Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Incumbents quite often got our nod

I published a blog post this week in which I declared that the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees needs to get a serious electoral wake-up call from voters this year. The board has delivered shabby treatment to a young high school girls volleyball coach, meaning that it didn’t measure up to its public office.

Then came a question from the reader of the blog. He wondered how many times during my years as an opinion writer and editor I endorsed those who challenged incumbent officeholders.

That was what I described to him as a “tremendous question.”

I edited editorial pages in Texas for nearly 30 years: 11 at the Beaumont Enterprise and nearly 18 years at the Amarillo Globe-News.

I had the pleasure of interviewing likely hundreds of political candidates during all those years.

I told the reader of my blog that during that time our newspapers recommended the re-election of incumbents far more frequently than we recommended the election of newcomers.

Why stay the course? Well, I suppose we placed a huge premium on experience. Absent overt malfeasance or incompetence on the part of incumbents, we usually gave them the benefit of the doubt. If the communities they served were doing well economically, they quite often deserved some measure of credit for that performance.

Sure, we would go with challengers on occasion. In Beaumont, the Enterprise once recommended the election of former Beaumont Mayor Maury Meyers, a Republican, over incumbent U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, the irascible Democrat who chaired the House Judiciary Committee; Brooks won re-election anyway, but held a bit of a grudge against yours truly for authoring the editorial. Many years later, the Amarillo Globe-News recommended the election of Patti Lou Dawkins over incumbent Randall County Judge Ted Wood in the county’s Republican primary; Wood defeated Dawkins.

Perhaps the most controversial non-incumbent endorsement we made in Amarillo occurred in 2010 when we recommended former Houston Mayor Bill White over Texas Gov. Rick Perry. White, the Democratic nominee, got thumped by the Republican governor. The reaction from our readers was ferocious. But . . . we called it the way we saw it.

But over the span of time, we usually went with the incumbent mostly on the basis of the experience they brought to the office.

All of this, I suppose, is what got my blog reader’s attention when I recommended that the AISD board of trustees incumbents get shown the door when Election Day rolls around later this year.

I just try to call ’em the way I see ’em.

Why not fill high court seat with another West Texan?

I know what governors say when they make appointments to the Texas court system: They’re picking the “most qualified” jurist they can find.

Gov. Greg Abbott has a vacancy to fill on the Texas Supreme Court. It’s the seat vacated by former Justice Phil Johnson, who retired at the end of 2018. Justice Johnson came to the highest state civil appellate court from Amarillo, where he served as chief justice of the 7th Court of Appeals.

I am proud to declare that prior to Johnson’s appointment, I used the Amarillo Globe-News editorial page as a forum to call on then-Gov. Rick Perry to select someone from west of the Interstate 35/45 corridor. West Texas had plenty of qualified judges to serve on the state Supreme Court, so it made sense to select someone from, say, the Panhandle to sit on the state’s highest civil court. And, yes, I was aware that Phil Johnson had sought the job.

Texas doesn’t apportion seats on either the Supreme Court or the Court of Criminal Appeals to provide any form of geographic balance. I understand that all nine justices and judges on each court represents the entire state.

However . . .

Why not look a little more closely out west when looking for a replacement for Justice Johnson?

I am acquainted with Justice Johnson, who was elected and then re-elected to his seat on the Supreme Court. I don’t believe he would endorse the notion of apportioning these seats geographically. Although, I was given an interesting bit of intelligence from a former colleague of Johnson’s on the 7th Court of Appeals.

The late Don Reavis, who hailed from Perryton, once told me he was the 7th court’s token “rural” judge, meaning that he was selected because the appeals court was intended to have some representation among its members from the rural regions in the vast territory the court served. It wasn’t written anywhere, Reavis said, but it was just done that way out of a form of custom.

Is the Texas Supreme Court above such a custom when a vacancy occurs? I wouldn’t think so. Then again, it’s the governor’s call to make. Choose wisely, Gov. Abbott.

Where is the Texas Senate’s wise man?

I don’t know where he is at this very moment, but I cannot stop thinking about Bill Ratliff as I read about the tension building between two key players in the Texas Senate.

Ratliff served as lieutenant governor in the early 2000s. He was elevated to that post by his fellow state senators after Lt. Gov. Rick Perry moved into the governor’s office after the 2000 election of George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant in East Texas, was generally a revered political figure in the Texas Capitol. He enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support. Why is that? Because he didn’t govern with a heavy hand.

Ratliff must be grinding his teeth as he follows this stuff.

Oh, man. The mood in Austin is a whole lot different these days. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only has pi**** off his Democratic colleagues, he’s managing to antagonize his fellow Republicans. One of them is a fellow I’ve known quite well for more than two decades, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo.

Patrick is telling the rest of the GOP Senate caucus the following messages: Do it my way . . . or else! The “or else” in Seliger’s case arrived when Patrick took away the chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee and removed Seliger from the Education and Finance committees. Patrick then threw Seliger a bone when he named him chair of the newly formed Agriculture Committee, a post that Seliger reportedly didn’t thrill him.

A Patrick aide said that if Seliger believed the Ag post was “beneath him” he could ask to be withdrawn and Patrick could appoint someone else. Seliger then told a Lubbock radio host — in so many words — that the aide could kiss his “rear end.”

Patrick then responded to that by yanking Seliger out of the Agriculture panel’s chairmanship post.

Imagine any of this occurring with Bill Ratliff as the Man of the Senate. I cannot wrap my head around that.

To be clear, I do not know Ratliff. I only know of him. Just as I don’t know Patrick, either, but I certainly know of this guy.

Patrick is playing hardball. He is using his considerable power to punish one of the Senate’s more senior members because the two of them don’t view the world through the same ideological prism.

Here is how the Texas Tribune sees this saga.

The Texas Senate used to have a tradition of bipartisanship. The lieutenant governor used to govern with an eye toward enlisting support from the minority party’s senators. To think that a lieutenant governor — whether Democrat or Republican — would punish a member of his own caucus has been a heretofore unthinkable occurrence.

I wish we could find another Bill Ratliff out there somewhere. They didn’t call him “Obi-Wan Kenobie,” the wise man from “Star Wars,” for nothing.

Lt. Gov. Patrick in line for a job with Trump? Oh, let’s hope so

What little I know about Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune — and it’s really not all that much — I am inclined to believe he doesn’t toss rumors out there just to make a spectacle of himself.

So, when he wrote this in an analysis published by the Tribune, I kind of sat up a little straighter in my chair:

“(Lt. Gov. Dan) Patrick’s visit to Washington sparked a rumor that he might be in line for a post in the Trump administration — a rumor that prompted speculation about how the legislative session would go with senators choosing his replacement from among their own ranks. That hasn’t happened since George W. Bush became president and then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry succeeded him as governor. Senators made Bill Ratliff the lieutenant governor until the next election.”

Then Ramsey offered this: “Scratch all that.”

Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

Patrick met the president in McAllen earlier this week and offered to help him build The Wall along our border with Mexico. He said Texas could pony some of the $5.7 billion that Trump wants to spend.

So, what would that mean if Patrick gets whisked off to D.C. to serve in the Trump administration? That would allow senators to select a new lieutenant governor. I know one of those 31 senators pretty well: Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who I believe would make an outstanding lieutenant governor.

He calls himself a “conservative,” but he sounds more, shall we say, moderate than some of the righties who populate the Texas Senate. That is fine with me. For instance, I cannot imagine a Lt. Gov. Seliger pushing a “Bathroom Bill” through the Senate to make some sort of statement to appease cultural conservatives within the Texas GOP Senate caucus.

I’ve known Seliger for nearly 25 years. He and I have developed a good relationship. I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News and he was Amarillo mayor when we first met in early 1995. He then left City Hall and was elected to the Senate in 2004 after the late Teel Bivins received an ambassadorial post from President Bush.

I have long supported Seliger’s work as a state senator.

Would he make a good lieutenant governor? Of course he would! I realize I am getting way ahead of myself. Lt. Gov. Patrick likely isn’t going anywhere.

Then again . . . my hope springs eternal.

Tom Craddick: testament against term limits

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, whether it’s selling shoes, branding cattle . . .  or writing legislation.

Tom Craddick, a feisty Midland Republican, is about to cross the half-century mark as a Texas legislator during the upcoming legislative session. I’ve had some differences with Craddick, dating back to when I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. That was then. Today I want to say a good thing or two about this Texas Capitol institution.

He and I got crossways some years back when he engineered the ouster from the Texas House speaker’s chair of Pete Laney, a Hale Center Democrat, whom the newspaper supported. Laney was no flaming liberal as speaker and did a good job representing the Texas Panhandle while running a relatively smooth Texas House of Representatives.

Then the Republicans took control of the House and Craddick cast his eyes on that big ol’ gavel that Laney wielded. He enlisted the help of Laney’s Panhandle pals — namely fellow Republican state Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo and David Swinford of Dumas. They turned on their old friend, Laney, and backed Craddick for speaker.

We became angry with Smithee, Swinford and Craddick for depriving the Panhandle of a powerful voice . . . and we said so on our Opinion page.

Craddick sent me a testy letter in response. I responded with equal testiness.

That was a long time ago.

Laney, from what I understood, took his ouster personally. He retired from the House and became a lobbyist. Craddick, though, is still on the job, 50 years after being elected the first time.

Craddick ran the House with a heavy hand. It helped him shepherd legislation through a GOP-controlled chamber, but his tactics also created plenty of political enemies.

Since leaving the speakership himself in 2009 after enduring — ironically — an ouster from his fellow Republicans, Craddick has continued to be an effective legislator.

I applauded his work, most notably, in persuading the Legislature to impose a ban on handheld cell phone use while driving. Craddick was tireless in his pursuit of that legislation over the course of five legislative sessions. It was an odd sight to see: a Republican legislator in a heavily GOP state that endorses “personal liberty” working hard to enact a bill that critics decried as a “nanny state” measure. Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it in 2011, but then Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law in 2015.

Tom Craddick, I submit, is a walking, talking, breathing testament against term limits. He’s been on the job for 50 years and, according to the Texas Tribune, hasn’t lost an ounce of zest for the job of legislating. He’s done a good job for his Permian Basin constituents, who continue to send him back to Austin to work on their behalf.

Tom Craddick is one tough dude. Stay with it, sir.

Thank you for your service, Justice Johnson

It is with a touch of sadness and a bit of pride as well that I have just learned that a member of the Texas Supreme Court is retiring at the end of the year.

Justice Phil Johnson is calling it a career.

I’ve known Johnson for several years. I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News and Johnson was chief justice of the 7th Court of Appeals based in Amarillo. Thus, he became a source for me. We developed a nice relationship over the years.

Why the sense of pride?

Well, it goes like this. When the vacancy occurred on the state’s highest civil appeals court 13 years ago, I authored editorials for the newspaper urging Gov. Rick Perry to look past the I-45/I-35 corridor from where all Supreme Court justices hailed. I checked out the histories all the remaining eight justices and learned they all came from communities within that swath that runs through Central Texas.

The newspaper urged Gov. Perry to look westward. Johnson expressed an interest in getting appointed.

To his credit, Perry did appoint Johnson to the court.

Now, I am not going to take credit for the appointment. It’s likely no more than a coincidence. After all, Johnson did have one powerful friend in the Texas Senate, fellow Republican Bob Duncan — a former law partner of Johnson in Lubbock — who very likely made it known to the “right people” that Gov. Perry needed to appoint Johnson to the Supreme Court.

So, I’ll take all the credit I deserve for Justice Johnson’s appointment.

I also want to wish this good man well as he rides off into retirement.

Where are the wind turbines?

CASPER, Wyo. — We drove 275 or so miles today from suburban Denver to this central Wyoming community and didn’t see something I thought I’d see during our entire journey here.

Wind turbines. They were, um, nowhere man!

The terrain was perfect for them. Rolling hills. The atmosphere was, too. We ran into occasionally stiff wind almost throughout our drive.

But … we saw not a single turbine spinning in the wind during our lengthy drive, producing electricity to be shipped elsewhere or to be consumed by the locals.

I want to offer this only for observational purposes. I have no particular answer as to why much of northern Colorado or western or central Wyoming haven’t seemed to have invested in this form of alternative energy.

Now, you may spare me the notion that Wyoming digs a lot of coal out of the ground or pumps oil and natural gas. Texas also has a lot of fossil fuel, albeit no coal. Still, Texas extracts plenty of petroleum and natural gas out of the ground. It also has invested heavily in wind energy, dating back to the George W. Bush and Rick Perry governorships.

I don’t know whether local politics keeps the wind farms from springing up along this vast landscape. I will concede as well that the Colorado-Wyoming countryside is quite gorgeous.

Still, Wyoming is as politically conservative as the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains of Texas. Maybe more so.

Texas is full of these clean-energy devices. Why not Wyoming? Or Colorado?

Waiting for the wind to become part of our energy policy

SNYDER, Texas — This picture really doesn’t do justice to the subject of this blog post, but I thought I’d show it anyway.

I snapped this shot Thursday as we sped along U.S. Highway 84 on our way to Interstate 20. I intended for it to show the seemingly endless array of wind turbines along this stretch of West Texas highway.

It begs a question I have had kicking around my noggin for some time: Where is U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and why isn’t he using his new federal platform to carry the message of wind power to the nation?

I ask the question for what I believe is a valid reason. He served for 14 years as Texas governor and on his watch as the state’s leader, Texas became a model for alternative energy production through the use of wind turbines. Texas and California moved to the head of the line in the promotion of wind energy.

Think about that for a moment: Two states with wildly different political profiles had this one important energy-related matter in common!

You see them everywhere in West and South Texas. For as far as you can see — and even if you stand up on your tip toes — you see the turbines blowin’ in the wind. They are cranking out megawatts of electrical power. For every megawatt of wind-generated electricity, that’s a megawatt that is not necessarily produced by fossil fuels.

Wind energy is as clean as it gets. “Clean coal” is a misnomer, yet the Donald Trump administration keeps harping on its plan to “save” coal jobs by producing clean coal energy.

Those of us who live — or have lived — in West Texas also know that wind energy is the ultimate renewable energy source. Those fossil fuels? They’re finite, man! You pull the oil out of the ground, it’s gone forever. The wind keeps coming. It keeps blowing. It keeps providing “fuel” to make those turbines turning and making energy.

Rick Perry knows how this system works. If only he would use his Cabinet post as a bully pulpit to promote it to the rest of the energy industry.

His silence is quite unbecoming.

New state anti-texting law: no apparent deterrent

A friend posed a question on social media that needs an answer and a brief rant from yours truly. She asked whether anyone else “looks in their rear view mirror” when they are stopped to see if the person behind them is texting while driving a motor vehicle.

I answered “yes,” although I should have been a good bit more emphatic about it.

Texas legislators in 2017 finally approved a statewide ban on the use of hand held communications devices while driving motor vehicles. Amarillo already had an ordinance on the books, along with several other cities throughout the state.

To their credit, our local lawmakers backed the ban. It went to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk and he signed it, reversing the position taken by his immediate predecessor, Rick Perry, who vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2011; Gov. Perry offered one of the most idiotic reasons ever recorded for his veto, calling it a form of “government intrusion.”

So, then, are laws against speeding and drunk driving … if you follow Perry’s nonsensical “rationale.” Texting while driving is every bit as dangerous as swilling alcohol or speeding.

My rant follows this track. Since the enactment of the law, I do not sense a serious decline in the incidents of texting while driving. I see motorists constantly doing that very form of dual-tasking.

I curse them, often out loud and in a bellicose voice.

I haven’t traveled out of state in a while, so I cannot confirm this, but the last time my wife and I went beyond the state line I didn’t see any signage on the return trip advising motorists that texting while driving — or using hand held cell phones while driving — was against state law.

Not that such a warning necessarily will deter motorists from breaking the law, but … you get my drift.

There. Rant over.

I’ll now refer to a bumper sticker that once adorned a car we used to own — but which was destroyed in 2012 by a driver who rear-ended my wife while she well might have been texting while driving. The cops never revealed it to us.

Get off the phone and drive!

Nature: Mother of all that is fickle

Can there possibly be another force that is more fickle than Mother Nature?

Consider what has transpired in just the past six months.

We began 2017 enduring a virtual deluge of rain and, yes, some snow. The Texas Panhandle set records for moisture accumulation during the first half of the year. Amarillo reached its annual precipitation level before the summer had expired.

The playas were full. The grass was green and lush. Our livestock were well fed. Dryland farmers were beside themselves.

Life was good, man. Remember?

Then came October. Or thereabouts. It all stopped. Virtually nothing has fallen from the sky since.

The playas aren’t so full these days. The grass that goes dormant in the winter isn’t likely to bounce back with its traditional gusto. Those dryland farmers, the folks who depend on Mother Nature to irrigate their land, enabling them to grow their crops, providing harvests that fill our pantries with food and their pockets with cash? They’re still beside themselves — but for vastly different reasons.

The weather forecasters now are sounding borderline panicky as they report on the extreme fire danger that exists. The wind that usually arrives in these parts in March are howling. The grass that should be somewhat moist from those spring thundershowers are susceptible to being torched by the tiniest of sparks.

What are our remedies? We cannot tell Mother Nature to do our bidding. She doesn’t jump when we tell her to jump.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry took some ridicule when he suggested Texans pray for rain in the middle of an earlier drought. His view was that if we sought divine help, then perhaps we could rely on our collective faith that our fortunes would turn for the better.

They did. The rain came. We were left to wonder whether our prayers made the difference. Who can say categorically that they didn’t?

That time is at hand once again. Mother Nature’s fickleness is causing plenty of angst across our parched landscape. Given that we cannot force her to adhere to our demands, maybe we can go over her head and talk directly to God.

We need help from wherever it’s available.