Tag Archives: KFDA NewsChannel 10

It’s worth asking: Is there a future for the Herring Hotel?

As thrilled as I am to watch downtown Amarillo, Texas, redevelop and revive its downtown business district, I remain perplexed about the apparent (lack of) future of a one-time iconic structure at the northern edge of that revival.

Yes, I refer to the Herring Hotel.

The Herring Hotel once was the go-to location in Amarillo. It was the center of the city’s high society, its old-money establishment. It was the place to see and to be seen.

If you needed a venue for a high-dollar party, you went to the Herring Hotel. If you wanted to show out-of-town guests the finest the city had to offer, you took ’em to the Herring Hotel.

Those glory days are long gone. It’s been vacant for decades. It has been allowed to rot and fester. It is in decay.

However, to my untrained eye, the Herring Hotel is not beyond the point of salvation. I mean, if an investor can be found to sink millions of  bucks into the rebirth of the Barfield Building — a structure I long was in far worse shape than the Herring — then what in the world is keeping such investment away from the massive Herring Hotel?

The owner of the Herring property, Bob Goodrich, once took me on a tour of the structure while I was working part-time as a freelance blogger for KFDA NewsChannel 10. We walked through the ground floor and to be candid, I was startled to see the relatively good condition of what used to be the hotel foyer.

Goodrich, a retired academician, bought the Herring for a song. He’s been paying the taxes on it for a number of years He also has been seeking someone — anyone — to take the hotel off his hands and find a new use for a building that Goodrich believes still has life left in it.

Goodrich reportedly has come close to making a major announcement regarding the Herring Hotel. There has been chatter about mixed-use redevelopment for the building: a combination of lodging, retail space, loft apartments. Then nothing happens.

The hotel sits in the midst of the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, an area that sets aside tax revenue increases within the zone and commits it to redevelopment of property and “public infrastructure.” It appears that the TIRZ board hasn’t seen much future for the Herring Hotel.

To be candid, this subtle rejection puzzles me.

I am wondering whether Amarillo can fill in a gigantic hole in its downtown redevelopment by luring a qualified investor who can find a credible use for a structure that once stood as a beacon along the High Plains.

My hope springs eternal.

AISD coach-resignation tempest picks up steam

Oh, brother. The Amarillo Independent School District plot is thickening.

An Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach quits, citing parental interference into the job she was doing. She chastises the school board and administrators for failing to back her up. The board accepts her resignation. A resident files a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which kicks the issue back to AISD.

Now a group of parents has formed a coalition and is demanding and outside probe into the mess that continues to sully the AISD athletic program, the board of trustees, its senior administration and, most sadly, the children who are caught in the middle of it all.

Kori Clements quit the vaunted AHS volleyball coaching post after a single season. Marc Henson’s complaint with the TEA named AISD trustee Renee McCown as the offending parent.

Now comes a group called the Parents for Transparency Coalition. It wants an outsider to look into what happened. Did the parent named in the TEA complaint do what has been alleged? If it was the trustee, why did the board allow her to interfere in an unethical manner? Why did the administration, led by then-interim and now permanent Superintendent Doug Loomis fail to support Clements?

I believe those are fair questions. They need answers. AISD has shown a maddening reluctance to speak to these matters in any meaningful way. Its silence likely has infuriated residents who are angry over the coach’s resignation and the reasons she stated for quitting her job.

I continue to watch drama play out from afar.

What’s next? I understand that TEA might review the complaint from Henson after the issue jumps through the normal hoops at AISD; TEA said it lacked “jurisdiction” until the school district had a chance to review the issue at hand.

As for the coalition, its founders — Tom and Kathy Tortero — tell KFDA NewsChannel 10 that they intend to act professionally while they seek “every legal remedy at our disposal” to get to the bottom of why Kori Clements quit what was thought to be a dream job.

I believe this story is a long way to go before we get to the end.

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.

Long-abandoned hospital campus might get new life

Who would have thought this was possible?

A group that took over control of a long-abandoned hospital campus has pitched the Amarillo City Council for a plan to provide about 125 low-income housing units.

The project is far from a done deal, but knowing the leader of the refurbishing effort as I do, I will not be surprised to see this dream come true.

St. Anthony’s Hospital went dark after the medical complex merged with High Plains Baptist Hospital about two decades ago. It has sat vacant along Amarillo Boulevard and Polk Street ever since. Mary Emeny, who heads a group called St. Anthony’s Legacy and Redevelopment Corporation, talked the City Council into giving its approval.

Emeny’s group has filed application for tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Emeny, a former Amarillo Globe-News Woman of the Year, wants to convert the campus into a housing complex that would provide about 125 units. I’ve known Mary Emeny for some time. She is a force of nature. Emeny wants construction to start in March 2020; she says it will take about a year and a half to complete.

As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reports: While the plan would be to serve elderly residents, the building will address other needs in the community. “We’re hoping we can put a day care center on the first floor. Daycare is a real need up in that area as well. Seniors and daycare is a natural fit,” said Emeny.

I took a tour of the St. Anthony’s complex a few years ago when I was working as a freelance writer for NewsChannel 10’s website. The former owner walked me through the structure. Yes, it is a mess. Vandals had damaged it. The building was not secure.

Emeny’s outfit has a big job ahead of it.

I wish them well. I also am hopeful that the St. Anthony’s redevelopment effort to revive a structure that fulfills a serious community need: affordable housing for those in dire need of it.

St. Anthony’s Hospital campus might get new life

As much progress that has occurred in Amarillo, Texas, in recent years, there remains much work to do to restore, revive and rejuvenate historic landmarks.

To that end, a former hospital campus on Amarillo Boulevard and Polk Street just might become the next big triumph in the city’s long-term redevelopment strategy.

Or … it might not. I will hope for the best.

A newly formed non-profit group has taken possession of the old St. Anthony ‘s Hospital complex. The hospital closed many years ago when St. Anthony’s merged with High Plains Baptist Hospital to create Baptist-St. Anthony’s Hospital in the midst of the city’s growing medical complex along Coulter Street in far west Amarillo.

It has fallen, dare I say it, into serious disrepair. I got a first-hand look at it just a couple of years ago while writing a feature story for KFDA NewsChannel 10’s website. The then-owner walked us through the campus and, to point it candidly, it wasn’t a pretty sight. The place is crumbling.

The non-profit organization, St. Anthony’s Legacy and Redevelopment Corp., is led by Mary Emeny, who comes from a family with a long history of commitment and dedication to the community. Emeny issued a statement that declared, in part, “It is a privilege to begin the work of bringing new opportunities and resources to the surrounding communities through this iconic property.”

That statement might need a bit of translation, given the rather broad and nebulous nature of its content. Emeny’s organization hasn’t yet revealed any details of what it intends for the old campus, or how it proposes to pay for whatever it will do.

I have known Mary Emeny for a number of years and I fully understand and appreciate her love of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. I am never going to doubt her ability to achieve whatever she seeks to do.

The Amarillo Globe-News named her its Woman of the Year some years back. I do not believe her energy and her commitment have abated one bit.

I wish my friend well. That old campus needs a lot of work. I have faith Mary Emeny will deliver the goods.

Do these symbols speak for a community?

CLARENDON, Texas — We have been traveling through this community for more than two decades en route from Amarillo to the Metroplex … and occasionally beyond.

During a relatively recent span of time, though, I have been struck by the plethora of religious symbols that have sprouted up on both ends of the highway that courses through the Donley County community.

Some of them are crosses, symbols of Jesus’s crucifixion. There are signs, too. They speak about God. There’s a touch of preaching in them; some of the signs speak of the “only path to salvation.” That kind of thing.

I’ve long wondered: Who put these messages out there? Did the city sanction them? I’ve sniffed around only a little bit.

Then I found a link to an Amarillo TV station that rooted out an answer or two.

As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported: A local resident, Jim Griffin, put the signs up. They are meant to predict consequences far worse than 9/11. They seek to espouse Christian belief.

Not everyone is happy about the signs, or the crosses, or the message some have construed — which is that Clarendon is welcome only to Christians.

Hmm. I don’t buy that. I’ve never felt “evangelized” when I read the signs or look at the crosses.

The signs generally speak of hope and faith. Is there something really wrong with that? I think not.

Yes, it is a curious community feature. I have noticed that all the signs and the crosses are sitting on private property. I haven’t noticed anything on the Clarendon College campus, or at the Donley County Courthouse, or at Clarendon City Hall. There clearly would be a constitutional concern were there to be such messages delivered on public property. That First Amendment prohibition, after all, does prevent government from sanctioning any specific religion.

Not everyone is happy about it. Read the editorial in the Clarendon Enterprise here.

As for non-Christians’ feelings as they motor through Clarendon, I am sensitive to that, too. However, I am unaware of anyone forcing individuals to abide by whatever message the signs convey.

I rarely stop in Clarendon for anything other than gas or perhaps a convenience snack or cold drink. I might feel differently about the crosses and the signs if a convenience store clerk were to start preaching to me.

My response would be: Talk to me on Sunday — in church!

Fritch’s top cop: an inspiration

I’ve commented already on this blog about the dangers inherent in domestic disputes, how much police officers dread responding to what’s known in copspeak as a “family beef.”

Houston Gass knows about that. He was shot in the face on Jan. 6, 2015 while working as an officer with the Pampa (Texas) Police Department. He was responding to a family beef when he suffered the grievous injury.

Gass recovered from his wound. He has since become police chief in neighboring Fritch, Texas — and he’s also been honored by Law Enforcement Today as its Citizen of the Year.

He didn’t wallow in pity over the injury he suffered. Instead, Gass used his misfortune to inspire others, to offer a glimmer of hope to those who are suffering.

KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported that Law Enforcement Today considers Gass to be a “true American patriot.”

As NewsChannel 10 noted: “A willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty and do the right thing every single time, even when it hurts,” said Kyle Reyes, the national spokesperson for Law Enforcement Today. “Houston almost lost his life and has focused on nothing more than giving back.”

That’s what heroes do. They return more than they receive.

For that, Chief Houston Gass has been honored by his peers. He honors their service while upholding his oath to serve and protect those within his community.

Thank you for your heroic service, Chief Gass, and for your inspiration to others who answer your noble calling.

Boone Pickens calls it a career … for the final time?

T. Boone Pickens is retiring.

Reportedly for the third time. Something tells me that this is it for the legendary Texas Panhandle oil and natural gas mogul.

Pickens is 89 years of age. His health has been sketchy of late. He wrote this in a letter published on LinkedIn:

“Health-wise, I’m still recovering from a series of strokes I suffered late last year, and a major fall over the summer. If you are lucky enough to make it to 89 years of age like I have, those things tend to put life in perspective. It’s time to start making new plans and setting new priorities.”

Pickens recently put his vast Mesa Vista estate in rural Roberts County up for sale. He’s asking about $250 million for the 80,000-acre spread.

To say this man has left a huge footprint across the Texas Panhandle would be to say that Donald John Trump has, um, “changed” the presidency of the United States.

Pickens’s influence spreads far beyond the Panhandle, the region that helped him build the beginning of his immense fortune. And along the way, he made his share of enemies as well as friends. He once engaged in a notorious feud with the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years until August 2012; Pickens’s beef with the paper predated my arrival there, but I heard all about it.

I am in neither camp. I am merely acquainted with Pickens. We have what I believe is a nice relationship. While working for a time as a “special projects reporter” for KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pickens at his opulent Mesa Vista ranch.

I certainly know of the impact he has made on the region and on the world’s energy industry.

My intent with this blog post merely is to wish Pickens well as he, in his own words, begins “making new plans and setting new priorities.”

You go, Cindy Stowell!

17xp-jeopardy_web1-master768

I’ve been doing something quite unusual the past few days.

I have been planning my days around a TV game show. “Jeopardy!” airs in Amarillo on KFDA NewsChannel 10 every weekday afternoon at 4:30. I’m planning to tune in once again Monday to see how a young woman from Austin does on her fifth appearance as a contestant.

Cindy Stowell has won more than $100,000 while dispatching opponents over the course of four days. Her back story is astonishing to the max.

Stowell has died. She left this world on Dec. 5, about a week before her appearance on “Jeopardy!” was to begin airing. She competed while suffering from cancer. She knew she had little time to live. So did a few program staffers and the show’s  host, Alex Trebek.

Stowell agreed to donate her winnings to cancer-related research charities.

“Jeopardy!” producers aren’t divulging how much longer Stowell will be on the show; as the champ, she competes until someone beats her.

The New York Times reported today that this show — already immensely popular — has developed a unique following as the nation watches this amazing, brave young computer programmer compete in the amazing brain-teaser game.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/us/cindy-stowell-jeopardy-death.html?_r=0

As the Times reported: While it’s not unusual for the show to establish back stories for the contestants, the viewers’ knowledge of Ms. Stowell’s condition ‘is to share a sad secret with her,’ Seth Rosenthal wrote at SB Nation.

“’I sit in awe of a brilliant woman earning every last dollar she can for the causes dearest to her; building a sum of infinite potential in the face of her own finality,’ he said. ‘I have never rooted harder for anyone to win anything.’”

Neither have many of us. This story breaks my heart and lifts my spirits … all at once. Amazing!

Anniversary reminds me of how things can work out

retirement.pic_

This is another in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

Everything happens for a reason. Is that too cliché to repeat here? Probably, but I just did it anyway.

An anniversary is fast approaching that reminds me of how life can throw you curve balls. You just have to be patient, keep the faith, rely on the love of others — and by golly, things can have this way of working out.

Later this week marks the fourth year since my full-time journalism career came to a sudden end. I wasn’t quite ready for it to conclude in that manner. It did, though.

I won’t belabor you again with the particulars, except to say that at the moment I learned that the job I’d been doing at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years would be handed over to someone else was like being punched in the gut — and the face — at the same time.

I collected myself, went home, decided in the car on the way to the house that I would quit, came back the next day, cleared out my office, had an awkward conversation with my soon-to-be former employer and then left.

My wife and I departed Amarillo that very day for an eight-day vacation back east. We had a wonderful time seeing friends in Charlotte, N.C., and in Roanoke, Va.

We came home and started thinking about what we would do next.

I was too old — 63 years of age at the time — to seriously consider going back to work full time. I knew I couldn’t get hired because of my age.

Oh, sure, employers said they didn’t consider that. I know better. Ageism exists, man.

I decided to start the transition into retirement.

I’ve been working a number of part-time jobs in the four years since my departure from the craft that in many ways had defined me over the span of nearly 37 years. I was able to keep my hand in the profession I love so much: writing news features for KFDA News Channel 10, blogs (until recently) for Panhandle PBS and helping produce the Quay County Sun weekly newspaper in Tucumcari, N.M.

Along the way I made a startling discovery.

It was that while I didn’t want my career to end when it did and in the manner that it did — I am now happy that it did end.

We’re continuing that transition into full-time retirement. We plan to travel more. We plan to be our own bosses. We intend to see this continent of ours up close. All of those plans are proceeding.

We’ll have some more major changes in our life coming up. I won’t divulge them here. Our family and closest friends know what they are … so I’ll leave it at that.

My wife has told me I seem less stressed out these days. Hmmm. Imagine that.

The Associated Press and United Press International style books always instructed us to “avoid clichés like the plague.”

Thus, the cliché about things happening for a reason seems so trite.

Except that in this case, it’s flat-out true.