Category Archives: local news

An actual loop coming?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — We returned to a city we once called home and made a wonderful discovery.

As we hauled our fifth wheel toward the RV park where we usually stay when we visit, we came across a massive right of way under construction west of Soncy Road. It goes north-south parallel to Soncy.

I knew it was coming. I knew about plans to build this roadway. I still was struck by the scope of the construction work.

The Texas Department of Transportation is extending what is known around here as Loop 335. It’s a loop in name only. It is no such thing as a loop the way other cities have built them. The intent of highway loops is to allow traffic to speed around cities, allowing motorists to avoid congestion.

That isn’t the case with Loop 335’s western-most portion, the part that runs from Interstate 40 south to Hollywood Road. The commercial develop along the existing leg of the loop has turned Soncy into just another uber-busy street.  I drove it hundreds of times while we lived in Amarillo. I got stuck in traffic countless times over the years.

I want the loop extension to succeed. I am proud of many aspects of Amarillo, its economic development and its infrastructure. What has always puzzled me is why TxDOT built Loop 335 and then allowed it become just another busy street along its western-most corridor.

It’s not a loop now. It will become one eventually when they finish the work and then connect the western corridor with the newly finished and improved southern corridor.

A ‘new America’ awaits?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Take a long look at the picture contained in this brief blog post and I fear you are going to presume that this is the look of the new America.

It came to my Facebook page via Nancy Seliger, whose husband — Kel Seliger — reported for duty the other day as a state senator serving in the Texas Legislature.

The heavily armed individuals you see are on guard against potential violence at the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, where 181 members of our Legislature are meeting for the next 140 days to enact laws that govern us.

The riot that erupted Jan. 6 in D.C.? The one that killed five people and damaged the nation’s Capitol Building? The attack on our democratic system of government?

The terrorists who conducted that calamitous attack are vowing more of the same at capitols across the nation. That includes ours in Austin, ladies and gents. Thus, we have heavily armed security personnel on guard.

This is disgusting, reprehensible and is a vile statement of the nature of our political discourse in the Age of Donald Trump. Thankfully and not a moment too soon, that age is about to end. Trump will be gone from the White House.

I am saddened to presume that the anger he stoked for four years isn’t likely to subside just because Trump is no longer in power. Oh, how I hope to be wrong on this matter, but my fears continue to be fueled by FBI reports of alarm bells sounding. They could be hailing further spasms of uncontrolled violence.

Just as 9/11 spawned a new era of travel in this country and around the world, I fear that the Jan. 6 attack on our democratic system has produced a new era that requires such deterrence against those who would take political protest to these deadly extremes.

Let us pray for a return to sanity.

Good luck, Speaker Phelan

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.

Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.

One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”

Dade Phelan elected speaker of the Texas House | The Texas Tribune

What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.

I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly  legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.

“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”

Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.

I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”

Men and Women of the Year? Of course!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of the stark truths of this blog is that it hasn’t offered much praise for a newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years. I have watched it decline to a level I no longer recognize.

Then the Amarillo Globe-News did something the other day that I find truly inspiring. Instead of singling out a Man and Woman of the Year for 2020, it chose its Men and Women of the Year: the frontline medical staffs in the Texas Panhandle who have risked their lives saving others’ lives in the wake of the killer pandemic.

A no-brainer, you say? Eh, one could make that argument. Except that not all publications that bestow these honors have followed that lead.

The Globe-News solicits nominations from the public. It would gather its management team at the end of a calendar year to deliberate over who should get the honor. The newspaper would dispatch a reporter to interview the subject and those close to him and her, concocting some pretext for the interview. Then the paper would publish its Man and Woman of the Year on Jan. 1. The paper has honored its Man of the Year since 1950; its Woman of the Year since 1974.

It’s still doing so, but with a dramatically different setup than I remember. Whatever the case, the choice this year was at one time an easy call and an inspired one.

Perhaps every community in America should honor their first responders, their medical staffs, their emergency services personnel in such a manner.

The Panhandle has been staggered by the toll brought by the virus. Its acute-care hospitals have been stretched to the limit. Its nursing homes and assisted living centers have been ravaged. They all are staffed by dedicated men and women who have become in many cases “surrogate loved ones” to patients who have struggled with the COVID-19 virus. They have held the hands of patients, told them of their love for them … and then watched many of them die.

It has been heartbreaking beyond measure.

Yes, they deserve to be honored for their hard work and their selflessness. As the newspaper stated in its New Year’s Day editorial: We also know this year, that while there were others nominated for this distinction, we found none more deserving. After all, a year like no other should yield honorees like no other.

Well … done.

Is there a trial in my future?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A longtime dream of mine took a baby step toward coming true today when I fetched the mail from the mailbox.

It contained a jury summons from the Collin County Courthouse.

The dream involves serving on a trial jury. I long have wanted to perform that particular act of citizenship.

I came of age in my native Oregon. I never got a summons, not from Multnomah County or from Clackamas County, where we lived until we moved to Texas in 1984.

I would get a summons from Jefferson County on occasion, but then would be dismissed. We moved eventually to Randall County in the Texas Panhandle in 1995, where I would occasionally receive a jury summons. One time — just once! — I had to report for duty, where I joined other potential jurors waiting to be selected. Then out came District Judge David Gleason to tell us that our services wouldn’t be needed. Every other summons I got from Randall County would result in my being informed that everyone had settled so I didn’t have to report.

We have migrated to Princeton, in Collin County. The summons arrived today. To be honest, this summons doesn’t tell me if I might be called to serve on a district court jury, a court at law jury or a justice of the peace court jury. Does that mean my chances of being called might pan out? I hope it does.

I know you might think I am a bit loony in the noggin, but I want to serve on a jury. I am aware of those who seek exemptions, citing their work or their age or their physical infirmity. The only thing I can claim is my age, given that I am well north of 65 years of age now. I am not going to evade jury duty.

I know the pay ain’t great. It used to be $6 daily. They’ve kicked it up a bit. That doesn’t matter to me in the least.

Don’t mistake me as some sort of do-gooder, although I have been distressed to read over the years about Texas courts struggling to find eligible residents willing to serve on juries. I have long been curious about how jurors interact with each other and with officers of the court.

I hope I get the chance to find out.

Yea … the founders got it right!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We can thank the nation’s founders tonight for a federal judicial ruling that puts an end to a loony lawsuit filed by a loony member of Congress, Rep. Louie Gohmert, an East Texas Republican.

Gohmert wanted Vice President Mike Pence to preside over a joint session of Congress next week … and then take it upon himself to throw out the Electoral College certification that Joe Biden was elected president of the United States.

What did the founders get right? They created an independent federal judiciary! Tonight, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle tossed Gohmert’s lawsuit into the trash barrel.

I should say right here that Judge Kernodle, of Texas, is a Trump appointee. Yep, the man who would benefit directly from Gohmert’s idiocy selected this jurist, who then followed his oath of office directly and cleanly. As The Hill reported: The judge found that Gohmert suffered no legally recognizable injury.

All hail, judicial independence!

Out — and in — with a bang!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Silly me.

I had this apparently wildly unrealistic expectation that the cold, rainy, sleety, miserable weather in North Texas would keep the New Year’s revelers inside. That they would be content to cuddle in front of fireplaces, swilling hot totties while bidding an angry farewell to the most miserable year in memory.

It didn’t turn out that way.

They were out. They were blasting away with fireworks until the not-so-wee hours. They got me borderline angry. They surely upset Toby the Puppy, who was traumatized at a fireworks show we attended on the Fourth of July, 2019. He hasn’t gotten over it yet. He likely won’t ever put it behind him, either.

I can understand why these partiers braved the elements to ring in the new year. The old one was for the birds, you know. Given that I am now too old to do that kind of thing, I was hoping against hope that others would follow my lead … and stay the hell home!

Whatever, the old year is now gone. The new year dawned about like I thought it would. We didn’t see the sun rise in the morning. We knew it was above the horizon and behind the cloud cover because, well … it wasn’t dark this morning when we rolled out of bed.

With that, we’re going to take it easy again today and probably for the foreseeable future. They still haven’t gotten rid of that damn virus, so we’re going play it safe, employing what has come to be known as an “abundance of caution.”

Let’s all do the same thing. Shall we?

Happy new year!

Is right-wing wackiness returning?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The phone rang the other morning, so I answered it and it was someone I used to know a long time ago back when we both worked in the Texas Panhandle.

My friend worked for a prominent Amarillo politician and called to pick my (already picked-over) brain about the state of politics and the media that cover it in Panhandle.

She offered a chilling summation of what she believes is occurring there: a resurgence of the conspiracy theory, far-right-wing wackiness of the Republican Party. Bear mind, too, that the individual with whom I spoke worked for a doctrinaire, conservative Republican. She is concerned that the nut jobs who once belonged to the John Birch Society and hung signs calling for the United States to pull out of the United Nations are gaining traction once again in the Texas Panhandle.

Well …

After talking to my friend, who is an astute political observer, I am beginning to worry about the state of political play in the place I called home for more than 23 years.

Indeed, the region’s congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry, is retiring in just a few days. He will be succeeded by Ronny Jackson, the retired U.S. Navy admiral, one-time White House physician and current Donald Trump acolyte who adheres to the idiocy that President-elect Joe Biden “stole” the 2020 election from his man Trump.

Therein lies the apparent heart of what should concern true-blue Republicans who sit in power throughout the Panhandle. The Party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan has now become the Party of Donald Trump. Are you … kidding me?

Are they going to continue to allow their party to be hijacked by the likes of those who swill the Kool-Aid offered by the carnival barker/con man/charlatan Donald Trump?

If they do, then by golly we might be in even more trouble than my friend fears is headed this way.

Constable office produces intrigue

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There well might be a bit of intrigue building in what usually would be considered an obscure elected office in Collin County, Texas.

But these ain’t normal times … you know?

Mike “Mookie” Vance was scheduled to take office in January as the Precinct 1 constable for the rapidly growing county. Then he died suddenly. So, who did the Commissioners Court appoint to succeed him as constable until 2022, when the next election rolls around? The fellow he thumped in this past spring’s Republican Party primary, Constable Shane Williams, who was running for re-election.

Vance pulled in 62 percent of the vote to Williams’s 38 percent total. Vance beat Williams by 24 percentage points!

I should state at this point that I am acquainted casually with Williams. I don’t know him well but I was led to believe from other mutual acquaintances that he performed his constable duties honorably.

For reasons that I do not yet know, Republican voters in Precinct 1 didn’t think he was doing good enough of a job to keep him. So they booted him out in the primary.

The vacancy occurred suddenly when Vance died. County commissioners faced a quandary. They interviewed three other candidates, but selected Williams … the guy who lost the GOP primary!

The appointment was itself a bit of a clumsy affair, from what I have gathered. Commissioner Susan Fletcher made a motion to appoint Williams; the motion died for a lack of a second on the court. County Judge Chris Hill asked Fletcher to repeat her motion; she did and Hill offered a second. Commissioners then voted unanimously to appoint Williams.

Which makes me go … huh?

As the Allen American reported: “I think everyone was just wondering if there was going to be any other motions made,” Commissioner Darrell Hale said.

Hale said Williams was the best choice for the job but declined to expand on why.

I believe Darrell Hale ought to explain why Williams was the best of the bunch being considered. He also ought to explain how to justify putting someone back into an office who voters from his very own party had pretty soundly rejected when they had the chance to keep him on the job.

Longtime readers of this blog may recall that I think little of the constable’s office in the first place. I consider it to be superfluous, given that its duties can be performed by municipal and other county law enforcement employees.

This appointment surely is a noggin-scratcher.

Don’t commit treason, Mr. VPOTUS

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Allow me this brief leap of faith.

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Nut House, is filing suit to demand that Vice President Mike Pence toss out the electoral votes that Joe Biden won in the presidential election and cast them instead for Donald Trump.

I do not believe Gohmert’s lawsuit will see the light of day. Nor do I believe that even if it did that Pence would follow the advice that the East Texas lunatic is suggesting.

On Jan. 6, the combined U.S. House and Senate will meet to ratify the Electoral College vote that has determined that Biden is the president-elect of the United States.

Gohmert is actually making a treasonous proposal by filing the lawsuit. It is astonishing, reprehensible, despicable, disgraceful and patently dangerous for Congress to even consider doing what Gohmert is demanding of the lame-duck vice president, and yet Gohmert has some fellow nut-job colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle who are willing to join him in this final act of idiocy.

To think, moreover, that the good folks of Gohmert’s East Texas congressional district continue to stand behind this goofball. They keep re-electing him every two years. Go … figure.

I’ll say it once more to VP Pence: Just do your job as the presiding officer of the joint congressional session, Mr. Vice President, and make the inevitable declaration that Joe Biden is the new president and that Kamala Harris is the new vice president.

Let’s then get back to actual governance and political sanity.