Category Archives: local news

Prop A to receive a serious mandate

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My friends up yonder in Amarillo, Texas, are going to vote on something called Prop A.

It’s a measure that would spend $275 million on extensive renovation/expansion/remodeling of the city’s 52-year-old Civic Center.

Were I still living in Amarillo I would be inclined to vote “for” the measure. Even though it would mean a significant boost to property taxes for many residents; I would be exempt because I am an old guy, so my taxes are frozen.

A friend sent me a message today that tells me the municipal property tax rate would jump 38.9 percent, adding 15.1 cents per $100 to property valuation. The city already boasts one of the lowest municipal rates in Texas, about 38 cents per $100.

So now the question becomes: What kind of return on investment does that tax increase bring? Proponents say it would bring convention business by the millions of dollars to the city; it would bring top-tier entertainment that passes Amarillo by because the Civic Center entertainment venue is so, um, lacking.

Can that return be measured the way we measure our property tax bills every year? No, but it’s tangible nonetheless.

Here’s the more interesting takeaway from this election. Amarillo is staging this election in the middle of a highly contentious presidential campaign. When the residents of that city vote on Nov. 3 whether to approve Prop A, they also will be voting for president. Turnout will be huge, man! The city has more than 100,000 registered voters; if 60 percent of them turn out to vote, that would give Prop A’s fate — up or down — the kind of mandate that is lacking in most municipal bond issue elections.

I am going to speak out once more in favor of Prop A. The city needs to improve its entertainment/business infrastructure if it hopes to keep pace with the growth that is occurring. It doesn’t come free.

No speakership for Price

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The word found its way to me far, far away from the hustle and bustle of Texas politics.

It is that state Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican, is not going to seek to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

I am disappointed to hear that news. But not surprised.

I’ve known Price for a long time. He won election to the Texas House after David Swinford of Dumas decided to retire in 2010. Price was being talked up as speaker material in his first legislative session, in 2011.

I haven’t spoken with Price about this latest decision, which was reported by Quorum Report and relayed to me by a former Morris Communications colleague who remains wound tightly in the goings-on in Austin. I am, shall we say, decidedly less involved in keeping up with the nitty gritty of Texas government.

I happen to believe Four Price would be a splendid House speaker. I mean, anyone who can fend off a goofball challenge by Empower Texans — the right wing PAC that takes delight in challenging Republican officeholders — is OK in my book. Price got a primary challenge in 2018 and dispatched the Empower Texans-financed pretender with ease.

More than that, though, Price has been an effective legislator. He is diligent and hardworking. I hear from spies in the Panhandle that Price doesn’t think he has the allied strength among his fellow House members to be elected speaker.

The current speaker, Republican Dennis Bonnen, will leave the House at the end of the year. He didn’t seek re-election after being outed by Empower Texans chieftain Michael Quinn Sullivan who recorded Bonnen offering up fellow GOP lawmakers as potential targets in this year’s election. Not a good move, dude. So, Bonnen is a goner, which is fine with me.

A big part of me believes Four Price never would have allowed himself to be suckered into speaking so stupidly to someone such as Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Which tells me why he would be a terrific speaker of the House.

Oh, the Internet!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am receiving a real-time lesson on how dependent I have become to the Internet.

Our RV campsite is in the middle of the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas. Cell phone reception is gone, pfftt … nothing, man! That doesn’t bother me so much.

What drives me batty is my (lack of ) Internet connection. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, which runs the magnificent state park where we are holed up, has Wi-Fi service, but it’s lousy. I cannot sign onto the TP&W site. I can, however, sign onto Word Press, which is the platform that contains this entry. When I am finished I will post it to Word Press, but not onto the other social media platforms I use to distribute this blog.

Therefore, this entry will go to relatively few folks who normally would read these words.

I am expressing a frustration.

We’re able to go into town, where the cell service is a zillion times better. Thus, so is the Internet service.

I’ll just have to wait until our next foray into Fort Davis to reconnect with what we used to refer to in Vietnam as “The World.”

Bear with me. Please.

Happy Trails, Part 187: Yep, they were tough

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

ABILENE, Texas — Our retirement journey brought us to a community that is proud as the dickens of its cowboy/Wild West heritage.

Show the city shows it off with a museum called Frontier Texas. We visited it and came away with a keen appreciation of just how tough the folks were who settled in this region. Not only that, we came away understanding a little better the nature of the Native Americans who were here long before the Anglos arrived.

What did we learn? Let’s see …

We learned about a woman who married four or five times after each of her husbands met untimely and gruesome deaths at the hands of outlaws and of Native Americans. I found myself wondering: Why did she keep seeking love when she had encountered such tragedy? Oh, and her daughter and granddaughter died prematurely and violently, too!

Then there were the bison that were hunted to near extinction by “buffalo hunters,” which is how the museum identified them. “Buffalo killers” would have been a much more apt description.

There is a brief reference to the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon between the Army and the Comanche warriors. The museum mentions that the Army captured 1,400 Comanche horses and then “slaughtered” them. It doesn’t tell you that the soldiers stampeded the animals off the canyon rim.

I have long resisted trying to imagine whether I could live in that era. We cannot control the time we come into this world. I was born in 1949 and I am glad I entered the world at that time. Had I been born, say, in 1849, well, I would have coped with life in that time.

Still, as I look back at the folks who lived in this part of Texas and coped with life and death, I come away amazed and astonished at the grit and courage they exhibited.

It’s just yet another discovery we have made on our journey through retirement. I am quite certain there are many more to find in this big ol’ world.

Will this surge spell end of Trump Era?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Harris County, Texas, has set two records in a row since the start of early voting on Tuesday.

Dallas County up Interstate 45 hasn’t done too badly, either.

Oh, and how about Travis County, where the state Capitol can be found? They’re turning out in huge numbers, too.

Same for Bexar County.

What does this mean for the 2020 presidential election. Some Democratic activists believe it bodes well for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and us Bidenistas who want the Democrats to oust Donald Trump and Mike Pence from the White House.

I am not going to count them chickens just yet.

However, I hasten to add that Democrats have been all over TV, radio and in print telling us all to “get out and vote.” If the first two days of early voting in Texas are an indication, the message has been heard. Democrats hope it means Biden and Harris are reaping the ballot-box reward.

Let me crystal clear: I do, too, want them to harvest the electoral fruit of this get-out-the-early-vote drive.

Harris, Dallas, Bexar and Travis counties all are Democratic strongholds. I have acquaintances in blood-red Randall and Potter counties who believe the Democratic ticket is catching fire up yonder in the Panhandle. I … am not so sure about that.

However, the record-setting early-vote turnout in those Democratic bastions gives me hope that just maybe, perhaps, possibly the state could turn from an R to a D on the strength of that monstrous balloting tide.

To be sure, the Trumpkins are turning out as well. They’re flying plenty of “Trump-Pence” flags in rural Texas. Donald Trump, though, isn’t going to pitch a huge early vote among his faithful. Indeed, he wants fewer of us do our patriotic duty. Go figure.

Let the lights shine brightly

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We are going through one of the grimmest years imaginable, with thousands of Americans dying of a viral infection, an economy being shattered and with human beings learning new ways to interact with each other.

However, I want to offer a shout out to a young man who took over as mayor of a community with which I am becoming increasingly familiar.

Farmersville Mayor Bryon Wiebold took office this past spring and he is, shall we say, finding ways to cope with the “new normal.” Weibold has talked the City Council into approving a “Farmersville Lights” event at the end of this tumultuous year. The city is going to light up during Christmas, along Farmersville Parkway from Texas 78 to Main Street. The city’s downtown square will becoming a festive site. Merchants will compete in a Christmas decoration competition. There will be horse-and-buggy rides.

Wiebold’s effort is to end the year on a high. How can it end any worse than what many of us have experienced already?

Farmersville is not unlike many communities across the land in that it has had to cancel events left and right. The COVID crisis has taken a terrible toll on people’s emotions and Farmersville has felt it along with all sorts of cities and towns. I mean, the State of Fair of Texas was canceled in Dallas, and they played the Texas-Oklahoma football game before a sparse gathering of folks scattered throughout the cavernous Cotton Bowl; too bad, as well, because a lot of football fans missed a heck of a game.

Farmersville wants to put a smile on people’s faces and Wiebold, along with Main Street manager Kevin Casey, are crafting an event that the mayor hopes becomes an annual happening.

I have the pleasure of covering the Farmersville City Council for the Farmersville Times, a weekly newspaper that circulates in the Collin County community. I have been pleased to watch this event unfold in real time.

I have to say that Mayor Wiebold’s idea to collect corporate and community sponsorship to fund the Farmersville Lights project is as capital an idea as I can imagine, given the circumstance with which the city is dealing.

At least one Texas community is working actively now to put smiles on the faces of residents who need a reason to smile. May other cities and towns follow suit.

As Wiebold said after getting some push back from one resident who objected to the city proceeding with this effort: “How can you argue against Christmas?”

Civic Center needs help

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I no longer live in Amarillo, but I have a lot of friends there, many of whom read this blog and might be inclined to (a) endorse my world view or (b) tell me to go straight to hell.

With that out of the way, I want to offer an opinion on a ballot measure that would seek to expand/improve/renovate the Civic Center.

I believe it’s a good idea that deserves community support.

It might be a tough sell in this Era of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Folks aren’t likely to be congregating at the Civic Center any time soon, or maybe in the distant future. Eventually, though, this pandemic will pass. The will return to what we think of as “normal.”

The Civic Center would benefit from a $200 million (or so) bond issue that is on the ballot Nov. 3. The idea is to expand convention space, make dramatic improvements to the Cal Farley Coliseum, such as raising the roof and adding seating capacity.

It’s not clear to me whether all of this work is going to put Amarillo on the same playing field as Lubbock, which manages to corral many more front-line, top-tier acts annually than Amarillo. At the very least the renovations to the Civic Center would make Amarillo more competitive in the hunt for top-drawer conventions and gatherings that draw deep-pocketed individuals and groups willing to spend lots of money to bolster the local economy.

The city wisely removed the City Hall relocation from the bond issue, given that it has not yet decided where it intends to put its government office.

Instead, the city has thrust the Civic Center job out there as a stand-alone project.

I feel the need to remind readers of this blog of some of the resistance to the ballpark initiative as it was being developed in 2015. The pushback came from those who thought the Civic Center needed to be tended to before the city built the venue now known as Hodgetown.

The measure’s proponents have enlisted lots of support to make the case, including my former Amarillo Globe-News colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who has written and spoken extensively about the city’s need to keep pushing forward. Standing still, Beilue argues, is a prescription for failure.

I encourage my many friends to take that leap of faith with an expanded, improved and revitalized Civic Center. The city has made enormous strides already in restoring its downtown district.

Why stop now?

Texans answer the call

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas started voting for president of the United States today.

How are we doing? How is the state responding to the mostly Democratic call to vote early? First indications suggest that we answered the call.

My wife and I became statistics in that effort. We voted early today. Indeed, we voted before noon today. We didn’t see a huge crowd, although voter traffic in our Princeton precinct appeared brisk.

Reporting statewide suggest that the larger counties experienced gigantic turnouts at polling places. Travis County? Big. Same with Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar counties.

I have long been a bit suspicious about early voting turnout and whether it indicates larger turnouts overall. In the past, we have seen only that larger early voter turnout means only that more voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day; the total number has remained static. In Texas, that overall turnout has remained among the worst in the nation.

That might be changing this time, given the panic that Donald Trump is trying to instill in voting Americans; he keeps yapping about “rampant fraud” in the election. There’s no such thing as “rampant” fraud anywhere.

The conventional wisdom suggests that large turnout helps Democrats, which is why Republicans are trying to suppress that turnout — with help from Russia.

Let’s see how his plays out until Oct. 30, the final day Texans can vote early. My ol’ trick knee is beginning to throb and it’s telling me we might see the dawn of a new political day in Texas.

Deed is done!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s done! We voted today … on the first day of early voting in Texas.

I am proud of myself and of my wife for tossing aside our long-held objection to early voting and casting our ballots for president/vice president and on down through the various contests.

We had thought about traveling to the Allen Event Center, a spacious venue where we could be assured of maintaining proper social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Then we thought differently. We voted instead in Princeton, where the poll workers had set up an efficient procedure at First Baptist Church to guarantee social distancing and to protect us in various ways from getting infected by the COVID-19 virus.

The parking lot across the street from the polling place was full of folks, some of them candidates. We were approached by two of them, a Princeton mayoral candidate and a candidate for the Princeton school board of trustees. We walked by a table manned by Democrats who offered us a sheet showing the “Democratic slate” of candidates. No thanks, we said; we got ya covered.

We didn’t wait in line. However, my sense is that the traffic had been brisk all morning and that it would remain that way at least for the first few days of early voting.

This is a good thing for those of us who are concerned about the scare tactics being blurted by Donald Trump and his GOP minions who keep citing something called “rampant voter fraud.” In truth, there is no such thing as “rampant” fraud. It’s, um, shall we say — “fake news.”

So, our votes are now logged into the system.

We did our patriotic duty. I am a proud American today.

Don’t leave this matter up to someone else

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There once was a time when I worked for a living … and during that time of my life I would write newspaper editorials urging people at election time to be sure to vote.

My argument was simple. I tried to rejigger it to avoid repeating myself. It would go something like this:

If you do not vote, then you are going to leave this critical decision to someone else, someone who might not share your world view. Do you really want to cede that responsibility when you can take control of it in your own hands?

That argument is never more relevant than it is today.

I refer to the presidential election that’s coming up on Nov. 3. My wife and I intend to vote Tuesday morning on the first day of early voting in Texas. I once was adamantly opposed to early voting. I sought to hedge my bet, guarding against someone who gets my vote from messing up after I vote for him/her but before Election Day.

That rationale is no longer in play this time. I am concerned about what Donald Trump might do to muck up the election result. He is going to challenge the result, possibly, if Joe Biden gets more votes for president than he does. That’s why I intend to vote early. My wife, too.

We intend to get our votes recorded and logged into the system.

I also want to encourage everyone who can to vote early. If we do not vote ourselves for the presidency, then we are going to leave that decision to someone else who might want to (gulp!) keep Donald Trump in office for another four years.

The person you see at the other end of the church pew might be a Trumpkin. So might your next-door neighbor. Or the crowds you see at the grocery store.

Me? I am a die-heard Bidenista. I intend to cast my vote early. I don’t want to be the only person at our Princeton, Texas polling place. I want there to be a crowd of folks. I am prepared to wait in line.

I’ll be damned if I am going to leave this decision to someone who doesn’t agree with my world view.