Category Archives: local news

Feeling an enhanced sense of outrage over this crime

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — I am nearly overcome with a level of outrage over a crime that all by itself should elicit this kind of response.

But we’ve been parked in our RV just outside of Denver and the local news media are reporting a hideous crime involving a man accused of killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters.

Chris Watts reportedly has confessed to killing his wife Shanann, who was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child; he also allegedly strangled his two daughters.

We’ll be leaving this community very soon, heading north and eventually west. However, the images we’ve watched the past two days on Denver-area news TV of the beautiful victims and the man accused of killing them are going to stay with me for a long time.

Forensic psychologists already have begun dissecting Chris Watts’s body language as he has told the media and police to find his then-missing wife and children. They noted the way he stood, arms crossed, with no apparent outward emotion. The observation reminds me of how the Union County, S.C., sheriff began to suspect Susan Smith was culpable in that heinous murder of her two sons when they drowned in a car that had been pushed into the water. Smith “cried” but didn’t shed a tear.

So it is with Chris Watts.

The crime occurred in Frederick, which is northeast of Denver in Weld County. The media here are all over the story. I am getting the strong sense watching the reporters and anchors talking to viewers about what they know so far that they, too, are moved beyond measure while trying to understand how such a crime could occur.

I pray that justice will be delivered hard to the individual responsible for this dastardly deed.

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.

‘Gotta love minor league ball’

I suppose it could be a lot worse, or a lot more worthy of argument, as Amarillo, Texas, awaits the naming of its new AA minor-league baseball team.

The team owners are pondering a list of five names that emerged as “finalists” to be considered for the new team name.

My favorite, if you want to call it that, is Sod Poodles, which the Elmore Group said is an old-time term used to describe prairie dogs, a critter common throughout the High Plains.

But I got an interesting message from a friend of mine who wanted to provide a bit of perspective to this whole matter of team-naming.

My dear friend writes: I know you’ve been agonizing over the Amarillo team’s name, but here are some examples from Thursday’s Word Sleuth: Bees, Curve, Fire Frogs, Hooks, IronPigs, Lugnuts, Muckdogs, Owlz, Rawhide, Snappers, Stone Crabs, TinCaps, Yard Goats, and my personal favorite, Biscuits and Gravy. Love that minor league ball!

My friend, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, also wants me to mention “Golden Gators,” which was the name of a team that once played hardball in the Golden Triangle.

Yep, I love minor league ball, too.

The Amarillo team’s ownership said it wanted to build a community talking point with the list of finalists. It seems to have succeeded in that mission. Whatever name they reveal for the team is sure to get ’em talking.

But … I’m still all in for the Sod Poodles. Yeah, it’s a weird name, but the fans will get used to it. Of that I am certain.

Sex abuse ain’t a joking matter

Put yourself in the mind for a moment of someone who is recovering from sexual abuse or sexual harassment.

You’re hurting, right? You’re in pain. You cannot sleep at night because of the trauma you’ve endured. Maybe there’s a trial pending involving the individual who did so much damage to you.

Then you’re traveling in your motor vehicle and you hear a couple of fools on the radio making jokes about um, sexual abuse and harassment. Is it funny to you? Do you slap your knee while guffawing at the idiocy coming out of your vehicle radio? Of course not!

This morning, my wife and I were tooling north along U.S. 385 heading toward Dalhart on our way for a two-night stop in our fifth wheel in suburban Denver. We dialed our truck radio to those two redneck morning drive-time yokels; John Boy and Billy, isn’t that their name? I believe their radio show is syndicated out of the Carolinas … North or South. I don’t know, nor do I care.

These idiots were cracking wise about a list of questions you might get have to answer regarding sexual abuse or harassment. They seemed to be talking about their relationships with each other.

“I hope they get lots of complaints,” my wife blurted out to me when she heard those morons yukking it up over their idiotic quips.

“That is not funny,” she said. No kidding. It isn’t.

Those morons just affirmed to me in spades why I hate listening to them.

The lesson — which I am certain is lost on those blathering blowhards — is that there are some issues that aren’t funny. Sex abuse and harassment are two of them.

Amarillo Opera gets some serious star power … woo hoo!

Let me stipulate right up front that I know next to nothing about opera. I don’t know an aria from a contata.

However, I do know about opera star power and how it translate to something so good for whatever an opera star can bring to whatever he or she touches.

With that, I want to say that the Amarillo (Texas) Opera has just lifted its star power way, way up by hiring Mary Jane Johnson as its new executive director.

I cannot claim to know Johnson well, although we are acquainted. I do know a good bit of her, particularly that she has performed internationally for more than three decades. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had the good fortune to be discovered by a pretty good tenor, the late Luciano Pavarotti, who heard her sing in 1981.

As Panhandle PBS reported: “The Board of Trustees of Amarillo Opera has great confidence in Ms. Johnson(‘s) vision and leadership of Amarillo Opera and looks forward to continuing the outstanding work of one of Amarillo’s great cultural assets,” according to the release.

Johnson hails from Pampa. I know that’s a long way from where she’s been and, indeed, where she is going.

As for the fellow she replaces, David O’Dell, he left when the opera board didn’t renew his contract. I cannot comment on the circumstances surrounding O’Dell’s departure. I will say that he has become a good friend over the years. I, too, wish him well as he pursues other opportunities, which I am certain will come his way.

There appear to be some financial concerns regarding the opera, according to Panhandle PBS: Robert Hansen, president-elect of the opera’s board of directors, said the company is on “shaky ground” financially but not in immediate danger of folding.

“We need to take action to preserve the opera,” he said. “We need to be more tightly committed to the original mission of Amarillo Opera, one key point of which is to nurture local talent and to serve the community.”

Again, here is where Mary Jane Johnson’s star power can potentially bring a lot of healing to Amarillo’s Opera.

Clear your throat, Mrs. Johnson, so that you will be heard.

When does ‘informal’ allow for secrecy?

Lubbock, we might have a problem.

The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents well might have violated a key provision in the Texas Open Meetings Law when it cast an “informal vote” in executive — or secret — session that gave Chancellor Bob Duncan a vote of no confidence.

The regents, meeting in Lubbock, voted 5-4 in delivering the no confidence declaration. Duncan, who’s been chancellor of the university for four years, then announced his retirement effective at the end of August.

The Open Meetings Law is pretty clear. It says that governing boards cannot cast votes in secret. They can deliberate out of public view, but must vote in the open.

It has been reported that regents voted “informally” in secret. As I understand the law, that’s a non-starter, folks.

Here is how AGN Media reported it: Duncan on Monday, a few days following that vote in executive session, announced his retirement after four years as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

For that matter, what in the name of transparency does an “informal” vote mean? Does it mean that the board can change its mind? Or that it really didn’t mean to deliver the no confidence vote in the first place? Or … that it’s all open to negotiation?

I seriously doubt the Open Meetings Law makes exceptions for “informal” votes.

As one with a keen interest in these sorts of matters, I would appreciate a thorough explanation. So would the rest of the Texas Tech University constituency.

I’m all ears.

Sighted: an actual UFO … maybe, possibly

Toby the Puppy and I went for a walk last night in the Amarillo, Texas, RV park where we’ve been parked for the past couple of days.

I looked up and noticed something. It had multiple lights. It was moving at a high rate of speed from west to east.

I couldn’t tell what it was. I couldn’t identify it. I didn’t know if it was, oh, a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft. For that matter, well … it might have been something from the great beyond. Right?

Here’s my question. Does that mean I have just witnessed an actual unidentified flying object?

Hey, I couldn’t ID it. I didn’t know if as a friend or foe, or if it meant to do harm. C’mon, hang with me on this one.

So, there you have it. Maybe. I have spotted a UFO. If that’s the case, maybe we need to redefine — with a lot more specificity — what we mean when we talk about UFOs.

There. Now I’ve seen everything.

Memo to Tech: Keep the vet school moving ahead

If I had a chance to ask the candidates who seek to become the next chancellor of the Texas Tech University System a single question …

It would go like this: Will you ensure that Texas Tech continues to proceed full force with establishing a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo?

Whoever seeks the office that Bob Duncan is vacating with his retirement at the end of this month had better answer it the right way. That would be an emphatic “heck, yeah!”

Duncan, who built a stellar career in law, then in the Texas Legislature and then as Texas Tech’s chancellor, has decided to go on down the road. He turns 65. He wants to scale it back.

The chancellor has done very well for the school where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees. The school’s endowment has grown to more than $1 billion under Duncan’s tenure as chancellor, which speaks to the success he enjoyed as a fundraiser for the university.

Back to my original point.

Duncan has become an articulate champion for Tech’s next great system addition, the vet school in Amarillo. This project, which has the full backing of the Amarillo City Council and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, will be a boon to veterinary medicine in Texas, not to mention to the Texas Panhandle, which will benefit greatly by delivering a top-quality education to students who want to serve their communities.

The vet school holds tremendous promise for large-animal veterinary care. Given the Panhandle’s reliance on livestock and horses, that is — as one might think — a very … big … deal.

The vet school is gaining valuable momentum, much of it pushed forward by Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The next chancellor, whoever he or she is, must carry that momentum forward.

As for Chancellor Duncan, I want to join the chorus of those who thank him for his service to the state, to his beloved university and to the Texas Panhandle.

Godspeed, sir.

Now they’re offering salutes

AMARILLO, Texas — There’s a first time for everything, as in everything.

Those of us who saw duty in Vietnam have been receiving belated — but still quite welcome — greetings from our fellow travelers.

Today, while walking through a grocery story in west Amarillo, a gentleman saw the “Vietnam Veteran” cap on my noggin and snapped a salute, while thanking me for my service.

My thought in the moment? Oh, my. Moreover, the nature of the salute this fellow snapped told me he, too, once served in the military. I returned his salute and thanked him.

Those of us of a certain age know how it used to be in this country. We didn’t the kind of homecoming that vets are getting these days, and deservedly so!

I actually remember the first time anyone said, “Welcome home” to me after learning I had served for a time in Vietnam. That “welcome” came from a former Vietnam War SEAL and a Medal of Honor recipient. It has stayed with me.

But … that’s ancient history. The nation has rediscovered its respect for veterans.

For that, this veteran will be forever grateful.

‘Interesting’ doesn’t begin to say enough

“Interesting” is such an, oh, interesting adjective. It usually says not a damn thing about the subject being addressed.

Such as the editorial in today’s Amarillo Globe-News that talks about an “interesting” tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding his apparent skepticism about the effectiveness of red-light cameras in cities throughout the state.

The editorial is attached to this link. Take a look.

I can’t tell if the Globe-News no longer favors the red-light cameras, which I suppose makes the editorial “interesting.”

I’ll fill in a blank or two.

The red-light cameras are doing what they’re supposed to do in Amarillo. They are deterring idiotic motorists from disobeying the red lights’ instructions to stop, do not proceed until the lights turn green.

As for cities’ “raking” in big money, I need to remind y’all that the Legislature instituted some strict provisions in allowing cities to install the cameras. Any revenue derived must first pay the vendors for the cameras and then be earmarked specifically for traffic-safety improvements. Amarillo recently coughed up some dough to do precisely that.

Gov. Abbott thinks there’s “no evidence” that the cameras are making our streets safer. That’s not what I have heard from Amarillo city officials. He ought to talk to them directly.

The governor might get some “interesting” details.