Category Archives: local news

Wait’ll next season

They’re done playing hardball at Hodgetown, the gleaming new baseball park in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles were supposed to defend their Texas League title, but the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on their season. Instead, the team ownership came up with an idea that sold quite well with the Sod Poodles’ enthusiastic fan base.

They formed two teams comprising college athletes. They decided to sell about 3,000 tickets per game played in the 7,000-seat ballpark, enabling fans to “socially distance” themselves while cheering for the young men on the field.

From what I understand, the makeshift season went over well. The fans got a good dose of baseball just when their hopes were dashed that the Sod Poodles would be unable to play even part of a season.

I consider this to be an example of quick thinking on your feet. To that end, the Sod Poodles’ management earns a bouquet from this former Amarillo resident. Well done. As one of the Sod Poodles fans said on Facebook:

Thank you to the coaches and players who came to Amarillo this summer to play America’s game. You guys just simply rock!! This season, as the old saying goes, was short but sweet! I know the fans in Amarillo are already anticipating another fun filled and exciting season in 2021! Go Soddies!!

What became of this movement?

It happens all the time.

A controversy erupts in a community; residents get angry and they demand change; they vow to stick with it until change occurs.

Then it all sort of just, oh, goes away.

I think that is what happened in Amarillo, where more than a year ago the community seethed over the forced resignation of a volleyball coach. Kori Clements quit after a year coaching the Amarillo High School girls volleyball team, one of the more vaunted programs in the entire state.

She cited pressure from a school trustee, Renee McCown, who pressured Clements to play her daughter more. The Amarillo Independent School District administration didn’t back the coach. Parents formed a “transparency coalition” to get to the bottom of what happened.

The trustee in question resigned from the board, which accepted Clements’ resignation without comment.

Observers from near and far raised issues, asked questions. I was one of them. The parents coalition sought answers from Superintendent Doug Loomis. To my knowledge, there haven’t many answers forthcoming.

And so life goes on. Of course, the AISD is dealing with a pandemic these days, which likely shuffles every other issue — no matter how big or small — to the darkest back shelf possible.

I look periodically at the parents coalition Facebook page, searching for news on its search for transparency. Don’t see any progress, unless there’s been some secret-handshake deal struck behind everyone’s back.

My curiosity at times does get the better of me. This is one of those times.

The Clements story didn’t end well for the former coach. It bothered me greatly that a trustee meddled in an educator’s job and that she was allowed to get away with it. I hope the former coach has embarked on a new life journey.

As for the school district, I hope the folks who run the public school system have adopted a policy that doesn’t tolerate the kind of interference that prompted the tempest in the first place.

Mayor moves on … stays put

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was posted originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Princeton Mayor John-Mark Caldwell only thought he was resigning from the City Council after moving to Rockwall.

It turns out, according to the city’s legal counsel, Caldwell is required to stay in office until after the next election, which occurs on Nov. 3. That’s what the state requires, so Caldwell must remain in place, gavel in hand, running City Council meetings.

As the Princeton Herald reported: The law requiring that a public official continue serving until a replacement is installed was explained by City Attorney Clark McCoy at the … July 27 regular city council meeting. “This is known as the holdover in office provision,” McCoy said. He explained that the law is in place to assure continuity in office and that is the duty of the officeholder to continue serving.

This is even though when he adjourns the meetings, he goes home to the next county over.

I find that rather weird. But that’s just me, I suppose.

Princeton does have a mayor pro tem, Councilman Steve Deffibaugh who, according to the statutes governing the city, can serve as mayor in the absence of the elected individual. Princeton, I should point out, doesn’t have a home-rule charter, and is governed under “general law” established by the state. It well might be that had Princeton been able to approve a charter — which it has failed to do in four municipal elections — there wouldn’t be a problem.

Caldwell had tendered his resignation after it was revealed he had moved to Rockwall. He said when he submitted it that he intended to stay in office until his term expired in 2021, but then changed his mind. It now turns out that he has to stay for a little while longer anyway.

I am just one Princeton resident among the 12,000 or so who live here, but my thought is that the mayor pro tem ought to grab the gavel and run the council meetings, allowing the outgoing mayor to go on his way, establishing a new life in his new community. I should point out that Princeton’s mayor doesn’t vote on issues before the council, except to break a tie. It’s that general law thing that prohibits a mayoral vote.

The election is coming up. Filing for the seat is still open. One candidate has filed: former Princeton Independent School District Superintendent Philip Anthony. My hunch is that Anthony will be the overwhelming favorite to be elected to fill out the rest of Caldwell’s mayoral term.

I am a bit baffled, though, as to why Caldwell just can’t walk away as he intended to do when he turned in his resignation.

Happy Trails, Part 184: Finding a hidden jewel

I really enjoy discovering places I didn’t know existed.

Fairfield Lake, just about 100 miles south of Dallas, is our latest discovery.

Texas Parks & Wildlife runs a state park here. Our GPS told us we had “arrived” at our destination, but we had to travel another 10 miles or so before we stumbled upon the park headquarters building.

We got to our RV campsite. We hooked up our RV. We had something to eat. Then we walked to edge of the lake. Holy smokes, man! This place is beautiful.

Our retirement journey has taken us to many places around the country. This ranks up there with the best of ’em. Just think, too, that it’s on the edge of our neighborhood! Who knew? Not me, kids.

Fairfield Lake State Park opened in 1976 after Texas Power & Light built a dam to store water to cool a power plant nearby. The lake comprises 1,460 acres in Freestone County.

Our goal is see every state park in our TP&W system of parks. We have a long way to go, having visited only about 25 or so out of the state’s system of more than 90 parks. We might be delayed in getting to all of the sites. Why is that?

Because of something my wife told me: “This is one park I definitely could come back to if we just wanted to get away for a few days.” There you go. We can’t be everywhere all at once.

It’s a gorgeous place. I’m all in.

Littering provokes militancy

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am married to an anti-littering militant.

I have known it for the nearly five decades of our married life, but I saw it on full display on a morning walk along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We sauntered onto the beach from our fifth wheel. Immediately, she became incensed at what she saw … and what she began to collect on our stroll. I figure we must have picked up close to a 40 pounds of trash on our walk of several hundred yards.

I am proud of her, as you might surmise.

The point she made struck home with me. Why come to the great outdoors, enjoy nature and then soil it with this kind of trash? We understand fully, though, that a lot of trash washes ashore from offshore — from seagoing vessels and from the oil platforms one can see from the beach.

In the early 1980s, the General Land Office launched its anti-littering campaign, labeling it “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The phrase over time has been perverted to connote some sort of macho statement about Texas and Texans. However, it means simply that we shouldn’t toss litter onto our landscape.

I get it, and I assure you my bride certainly gets it.

Let me be clear on this matter: We are proud supporters of our state parks. We intend to see them all before we no longer are able to haul our fifth wheel around our immense state. I also am proud of the way Texas Parks & Wildlife cares for our parks. TP&W does a stellar job of keeping them well-groomed, which makes them so attractive to us.

It’s no one’s fault here at Sea Rim State Park that the beach is littered with too much trash. The fault lies with the nimrods who come here, as my wife says, to “enjoy nature” only to sully it with their trash. The fault also lies with the seagoing vessel crews and the dipsticks who work on those platform way out there on the horizon.

To those who aren’t as careful as they should be about disposing of their trash, be forewarned: Don’t mess with Mrs. Kanelis.

Time to put country ahead of party

This is no great flash, but I want to share with you a conversation I had recently with a prominent West Texas politician.

I won’t divulge his name because he doesn’t know I am going public with this exchange. So, bear with me.

My friend is a Republican through and through. He also happens to believe that Donald J. “Republican In Name Only in Chief” Trump needs to lose the November presidential election.

Trump is a disaster, according to my friend. He has led the country since the very beginning of his time as president down the wrong path. I didn’t ask my friend this, but I should have asked him whether he considers Trump to be a real Republican or just someone who wears a partisan political label for reasons only he knows.

I told my friend that he was “preaching to the choir” in expressing his view of Donald Trump. What I didn’t tell him — but wish I would have done so — was that he needs to take his concerns to the public. He needs to say what he told me out loud, in the proverbial public square.

My friend needs to speak from the heart, tell his West Texas constituents — who likely are going to vote one more time for the carnival barker — that they would make the gravest mistake possible. They shouldn’t endorse Trump’s re-election.

Does this individual need to serve in the office he now serves? Oh, probably not. He is a man of means who doesn’t need the publicly funded salary he draws. Thus, this is my way of saying he shouldn’t care whether he angers his constituents enough for them to vote him out of office.

My friend is far from the only Republican officeholder who carries that belief about Donald Trump. I haven’t spoken to many of them. I just know that others are out there who share my friend’s belief that we cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump.

My friend is a patriot. He loves this country. It’s time for him to demonstrate his love of country by telling the world what he told me.

Biden showing strength in Texas? Hmm … still looking for it

Let me be clear that the observation I am about to offer is purely anecdotal and based only on what my wife and I have observed up close while traveling through Texas.

It is that I am having a bit of difficulty understanding how the public opinion polls released lately can show Joe Biden tied with or leading Donald J. Trump in the race for president of the United States of America.

My observation is based on the absence of any Biden signs showing support for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. Trump, meanwhile, enjoys at least a smidgen of lawn sign support that we have seen as we motored our way south from the Metroplex and into the Hill Country.

Before you climb all over me, chewing me up one side and down the other, I want to stipulate that I understand that lawn signs comprise a fleeting indicator public opinion. There’s nothing scientific about this observation. However, I try to add 2 plus 2; it still comes up 4. Biden’s reported Texas support, based on polling results, doesn’t seem to add up, based only on what I have noticed with my own eyes.

There might be a hidden Biden vote, one that keeps people from exhibiting their support in a visible fashion. You hear a bit these days about vandalism committed on those with certain political leanings. There also are reports of Trumpkins being a bit more, um, vehement in support of their guy.

I want to believe the public opinion polling that suggests a Trump-Biden contest in Texas is going to be a highly competitive contest. It fills me with hope that Trump will spend money in this state that he might otherwise spend in a more traditional “battleground” state.

We’ll keep traveling around the state. I also will keep my eyes peeled for signs — no pun intended — of Joe Biden strength in Texas. I remain hopeful it’s out there … somewhere.

Back the Blue = dog whistle

A bit of a tempest might be brewing up yonder in the Texas Panhandle, in a publicly owned county complex and I am trying to connect a few dots to make some sense of it.

Some Carson County employees have plastered “We Back the Blue” signs in the courthouse complex in Panhandle, the Carson County seat. I don’t know what “We Back the Blue” means to you, but to me it’s a dog whistle, one of those thinly disguised messages that carry a double or possibly triple entendre. The signs are hard to read in the picture attached to this blog post.

Thus, I am concerned that a publicly owned structure is being used as a forum for a partisan political message. What is the message as I see it being portrayed?

It is that suggesting that you “back the blue,” you support the police that have become rhetorical targets of the Black Lives Matter movement. You know the history, yes? BLM comes from the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of cops, some of whom have been charged with felonies in connection with those deaths.

If you “back the blue,” do you dismiss the BLM movement? Or do you support both the Black Lives Matter and the We Back the Blue movements?

Why am I even talking about this? Well, Carson County sits in the heart of Trump Country. Carson County voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016 and is likely to do so again in 2020. Donald Trump, as you no doubt understand, has been highly critical of the BLM, calling it a movement based on “hate” for the cops.

Can you connect those dots with me on this?

“We Back the Blue” is a political statement that presents enough of a concern to me over whether it’s intended to denigrate another political movement. Therefore, it doesn’t belong in windows of a publicly owned government structure that must — under law — serve all the residents of that jurisdiction regardless of political leaning.

It’s not about ‘my body, my choice’ to wear a mask

My head is likely to explode the next time I hear a Donald Trump supporter blurt out that idiocy about mask-wearing, declaring that it’s “my body, my choice” to wear a mask.

Spoiler alert: I used the “head … explode” statement as a figure of speech.

But still, I keep hearing that mantra coming from those who think mask-wearing infringes on their civil liberties. I saw a woman on TV last night tell a reporter that her decision to forgo a mask during this coronavirus pandemic is strictly her choice and that the government has no right to dictate how she cares for her body.

Note to the lady — who was standing next to a “Trump-Pence” campaign sign — and to others who hold that preposterous view: The issue transcends your body and your choice by a factor of, oh, millions and millions.

Those who insist that they should be able to decide whether to wear a mask are embarking on a selfish, uncaring, thoughtless and reckless view of the world around them. They are endangering others, perhaps even their loved ones, by refusing to comply with government mandates.

I live in Texas, a state known for its residents’ independent outlook on life and liberty. However, our community in Collin County, I am proud to declare, has been relatively quiet in terms of mask-wearing. My wife and I don’t get out much these days, but when we do we see practically everyone around us wearing masks. I haven’t seen any protest signs, or individuals arguing with the cops who are empowered to enforce the mandate.

I went to the grocery store recently and eavesdropped on one woman griping to a store employee about the ordered issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. Good grief, lady. Get a grip.

I guess my bottom line on this specious argument is that the morons among us who bitch about mask-wearing as an infringement on their “constitutional rights” are entitled to forgo the masks.

Just stay the hell away from me, my family … and everyone else!

Why let an interloper represent the Texas Panhandle in Congress?

I hate what I fear is going to happen to the Texas Panhandle’s 13th Congressional District.

The district’s strong Republican ties are likely to hand the district over to an interloping carpetbagger who doesn’t know the first, second or third thing about the district. But he’s an R and that’s good enough for them.

He is Ronny Jackson, a retired Navy admiral, a physician (and former doc to two presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump). He doesn’t know Pantex from Spic ‘n Span, but he’s going to represent the district for at least the next two years after they count the votes in the November election.

I’ll get to the glimmer of good news in just a bit.

I maintain an interest in the 13th District, even though I no longer live there, because my wife and lived there longer than we have anywhere else during our 48 years of married life. The congressman who is leaving Congress, Mac Thornberry, took office the same week I reported for duty at the Amarillo Globe-News in January 1995. So I have told Thornberry that he and I “grew up together” in the Panhandle.

Thornberry, though, has deep roots there, growing up on a ranch in Donley County. So he knows the district he has represented for 25 years … unlike Dr. Jackson — a native of Levelland — who took up residence there only to run for the office he thinks is ripe for the picking. And he’s right.

But … here comes the glimmer of good news.

He won the endorsement of Donald Trump in his primary race. Indeed, Jackson — from all I’ve heard — has spoken only about his close he is to Trump, that he is wedded to the president’s agenda … whatever the hell that is.

The good news? Trump is on course at this moment of losing his bid for re-election. Bigly! He has bungled the presidency at every turn. He has clearly mismanaged the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has sought to divide the nation. Trump spews racist-sounding thoughts.

It is my fondest hope that Joe Biden defeats Trump. If that comes to pass, then what becomes of Dr. Jackson’s main selling point he is using to land a seat in Congress? He likely will be hard-pressed to get the time of day from a Biden administration.

Would that mean it’s one term and then out for the doc?

I just know that my friends in the Texas Panhandle deserve a whole lot better from their congressman than they’re about to receive. At the very least they deserve to be represented by someone who knows the issues relevant to the region.