Tag Archives: Beaumont

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.

Harvey’s impact will be felt for a long time

BEAUMONT, Texas — Here’s the buzz my wife and I are getting while visiting friends in the Golden Triangle: Hurricane Harvey left a lasting — but not indelible — impact on this region.

We’re hearing that many neighborhoods remain under repair. The Northwest Forest neighborhood west of the city is “like a Third World country.” Streets are under repair. We noticed huge slash piles of brush stacked up under tall timber along Interstate 10 as we entered the city.

But the city will fight its way back.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second blast in the late summer of 2017, dumping a record-setting 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour span of time. It deluged the city water system. Two of our friends told us of being without water for more than a week, while the electricity was restored in short order.

“Riverfront Park is destroyed,” we were told. The park used to be a site of outdoor activities next to the Civic Center along the Neches River. It’s now gone.

We all have read about huge fundraising efforts ongoing to assist the folks in Houston, about 80 miles west of the Golden Triangle on Interstate 10. Houston Texas all-pro defensive end J.J. Watt has become an iconic figure in the Bayou City for his work raising more than a quarter-billion dollars to assist in the repair of Texas’s largest city.

Yes, Houston needs help. The state and the federal government have stepped up to lend disaster assistance.

The pain stretches a good bit beyond the big city. Beaumont is feeling the pain brought by the storm’s rage.

I have no doubt that our friends in the Golden Triangle will recover. They will triumph. They will get on with their lives.

I’m betting, though, they’ll never listen again to the sound of rain with the same serenity it used to bring.

What’s this about ‘drizzle’?

portland rain

I hail from one of America’s most beautiful and livable cities.

Portland, Ore., is my hometown. I was born there, came of age there, was educated there, got married there, brought my two sons into this world there. It was home until 1984.

I get asked all the time, “Where are you from?” I tell them, “Portland, the one in Oregon.” Almost with fail, the other person will say something like, “Oh yeah. Don’t they get a lot of rain?”

I’ll say yes, but then remind them that the rain falls in dribs and drabs. “It usually rains three or four days before you really notice it,” I usually say. Haw, haw, haw!

Well, yesterday it rained in my hometown. It rain a lot during the course of a 24-hour day. The old 24-hour record was .86 of an inch; yesterday it rained 3.3 inches!

OK, for those of you from, say, the Gulf Coast, that’s not all that much. I recall a rainstorm in Beaumont — where we lived for 11 years before moving to Amarillo in January 1995 — that dumped 8 inches of rain in something like three hours.

Three inches of rain during a 24-hour span? In Beaumont? Pfffttt!

It’s a big deal, though, for my family and our many friends in Portland.

I might have to revise my stock answer, though, about my old hometown.

 

Rain offers new appreciation

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain beating on the front of my house.

It was music to my ears.

The sound used to be like fingernails on the chalkboard. It annoyed me. I was a lot younger then, growing up in a community known for its incessant rain.

Portland, Ore., is a lovely city. It’s full of tall timber and lots of flowers. It’s called the City of Roses and every June, it stages a festival honoring the roses that are in full bloom. The highlight of the festival, for me, was the Grand Floral Parade through downtown Portland. Mom and Dad would take us every year. We’d get there early, find a nice spot on the parade route and wait for the sounds of the drums.

It seemed to rain every year on our parade, though.

Which brings me to my point.

I hated the rain as a kid. I griped about it constantly. My parents tired of me always complaining.

Then I grew up, went away for a couple of years to serve in the Army, came home, got married and eventually my bride and I moved to Texas.

We gravitated to Amarillo more than 20 years ago.

It doesn’t rain nearly as much here as it does in Portland, or in Beaumont, where my family and I lived for the first 11 years of our Texas residency. It’s not that Portland gets a lot of rain each year, it’s that it seems to drizzle constantly. We could more rain in Beaumont in an hour than would fall in Portland in a month.

I’ve come to appreciate the rain much more now. The Panhandle drought has awakened me to the value that rainwater brings to everything. To the economy, to our ability to function as a society, to the fulfillment of our basic needs — such as quenching our thirst and, you know, bathing.

I won’t complain ever again about too much rain.

Growing up teaches us the value of things that used to annoy us.

Today, I intend to enjoy the sight and smell of the rain.

A Christmas to remember forever

When you live long enough, you develop a storehouse of memories along the way. Holidays are a special time for remembrance.

Christmas brings back so many memories for me and my family. Going back to childhood, the year I got my first bicycle stands out. My sister and I were opening presents Christmas morning. We finished opening the gifts under the tree. Dad asked us to pick up the paper and take it to the garage. We fiddled around. Dad then told us to do it. We dilly-dallied some more. Then Dad barked at us: Take it out to the garage!

That’s when we discovered our bikes. Oh, the joy!

Fast forward to the winter of 1996. My wife and I had moved to Amarillo less than two years earlier.

It was on Dec. 22 of that year, 18 years ago today, that we closed on a house we had built — or, more to the point, that the contractor built for us.

We found a lot in southwest Amarillo. Development on the street had just begun. Ours was the fourth house on the street. Work began in mid-October. The weather had been mild and dry for the next two months.

Presto! The house was done. We signed the papers. We’d made arrangements with a local moving company to haul our worldly belongings out of storage and into our new digs.

This all happened in the span of one full day, Dec. 23.

Two days before Christmas. Our house was done. The furnishings were in the designated rooms. But boxes were strewn everywhere.

We had a few Christmas packages. Our sons would be coming over.

A couple of days before we closed on our house, my wife and I went to the storage unit where our stuff was kept and she looked around and announced to our belongings, “OK guys, just a few more days and you’ll be coming out of here.”

We didn’t get the house decorated for Christmas that year, quite obviously. But we did have a tree. It was a 3-foot-tall Norfolk pine that we had brought with us from Beaumont in early 1995. My wife rummaged through some boxes and found a string of lights.

We wrapped them around the tree, placed the packages under it, welcomed our sons over to our still-box-strewn house — and had the most wonderful Christmas imaginable as we rediscovered belongings that had been in storage. Some of it, frankly, I had forgotten we even owned.

Yes, Christmas is a time for memories. I wouldn’t recommend moving into a new home so close to the holiday. Then again, I wouldn’t trade the memory of that experience for anything in the world.

 

Staying ready for Christmas

The question comes to me — and everyone else — every … single … year.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Upon making a pact with myself some years ago to avoid the “hassles” associated with Christmas, I initially found the question a bit awkward. I’d come up with some kind of semi-catchy response, although I no longer can remember what I’d say.

These days, my answer is simple.

Yep. I’m ready. I’m always ready. I stay ready. I was born ready.

In fact, my current response is taken from something a friend of mine down Beaumont way, the late Gene Dumatrait, used to say. He was always “ready” for anything. You name it, Gino was ready for it.

Back to my point, which is that Christmas is something for which I always am ready. I spend very little time worrying about anything this time of year. Indeed, the holiday shouldn’t be about getting prepared for things. I choose to take time to reflect on simple pleasures, on the many blessings I have … such as my family. I want to consider the real “reason for the season,” which Scripture tells us is the birth of Jesus.

I no longer concern myself with getting “ready” for Christmas.

I’m not denigrating others who get caught up in the hustle, bustle and sometimes tussle of this holiday time. That’s their call to make and more power to them.

Me? I’ll just go with the flow.

Isn’t Christmas a time for joy? I intend to have a joyful time of it.

 

Beaumont school system off the tracks

It pains me terribly to watch what is happening to the Southeast Texas public school district that educated my sons.

The Beaumont Independent School District is hurtling toward a serious train wreck.

http://www.texasobserver.org/students-troubled-beaumont-isd-campaign-save-teachers-jobs/

My sons came of age in Beaumont after we moved there in 1984. My wife and I uprooted ourselves from our hometown of Portland, Ore., and came to Texas so I could continue my journalism career.

It’s been a great ride for three decades.

But watching the Beaumont ISD implode is painful for me. I feel as though I have an emotional stake in the future of the school system that’s been wracked by controversy for decades.

The community was slow to desegregate its schools, doing so finally in the 1980s after the federal courts ordered it to happen. The very week I took my post at the newspaper that hired me a landmark election occurred in which the school district elected a majority African-American school board.

The racial composition of the new school board by itself was enough to cause serious apoplexy among many Beaumont residents, which testifies graphically to the racial tensions that have existed in that community.

It’s been a rough ride. BISD has been rocked by all kinds of incompetence, feather-bedding, lack of due diligence, mismanagement, alleged malfeasance. From my perch way up yonder, it appears that the district is on its last legs.

The state has all but ordered the school board to disband. The superintendent has been asked to step aside. The Texas Education Agency is poised to take over management of the district; BISD officials plan to appeal … good luck with that.

And then I see this story in the Texas Observer about BISD students working to save teachers’ jobs.

Educators always say they care about the kids. In Beaumont, that declaration is sounding more hollow all the time. The students in this case, are taking up the role of grownups in a dispute that is rapidly spiraling out of control.

Westboro loons at it again

The haters who comprise the Westboro Baptist “Church” are planning some kind of demonstration in my old haunts along the Gulf Coast.

A young soldier from Southeast Texas, Anthony Maddox, will be buried Saturday, but the Westboro fruitcakes plan to stage some kind of a prayer vigil or worship service at the same time.

http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Westboro-Baptist-Church-says-it-will-attend-4700341.php

We all remember these clowns. They hail from Topeka, Kan. Their “church” members show up at funerals for warriors who’ve fallen in combat. Their protests are aimed, supposedly, at U.S. policy toward gays. Suffice to say that this “church” feels strongly that homosexuality is a sin that must be condemned at every turn. These folks protest against gay rights at funerals, causing disruptions, showing utter contempt for the pain of family members and generally making a profound spectacle of themselves. I should add that the sexual orientation of the warrior being interred is not a consideration.

These “church” members have shown their faces in the Panhandle on several occasions since the war against terror commenced after the 9/11 attacks.

What’s happened at Panhandle services, though, has been quite gratifying. Biker clubs show up to form a perimeter around the church service, keeping the Westboro “church” members at bay.

My hope is that similar steps will occur in the Beaumont area this weekend when the good folks there lay Anthony Maddox to rest.

God bless that young man’s soul.