Tag Archives: NewsChannel 10

Happy Trails, Part 22

INTERSTATE 64, W. Va. — This might be one of the most beautiful stretches of interstate highway in the United States of America.

It reminds me of driving through Bavaria in southern Germany, which my wife and I were able to do this past September. Lush mountains tower over the roadway, which crosses many substantial rivers.

But I noticed something while blazing along the highway through West Virginia and neighboring Virginia that I want to mention here.

Many miles of interstate highway in both states — as well as in Tennessee and Kentucky — are named in memory of individuals. All of the signs we noticed identified the honorees as males. Many of the signs contained ranks next to the names: sergeant, deputy, sergeant major, trooper, officer, lieutenant, captain, Medal of Honor recipient, etc. You get the idea, right?

I was struck also by the belief that each of those names has a story. The “memorial bridge” or “memorial highway” is named in honor of someone who likely died in the line of duty or in service to the country.

The question I posed to my wife was this: Why not erect plaques near the sign identifying the right-of-way that tells us the story behind the name?

I’m not necessarily interested in knowing the details of how the individual died. But they have a story of their public service that might be interested in telling.

Who would stop and read such signage? I might.

Indeed, I once wrote a story for NewsChannel 10.com about the vast array of historical markers scattered throughout Texas and I interviewed a fellow named Michael Grauer, who is an official with the Panhandle/Plains Historical Museum in Canyon. Grauer identified himself as an avid “historical marker reader.” He said whenever it’s remotely possible he’ll stop while traveling and read about a marker that commemorates a historical event that happened near where it’s posted along a Texas highway.

I doubt anyone in authority in these states that honor the individuals will take this suggestion seriously. There might not be money in states’ budgets to pay for plaques telling the honorees’ stories. Location might be an issue.

As we continue to wind our way across the country, though, ideas like this seem worth the effort to pass along.

Searching for ‘Roadside Attractions’

sign

One of my favorite answers to the question “How are you doing?” is one I heard years ago … but it bears repeating.

“If I were any better, I’d be twins.”

There you have it. Life is good.

One of the highlights of my recent life has been the opportunity to continue writing and reporting on the community where I live. My full-time job in print journalism ended four years ago, but I’ve stayed busy.

One of the gigs has been with KFDA-TV NewsChannel 10. The folks at the Amarillo CBS affiliate gave me the title of “special projects reporter” when I started writing a feature for NewsChannel10.com. We called it “Whatever Happened  To … ?” It told stories about the status of big stories and big promises.

My bosses at News Channel 10 decided that feature had played itself out. So, together we came up with another idea.

“Roadside Attractions” is its name.

You’ve seen those historical markers scattered throughout the Texas Panhandle, yes? They tell motorists about events that happened at those sites. If not precisely at those locations, then they point you to where the event took place.

We’re going to tell the stories of historical markers. The idea is to give us all a glimpse back at our past. They’ll tell us how this region has arrived at this point. We’ll post the stories on NewsChannel10.com each Wednesday as the station airs the segment telling viewers about the markers profiled that week.

The Texas Historical Commission says the state has about 15,000 such markers. The Panhandle alone has hundreds of them posted along our farm-to-market roads, our state highways and our two interstate thoroughfares.

I’m going to search them out.

I’ll have some help in telling those stories. My friends at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon have been helpful in the extreme so far. They have pointed me toward local historians and have given me plenty of background on the markers.

You won’t mistake these pieces as being a version of “On the Road” series that the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt made famous many years ago. I’m not nearly that good a story teller.

I’ll do my best, though, to bring you slices of local history as told through these markers. They’re everywhere, man. I’ll find as many of them as I can.

Michael Grauer, associate director for curatorial affairs at PPHM, calls himself a “stopper and reader” of these markers. Perhaps we can entice more of our viewers to become stoppers and readers, too.

I want to thank my friends at NewsChannel 10 for allowing me to keep doing what I love to do. It’s been a blast so far.

Let’s enjoy the ride together.

‘Have a nice weekend’? Sure … whatever you say

Retirement

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

I spoke earlier today with someone over the phone about an interview I am trying to arrange for a story I plan to write for KFDA NewsChannel 10.

It’s a part-time gig. I don’t work full time any longer. I’m semi-retired — with the emphasis increasing on the “retired” part and decreasing on the “semi” part.

When the conversation ended, the individual on the other end of the call invited me to “have a nice weekend.”

The thought occurred to me at that very moment: Uh, sure thing … except that my “weekends” are bleeding more and more into the rest of the week.

There are moments when I forget the day. It’s not that I’m suffering from some kind of short-term memory loss. It’s because my schedule is no longer wedded to responsibilities at the workplace.

To be truthful, one of my sisters told me about this phenomenon after she had retired some years ago. My other sister still has a full-time day job, so she still has those obligations.

Me? Or my wife? We have none of that.

My wife has been retired as well for a couple of years. I’m in the process of transitioning toward that status myself.

But I do understand fully the idea that “weekends” arrive at various times during the week. Their arrival isn’t necessarily at end of the Friday workday. It could arrive on Thursday, Tuesday … any day!

I will do my best, though, to keep a civil tongue in my mouth whenever someone wishes me a “nice weekend.” They mean well.

Hey, maybe they think I’m a young dude.

Downtown’s new look is taking shape

amarillo hotel

I don’t drive that often these days into downtown Amarillo.

So, when I get there I continue to be amazed at the changes that are underway.

I’ve heard about the construction of the Embassy Suites convention hotel and about the rising Xcel Energy business center a couple of blocks south of the new hotel.

However, I have to tell you that seeing the face of downtown Amarillo changing in real time is quite the sight. I went downtown this morning to interview someone for a story I’m writing for NewsChannel 10.com.

Between the hotel and the Xcel site there is a large hole in the ground. Crews have excavated the site where the next major structure is set to rise up: the parking garage.

I understand the city has booked a major convention next year after the Embassy Suites opens for business. There appears to be more on the way to the city.

Oh, yes. There’s also that ballpark that’s yet to be built.

I get that construction of these structures doesn’t guarantee anything by itself. However, let us consider the last time we’ve seen such a flurry of major construction activity occurring in our central business district all at once.

I don’t have quite the “institutional memory” that a lot of native Amarillo residents have, but 21 years living here is pretty sufficient. I’ve seen my share of change throughout the city in my time in Amarillo.

The sight of those structures rising up downtown gives me hope that even better days lie ahead.

 

Full-time retirement inches a little closer

retirement_road

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

One of the many joys of my post-daily journalism life has been in telling folks that I work four — count ’em, four — part-time jobs.

Well, I can’t say that any longer.

I’m down to three.

Actually, you can call it two-and-a-half.

What does this mean? Well, I figure it means I’ll have a bit more time to start looking forward to the full-time retirement gig that is looming ever larger on the horizon.

Two of my remaining jobs are of the self-employment category. I work from home to do one of them, which is to edit news copy and proof-read pages for the Quay County Sun in Tucumcari, N.M. The other job requires to pile into a motor vehicle and interview subjects for stories I write for NewsChannel10.com, the website for KFDA-TV NewsChannel 10.

A third job came to an end this week when Panhandle PBS’s general manager informed me of the station’s plans to move in a new direction. I’m OK with the decision, although — as I admitted to my former boss — I am disappointed and, frankly, a little sad that my time there as a public affairs programming blogger has come to an end.

Still, I wish them well. The station is run by a good crew of energetic and (mostly) young staffers intent on producing public television programming that matters to those who watch it.

I made a decision a while ago to work at the automobile dealership only when needed: vacation or sick relief, those kinds of things. My employer agreed.

What’s left for yours truly? Well, my hope is to stay busy writing and editing for as long as I can.

My wife and I believe we are moving toward the best of our life together.

We are eternal optimists. Not a thing that has happened since we entered this new phase of our life has changed our outlook about the prospect of full-time retirement.

 

Feeling unchained these days

WorkingMediaImage

I had a marvelous opportunity this evening to speak to some nice folks about the state of play in media, politics, and the world in general.

The Potter/Randall Democratic Club asked me to offer some observations about this and that.

They figured I needed something to do now that I’ve been kinda/sorta retired for more than three years. A number of the folks there are acquaintances of mine. A couple of them were contributors to the Amarillo Globe-News opinion pages over the years, writing letters and sending in guest columns for my consideration.

I truly enjoyed meeting new folks and getting reacquainted with old friends and sharing some thoughts about the condition of our political and public policy world.

It occurred to me as I began my remarks that one of the true joys about being able to speak for myself is that I no longer represent someone or something else. I no longer am on a media outlet’s payroll, which enables me to speak my mind and to offer thoughts on this blog.

Sure, I do write for a couple of broadcast outlets these days; I write part time as a freelancer for KFDA NewsChannel 10 and Panhandle PBS, which means that I am not counted as being employed by them.

It occurred to me as I began my remarks that I am officially unfettered, untethered, unencumbered, unleashed, unbound, unrestricted, uninhibited … well, you get the idea. I get to speak my mind — whether I’m standing at a podium or offering comments through this blog.

Sure, my career as a full-time print journalist ended unhappily for me back in August 2012. I wasn’t entirely sure at the very moment I realized my career had ended whether I could bounce back. I did manage to pick myself up; I got off the deck and along the way I discovered a side of my adaptability I didn’t realize I possessed.

Thus, am I now glad my tenure at the Globe-News came to a screeching halt?

You bet I am.

North Heights getting a fresh look

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Every city in America has them.

Good neighborhoods and, well, not-so-good neighborhoods. Amarillo is just like every other city in that regard.

But there’s a bit of a difference here. Our city is governed by five individuals who represent the entire city; they’re all elected at-large. So, when residents of one part of the city feel as though their neighborhoods are being neglected, they tend to point the finger at the City Council and accuse its members of favoring other parts of the city.

It’s been on-going in Amarillo since, oh, probably The Flood.

Amarillo is now launching — one should hope — a concerted effort to revive, rejuvenate and rediscover the North Heights neighborhood.

It’s one of those areas of the city where residents have felt a bit neglected.

Does this effort require a huge change in local government attitude? The fellows who sit on the City Council say “no.” The city always has been equally concerned about all the neighborhoods, not just those with the more expensive homes or those with the leafy streets.

The Heights is long overdue for a serious makeover. The goal is to make residents proud of where they live.

City officials have planned a series of public meetings with residents. They want to hear from residents what they want. As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported: “It’s really key to get their input because it’s their input that is going to help us get to where we want to be for this neighborhood,” said City of Amarillo Planning Director Kelley Shaw. “It’s their neighborhood. It’s not the city’s neighborhood, so we really need their input to make it all work.”

It’s good to watch how the city reacts to the concerns it hears. Perhaps the victory can be achieved if the city responds aggressively to what officials hear and start putting some serious effort into lifting up a neighborhood that’s felt neglected.

Think of it as a potential hedge against efforts to overhaul the city’s voting plan to expand the size of the City Council and create a single-member district plan for the city.

Let’s get busy.

 

So … why are pledges for MPEV suites a bad thing?

MPEV

Here it comes. Some conspiracy theorists are now putting out allegations that businesses pledging money up front to use luxury suites at the proposed multipurpose event venue in downtown Amarillo are, um, buying votes.

Let’s take a breath, eh?

First, I want to make an admission. I got ahead of myself in an earlier blog post about the MPEV suites when I wrote that they’d been “sold out.” Although I noted in my blog post that no money had changed hands, the headline indicated the suites had actually been sold. My mistake.

Here’s the earlier post

Back to today’s issue at hand.

A leading opponent of the MPEV, David Kossey, wondered why the suites are being “sold” or “reserved” prior to the citywide vote on the MPEV, which is set for Nov. 3. He said that normally, the suites would be put up for the public to decide whether to purchase the suites. The implication is that businesses are pushing their way to the head of the line.

The co-chair of the pro-MPEV political organization, Vote FOR Amarillo, Paul Matney, told NewsChannel 10: “We’re finding out that businesses want to support the ballpark by committing to a suite. There’s no contract and this is not a commitment to an operator, just simply to the idea.”

So, I’ll pose this question. Why is the commitment from business interests in a venue that they want built a bad idea?

The $32 million MPEV construction will be financed with revenue bonds that the city will repay through a variety of funding sources. Hotel occupancy tax is one of them; rental revenue is another.

And, oh yes, revenue from the selling of these luxury suites is yet another payback method.

MPEV suites gobbled up

The interest expressed by business owners is what it is: a commitment to a concept they believe will benefit the city and the region. Is there some of what I like to call “enlightened self-interest”? Sure there is. They want to provide their business customers/clients with some quality entertainment. So what?

The bottom line is the bottom line. They’re helping finance an entertainment complex that its supporters believe will spur greater economic activity in the city’s downtown district.

That is a bad thing? No. It’s a very good thing.

 

 

 

First a shakeup, now there’s none

Amarillo City Hall isn’t about to break out into complete bedlam after all.

I think that’s what I read this morning.

After demanding the resignation of the city manager and the entire Amarillo Economic Development Corporation Board, two of the three newest members of the City Council have pulled back.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson is going to stay on the job; the AEDC board will remain.

The city will continue to move forward on its ambitious plans to reshape, remake and revive downtown.

What the …. ?

Did someone sprinkle fairy dust over all the principals at City Hall?

http://www.newschannel10.com/story/29497232/amarillo-city-council-no-longer-asking-for-six-resignations

Whatever. Something positive happened after that lengthy closed session Tuesday. I happen to be glad. I’m sure others around the city are as well.

Atkinson told my NewsChannel 10 colleague Madison Alewel the following: “I think we’ve got everything on a path to move forward collectively, not just as a council, or just myself, or city staff, but the community. We’re in a very good place now and I’m very pleased with that.”

The city clearly did not have to lose its chief executive officer who’s in the midst of a comprehensive downtown redevelopment program. Nor did it have to replace its entire AEDC board, which since 1989 has been using a fraction of sales tax revenue to lure business into the city.

There needed to be an understanding of what the new council expected. Did the parties reach that understanding in that closed session? Well, one can surmise that some accommodation was reached.

The multipurpose event venue remains a sticking point. Do we proceed with it? My hope is that it moves forward so that the developer already on board with plans to build the convention hotel nearby proceeds with his project.

If the MPEV gets shelved, the hotel won’t be built. The project will come to an inglorious end.

My sincere hope is that we’re witnessing a coming together and that, as Atkinson said, we’re all “in a very good place now.”

 

Was that thunder, lightning and rain that kept me up?

It’s been a good while since we had a night like the one we just experienced.

We were up and down like Yo-Yos all night. The lightning would flash. The thunder would roar. The rain would pound the house.

We awoke this morning and found another half-inch of rain in the gauge.

And it was still raining!

OK. The weather forecasters are all a-flutter over the rain. Amarillo’s year-to-date rainfall — I think — is about double the normal amount. It’s about eight times more than we had a year ago at this time.

Is the drought over? Have we turned the corner? Is it time now to start running our residential irrigation systems flat-out, full bore, with not a worry in the world?

Guess again.

The TV weathermen and women aren’t saying anything of the sort. They’re careful to avoid sending the wrong message, although they do seem to get a big carried away with their joy at the rain that’s come our way. El Nino, that Pacific Ocean current phenomenon, has returned, according to Dave Oliver, KFDA-TV NewsChannel 10’s chief meteorologist, and he thinks it’s going to persist through the summer.

El Nino’s effect is to drive moisture from the coast inland, bringing all that rain we’ve been praying for our way.

Let’s not get too excited about the drought. We’ve got that underground aquifer that doesn’t recharge at nearly the rate we’re drawing it down. It’s still going to take centuries for it to fill back up.

Still, let us be thankful and grateful for what we’re getting.

Do you think those prayers we’ve all sent up have been answered?