.

Am I wrong to think the lady was being a bit too bossy?

My only regret now as I settle in for the night is that I didn’t look for a chance to tell her that “We’ll get off this plane soon and you and I will never see each other ever again.” 

Preparing for a sad, but also joyful, duty

I am preparing at this moment to take a four-hour ride from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Portland, Ore., where I will participate in what can be best described as a cycle of life ritual.

I will bid farewell to my beloved uncle, Jim Phillips. I will be there along with his wife, his children, many of his grandchildren, one of my sisters and virtually all of my cousins on my mother’s side of my boisterous family.

It will sadden me to say goodbye. It also will enable us to rejoice in the full and fruitful life he had over the span of his 93 years on this good Earth. We will gather to remember the richness that Uncle Jim brought to us. I trust we all will in our own way pledge to cling to those memories as we move on through the rest of our lives. Those thoughts will not sadden me. They will make me smile.

These events are part of what all families must endure. Indeed, as I am now well into that stage of my own life, having just turned 70 a little while back, my sisters, along with my wife and sons, realize as I do that the clock is ticking for all of us. The number of our family elders with whom we grew up is diminishing  far too rapidly.

However, it is the inevitable march of time over which no one has any control.

It’s been said many times by many people perhaps over many adult beverages that “Not a single one of us gets outta here alive.”

So it goes … and so it will be.

Ready for the best season of the year

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

You hear it on occasion: This is my favorite time of the year. My favorite season of the year. Most folks I know keep saying it’s the autumn.

Why? They’ve been through a grueling, boiling-hot summer. The cooler temperatures are a welcome respite from the heat.

That’s not for me. My favorite time of the year is about to arrive. I love the spring. In Texas, spring produces an unusual and often unpredictable series of events.

We have spent 36 winters in Texas. We came initially to the Golden Triangle on the Gulf Coast. Winter in Southeast Texas occasionally was, well, rather un-winterlike. We spent our first Christmas in Beaumont — in 1984 — lounging around in shorts and t-shirts.

Nearly 11 years later we gravitated to the opposite end of the state, settling for 23 years in the Panhandle. The winter there was, shall I say, more like winter in most regions of the world. It got cold … damn cold at times! We had winters with heavy blankets of snow. We also had one hideously dry winter that didn’t produce a single drop of precipitation.

We have moved to the Metroplex. This is our second winter here. It’s been a bit chilly, although not as cold as it often gets up yonder on the Caprock.

Spring is about to arrive. The grass will snap out of its dormancy. The leaves will produce buds. It’s a time of renewal. A time of rebirth. A time that will give way to the fruits and flowers of the season.

Spring in the Panhandle occasionally produces some explosive weather. The wind howls. The storm clouds swirl. It rains hard, man. It would hail on us.

The Metroplex occasionally produces that kind of frightening weather. However, I look forward yet again to the time of year when we spring forward and emerge from our winter doldrum.

It’s my favorite time.

Facing an electoral quandary

I have been “chatting” via social media with a longtime friend who has told me of her intention to vote in the Republican Party primary next month. She lives in the Golden Triangle of Texas and tells me she must vote in the GOP primary because of the plethora of local races that mean much to her.

I get that. I also have told her that I intend to vote in the Democratic primary because I have not yet built the familiarity my friend has with her community.

She’s lived in Orange County for decades. I have lived in Collin County for a little more than a year. I am not proud to acknowledge that my familiarity with local contests isn’t yet up to speed. However, I must go where my instincts lead me.

They are leading me to cast my ballot for races involving national and statewide contests.

We’re going to cast our votes for president on March 3. Super Tuesday’s lineup of primary states includes Texas and its big prize of delegates to both parties’ nominating conventions.

I am not going to restate the obvious, which involves my vote for president, or simply that I will never cast a ballot for the current POTUS. My chore now is to examine the Democratic field for the candidate of my choice.

My inclination is to support Joseph R. Biden Jr. However, it is not clear at this writing whether he’ll be a viable candidate when the Texas primary rolls around. He must win in South Carolina. The former VP is losing African-American support that he says is his “firewall” to protect his candidacy from total collapse.

Then we have the U.S. Senate race and the U.S. House contest. Yes, the impeachment battle plays a factor in my vote. GOP Sen. John Cornyn, whom I actually like personally, has been a profound disappointment to me with his vote to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. What’s more, my first-term congressman, Republican Van Taylor, also disappointed me when he voted against impeaching Trump of those high crimes and misdemeanors.

My attention is focused, therefore, on the bigger stage.

I will need to live through another election cycle to familiarize myself with local issues and candidates sufficiently to cast my vote with any semblance of intelligence. Hey, given that I live in a county that’s even more Republican-leaning than my friend’s home county in the Golden Triangle, I understand the need to get up to speed.

I will do so in due course.

By golly, there is honesty among motor vehicle ‘techs’

I feel compelled to share this bit of good news that fell on me this morning. It involves my three-quarter-ton pickup and a service technician who fixed it.

My story began Wednesday morning. I was driving home from a meeting in McKinney. The rain was pouring. I was traveling north along the frontage road next to U.S. Highway 75 when I drove the truck through some standing water, which splashed over the hood the truck.

I continued on. About a minute later, the “check engine” light lit up on my dashboard control panel.

Hmm. What’s that about? The light stayed on as I made my way home to Princeton.

We awoke this morning. My wife and I drove the truck to the gym where we work out daily. The light was still on. “I’m going to take the truck in this morning to have it looked at,” I told her.

So I did. I drove to the Dodge-Jeep dealership in McKinney where I get the truck serviced. The service advisor met me in the service drive. I told him what I had. He summoned the service tech from the garage. The tech said he would reset a sensor he suspected had gotten wet.

He took the truck to the back. He reset the sensor. He returned the truck about five minutes later.

“You’re good to go,” he said. The sensor got cranky and lit up when it got soaked by the rain water.

“Is there a charge for this?” I asked. “Nope,” he said. “Just let me know if it acts up again.”

Life is good.

Rep. Granger plays key role in conflicting TV ads

I am so very glad I don’t live in U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s congressional district. You see, the Fort Worth Republican is being featured in conflicting TV ads that ought to make her constituents’ head spin.

On one side we have a conservative political action committee that takes her to task for opposing Donald Trump on the border wall, on immigration in general, on taxes, on abortion. “I am a pro-choice Republican,” Granger says in that TV spot. You name it, she’s on the wrong side of the issue.

And then we have this: Granger’s allies are running an ad that features the same Donald Trump saying what a great partner the congresswoman has been. “Thanks, Kay,” Trump says to her in the ad.

So, which is it? Is Rep. Granger a Trumpkin or not? Is she for his policies or against ’em? Is she a friend or a foe of the current president of the United States?

I’ll just have to wish them all the best of luck over yonder in the 12th Congressional District. I’ve got my hands full here, in the Third District, trying to decide how to cast my own vote.

They’re getting anxious in Sod Poodles Land

I am hearing some faint — but growing — rumblings of excitement from up yonder on the Texas Panhandle, on the Caprock.

The fans of Amarillo’s Texas League champion Sod Poodles baseball team are counting down the days to the start of spring training in Arizona. The Sod Poodles will be preparing for their second-ever season alongside their parent club, the National League San Diego Padres.

It’s really quite cool for this former Amarillo resident to watch friends and former neighbors getting juiced up — no pun intended — in advance of the next season of hardball.

The Sod Poodles had the good fortune to win the Texas League pennant in their first season. Now comes Season No. 2. The team’s fans are getting hyped up. Heck, so am I … and I no longer live there!

Still, the Sod Poodles will play some games near where we live these days in Princeton. The Frisco Roughriders play in the same league as the Sod Poodles.

I’ll get a chance to watch the Sod Poodles this season just down the road a bit in Frisco. I’ll be there yelling loudly for the Sod Poodles.

I cannot join the fans in Arizona as the team prepares for their new season. It still excites me to see the anticipation building in the Panhandle.