Tag Archives: Amarillo

Regional commentary: it’s spreading!

I am so sorry to report that Amarillo and Lubbock aren’t the only two communities in America where newspaper editorial policy is suffering from the urge to combine resources under a combined “regional” approach to commentary.

A friend sent me a link telling me that Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina are combining their editorial pages, that they’ll be supervised by a regional editor who will oversee editorial policies in both communities.

Here is the link.

Oh, my goodness! The deterioration of editorial autonomy is deepening.

GateHouse Media, which owns the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal recently announced hiring a guy who will serve as a “regional director of commentary.” He’ll live in Lubbock and then commute to Amarillo on occasion during the week, I suppose to try to read the pulse of the community.

The early returns aren’t too promising. The Texas Panhandle no longer has a newspaper that provides leadership on local issues; nor does the South Plains region.

As to what is happening in North Carolina, I predict a similar fate befalling those Charlotte and Raleigh. McClatchy Newspapers runs the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News  & Observer. Those cities also are even more diverse and disparate than Amarillo and Lubbock. They both are cosmopolitan cities; they are highly sophisticated. Raleigh is part of that Research Triangle region that brims with high-tech expertise; Charlotte is the state’s largest city and is a bustling financial center.

The release I read about the N.C.-merger reads, in part: The move is the latest in a series of changes that combine McClatchy’s North Carolina operations. Presumably, this will mean the board will focus more on statewide news and less on local news specific to Charlotte or Raleigh.

There you have it . . . more than likely. Both communities’ newspaper editorial pages are likely going to look away from those issues of specific interest or concern to them individually.

Oh, the demise of newspaper editorial leadership continues. It is painful for this former opinion writer/editor to watch.

Time of My Life, Part 12: Whom or whether to ‘endorse’

We have entered an era of enhanced distrust or mistrust of the media. That wasn’t always the case and I was proud to practice a craft that the public held in much higher regard than it does now.

We weren’t universally adored and admired, but come election time we had politicians lining up — quite literally — waiting for a chance to be interviewed by those of us who comprised an “editorial board.” They sought our “endorsement” for the campaign they were waging for whatever public office was on the line.

It’s a bit different these days. Politicians are forgoing those meetings with editorial boards. The most memorable “snub” occurred in 2010 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided he wouldn’t speak to any editorial boards in the state. He said he preferred to take his re-election message “directly to the people.” We got the message. What did we do? The Amarillo Globe-News decided to invite his Democratic Party challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White, to talk to us. White accepted. He came to Amarillo and sat down for an hour or so talking about issues affecting his campaign and the state.

The paper then recommended White for election as governor. We were far from alone. However, judging from the response we got from our readers, you would have thought we had just endorsed Satan himself. The anger was palpable based on the mail we got from our heavily Republican-leaning readership.

It didn’t matter. Gov. Perry was re-elected in a breeze. And he established a trend for others to follow:

Ernst follows Perry model: Who needs editorial boards?

One of the more fascinating after effects of these editorial endorsement interviews — particularly with candidates running for local offices — was that every election cycle proved to be a learning experience for me. I always learned something at some level about the community where I lived that I didn’t know. Whether it was in Oregon City, Ore., or Beaumont or Amarillo in Texas, I learned something new about the community.

I was able to interview candidates who were invested deeply in their communities and they would share their often heartfelt experiences growing up there. I tried to take something new away from those encounters. Did I learn all there was to know about Clackamas County, Ore., or the Golden Triangle or the High Plains region? No. However, I did know a lot more about all those areas when I left them than I knew going in.

I was privileged to meet a future president of the United States, U.S. senators, members of the U.S. House, movers and shakers of all stripes, men and women who wanted to serve on city councils, or county commissions, they sought legislative office, various statewide public offices, school boards . . . you name it, we met ’em.

It always was a privilege to get to know these individuals, even those who weren’t serious in their quest. Believe me, we encountered our share of those as well.

They were willing to subject themselves to the grilling we provided them. They withstood our sometimes-difficult questions. There is something good to be said about them, too — and the process in which we all took part.

‘One-sided opinion’? Is there any other kind?

This blog of mine features lots of opinion, most of it is mine. I don’t hide my political bias. It is out there for all to see. You either agree or disagree with it.

I received a comment on the blog from an occasional reader (I am going to presume) who disagreed with my view on how Donald J. Trump might be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. This critic finished the comment by saying:

I’m glad I’m not subjected to your one-sided opinion on a regular basis but, blessed to live in a country where you spew it I guess.

I appreciate the comment, but I am going to ask my critic through this forum: Is there any other kind of opinion than “one-sided opinion”? 

That’s the nature of High Plains Blogger. It “spews” opinion. I have some strong views, for instance, on the fellow who’s now our president. I am not happy that he’s there, so I gladly exercise my constitutional right to express my displeasure over his election and over the manner in which he attempts to govern this great country.

Back when I was toiling in my craft of daily opinion writing and editing, I occasionally would receive comments that came in the form of a compliment. They would allude to my “balanced” approach to opinion-writing. I never quite knew how to react to such a statement. By “balanced,” I wondered if the person implied I was wishy-washy.

I wrote regular signed columns for two Texas newspapers, in Beaumont and then in Amarillo, where my career ended. In both places, I wrote in two voices. When I wrote editorials for the newspaper, I recited the “company line.” I wrote editorials that comported with the consensus of the editorial board, which in Beaumont comprised me, the executive editor and the publisher; in Amarillo, the “ed board” included myself, an editorial staff writer and the publisher.

When I wrote my columns, the publishers and the executive editor to whom I reported (in Beaumont) allowed me to write in my own voice, which usually differed in varying degrees with the editorial policy espoused by the newspaper.

Perhaps that’s what they meant when they said my approach was “balanced.” I don’t know.

I do know that the description of “one-sided opinion” is, um, a redundant phrase. Of course it’s one-sided! It’s what I believe.

I’ll keep offering more one-sided opinions on a whole array of topics for as long as I’m able to string sentences together.

To the critic who doesn’t read my spewage regularly, thank you for your comment. I hope to hear more from you.

Happy Trails, Part 129: Those stress wrinkles are gone!

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my face in the mirror, but of late I have noticed something that’s missing from my homely mug.

It’s what I guess I should call “stress wrinkles.”

My late Aunt Verna used to tease me about a crease between my eyebrows that I never could seem to hide when I was working for a living. Other members of my family had noticed it, too. They rarely said anything. Aunt Verna, though, was unafraid to speak her mind.

I notice their absence when I get up in the morning and then through the day when I have occasion to wash my hands or splash water on my face.

Yep, work had this way of making me scrunch up my face as I stressed out over deadlines, or an irate reader of an editorial or a column I wrote for one of the newspapers where I worked.

I guess I brought it home with me at the end of a long and occasionally stressful day. My wife would notice that crease in my forehead. She might say something about my day or … she might just leave well enough alone.

That goofy stress wrinkle was the only tangible/visible result of the craft I pursued for 37 years. My blood pressure hasn’t risen terribly, unlike what has happened to friends of mine.

One dear friend of ours once worked for an organization in Amarillo, during which time she suffered from acute hypertension. She was so worried about the terrible spike in her blood pressure, she was prescribed some high-potency antidote for it.

Then she quit her job. The result? Her blood pressure returned to normal … immediately! Our friend ditched the high-powered meds and has lived happily ever after since.

When we have returned to Amarillo, one of the common greetings my wife and I hear is how “relaxed” we look, how “happy” we appear to be and how free we seem to be of the stress of working.

No kidding? Yep. Retirement is, shall we say, OK in my book.

You can see it in my face.

More road work on the way

I guess I thought wrong.

I had hoped to have moved away from incessant street, road and highway construction when we relocated this past spring from Amarillo to Fairview.

Silly me.

The midterm election this week included a three-part bond issue for Collin County residents to consider. Two of the parts called for expenditure of several hundred millions of dollars to improve and build new streets and highways in the county. The third part seemed at first blush to be somewhat counterintuitive: It calls for parks and open spaces to deal with expected skyrocketing population growth in Collin County. Why might that be counterintuitive? Growth means more housing and need for housing space; not necessarily room for parks and open space.

Collin County voters approved all three measures … and by comfortable margins at that!

I won’t complain about the highway construction. We’ll just have to find ways to navigate around it once it commences.

I do want to comment briefly on the parks matter.

I am a big believer in parks and open spaces. Thus, I am glad that voters have seen fit to approve that part of the county’s ambience.

My wife and I have noticed already on our travels through Collin County an abundance of parkways. Many thoroughfares are beautifully landscaped with grassy medians and plenty of trees. Indeed, we live on a parkway that cuts through Fairview. We enjoy driving along it and enjoy walking along the parkway with Toby the Puppy.

I don’t yet know where the county will develop its new parks and where it will set aside the open space. Collin County already has no shortage of beautifully manicured parks. There will be more.

County officials’ intent is to make Collin County more attractive to future residents. Well, it worked on two new residents: that would be my wife and me.

The road work? We’ll just have to suck it up. Besides, we’re already used to it.

Spring still the best time of year, but then there’s this

AMARILLO, Texas — I do enjoy the spring season each year. It is especially glorious on the High Plains of Texas, which can be subject to winter brutality. Barren trees, biting cold wind, snow that traps even the sturdiest of motor vehicles.

Then again, there’s the fall on the High Plains, which isn’t bad, either. We came back to Amarillo for a weekend, took a stroll around Medi Park Lake with our precious Toby the Puppy. The sun was bright. The leaves are turning colors.

And the lake is full!

Indeed, the lake we saw today is as healthy — if not healthier — than any time I’ve laid eyes on it. It’s been quite a few times, given that we lived in Amarillo for 23 years. I have seen Medi Park Lake dwindle to near-puddle status. Today? It’s brimming. The Canada geese are finding their way back during their winter migration; indeed, I wonder at times which of the geese we see at this time of the year in Amarillo are returning fowl. Hey, my mind wanders on occasion.

Water is rushing along culverts into the lake and then flowing beyond it, under Ninth Avenue and to points north.

It does amaze me how cyclical certain matters can become. You cannot predict it will happen. It just does.

Not that many years ago, Amarillo residents — along with city utilities officials — were wringing their hands as the city struggled through a punishing drought. Lake Meredith, about 50 miles north in Hutchinson County, had dropped to dangerously low levels, about 26 feet; the lake’s historic high was slightly more than 100 feet, dating back to the early 1970s. Amarillo relies on water from Lake Meredith, but then it couldn’t rely on the reservoir to quench the city’s thirst.

Wells got dug. The city pumped water out of the Ogallala Aquifer. The municipal water authority stopped pumping water out of Lake Meredith because the pipes were no longer underwater!

That’s changed. Lake Meredith has rebounded. Its level is something north of 72 feet. Ute Lake authorities upriver in New Mexico released water into the Canadian River, providing flow into Lake Meredith.

On this day, we enjoyed a brisk autumn morning walk around Medi Park Lake. The very sight of a healthy body of water is enough to make me almost consider autumn to be my favorite time of the year.

I still love springtime the best, as we come out of that dark, barren winter. In the Panhandle, it can get damn cold. You know?

Words of wisdom

Coming back to familiar haunts … and headaches

AMARILLO, Texas — We all love to return to familiar haunts. Of that I am quite certain.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I have returned to Amarillo for a couple of days. She and I will attend a concert downtown and then we will return to Fairview, where we now call home.

But returning to Amarillo almost always is a joy for me. I love the feeling of familiarity. It’s a sense of belonging. I don’t need a telecommunications navigational device to guide me from place to place. I can travel quite literally from one corner of this city to another and know my way without the aid of some fancy technological gizmo.

We’ve lived in Collin County for several months. We have returned to Amarillo frequently during that time, taking care of family matters and so forth. We no longer have many of those needs, although we do enjoy spending time with one of our sons, who still lives here.

Our sense of belonging is coming to us steadily in Fairview. We know our way around our neighborhood and a bit beyond. Getting from one end of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, however, presents a whole universe of challenges we don’t face when we return to Amarillo. I’m certain you get my drift. The Metroplex is home to about 7 million individuals, compared to around 200,000 who live in Amarillo. You get the idea.

We’re getting acclimated just fine in the Metroplex.

Now, a return to Amarillo would be damn near perfect were it not for one major impediment: road construction.

I can handle the Interstate 40 and I-27 work. The Texas Department of Transportation is rebuilding the highways that split the city essentially into thirds. The city street department, though, has many streets under repair. Getting through the construction zones is a challenge … to say the very least.

Turn lanes are closed off. Some streets now are “grooved” while crews scrape the top finish off of them. You’ve got flaggers everywhere. The city is awash in orange: cones, signs, barrels.

I know I should be patient. Indeed, I have said as much on this blog. I am doing my level best to exercise patience and maturity as I navigate my way through this mess.

It’s a chore. Bear with me as I struggle to keep my sanity behind the wheel of my car.

I still do enjoy returning to familiar haunts.

Beto crawls back into the belly of the GOP beast

Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke says he doesn’t have any pollsters on his campaign staff.

If that is true — and I don’t disbelieve him — then someone is telling the young man that it is in his political interests to spend so much time in Texas’s most Republican regions as he campaigns against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke had yet another campaign rally this morning in Amarillo, which many have labeled as a sort of Ground Zero of Texas Republican politics.

Public opinion polling puts Cruz up by a 5 to 7 points, depending on the polling outfit. I’ve noted already the view expressed by some around the state that O’Rourke’s strategy appears to be to cut his expected losses in GOP-friendly rural Texas while trying to shore up his expected majorities in the state’s urban centers in places like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

O’Rourke certainly gins up energetic crowds wherever he goes. I have to hand it to the young congressman from El Paso for the guts he shows in venturing into the belly of the proverbial Republican beast.

He appeared recently on late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert’s show and told Colbert how he has visited every one of Texas’s 254 counties. He mentioned Muleshoe (in Bailey County) by name as one of the communities he has visited, prompting Colbert to wonder aloud that a “town with the name of Muleshoe must have great barbecue.”

Whatever. It also has great people who seem willing to listen to what this outlier Democrat has to say to them.

So it is with Amarillo residents and those who live in many rural communities throughout the state.

I don’t know whether O’Rourke’s strategy will work. The polling, if we are to believe it, tells us Cruz is leading.

Then again, the pollsters told us Hillary Clinton would be elected president in 2016 by a narrow margin. Might there be another surprise awaiting us this time around?

My hope continues to spring eternal.

Embracing smart phone navigation … fully!

I have an announcement to make, so take your seats and get hold of yourselves.

As of this morning I have embraced fully the value of Internet navigation. I believe I can say I have arrived with both feet into the 21st century.

What prompted this revelation? My wife and I had to drive early today from our residence in Fairview, Texas to Dallas Love Field airport. It took about 40 minutes to drive nearly 30 miles. We had not made that drive — ever!

How did we find our way from Fairview to Love Field? I called up the Google application on my smart phone, punched in “Dallas Love Field” and then hit search. It prompted me to punch the “Get Directions” button. I did. The directions came up and a clearly speaking female-sounding voice guided my wife and me to our destination.

I know what you’re thinking. Big bleeping deal, dude. So what if you’ve finally hooked your wagon to technology that’s been around for years now?

Hey, man! It is a big deal to me!

Some years ago, a niece of ours was traveling from California to Washington, D.C. She and her husband were moving from one coast to the other. She was traveling alone in her car and she wanted to stop in Amarillo overnight to see her aunt and me. She called me on the phone. I then offered to e-mail her explicit directions on how to get from Interstate 40 to our home in southwest Amarillo.

Our niece chuckled and said, with just a hint of smugness, “That’s OK. I have my phone. I can find you.”

Now I, too, can be smug if I so choose to be if someone dares offer directions to me. That’s all right, I’ll tell them. I have my phone.

And it’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am.

Trying to shake the blues

I must admit to feeling a bit melancholy these past few days.

Perhaps you know why. My mother-in-law passed away nearly a week ago. I wrote about her just the other day. We laid her to rest Friday in a cemetery near us in Collin County, just a few minutes north of us.

This kind of emotional response is to be expected. It’s happened to be many times before at the loss of loved ones: my parents, my grandmothers and one of my grandfathers (the fourth grandparent died when I was an infant), several of my beloved aunts and uncles.

As we have done in the past, we likely are going to seek to cure this feeling of loss by sharing memories of my mother-in-law.

She lived for 93 years. She was a big part of our life for more than 20 years, notably with her retirement in 1997 at the age of 72. We moved her from Oregon to Amarillo, Texas in May 1997; she lived with my wife and me in our newly built house for about 11 years. It was the right decision for us and for her at the time.

Time, though, took its toll on her. We eventually move her into a residence set aside for the elderly. Then she needed assisted living. Finally, she moved to a nursing home, which is where she died.

I am feeling a bit blue at this moment. Yes, I’ll get over it. So will my wife and my sons, both of whom have many grand memories of Grandma upon which they will be able to draw.

I have them, too. So does my wife.

I am left merely to acknowledge what we all know to be the obvious, which is that death is part of life.