Tag Archives: Texas Tech vet school

Panhandle no longer is a Texas ‘step-child’

There once was a Texas Panhandle state representative who semi-seriously thought the Panhandle should separate itself from the rest of the state because, he groused, state government ignores the region.

That state rep was David Swinford, a Dumas Republican first elected to office in 1990. I asked him about that notion when I first met him in 1995 and he didn’t exactly deny it.

Well, Swinford has retired from the Legislature. And to its credit, the legislative body has restored faith in many in the Panhandle. How? By appropriating enough money — $17 million — to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

This is great news for the region. A lot of folks are taking credit for ensuring the Legislature made this event a reality.

The Texas Tech University System is going to build the vet school, the second one in Texas. The first vet school is run by the Texas A&M University System. Aggieland opposed Tech’s initiative. Tech wasn’t going to be denied. It lined up plenty of political backing in the Panhandle and the South Plains.

Amarillo Matters, a political action committee formed a couple of years ago, is one organization that is taking credit for pushing the Legislature to act. Amarillo Matters said this on its website:

“Not only does the budget include startup funding for the vet school, but it also includes a directive for Texas Tech to move forward developing the school,” Amarillo Matters President Jason Herrick said. “This is great news for Amarillo, the Texas Panhandle and South Plains, and our state as a whole.” The school will help meet the growing need for large animal and rural veterinarians across the state. It will also increase the opportunities for Texas students to further their education without leaving the state.

“Legislative approval of the Texas Tech veterinary school is a watershed event for West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, and all of Texas,” former Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan said. “This culminates years of hard work by literally hundreds of individuals who recognized the unmet demand for rural and large animal veterinarians throughout our state,” Duncan added.

Read the rest of Amarillo Matters’ post here.

Here’s my essential point: State government has not ignored the Panhandle. Yet one hears the occasional gripe from those who think it still does. Let’s lose the attitude, my former Panhandle neighbors. The Panhandle has plenty of legislative clout and it used it effectively for the benefit of the delegation’s constituents.

I also doubt that my friend David Swinford is among the soreheads.

86th Texas Legislature about to end … for keeps, maybe?

I am putting my ear to the ground but I don’t hear much of anything coming from down yonder in Austin.

The Texas Legislature is about to call it a session. It will end fairly quietly compared to recent previous legislative sessions.

I do hope Gov. Greg Abbott refrains from calling a special session to meet later this summer.

What did this group accomplish? A few things.

  • They approved a form of public school finance reform that doesn’t respond to a court order. That’s a pretty good thing.
  • Lawmakers managed to give public school teachers a raise in pay, which the good teachers surely deserve. Was it enough? Probably not. Then again, it’s never enough.
  • Legislators — and this is a big deal for Amarillo, where I used to live — approved money for Texas Tech University to build a new school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s huge, man!
  • The Legislature approved a reduction in property taxes, which no doubt is music to those who shell out growing amounts of tax money every year. I don’t have a particular issue here, given that I’m old enough to qualify for a homestead exemption that freezes my property taxes.

All told, it was a fairly productive session. It also was fairly quiet.

A special session might still occur if Gov. Abbott can find a reason to call one. Whatever. I hope it doesn’t happen.

Legislators don’t make enough money –$600 a month plus per diem expenses — to stay on the job for longer than the 140 days mandated every other year.

Go home, legislators. We’ll see you in 2021.

Yes, the city surely has ‘changed’

My wife and I are continuing to make new acquaintances in our new home in Collin County and as we do, we routinely tell folks from where we moved.

We came here from Amarillo, we tell folks. The response is varied. “Oh yeah. I’ve been through there. Have you eaten the big steak?” is one. “Hey, that Palo Duro Canyon is really something,” is another.

We met a fellow the other day who said this, “I go to Amarillo frequently. Man, that city has changed!”

Yeah. It has. I didn’t take the time to ask what precisely he has noticed about the changes he has observed, although I did offer my own brief observation.

“The downtown district is nothing like it used to be,” I told him, “and it’s still undergoing an amazing transformation.”

Indeed, the city’s change has been dramatic.

We moved to Amarillo in early 1995. I went to work at the Globe-News’ office downtown. I was struck by how quiet it was. I learned of the “main drag” that used to run along Polk Street. The blocks between Seventh and Ninth Avenues were virtually desolate.

They are no longer desolate. There has been a tremendous infusion of business activity along Polk. And along Buchanan Street. So, too, along 10th Avenue.

There’s tremendous construction clamor occurring as crews work to finish ongoing projects. The Potter County Courthouse complex restoration has transformed the courthouse square. County commissioners have just voted to proceed with a $54 million construction of a new courts building.

And, let’s not ignore Hodgetown, the new ballpark that is getting the finishing touches in time for the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ home baseball opener in a couple of weeks.

The medical complex on the far west end of the city is growing. Texas Tech University is pushing ahead with construction of a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. Medical clinics are popping up throughout the area.

Texas highway planners are tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27. City street repair is diverting traffic throughout the community.

Has the city undergone change? Uhh, yeah! It has!

Part of me wishes we could watch it unfold in real time. A bigger part of me enjoys seeing the result of all that effort upon our occasional return trips to the place we called home.

Keep our eyes on Texas Tech vet school progress

I have spoken already on this blog about some of the damage that can be done to West Texans who depend on their state senator to look after projects that provide direct benefit to their part of the state.

I want to discuss briefly one specific project: the Texas Tech University System’s plan to build a school of veterinary medicine at its medical school campus in Amarillo.

Why mention it? Because a veteran legislator, Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, has been yanked out of the chairman’s seat on the Higher Education Committee. Seliger lost the chairmanship he has occupied for several legislative sessions.

The loss of that seat could cost the Panhandle dearly. My sincere and adamant hope is that it does not endanger the veterinary medicine school that Tech wants to build in Amarillo.

The Tech Board of Regents has signed on. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has committed tens of millions of dollars to it. The Panhandle community supports the vet school, which would be the second such college in Texas; the only other vet school is run by Texas A&M University, which quite naturally has been pushing back against Tech’s plans to build the school.

The school of veterinary medicine will provide a direct boost to Amarillo and the Panhandle. Tech has established a need for such a school, which could cater to large-animal veterinary care in a region known for its livestock.

Does the Seliger removal from the Higher Ed chairmanship put the vet school in dire peril? It must not! However, there is the possibility that the Panhandle’s lack of a voice on the Higher Ed panel could work against the forward momentum that is building for the completion of the project.

Lt. Gov. Patrick has done some damage to the Panhandle with his apparent vendetta against the region’s senior state senator. Let us all keep our eyes and ears open to the legislative maneuvering as it involves the Texas Tech school of veterinary medicine.

Vet school plan ‘coming together’

The late actor George Peppard once portrayed a TV character, Hannibal Smith, on the series “The A-Team,” who was fond of saying he loved it “when a plan comes together.”

Well, ladies and gents, a Texas Tech University plan is coming together for Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

The Texas Tech Board of Regents has authorized Tech President Lawrence Schovanec to execute an agreement with the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sets aside as much as $69 million to help finance construction of a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

Is that cool? Or what? Of course it is!

AEDC delivered a monumental pledge to Texas Tech to help move the vet school program forward. Tech is planning to build a vet school in Amarillo that will cost an estimated $90 million. It will be located near Tech’s existing campuses near the medical center complex in west Amarillo.

This is huge deal for Amarillo. And for Tech. And for the future of large-animal veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle.

The project ran into some resistance from another university system, Texas A&M, where its leaders didn’t want Tech to proceed. A&M has the state’s only school of veterinary medicine and I suppose they wanted to keep its monopoly on that form of higher education.

Texas, though, is a large and diverse enough state to accommodate more than a single school of veterinary medicine. Thus, Tech’s plan is a good fit for Texas, not to mention for the Panhandle.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reported about the May 8 decision by the Amarillo City Council to proceed with the project: “This investment by the EDC ensures the vet school will happen and also challenges industry and community partners to join in the success of making this vet school happen,” Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said at the time. “The timing of Amarillo’s investment before the legislative appropriations request will increase the momentum of private fundraising and hopefully assist the legislative funding request. Funding for the project will come from annual tax revenues, which is sales tax, recognized by the EDC. The estimated annual economic impact for the veterinary school of medicine will be $76 million annually to Amarillo.”

Yep, a huge plan is coming together. Hannibal Smith would be proud.