Tag Archives: Amarillo College

What does future hold for Amarillo’s daily newspaper?

I chatted this morning over KETR-FM public radio at Texas A&M University-Commerce about the state of journalism in one of the Texas communities where I worked before my career ended in August 2012.

On the weekly broadcast “North by Northeast,” we talked about the decline of daily newspaper circulation and the struggle that many print media are having as they transition to the “digital age” of news and commentary.

Well, we didn’t discuss it on the air today, but I want to broach this subject briefly here.

The Amarillo Globe-News seems infatuated with reporting on issues involving Texas Tech University, which is headquartered about 120 miles south of Amarillo in Lubbock. I see the G-N on my smart phone daily. I am able to read headlines and I look occasionally at stories under those headlines.

I am struck by the preponderance of stories related to Texas Tech. Sports coverage, general news coverages, features, editorials, guest commentary … a whole lot of it relates to Texas Tech.

I’m wondering: Why? What is happening here?

I’ve reported already on this blog about how the newspapers — the Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — are being managed under a “regional” operation. The papers have a regional executive editor, a regional associate editor/director of commentary; they have combined their business operations, their production ops, circulation and some advertising functions.

It’s the news and editorial coverage that piques my interest.

So much of it these days relates to Texas Tech. Back when I worked at the paper, we hardly ever gave Tech any notice. I mean, the university is way down yonder; the Panhandle is served by West Texas A&M University and the newspaper concentrated its higher education coverage on WT and on Amarillo College.

Texas Tech seemingly has supplanted WT and AC in garnering the attention of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I keep feeling the rumble in my gut that is telling me that something is going to happen to the Amarillo Globe-News … and that it won’t be a good thing for the future of print journalism in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

I want in the worst way to be wrong.

Amarillo College, city score a winner with free bus rides

When I heard of this news item from up yonder in Amarillo, I’ll admit to a reaction that might seem a bit unflattering.

It was: What took ’em so long to enact this one?

Amarillo City Transit, the public bus transportation system, is soon to offer free transportation for Amarillo College students. The idea is so brilliant yet so simple, I was struck by the length of time it took for someone to pitch it to the City Council.

Who might be the biggest beneficiaries of this initiative? I figure it’s got to be the students who attend classes at AC’s main campus on Washington Street, just south of Interstate 40. You see, parking at that campus has been a serious problem for as long as I can remember.

I have known several AC presidents over many years, starting with Bud Joyner; then along came Fred Williams, Steve Jones, Paul Matney and now Russell Lowery-Hart. They all grappled with the parking nightmare at the main campus, as did the AC Board of Regents. College enrollment grew, but the parking capacity didn’t keep pace.

The way I figure it, if the college and the city promote this new benefit aggressively and effectively, it will fill the buses with students coming into town to attend classes. It also well could alleviate the parking problem with fewer motor vehicles being crammed onto the parking lots and along the city streets surrounding the campus.

I also must admit to a failing of my own. You see, I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years and I don’t once recall ever having a discussion with my boss, or the editorial board, or with college administrators and city officials about enacting such a plan for students.

So I’m left to ask while kicking myself in the backside: Why didn’t I think of this idea long ago?

I am hoping this idea works well for the students … as well as for the college.

Matney was right: Amarillo is a ‘baseball town’

Paul Matney has about as much long-term, “institutional” knowledge of Amarillo, Texas, as anyone who’s lived there in the past century.

So, when the retired Amarillo College president said in 2015 that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and would consume minor-league baseball like no one’s business, we all should have been paying careful attention.

Matney became a spokesman for a campaign to win a non-binding referendum on what was called merely a “multipurpose event venue” at the time. His statements seems to be proving to be more than truthful. Matney seems to know baseball. More than that, he knows the community that now plays host to a AA minor-league baseball franchise. It is affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. They call this team the Sod Poodles.

It is playing baseball in a brand new ballpark before nearly full crowds every night the “Soddies” are at home.

What a remarkable turn of events for the city.

I am delighted beyond measure to see the city embrace this form of sports entertainment. It also is fascinating to see who suits up these days for the Sod Poodles and who, eventually, makes it to the Big Leagues … and who among those might carve out over time careers befitting of inducting into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

It won’t happen? I young man named Tony Gwynn played hardball in Amarillo for a time in the early 1980s when the city was home to an earlier affiliated team.

Gwynn is now in the Hall of Fame.

As for Matney, I admire his knowledge of the community and his courage he exhibited by declaring that “Amarillo is a baseball town.”

He appears to have been so correct.

Sod Poodles packin’ ’em in

This graph showed up on my Facebook page a little while ago, so I thought I would share it on High Plains Blogger.

Check it out.

Amarillo’s AA minor-league baseball team, the Sod Poodles, is leading the Texas League in attendance early in its initial season playing ball on the High Plains.

Sixteen home dates have drawn nearly 100,000 spectators to the Sod Poodles’ shiny new venue, aka Hodgetown, built for about $45 million in downtown Amarillo.

I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t been to a game. I’ve only seen the ballpark from the other side of the right field fence. The front entrance looks impressive, too.

I am just delighted to know that Amarillo is turning into a “baseball town.” Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.

A few years ago, when residents were preparing to vote on a referendum to approve construction of what was known only as a “multipurpose event venue,” retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney came to the Rotary Club of Amarillo to pitch the idea to Rotarians. He said at the time that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and it deserved to have a Major League-affiliated team playing ball for the fans who had wanted a return to that quality of baseball.

Matney spoke from a position of deep institutional/community knowledge, given that he grew up in Amarillo, graduated from the University of Texas and then returned home to carve out a stellar career at Amarillo College.

It was evident to me then that Matney knew of which he spoke. It’s clearer to me now, seeing those attendance figures, that he was spot on declaring Amarillo to be a “baseball town.”

AISD should have expanded search . . . here’s why

I feel the need to comment on the selection of a new Amarillo school superintendent. Then I’ll move on.

I’ve stated already that I do not know the new Amarillo public school superintendent, Doug Loomis. I wish him well and hope he succeeds. Given that I live some distance away from Amarillo, I have no particular axe to grind. I do have some thoughts on the process that brought Loomis to the top education administrator job in Amarillo.

The Amarillo Independent School District board conducted an in-house search. It did not look beyond the staff already on hand. I believe it should have done that very thing. My reason why has nothing to do with Loomis. He well might be the greatest superintendent AISD will ever employ.

However, a narrow search, one that doesn’t cast a wide net, does not give board members a chance to have assess the local applicants against those who might have a different view on how to implement educational policy. Loomis emerged as the sole finalist for the job vacated when Dana West resigned suddenly this past year.

Does the board know with absolute certainty that Loomis is the best it could have found to compete for this post?

When I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, we tackled similar issues involving the hiring of chief administrators: at City Hall and at Amarillo College.

  • John Ward resigned as city manager after being on the job for 20 years. The City Council chose to look inward only. It elevated Alan Taylor to the manager’s job. We insisted the council look beyond the city. Taylor took our position as a criticism of him personally, even though we said expressly that it bore no reflection on him. We merely wanted the city to expand its search to include as broad a field of applicants as possible.

Taylor eventually retired and moved away. He did a fine job, although he continued to harbor ill feelings toward me personally and the Globe-News. I am sorry he felt that way.

  • Steve Jones became ill and eventually succumbed to cancer, leaving the Amarillo College Board of Regents with the task of looking for a new president. The man who served as acting president, Paul Matney, was elevated to the permanent post. The Globe-News argued yet again that the AC board should look nationally. Regents decided to stick with Matney. Our rationale for the AC search was the same as it was for City Hall.

It pained me greatly to make that argument, given my immense professional respect and personal affection for Paul Matney. He turned out to be an outstanding AC president and retired with his head held high and the gratitude for a job well done. To his great credit, Matney did not take our editorial position as a criticism of the job he would do.

AISD has some issues to tackle. My hope is that the new superintendent is up to the job. If only the AISD board had decided to expand its search far and wide.

Beginning a new gig

I am proud to announce that I am starting with yet another blank slate. So . . . I believe I will announce it.

Beginning next week I will be given the opportunity to share some thoughts, musings (some might call it spewage) with readers of a website associated with a university in Commerce, Texas.

Texas A&M University/Commerce operates a public radio station on its campus. KETR-FM is its call sign. The station’s website is going to include an essay from yours truly. It will be the first of what I hope is many such essays.

KETR news director Mark Haslett, a friend of mine from Amarillo who moved to Commerce some years ago, is giving me considerable latitude to write about whatever moves me in the moment.

This is an exciting new opportunity for me. You see, even though I have retired from full-time journalism, I continue to have this itch to string sentences together. I cannot stop commenting on issues of the day and the individuals who give them life.

So that’s what I will do for KETR-FM.

This isn’t my first post-newspaper gig. I wrote for a time for Panhandle PBS, contributing features for its website; Panhandle PBS is associated with Amarillo College and is the public TV station that serves the Texas Panhandle. Then along came KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, which offered me an opportunity initially to write features about issues that had been previously reported; they called it “Whatever Happened To . . . ”

Both of those gigs ended after a time, giving more opportunities to concentrate on this blog, which I have enjoyed writing for about a decade.

Now comes this latest venture.

Given that my wife and I have now settled in Princeton, we live in an area covered by KETR-FM. My goal over time is to learn enough about this part of Collin County to contribute essays on local happenings, growth trends, possible problem areas associated with the growth that is accelerating rapidly in this part of the Metroplex.

Until then I have been given plenty of room to roam. So, I’ll take my friend Mark Haslett up on his offer.

Here we go.

Amarillo has a ‘walking problem’

A retired college administrator manages routinely to put pressing public matters into their proper perspective.

Take it away, former Amarillo College President Paul Matney.

Matney is an avid supporter of the downtown Amarillo ballpark/multipurpose event venue. He spoke eloquently and passionately about it leading up to the November 2015 non-binding referendum in which voters approved its construction.

He took note Wednesday morning of the $45 million ballpark’s construction, which is scheduled to commence early in 2018, while discussing some issues at a focus group session involving potential activities for older Amarillo residents.

Matney knows a thing or two about parking, given his many years affiliated with AC, where parking — particularly at its main campus on Washington Street — has been a chronic issue for students over many years.

He spoke of public concerns stated about downtown parking once the MPEV is built. He took particular note of the 750-space parking garage that’s being completed on Buchanan Street across from where the MPEV will be erected. He also noted that downtown Amarillo has more than 2,000 parking spaces within three blocks of the MPEV. He didn’t mention the on-site parking that will be available once the MPEV is built … so I’ll do it here.

Matney then quoted one of his AC presidential predecessors, who once said, according to Matney, that “Amarillo doesn’t have a parking problem; it has a walking problem.”

Bingo! Ba-da-boom!

You got it, Mr. President!

The MPEV will continue to have its critics. I understand their concern, even though I fear they aren’t looking at the bigger picture. They look at potholes in the street wonder why the city won’t fix them when it is devoting so much attention to the MPEV and other downtown projects. It’s kind of an apples-oranges deal.

I do believe, though, that the pro-MPEV contingent of business, civic and political leaders need to keep Paul Matney’s phone number on their speed-dial. When questions arise about the MPEV, just call him and ask him for his take on them.

He’ll set anyone straight.

Vote early for city election? No thanks … I’ll wait

Social media are buzzing with pleas from the bevy of Amarillo City Council, Amarillo College, and Amarillo school board candidates for residents to vote early.

I am not taking the bait. Per my custom, I am going to wait until May 6, Election Day.

I’m a sucker for tradition. I’d even call it a bit of pageantry. I like going to the polling place on Election Day to chat with other voters. There won’t be a huge crowds at my polling place, which usually is at Arden Road Baptist Church. There won’t be much chance to hobnob with other folks about having to wait in long lines … blah, blah, blah.

I’ll wait, though, to make my statement.

I’ve made up my mind for the City Council. I’m getting closer to deciding how I intend to vote for Amarillo College’s Board of Regents. I live in the Canyon Independent School District, but there’s no election, given that no one filed to challenge the incumbents who serve on the CISD board.

My reason for waiting, though, is a bit more, um, sinister.

I don’t want to be surprised in the final 10 days of a campaign by something seriously negative coming out about the candidate for whom I have cast my vote. Thus, I wait until the last day.

The City Council campaign is beginning to produce a smattering of negativity, to which I’ve alluded already in this forum. I’m a bit annoyed at the naysayers who keep yapping about how much money is being spent for an office that pays a lousy 10 bucks per public meeting.

Big bleeping deal?

My slate of City Council candidates looks solid to me. I’m sticking with them.

I trust they’ll understand that I intend to wait a few more days before making my ballot-box statement.

It’s dangerous to take anything — or anyone — for granted.

Cumulative voting is here to stay

I had thought initially about using this particular blog post to argue for a drastic change in the Amarillo City Council voting plan … but I won’t argue for it today, although I intend to mention it.

Instead, I’ll discuss briefly a voting plan that will elect members of the Amarillo College Board of Regents and the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

It’s called “cumulative voting,” and it has worked well for both governing bodies.

Cumulative voting was enacted some years ago by AISD to settle a lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin American Citizens, which argued that the AISD at-large voting plan made it too difficult for Latinos to get elected to the board. AISD settled with LULAC and came up with this cumulative plan.

It’s an interesting concept.

If a governing board has, say, three seats up for election, voters can opt to bunch up their votes in any combination they choose. They can cast all  three votes for one candidate; they can parcel them out, casting two ballots for one candidate and one for another; or they can cast one vote apiece for each candidate. The number of votes they cast match the number of seats up for election.

Cumulative voting has worked well for AISD and for AC. It has produced a level of diversity among the respective governing boards. It enables voters in a particular neighborhood to rally around one of their own by allowing for one candidate to collect a greater portion of votes.

Amarillo City Council continues to have its at-large voting plan. The council elects candidates to fill individual places. Voters cast ballots for the candidate of their choice for each place. All council members represent the same citywide constituency, the same as the mayor. The city’s at-large plan has the effect of diminishing the power of the mayor, who is the presiding officer of the City Council in name only.

Should the city change its voting plan? I’ve argued already on this blog that my longtime opposition to any change has softened. I wouldn’t object to a change, such as expanding the council from five to seven seats and then electing two council members — along with the mayor — at-large, while electing four others from wards/precincts.

The city’s plan will likely remain intact for the foreseeable future — if not even longer than that.

Amarillo College and Amarillo ISD, though, are continuing on their own paths to electoral reform that I find quite appealing.

They would do well, though, to explain it clearly and completely to their constituents how it works.

Amarillo’s baseball future might get brighter

Paul Matney pitched hard for approval of a downtown ballpark, reciting his belief that Amarillo is, indeed, a “baseball town.”

The retired Amarillo College president walked the point for approval of the multipurpose event venue in a nonbinding municipal referendum in November 2015. Amarillo voters listened and approved the MPEV by a narrow margin.

Now the real hard part might be coming to a fruitful conclusion for the city. It well might come in the form of a signed agreement to bring a AA baseball franchise to Amarillo — on the provision that the city proceed with construction of the MPEV.

Or … we might be getting ahead of ourselves.

City Councilman Randy Burkett wears another hat as a member of the Local Government Corporation that’s seeking to negotiate a deal to bring a team that currently plays ball in San Antonio. He sent out a message that suggested that a deal might be struck by Feb. 1.

Not so fast, said Jerry Hodge, chairman of the LGC board. The deal won’t be done by then and Hodge — a former Amarillo mayor — said he is “ashamed” of Burkett for speaking prematurely.

I want to embrace the Matney view of Amarillo returning to its baseball roots. Its unaffiliated baseball team has abandoned this city, which used to be home to franchises affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. The AirHogs left because of the rotten condition of Potter County Memorial Stadium, the venue known formerly as the Dilla Villa.

There appears to be a complicated set of negotiations going on. San Antonio is trying to bring a AAA team to replace the AA team that is slated to move out. The AA San Antonio Missions have indicated a desire to move to Amarillo.

Meanwhile, the LGC is seeking to nail that down, at which point the city hopes to begin construction on the MPEV that Matney and others worked so hard to win voter approval more than a year ago.

Before we can see an organization signing up to play hardball in Amarillo, it appears there needs to be some procedural work done. It might have to start with reeling in a city councilman who is getting ahead of himself and the rest of the city’s negotiating team.

I want Amarillo to have minor-league baseball. I want it to land a team that will play ball in a shiny new ballpark downtown. I want Paul Matney’s vision to become a reality.

But first, let’s all get on the same page.