Tag Archives: Jon Mark Beilue

First-class wordsmith gets back in the game

I recently lamented the retirement of a man who has lent his wonderful written “voice” to the Texas Panhandle.

Jon Mark Beilue worked for the Amarillo Globe-News for 37 years before retiring in July from his post as a columnist. I have good news for readers of this blog: Beilue is getting back in the game, this time as a columnist for West Texas A&M University.

I want to share this bit of good news because I have used this blog to bemoan the gutting of the Globe-News — first by Morris Communications and then by the company that purchased the G-N a year ago from Morris, GateHouse Media.

WT announced Beilue’s new writing gig in a press release, which stated in part: “We are excited to welcome Jon Mark to the WTAMU family and to share his many talents with the people of the Panhandle,” Dr. Walter Wendler, University president, said. “West Texas A&M University has many interesting stories to tell, and there is no doubt that Jon Mark will tell them well.”

Read the entire WT statement here.

WT plans to distribute Beilue’s columns weekly to area newspapers. If the folks who run the Globe-News have a brain in their heads, they will make sure this fine journalist’s words are published on the pages of a newspaper in dire need of institutional knowledge of the community.

Beilue provides it. He lived his entire life in the Texas Panhandle, absent his four years as a student at Texas Tech University down the road a bit in Lubbock.

And as WT noted in its release: His talent with words is well known across the region and has been recognized at both the state and national levels as far back as the 1980s until his retirement in 2018.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Jon Mark Beilue is a community treasure. I am delighted to know that WT has decided to put him back on display.

Well done.

Journalistic jewel shines brightly

I will get right to the point.

The Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News is about to lose a superstar. He is a jewel to the craft he pursued for nearly four decades and to the community he served with wit, compassion, empathy, wisdom and occasionally with bite.

Jon Mark Beilue has let the cat out of the bag. He spilled the beans. He rolled over and squealed.

Jon Mark is retiring at the end of the week. He is walking away from the Globe-News and heading for some unknown future. He isn’t worried. He has earned whatever rewards await him. Jon Mark decided to tell the world via Facebook prior to signing off on his farewell column for the paper.

Beilue was sports editor of the G-N when I arrived there in January 1995, but it became evident almost immediately that his world view extended far beyond balls and strikes, touchdowns, three-point shots. He would make a move to newspaper columnist, where he managed to chronicle the community’s stories through the eyes and the voices of those who live in the Panhandle.

He wasn’t a Pollyanna. On occasion, Jon Mark was known to unsheathe his rhetorical dagger. If the moment presented itself, he was unafraid to take on the establishment, or to go after individuals or political groups that he thought, um, needed a whuppin’.

He built his reputation through a lifetime in West Texas, starting in Groom, where he grew up and came of age, to Texas Tech University, where he got his post-secondary education and then at the Globe-News, where he spent his entire professional career.

Jon Mark has seen a lot of change over the years. He has been through a lot of the tumult and turmoil that has plagued the media industry, particularly in recent years — and has continued to thrive.

He saw a lot of colleagues come and go during his time at the Globe-News. I am just one of them. I’ll just say that I am proud of my professional association with this man. He is a consummate pro, a man with a huge heart, and someone who possesses a rare rhetorical gift of expression.

I don’t know, of course, what he’ll say in his farewell piece that will see print in a few days. I am absolutely certain he will say it with customary class and wit.

Well done, my friend.

Long live the secular state!

Jon Mark Beilue has done it again. He has written a spot-on column for the Amarillo Globe-News that I want to share here.

I won’t restate my friend’s thoughts, other than to echo his notion that the founding fathers created a marvelous governing document that has withstood many challenges over time.

They knew that the nation’s European immigrants came here to flee religious persecution, so they wrote into the Constitution’s First Amendment that there should be no law that established a state religion; indeed, of all the liberties protected in the First Amendment, they mentioned religion first.

Here, though, is an additional point I want to make above Beilue’s excellent essay.

It is that the United States to this very day remains a significantly more religious country than virtually all the nations of Europe. Americans are more inclined to attend worship services than Europeans. I am aware that church attendance is declining in the United States, but it remains far greater than it is throughout Europe, where worship attendance has plummeted for decades.

Why is that important? Because many nations of Europe have state religions. The United States has none. The Church of England? A state religion. Catholicism is ingrained in the governing documents of several European nations.

I make this U.S.-Europe connection only because those original immigrants came across The Pond from Europe.

The Constitution stipulates that there must be “no religious test” applied to candidates for public office at any level. The word “Christian” does not appear in the Constitution.

Were the founders fueled by their personal religious faith when they wrote the Constitution? Certainly. I don’t doubt that for a moment. However, they knew better than to write their faith into the nation’s government document.

As Jon Mark Beilue writes: “Our Founding Fathers, they knew what they were doing.”

May the right university system win


My pal Jon Mark Beilue — a columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News — as usual, has laid out a fascinating critique of a growing dispute between two highly regarded Texas university systems.

One of them, Texas Tech, just announced plans to build and develop a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

The other one, Texas A&M, has fired a shot across Tech’s bow, implying it will resist the effort to build an animal doctor school in the Texas Panhandle.

Beilue, himself a Tech alumnus, has taken up for his alma mater. But he’s right on the merits of his argument to argue that A&M is better than to exhibit a petulant streak in seeking to block Tech’s entry into the world of veterinary medicine academia. A&M’s credentials as a premier veterinary medicine institution are impeccable.

But let’s boil this possible tempest down to a more personal level.

Two men are leading their schools’ efforts. They both have at least one political thing in common: They both served in the Texas Senate.

Bob Duncan is chancellor of the Tech System. He’s a Republican who left the Senate this past year to take over the Tech job after Kent Hance retired to become something called “chancellor emeritus.”

Duncan’s Senate reputation is sparkling. He was named routinely by Texas Monthly magazine every two years as one of the top legislators in the state. His job now as chancellor is to raise money for the Tech System and he gets to lobby his friends in the Senate for help in that regard.

John Sharp served in the Senate quite a while ago, from 1982 to 1987; prior to that he served in the Texas House of Representatives. He’s a Democrat, who left the Senate to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission and then as Comptroller of Public Accounts. He, too, developed a reputation as a solid legislator, although he has fewer individuals with whom he served in the Legislature than his rival chancellor, Duncan.

This face-off will be fun to watch, particularly if it develops into something more than it appears at the moment.

I hope it doesn’t grow into anything more serious. Texas Tech is entitled to develop school of veterinary medicine anywhere it so chooses. That the system brass decided to bring it to Amarillo is a huge plus for the Texas Panhandle.

My hope would be that if Sharp stiffens his resistance that Duncan could call on his fellow Republican buddies in the Panhandle legislative delegation to use their own considerable muscle to make the veterinary school a reality.

As Beilue pointed out in his essay, the value of a veterinary school to any region of this state should rise far above petty politics.




Why not play ball at MPEV?

Amarillo MPEV

Jon Mark Beilue might have laid out what could be a pivotal argument for approving construction of a multipurpose event venue — as it’s currently configured — in downtown Amarillo.

The stellar Amarillo Globe-News columnist — and a friend of yours truly — noted in an essay: “I would bet all the change in my pocket that no less than two years after construction, independent baseball would be replaced with AA Texas League affiliated baseball. From there, the MPEV could be designed in such a way as to draw other events that are the other half in making the venue succeed and attracting downtown crowds to added retail.”

The MPEV is coming up for a vote on Nov. 3. It headed to the ballot on a narrow 3-2 Amarillo City Council vote, with the three newest council members voting to place the issue on the ballot.

The crux of Beilue’s column was that the new guys “whiffed” on common sense, and that they had their mind made up long before taking the vote.

But I’m intrigued by the notion of what might happen if the MPEV design gets voter approval this fall.

As has been noted before — in this blog and in many other forum — Potter County Memorial Stadium, aka the Dilla Villa and now the Thunderhead Park, is a dump. It’s hardly more than a piece of fecal matter as far as athletic complexes go.

Is it unreasonable to believe that a brand new, shiny, state-of-the-art venue could become a magnet for the kind of minor-league baseball organization that Beilue and others visualize for the city?

My answer is “no,” not in the least.

Beilue writes: “Neither I nor most others are married to a baseball stadium as the signature piece of an MPEV, but it’s the most logical. The MPEV needs an anchor tenant, and baseball fits that.

“A Hollywood Bowl design has appeal, but its events would be in direct competition with the Globe-News Center for Performing Arts and Amarillo Civic Center Complex. Baseball is a unique alternative that would draw thousands.”

I refuse to heed the naysayers who insist that Amarillo “isn’t a baseball town.” It hasn’t been a baseball town for years largely, in my view, because that rat hole at the Tri-State Fairgrounds is a lousy place to play — or watch — a baseball game.

The ballot measure states: “Should the Multi-Purpose Event Venue (MPEV) to be constructed in downtown Amarillo include a Baseball Stadium at the approximate cost of $32 million?”

It works for me.

Fort Wayne emerges as civic test case for Amarillo

Fort Wayne, Ind., is home to roughly 253,000 individuals.

Amarillo’s population is just a shade less than 200,000.

Fort Wayne has developed a downtown convention and entertainment district that includes — get ready for it — a multipurpose event venue.

Amarillo wants to re-create its downtown district into something quite similar.


An article in the Amarillo Globe-New by my old pal Jon Mark Beilue asks whether a Fort Wayne-style plan can work in Amarillo.

I continue to see the Amarillo proposal as a net positive for the city that could turn into a spectacular positive.

Fort Wayne has made it happen, despite some serious push back as plans were being formulated. Interesting, when you consider the resistance that has developed here over a plan that looks for all the world — to many of us, at least — like a prescription for revival.

Beilue makes an important point in comparing what Amarillo wants to do with what Fort Wayne has accomplished. The cities are comparable in size. He notes the huge disparity in population between Amarillo and, say, Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, which also have enjoyed spectacular downtown revivals. He writes: “Its (Fort Wayne’s) metro area is 416,800, about 165,000 more than Amarillo. That’s not apples to apples, but is a more realistic comparison than to the major cities of Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, which have undergone large-scale downtown transformations.”

Beilue then writes: “’We came together as a community and came up with something really valuable for economic development, for downtown development and a way to retain and gain jobs,’ said Graham Richard, who was Fort Wayne’s mayor when the project was approved.”

Why is that such a difficult concept to grasp? Some folks here — and I have not accepted the idea that they comprise a majority of our population — keep looking for reasons to oppose the project.

The MPEV won’t work. The city needs to expand the Civic Center. Too many palms are being greased. It’s going to cost taxpayers a fortune.

That’s a sample of the kind of thing we keep hearing.

Are this city’s residents so uniquely contrarian that we simply refuse to fathom a future that looks radically different from our past?

Take a good look at the article attached to this blog post.

It’s enlightening.

My own takeaway is pretty straightforward: If a city such as Fort Wayne, Ind., which doesn’t seem to have that much more to offer than Amarillo can remake itself, then what in the world is stopping us from marching toward a brighter future?

Politicians cut money for schools, then knock them

Those of us who know Shanna Peeples are still a bit awestruck by the recognition that has come her way.

She teaches English at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo and has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year for 2015. A new adventure awaits her as she prepares to carry the torch for public educators across the nation.

A comment came the other day from Jon Mark Beilue, a columnist at the Amarillo Globe-News — where Peeples worked before answering her calling as a teacher — that rings so very true.

Beilue noted, while praising the work of good and great teacher everywhere, how some of the sharpest criticism of public education comes from politicians who have voted to cut money from public school systems.

Peeples, in accepting her crystal apple from the president at the White House this week, thanked him for his unwavering support of public education.


But every so often, we hear politician here at home decry public education, saying things about the quality of education our students are getting even a they cast vote to slash money aimed at improving schools.

How can they say these things with a straight face?

Oh, I almost forgot: Politicians say a lot of things without understanding or comprehending the irony of their statements and actions.

It’s good to remember what a politician — a state legislator, for example — does for the record while railing about the shortcomings of a valuable beneficiary of state government.

While we’re at it, we ought to hold those politician to account for their actions.


All good teachers deserve our praise, honor


I’m not going to spend a lot of time and cyberspace elaborating on my pal Jon Mark Beilue’s excellent commentary here.

Take a look at the link and have a listen to Jon Mark’s tribute to a fabulous public educator, Shanna Peeples, who was honored today in a White House ceremony by President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and more than 50 of her colleagues who competed for the high honor of being named National Teacher of the Year.

Shanna honors her profession, her community and her state with this high honor. And as she said today, she represents all the hardworking educators who make a difference in the lives of the students they teach.


Great work, judge, if you can get it

This thought didn’t originate with me. It comes from my friend Jon Mark Beilue, a columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News, who took note of something he saw.

I’m passing it along here.

It is that Judy Scheindlin, aka Judge Judy, I going to rake in tens of millions of dollars annually dispensing “justice” on television.


Judge Judy has been given a contract extension that will pay her an undisclosed amount of money through 2020. If history is a guide, it’s going to be for lots and lots of money.

Her Honor earned $47 million in 2014.

As Jon Mark noted in his social media post, the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, earns about $225,000 annually. All he and his eight colleagues on the highest court in the land do for a living is determine whether federal laws comport with the U.S. Constitution. They get to decide things like, oh, the fate of the Affordable Care Act, whether someone deserves to be executed for crimes they commit or whether abortion remains legal.

Judge Judy? She gets to scold people for not making good on fender-bender accident claims, or shaving their neighbor’s pet dog or cat, or absconding with a refrigerator load of food. It’s that kind of thing that Judge Judy gets to hear.

For that she earns millions.

As Jon Mark noted: Only in America …


Republican wave douses Potter County

Just how serious is this Republican wave that the GOP is proclaiming from the Tuesday mid-term election?

Consider what happened in one justice of the peace precinct in Potter County, Texas. It had been served since 1998 by a Democratic justice of the peace, who on Tuesday got drummed out of office by a first-time candidate who –near as I can tell — no one had heard of.

My pal and former colleague Jon Mark Beilue talks about this in a blog he wrote this morning.


Texas is seriously Republican. The Panhandle of our state is even more so. Democratic stronghold pockets are dwindling with each election cycle. Another of them bit the dust Tuesday.

JP Nancy Bosquez soon will be a former justice of the peace. Her successor will be a fellow named Richard Herman, a retired Army sergeant.

Potter County’s Precinct 2 long has been considered relatively “safe” for Democrats. No more. To be a Republican running for anything in Texas, let alone the Panhandle, is now to be a juggernaut. Herman won even though he’s lugging some considerable personal baggage, which includes multiple arrests on felony charges.

The Republican tide Tuesday was real. It swept out a dependable officeholder who had the misfortune of being from the “other” party.

However, here’s one head-scratching element to this story. The county commissioner from that very precinct, Democrat Mercy Murguia, was elected to a full term. She survived the GOP tsunami, while Bosquez was getting swamped.

Very strange.