Category Archives: local news

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.

Two-fer endorsements: Idea is catching on?

This must be a new thing, more or less, in the world of newspaper editorial endorsements.

Editorial boards face a lengthy list of candidates for a specific office; they interview the contenders; they can’t settle on a single candidate to endorse … so they go with two of ’em!

Hmm. The New York Times did so when it endorsed U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic Party presidential primary contest.

Now it’s the Dallas Morning News doing the same thing regarding the Democratic primary contest for the U.S. Senate now occupied by Republican John Cornyn. The DMN couldn’t decide on a single candidate, so they offered up Texas state Sen. Royce West and former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards for readers to consider.

I believe that’s a bit of a cop-out on the part of the newspaper.

I get the paper’s semi-endorsement of West. He hails from Dallas. He has represented the city in the Legislature for a long time. He is a powerhouse legislator. He’s a hometown guy, sort of a “favorite son.” 

Edwards also impressed the Morning News editorial board. She’s well-educated and well-grounded in public policy.

However, shouldn’t newspapers that seek to lead a community make the same tough call that their readers will have to make when they enter the voting booth to cast their ballots for political candidates?

I am in the process of making up my own mind on who gets my vote in the upcoming Super Tuesday primary election. We’ll get to select someone to run for president along with a whole lengthy array of candidates on all manner of public offices up and down the political food chain.

We have to pick just one for each race. I had been kinda hoping for a bit of guidance from my newspaper on who to ponder in this race for U.S. Senate. I guess I’m on my own.

Puppy Tales, Part 82: Toby finds a new best friend

Toby the Puppy tips the beam at around 12, maybe 13 pounds.

He thinks, though, that he is much larger. Much meaner. Much tougher than he is. So, when he encounters another pooch of more impressive proportions, Toby might be inclined to ruff and woof his way toward them.

That is, unless he and the other pooch somehow communicate with each other that says “Hey, it’s all good. Let’s be friends.”

He did so today. Toby’s mother and I took him for his morning stroll through the neighborhood. We encountered a friend of ours who was walking his, um, great Dane. Duke is the Dane’s name. He is nine months of age. He weighs in at around 100 pounds. Our friend says he’s still growing, likely to around 150 pounds.

Toby and Duke hit it off right away. They sniffed each other’s … you know. There was no huffing and puffing. No growling. No snapping. Just good old-fashioned canine fellowship.

Which leads me to believe that dogs must be far more intuitive than we give them credit for being. Toby and Duke both knew the other one is friendly. They surely must have communicated that mutual knowledge to each other.

To be sure, our Toby has other large puppy friends. Our grandpuppy, Madden — aka Mad Dog — and Toby and great pals. They carry on whenever they see each other. We venture to our son and daughter-in-law’s home in Allen and the first order of business is to turn the pooches loose in the back yard where they spend a good bit of time running full tilt around the yard.

We have a niece and nephew who live in Austin. Their puppy, Lucy, also gets along well with Toby the Puppy.

Today, Toby the Puppy expanded his roster of friends by one. It just amazes me to the max how our little guy — who tends to think of himself as a big guy — knows when to display his good manners.

Man, this technology thing is mind-blowing

GREENVILLE, Texas — It’s official. My mind is totally blown apart.

I ventured to Greenville today for a story I am going to write for KETR-FM’s website, I won’t divulge what’s going into the story. I merely want to take a moment to tell you that I have been bowled over by high-tech genius.

My visit was with the Greenville Electric Utility System brass. I met with GEUS’s general manager, Alicia Price; with marketing manager Jimmy Dickey; with Internet manager Jason Minter and with Terry Walthall, whose business card describes him as a “Headend Specialist,” which a kind of code for system operations manager … the guy who knows which buttons to push and which wires to connect.

Our visit was informative in the extreme and I look forward to posting my story about Greenville’s cable TV-Internet system on next month.

However, my mind was blown as I tried to process all the technological expertise that was being demonstrated.

My session with Price, Dickey and Minter ended with me recalling how it was when I was a youngster, how we were able to watch three whole TV channels. How we had to get up off the floor or out of a chair, walk to the TV set and turn the knob on the front of the set to change the channel. I asked Minter if he remembers TVs that took about a minute to “warm up” as the tubes inside got hot. He quipped about how the “vertical hold” would scroll the image up and down.

I mentioned the rabbit-ear antenna on top of the TV set and how we occasionally had to wrap aluminum foil around the end of the antenna to get a stronger picture.

Then I mentioned how Dad sold TVs and other appliances in the 1950s and how our family acquired one of the first televisions in Portland, Ore. And then I told them about the time color TV came into being and how my sister and I would host “TV watching parties” in our living room with neighbor kids who gathered with us to watch cartoons in color.

I am 70 years of age, but those memories remain fresh in my noggin. Today’s session with the high-tech powerhouses at GEUS only reaffirmed what I knew, which is that we’ve have circled the solar system hundreds of times in our quest — and our discovery — of technical know-how.

It has blown my mind.

Preparing to bid farewell to a family patriarch

This picture tells you plenty about a man I want to honor with this brief post.

He is James G. Phillips. He was my Uncle Jim. He was my mother’s baby brother who died this past weekend at the age of 93.

He was proud officer in the U.S. Army. Uncle Jim retired eventually from the Army Reserve as a colonel and in a few days he will be laid to rest at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Ore. I will be there to say goodbye to my beloved uncle. He will be afforded full military honors.

Uncle Jim suffered most recently from what I would argue is the most dreaded disease imaginable: Alzheimer’s disease. His body looked the same. The disease, though, stole this man’s essence. It took away his ability to tell a tale, to convey any segment of his wonderful, full life. He was as fluent in Greek as he was in English, which is to say he spoke both languages with absolute clarity, humor and intelligence.

I am likely to say something later about the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, as I remain committed to calling attention to the need to devote more resources, more energy and more research into finding an ultimate cure for this murderous ailment.

For now, though, I just want to offer this brief comment about someone who stood large in my family. I know we all have ancestors who engender pride. You do as well as I do.

However, I will fight like hell to avoid getting sucked into a spasm of grief. As one of Uncle Jim’s daughters told me just the other day, our sadness in this instance will produce plenty of reasons to rejoice in the many happy memories we all have of this great man.

Time of My Life, Part 44: Recalling a time of trust

There once was a time when public officials trusted the media implicitly, they believed the media could have access to information and would know how to handle what they see.

That was long before the age of social media, the Internet and politicians who would label the media as “the enemy of the people.”

My first full-time job as reporter took me in the spring of 1977 from Portland, Ore., to a suburban community about 15 miles south of my hometown. I went to work for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, first as a sports writer and then as a general assignment reporter. The E-C was an afternoon newspaper; we published it Monday through Friday.

Given that it was a “p.m.” newspaper, our deadlines required us to report for work early in the day. My work days started before the sunrise, particularly after I moved from the sports desk and started working as a reporter.

My editor assigned me the task of going to police dispatchers’ offices each morning to collect the overnight police activity. The core of our circulation area concerned the Tri-Cities region: Oregon City, West Linn and Gladstone.

I would make the rounds with all three police departments, plus the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. The dispatchers would allow me to look at the call logs and — upon request — I could look at the police officers’ reports they had filed on specific calls.

That’s right. The dispatcher would give this grimy reporter access to the cops’ reports. Some of them were amazingly graphic in nature. The reports weren’t, um, often not that well-written. I occasionally had to interpret the messages the officers intended to convey.

But these police reports often provided some amazing stories that I could report to our community. One strange incident stands out, even more than 40 years later. It involved an Oregon City Police Department report about an officer responding to a guy who got stuck in a telephone booth in the wee hours. This poor schlub had used the phone, but couldn’t jimmy the door open so he could exit. He called the cops and an officer — along with a firefighting crew — responded to pry the guy out of the booth.

I followed a simple and straightforward credo: I was able to earn the trust of the dispatchers simply by being faithful to my pledge to treat the information I received with discretion.

Indeed, I never felt like anyone’s “enemy.” Nor do today’s journalists.

A ‘battle of the badges’ is brewing in the Texas Panhandle

Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson is as honorable a man as I’ve known in public life. So, when he posts a document taking a fellow law enforcement official to task, well … I tend to look carefully at what he has to say.

Richardson is disturbed by what he alleges is being done by the county’s Precinct 4 constable, Chris Johnson. Richardson has endorsed Johnson’s opponent in the upcoming Republican Party primary election.

To say this is unusual is to, um, commit the Mother of All Understatements.

Richardson, who is not seeking re-election as sheriff, wants GOP voters to back Paula Hicks in the March 3 primary for Precinct 4 constable.

He has issued a blistering statement that accuses Johnson of some pretty catty behavior while serving as constable. He alleges that Johnson has been abusive to juvenile drivers, he accuses Johnson of driving away in a sheriff’s deputy’s cruiser and driving it well in excess of 100 mph through Amarillo, he says Johnson has “frisked” motorists who had been stopped by deputies “without probable cause.”

I won’t endorse the specifics of what Richardson has alleged. I just know the sheriff to be a man of integrity and a decidedly non-political cop, even though he has politicked for the office he has occupied for more than 20 years.

What’s more, for a sheriff to get involved in an openly political contest involving another law enforcement official — albeit a fellow politician — suggests to me that the sheriff has a serious bone to pick with the fellow he is criticizing.

Richardson refers to his statement as an “urgent and open letter to the voters of Randall County, Texas, Precinct 4.”

They would be wise to pay attention.