Tag Archives: Jon Mark Beilue

Canadian teen’s loved ones get punched in the gut?

I will have to step aside for any detailed analysis of what the Texas Attorney General’s Office has concluded about the mysterious and heartbreaking death of a Canadian High School senior, Thomas Kelly Brown.

The expert on this tragedy is my friend and former colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who wonders aloud whether how in the world the AG’s office could find that “there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that foul play led to the death of Thomas Kelly Brown.”

He disappeared on Thanksgiving Day 2018. His body was discovered near Lake Marvin. His laptop and other personal belongings were found miles away from where police found Brown’s body.

So … the AG’s office says that Brown did not die as a result of someone doing him harm. No evidence? Good … grief!

As Jon Mark Beilue said in his social media post: These findings go “beyond the pale.”

The powers that be — the AG’s office, the Texas Rangers, the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office — all need to come up with some plausible explanation for what happened to this young man.

Here is Beilue’s rant. It’s worth your time to read it:

“…There is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that foul play led to the death of Thomas Kelly Brown…”

You mean except for the fact that his body was found near Lake Marvin and his vehicle was found miles away with video evidence of it being driven that night, or that his backpack and laptop computer were found several more miles away?

Who wrote this, the Attorney General’s office of Texas or Deputy Barney Fife? Unfortunately, it was the former in an announcement on Wednesday.

As someone while with the Globe-News who wrote multiple stories on Thomas Brown, the Canadian senior who suddenly went missing in the early hours of Thanksgiving 2016, this is beyond the pale.

It is absolutely unconscionable that a reasonable person would not conclude that foul play was involved. This whole case has all but screamed of foul play since the very murky outset. Investigators said time and again they knew it to be foul play, but could not bring sufficient evidence.

Suppose the powers that be go ahead and tell the public exactly why a reasonable person should not conclude foul play was involved? Or is this just a way of throwing up your hands and saying we can’t solve it.

I feel for those closest to Brown in all of this. I can’t imagine what this latest bit of news brings. I could go on and on, but just leave it at this. To paraphrase the AG report: “Any reasonable person can conclude that someone got away with murder in Hemphill County in the death of Thomas Kelly Brown.”

Thomas Brown’s family and all of those who loved him have been kicked squarely in the gut.

Hey, AISD board . . . will you speak to your ‘bosses’?

I want to stand with my friend and former Amarillo Globe-News colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who is demanding answers from the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

The AISD board accepted the resignation of a highly valued girls volleyball coach who quit because of pressure she was getting from the mother of one of her athletes.

The coach, Kori Cooper Clements, lasted one season. The Amarillo High girls volleyball program is among the best in Texas history. What Clements has alleged is shameful interference by a parent.

The school board has remained silent. The school district’s constituents — the board’s “bosses” — deserve an explanation on what has been alleged.

What’s more, the chatter all over Amarillo implicates Renee McCown, an AISD board member, as the offending parent.

So, as Beilue has suggested, it is past time for the board to speak to the constituents. Explain its action or it inaction on this matter.

Here is what Beilue posted the other day on Facebook. Take a moment or two to read it. It’s worth your time.

***

So it’s been one week since the Amarillo ISD school board heard from an angry public at its regularly scheduled meeting, including two Amarillo High volleyball players among 10 there to support head coach Kori Clements, voted to accept Clements resignation, and then has publicly done what anyone who has been paying attention to this board expected.

Nothing.

No word of support for fellow board member Rene McCown who’s been twisting in the wind, no admonishment of allegations of her misuse of her school board position, no announcing they are looking into this troubling situation and will issue their findings as soon as possible.

Nothing.

It’s as if Amarillo voters elected a bunch of Marcel Marceaus, the famous French mime.

To recap quickly, promising young coach Kori Cooper-Clements resigned earlier this month in her first year with the storied program, and also her alma mater. She publicly accused a board member – read, McCown, who has two daughters on the team – of what appears to be greatly overstepping her bounds as a board member with regard to playing time for her daughters, and an administration who did not back the coach and played the political game of siding with the board member.

It has ignited a community firestorm that far exceeds the interest level of a high school volleyball program for the bigger picture of what appears to be a violation of the public trust of a board member, an administration that caved and a board that sits in stubborn silence.

There’s an old axiom in coaching when bad behavior, or lack of discipline on a team, occurs: “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

Since I doubt the board is coaching it, let’s just vote for allowing it to happen. Board members can stiffen their backs all they want, but what conclusion should reasonable people reach when a board’s response seems to be just wishing it would go away?

At this moment, the entire public trust of the board from those who vote is about as low as it gets. If they disagree, they need to get out more.

This is not some run-of-the-mill parental interference of an athletic program that occurs frequently. This is not a parent who works at – oh, I don’t know – Owens-Corning who’s raising a stink. No, a board does not need nor should it get involved in those instances.

This is much different. This is one of your own who has allegedly inserted herself into the process almost from the moment Cooper-Clements was hired last March and attempted to use her position for personal gain that is not in the best interest of AISD.

That demands an internal investigation and public accountability to a public that put this board in that position in the first place. It demands transparency and getting on top of this instead of sticking their heads in the nearest Sod Poodle hole. To not do that is an insult to Amarillo and reeking of arrogance.

This goes beyond the tepid statement last week of a policy that “AISD does not comment on personnel matters out of confidentiality and respect for our employees.” This is a bigger matter than that, and the board knows it. Or should know it.

So as the board continues to play the public for a fool by remaining silent and invite even more questions, and the same public is left to wonder if board members can just play by their own rules, maybe the question is exactly that: Is the board coaching it or allowing it to happen?

Kliff Kingsbury channels Forrest Gump

I want to offer a salute and a “well done” to my friend Jon Mark Beilue for a fascinating commentary on a former Texas Tech University head football coach who has redefined how one can land on his feet.

Beilue calls Kliff Kingsbury the “real life version of Forrest Gump.” Beilue knows of which he speaks. He’s a Tech grad, a longtime West Texas journalist (including several years as sports editor of the Amarillo Globe-News). The man knows his business.

Kingsbury has managed to parlay a mediocre college coaching career into a head coaching gig with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

Beilue noted this: Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave. 

That brings me to the point of this blog item. I do not understand a lot of things, and one of them is how athletic coaches can fail to do their job and still get big-time money after they get fired for non-performance at their jobs.

As Beilue points out, Kingsbury took a header as Tech coach. He didn’t win half of the games he coached. Yet he still gets $2 million for departing a job from which he was fired. He now will get another well-paying gig coaching a team of multimillionaire athletes.

Oh, boy.

***

Here’s Beilue’s essay, posted on Facebook:

Kliff Kingsbury is the real-life version of Forrest Gump. Both are likable guys that have seen timing and great fortune shine on them in their storybook life. Don’t believe me?

Start with:

1. After his record-setting career as a Texas Tech QB, Kliff didn’t really have the skill set for the NFL. He was drafted in 2003 by the New England Patriots in the sixth round. He hurt his arm, and was put on injured reserve. He was ineligible to play, but in his one year, he still got a Super Bowl ring.

2. After bouncing around the NFL briefly and in NFL Europe, he decides to go into coaching. He hooks up with Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston as quality control assistant. The next year, he’s the QB coach and offensive coordinator just in time when talented QB Case Keenum is a senior.

3. Sumlin goes to A&M and takes Kliff with him in 2012. Who’s there but Johnny Manziel, a generational college QB. Kliff I’m sure refined some of Johnny Football’s play, but Manziel basically ran around like his hair was on fire, and made plays with his legs or threw it up and let WR Mike Evans make a play. Manziel, in Kliff’s only year there, wins the Heisman.

4. Tech is looking to unite a fan base fractured by the firing of Mike Leach and the rocky tenure of Tommy Tuberville, who abruptly left. They go to favorite son Kliff, and give him the keys to the convertible, head coach of your alma mater at age 33 with a whopping THREE YEARS of coaching experience.

5. In his first year in 2013, with the previous staff’s recruits, Kliff goes 7-0, and then loses the next five. In the Holiday Bowl, Tech beats a disinterested Arizona State. Based off that, Tech AD Kirby Hocutt gives Kliff a lucrative contract extension. His $3.7 million salary is 30th highest in the country and has a huge buyout.

6. Over the next five seasons, Kliff has ONE winning season despite having a QB who will likely be the NFL MVP. He’s 35-40 overall, 19-35 in the Big 12, and by the time he was fired in November 2018, Tech was ahead of only Kansas in the Big 12 pecking order. Oh, and he’s getting TWO MILLION DOLLARS from Tech to leave.

7. Six weeks later, he signs a four-year contract to be a head coach in the NFL.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

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

reg_vet-img

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.

http://amarillo.com/news/latest-news/2015-07-18/can-it-work-here

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.

http://agntv.amarillo.com/news/president-obama-awards-shanna-peeples

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.