Category Archives: Uncategorized

Memo to manager: Next chief should endorse community policing

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller has a huge hiring decision to make soon. He needs to find someone to succeed Ed Drain as chief of the city’s police department.

Miller isn’t going to ask me for my advice, but I am going to give him just a bit of it here in brief form.

Mr. Manager, be sure the next top cop endorses community policing as a way to maintain the city’s relationship with the neighborhoods its officers swear to protect and defend.

Drain has been named the police chief of Plano, Texas, a burgeoning Dallas suburb. He went to Amarillo after serving for more than two decades with the Plano Police Department; he rose to the level of assistant chief.

Drain’s hiring in Amarillo was arguably the sole shining moment of former interim City Manager Terry Childers’ stormy tenure at City Hall. Childers took a hike and the city hired Miller from his city manager’s post in San Marcos.

Drain, meanwhile, reinstituted the community policing program that former Police Chief Robert Taylor let grow fallow during his years as the city’s top cop. I believe that was a regrettable policy decision on Taylor’s part, given the many miles the department had come under the leadership of his immediate predecessor, the late Police Chief Jerry Neal.

Community policing puts officers’ boots on the ground in the neighborhoods they patrol. They develop interpersonal relationships with residents. The policy is designed to build trust between law enforcement officers and the community … thus, the term “community policing.”

Drain has vowed to maintain the policy in Plano. As for Amarillo, I believe it is vital that it remain in force in that city.

I don’t know how Miller is going to conduct a search for a new police chief. He has some fine senior officers on staff already in the Amarillo PD. I actually have a favorite, if he’s willing to be considered for the post.

If Miller goes outside the department and looks far and wide, it would be my hope — no matter what he decides to do — that he insist that the next Amarillo police chief be as dedicated to community policing as Ed Drain was during his brief tenure there.

The policy works.

What? Trump now accepts climate change as a serious threat?

This story has gone largely unnoticed by damn near all of us.

Donald Trump, the fellow who has called climate change a “hoax” concocted by China, which wants to undermine the U.S. manufacturing sector and our fossil fuel industry, has changed his tune … allegedly.

This past Thursday, Trump announced an initiative to make it easier to build natural gas pipelines. A reporter asked him if he still thinks climate change is a hoax. His answer is potentially jaw-dropping.

The Week.com reported: Trump said, “No, no. Not at all. Nothing’s a hoax … It’s a very serious subject. The environment is important to me. I’m a big believer in that word, the environment … I want clean air. I want clean water. I also want jobs, though.”

Oh, I want to believe him on this. I would except for a couple of factors. One is that is speaks in those sophomoric platitudes. He’s a “believer in that word, the environment”? He says he wants clean air and water. B … F … D, Mr. President. How do you intend to achieve it?

His newfound acceptance of climate change’s existential threat to Earth sounds to me as sincere as the time he said that President Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen. That sounded in the moment like a throwaway line. His acceptance of Obama’s U.S. citizenship was offered with far less vigor or outward sincerity than the “birther” lie he kept fomenting. Now the president says the “environment is important to me.”

The second reason that makes me skeptical is the president’s penchant for prevarication. He lies all the time. About all things. He and the truth have never met face to face.

I guess perhaps that explains why this story has been so grossly underreported. Whatever, my hope is that someone, somehow will be able to hold the president accountable for this alleged reversal.

City’s transparency a result of an ‘abundance of caution’

You want transparency in local government? You want to see how a certain city in North Texas handles any potential questions about whether its elected governing body is meeting in “secret,” or conducting public business “illegally”?

Farmersville, a Collin County community of roughly 3,500 residents, exercises what City Attorney Alan Lathrom describes as an “abundance of caution” in alerting residents of a “potential quorum” of elected City Council members.

The city posts a “notice of potential quorum” in advance of any event that might draw more than a majority of City Council members into the same room. That includes, as it did in November and December, an announcement of planned Thanksgiving and Christmas parties.

The city’s website contained under its “Council Meetings” tab announcements of those events. The city is not required under state law to post such events, Lathrom. “We just do it out of an abundance of caution,” he said, citing the possibility that inquiring minds might want to know if council members were discussing public business in a setting other than a called public meeting.

Lathrom said the Texas Open Meetings Act makes specific exemptions for social events. Council members are allowed to gather at holiday parties, for example, without it being posted in advance by City Hall, he said.

Lathrom said the city simply is trying to be as transparent as possible by posting these notices of potential quorum.

I stumbled upon the Christmas party notice recently while perusing the Farmersville website in search of some contact information. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at my discovery. I told Lathrom of my surprise in a phone conversation.

He doesn’t ascribe much in the way of a need to cover the city’s backside. Lathrom simply employs this strategy because, well, it’s the right thing to do.

I have covered many local government bodies over many years as a print journalist. This is the first example I’ve ever seen of a governing entity taking such a proactive posture toward transparency.

We hear occasional gripes from residents that government seeks to do too much of the public’s business improperly or even illegally. Do notices such as this generate a lot of public interest? That’s not likely. At least Farmersville City Hall can declare that it warned residents of a “potential quorum” of City Council members.

I consider that a fairly see-through approach to local government.

No on dismissal; proceed to a Senate trial

My goodness. We’ve traveled a great distance already down this road, and now a member of the U.S. Senate wants to dismiss the impeachment charges leveled against Donald J. Trump?

Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri, are you serious? Show me the reasons why, if you dare.

Hawley is arguing that the delay in sending impeachment articles from the House of Representatives to the Senate has negated the charges filed by the House. I don’t believe it has done anything of the sort.

The House impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the Senate to conduct a thorough trial, with witnesses brought before the upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell so far isn’t budging; he’s pushing for a quick trial with no witnesses.

Sen. Hawley says he’ll file a motion to dismiss the charges. No trial, said Hawley. He needs 51 Senate votes to dismiss it; he isn’t likely to get them. Nor should he.

The House traveled a lengthy road to file the impeachment charges. The case needs to be decided by the Senate.

You may count me as one American who wants to McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer to find some common ground. Settle on the rules for the trial, enabling Pelosi to transmit the articles of impeachment.

Let this case proceed … with witnesses.

By golly, the state of our Union is strong

This will be one of the more intriguing State of the Union speeches Americans will have heard in a while.

Donald Trump has accepted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to deliver a State of the Union speech on Feb. 2. The president well might be on trial in the U.S. Senate when he steps to the microphone before a joint congressional session. Or, the trial might be over.

Whatever the case, the president will have a chance to declare the condition of our Union. You know what? If he says it is “strong,” I will have to agree.

Yes, we are in the midst of a tremendous and terrible constitutional crisis. The president has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The nation is divided deeply over how this impeachment should conclude. Millions of Americans want Trump to be cleared. Millions of other Americans — including me — want him booted out of office in the wake of a Senate conviction.

Through all of this, though, it is good to reflect on the system of government that our founders created. A good part of the founders’ genius is that they built in protections to shore up our government in the event of crises such as this one.

The separation of powers is one such protection. The presidency isn’t nearly as powerful as Trump seems to suggest it is; the president cannot “whatever he wants.” The founders handed out equal doses of power to Congress and to the judiciary. So, whatever happens in the Senate trial, the nation will survive. Our Constitution will have done its job.

The president’s declaration, if he chooses to make it, that our “Union is strong” likely will draw catcalls and jeers from the Democratic side of the congressional chamber. Indeed, I await watching the body language that Pelosi will exhibit along with her Democratic colleagues gathered before her, the vice president and the president.

Such a reaction would ignore what I believe is quite clear.

Which is that despite the trouble we are in, despite the abuses that Donald Trump has heaped upon the presidency and the high crimes and misdemeanors I believe he has committed, our Union remains steady and strong.

Did the AG actually suggest that the cops might not protect us?

U.S. Attorney General William Barr sought to buck up the nation’s law enforcement network, but in doing so he seems to have suggested something dire and dangerous if the cops don’t get the respect they deserve from the communities they serve.

“They have to start showing more respect than they do,” Barr said of the public. “If communities don’t give [law enforcement] the support and respect they deserve, they may find themselves without the services they need.”

It makes me go, “huh?”

Is the attorney general actually suggesting — if not encouraging — that police might not respond to calls for help? Is he saying that police officers might give citizens the short shrift if they need protection?

Say it ain’t so, Mr. Attorney General.

In a ceremony honoring the top police officers from around the nation, Barr noted that military veterans suffered years of scorn in the years immediately after the Vietnam War; that has changed dramatically since the time of the Persian Gulf War. This veteran thanks my fellow Americans for the change of heart.

Are the nation’s police officers feeling the same level of disrespect? Hmm. I don’t know for certain, but it seems as if that the AG’s comparison is a bit overcooked.

If the attorney general is encouraging cops to go slow on emergency responses because the communities they serve don’t love them as much as they should, then he is committing a profound disservice to the nation … and its police forces.

Set to make impeachment history once again

Here we are, on the cusp of another politically historic event awaiting the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House Intelligence Committee is going to hand off to the Judiciary Committee, which then will decide whether to file articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump.

This shouldn’t be a close call. However, it’s likely to become a partisan vote, with Democrats voting to impeach the president and Republicans saying “no.”

I’m out here in the Peanut Gallery. What I have seen from the middle of Trump Country tells me that the president deserves to be impeached; he also deserves to be convicted in a U.S. Senate trial. The allegations leveled against him are far worse than anything that befell President Clinton in 1998 and rise at least to the level of what President Nixon faced in 1974 when he resigned.

House Republicans impeached Clinton for lying about an inappropriate relationship he had with a White House intern. Nixon quit before the House could impeach him for obstructing justice in the search for the truth behind the Watergate burglary in June 1972.

What does Donald Trump face? He is facing an accusation — which he more or less has admitted to doing — of soliciting a foreign government for a political favor. In exchange for the favor, which included digging up dirt on a potential political foe, the president would release weapons to Ukraine, which is fighting rebels backed by Russia.

The U.S. Constitution expressly forbids such activity. It cites “bribery” along with “treason” specifically as crimes for which a president can be removed from office. It isn’t treason, but it sure looks for all the world to me like bribery.

I fully expect to get some dipsh** responses from High Plains Blogger critics who think I’m whistlin’ Dixie with regard to the crimes I believe the president has committed. That’s fine. Let ’em gripe.

I stand by my assertion that Donald Trump has committed crimes that rise to the level of impeachment. They certainly are far more egregious than what ended up on President Clinton’s record.

The record as I’ve seen it pile up during the impeachment inquiry is replete with evidence of wrongdoing. The House and Senate Republican caucus, however, is equally replete with political cowardice among House members and senators who choose to stand with the president and refuse to stand for what they piously proclaim to be “the rule of law.”

And so, history is about to be made once again as one House panel passes the torch to another one. Let this lawful, constitutional and appropriate impeachment effort proceed.

Happy Thanksgiving, SFA Lumberjacks!

Well now, they’re going to be smiling broadly in Nacogdoches, Texas this Thanksgiving.

Why? Because the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks scored the university’s biggest upset victory in its history Tuesday night with an at-the-buzzer, game-ending layup to defeat No. 1-ranked Duke University … in the Blue Devils’ building in Durham, N.C.!

I want to dispel something that Sports Illustrated reported incorrectly on its online edition about the game.

SI.com referred to SFA as a “small school” in East Texas that had the nerve to take on a giant powerhouse such as Duke. Indeed, SI.com reported that big-time basketball powers routinely schedule less-regarded teams to fatten up their won-lost record; that part is true.

But “small school”? Compared to Duke? I looked it and here’s what I found in my World Almanac and Book of Facts: Duke’s enrollment totals a little more than 15,900 students; that compares with SFA’s full-time enrollment of 12,600 students. So, you see? The schools’ sizes are, um, comparable.

OK, I get that SFA is not in the same league — normally! — with Duke University on the basketball court.

Except that on one night, in Durham, the Lumberjacks chopped down the biggest “tree” in the school’s history.

Happy Thanksgiving, Stephen F. Austin. Enjoy your turkey!

This impeachment inquiry is legit; let it proceed

Efforts to subvert, undermine, torpedo, derail and discredit the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s presidency are shooting blanks.

The inquiry launched by a formerly reluctant House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are rooted in the belief among House Democrats that Trump has committed impeachable offenses. That he has violated his constitutional oath. That he has broken federal law. That he has besmirched and belittled the high office he occupies. That he has abused his power and that he has obstructed the pursuit of justice.

All of these matters are serious and all of them are being pursued legitimately.

They are not intended, as Republican critics have suggested, to “overturn” the results of the 2016 presidential election. Trump will be recorded forever as the victor in that campaign, given that he won enough Electoral College votes to take the oath of office.

It has been the revelations that are coming out now that have created this concern among congressional Democrats.

His seeking political favors from a foreign government; his search for political dirt on his opponents; his efforts to obstruct the investigation into whether he colluded with Russians in the 2016 campaign; his incessant lying about who he knows or doesn’t know with regard to the Ukrainian matter; his request that China and other foreign powers investigate political foes here at home.

These are serious matters even if the House were to consider them separately. Taken together, they amount to a huge body of evidence against the president.

Then we had that ridiculous effort to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff for reciting an obvious parody of the conversation Trump had with the Ukrainian president. They have bellowed that Schiff misrepresented what Trump said. Hello? Anyone listening to Schiff’s comments in real time knew in the moment that he was spoofing the president.

Donald Trump is likely to be impeached by the House. It might come before Thanksgiving. Then the Senate will conduct its trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to drag it out. He wants it disposed of sooner rather than later. He doesn’t want it to linger into the election year. I agree with the leader on that matter. Get it done quickly!

But as President Ford said when he took office on Aug. 9, 1974 after President Nixon quit in the midst of another scandal: “Our Constitution works.”

It did then. It is working now. Let the House do its job … just as the Constitution prescribes.

Recalling a great Republican governor

I mentioned the late Tom McCall in a recent blog post, citing him as the type of Republican politician I admired. The more I think about it the more I feel compelled to elaborate on the great man.

McCall was born in Massachusetts but moved to Oregon as a youngster. He divided his time between the coasts. Even as he grew into adulthood, McCall never seemed to lose his New England accent.

McCall got his degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and reported for newspapers in Idaho and then Oregon before entering politics.

Oregon voters elected him to two terms as governor in 1966 and then in 1970. Then he had to bow out because of term limits.

I want to mention McCall because of the makeup and tenor that we hear from today’s Republican Party. McCall was not a doctrinaire Republican politician. I don’t recall him adhering to rigid ideology, other, I suppose, than being tight with public money.

He developed many friends in both political parties. He remember him as being affable and easygoing. I never met the man, as my journalism career began the year after he left office in January 1975.

But in 1971, McCall blurted out something to a CBS News reporter that has become legendary in Oregon. He told the reporter that visitors were welcome to “Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.”

Now, I cannot prove this, but my hunch all along was that when Gov. McCall made that statement in 1971, he did so to lure more residents to the state. His seeming snobbishness ignited the boom that continues to this day.

Many folks around the country — particularly in California — took McCall’s statement seriously, that he really didn’t want people to move into Oregon. I have asked for decades: What politician worth a damn is going to tell people to stay away and, thus, deprive his state government of vital tax revenue?

That isn’t my favorite anecdote about Gov. McCall, though. The topper occurred the previous year, in 1970, when he essentially legalized marijuana for a day when tens of thousands of young people gathered in rural Clackamas County for an event called “Vortex: A Biodegradable Festival of Life.” They played rock music and, shall we say, enjoyed each other’s company while the American Legion was meeting in Portland for its annual convention.

The Vietnam War was still raging and those students had been killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. McCall thought when decided to have a state-sponsored rock festival that he had “committed political suicide.” His aim was to avoid a clash between anti-war protesters and the Legion convention attendees.

As the saying goes: mission accomplished. And, yes, McCall was re-elected in 1970 with 56 percent of the vote.

Imagine for a moment a Republican politician — or a Democrat, for that matter — doing something so audacious today.