Days of tranquility have passed?

Surely you remember when Amarillo’s city commission (that’s what they called it in those days) would enact an ordinance and there would be virtually no public discussion — let alone debate — about its effectiveness.

From my far-away perch these days, that era might have become a relic of Texas Panhandle history.

A group of citizens has filed a petition calling for the repeal of an ordinance that authorizes the city to spend $260 million in what it calls “anticipation notes” to finance construction of a City Hall and renovation of the city’s Civic Center.

The petition appears to have plenty of legs to carry it forward. Petitioners filed it in the 320th District Court in Potter County. Now we just need to know where it goes from here.

My ol’ trick knee tells me there well might be a municipal election on tap to repeal that ordinance and send the council back to Square One in its effort to modernize and upgrade its municipal convention and meeting spaces.

I’ve been trying to figure out what has changed in the city I once called home. Is it the anger that pervades so much of our government, that it has seeped into City Hall? Is there a legitimate call for greater transparency and accountability among our local governments?

You see, voters rejected a similarly sized bond issue in November 2020.  The City Council decided, apparently, that the “no” vote was insufficient to guide its future decisions. So it sought the anticipation note funding mechanism earlier this year.

It didn’t go over well with at least one local businessman, Alex Fairly, who filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the process. He seems to be getting some traction. The petition? It drew 12,000 signatures in a blink of time.

This discussion could prove to be most helpful and perhaps even therapeutic for a city that long has placed implicit trust that its elected governing body will always do and say the right thing.

A referendum in the works?

Well now, it looks as though there could be an election in Amarillo voters’ future, according to a petition filed with the 320th District Court of Potter County.

It appears that residents of Amarillo are hopping mad at the City Council’s decision to essentially ignore the stated wishes of voters and proceed with something called “anticipation notes” to pay for renovation of the Civic Center and relocation of City Hall.

The petition was filed in the court and it sets the stage for another election to repeal an ordinance that empowers the city to issue the notes totaling $260 million to do the work on the public buildings.

Here’s the thing: the timing is horrendous.

You see, voters decided in November 2020 to oppose issuing $275 million in bonds to rebuild the Civic Center and relocate City Hall. The council’s action appears to give voters the finger. City officials want to proceed with this project no matter what voters have said at the ballot box.

This doesn’t look good.

I would be inclined to have voted for the bond issue were I able to vote in Amarillo. I also am inclined to side with the plaintiffs in this matter who are angry at what they perceive to be municipal arrogance. The city is talking past the voters by deciding to issue these notes regardless of what the voters already have decided.

I heard the petitioners gathered 12,000-plus signatures in virtually no time to call for this referendum. Doesn’t that — all by itself — send a message that ought to rattle the lamps at City Hall?

I intend to keep watching this matter play out.

Architect of Cold War end dies

Americans have spent a lot of emotional capital over the past 30 years congratulating two U.S. presidents over their role in the demise of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union.

Yes, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush deserve credit for their roles in ending the “original” Cold War.

However, I want to offer a tribute to a third world leader who today passed from the scene. Mikhail Gorbachev, the final premier of what we used to know as the Soviet Union, died at age 91.

He, at least as much as the two U.S. presidents, is responsible for ending the age of duck-and-cover drills and worries about nuclear-missile strikes from the Evil Empire.

Gorbachev surrendered his office when the Soviet Union evaporated. He turned it over the Boris Yeltsin, who then had the unenviable task of trying to turn an ironclad dictatorship into something that resembled a democratic society. It hasn’t worked out … yet!

The United States was able to win the Cold War of attrition by forcing the Soviets to build weapons they couldn’t afford. The Soviets bankrupted their economy by building nukes and all manner of military hardware they still like to put on parade in Red Square.

Gorbachev recognized what so many of his communist predecessors ignored.

So, when President Reagan stood at the Hindenberg Gate in Berlin and declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” the Soviet leader well might have actually listened on that day.

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, thanks to Gorbachev’s acknowledging he was on the wrong side of history. Two years after that? He said goodbye to the Soviet Union.

Hey, don’t misunderstand me. I stand with those who applaud Presidents Reagan and Bush for the strength they showed in waging the Cold War with the Soviet Union. I also want to applaud Gorbachev for acting on the realization that the communist experiment in his country was a monumental failure.


And I cannot pay tribute to Gorbachev’s wisdom without mentioning one of his descendants’ idiotic view that the Soviet demise was a “dark day” in the history of his country. Vladimir Putin is as wrong to want a return to that hideous system as he was wrong to presume that he could take over Ukraine in a matter of days.

Does Pujols come back once more?

I don’t follow Major League Baseball the way I did as a kid, but I am enjoying watching one of the game’s all-time greats having a fabulous “final season” to a legendary career.

Albert Pujols is back in St. Louis and is bashing the hell out of baseballs on his way to the Hall of Fame in five years — or maybe six.

He says this is the final year of a 22-season career. He has hit 694 home runs. He has more than 3,300 base hits. He struggled the past couple of seasons, but he has found his swing again.

He wants to hit 700 dingers. Here’s my thought.

What, though, might he do if he gets to, say, 699 home runs when the season ends? Does he walk away? Or does he talk to Cardinals’ head office about coming back for one more go ’round.

Think of it, he could maintain his part-time playing status but get enough at bats to go after Babe Ruth’s record of 714. He won’t catch Henry Aaron (the real home-run king) or the imposter, Barry Bonds. But the Bambino’s mark might be worth chasing.

But … if he hits the 700-HR mark when the season ends, we’ll all say goodbye to one of the all-time greats of an all-time great game.

Weaponization anyone?

Wait just a dadgum minute. Didn’t those Republican idiots who stood up for Donald Trump accuse Democrats of “weaponizing” the impeachment process during both of the impeachments that Trump endured?

Yeah, they did. What in the name of pure partisan politics is going on now with Republicans in the House saying they’re getting ready to impeach President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Vice President Harris — and perhaps even the White House chef, for all I know — if they seize control of the House after the midterm election?

What in the world would be the basis for any of this absolute horsesh**? Is it because, um, that Biden managed to pass legislation without GOP help in Congress? Or that Garland decided to issue a lawful search warrant to find documents that Trump pilfered from secure locations in the White House? Of that Harris cast tie-breaking votes when Republicans failed to join Democrats in enacting legislation designed to help Americans?

Or — what the hell? — maybe the White House chef cooked a souffle that deflated too early?

I don’t know. I do know that whenever I hear this nonsense coming from the GOP side of the great divide on Capitol Hill, it fills me with a modicum of hope that voters across the land might be able and willing to spare us all the nightmare that awaits if the GOP takes control of Congress.

A surprising bit of candor

It just flew out of my mouth the moment I heard the question: Do I miss Portland? My answer, which came without the slightest hesitation: No. I do not.

I was wearing an Oregon Ducks ballcap when we walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Frisco, Texas, the other day. The lady at the counter saw the hat, recognized me as a Ducks fan and made some comment about the hat I was wearing. I asked her where she is from; she told me Lynwood, a suburb of Seattle.

We chatted for a moment and I told her I grew up in Portland. I thought for a moment about mentioning how the Ducks have owned the University of Washington Huskies over the past 15 years of the schools’ football rivalry, then thought better of it. Then came the question about missing it and my strangely quick and candid answer.

Portland doesn’t resemble the city I knew as a boy and then as a much younger man. It’s gotten, to my way of thinking, a bit full of itself. Traffic is terrible. Streets are narrow. Real estate prices have rocketed into outer space. The lady mentioned how “quirky” Portland always has been, but that it’s gotten a bit strange in recent years. Quirky, I can handle. That doesn’t bother me. It just no longer feels like “home.”

All of that plus the fact that I am now well into my 70s. I no longer work full time.

Do I miss my family members who still live there or nearby? Yes. Do I miss our many friends? Yes … of course to both questions.

But we moved away in the spring of 1984 to pursue a journalism career that took me many places over the course of many years in Texas. We built a good life, first in Beaumont, then in Amarillo, and now in Princeton, where we settled into what we call our “forever home.”

I long have been amazed at how adaptable I proved to myself I could be when we decided to take a leap of faith some 38 years ago. That was then. I sense I am a good bit less adaptable these days.

Trump is insane

How do I say this nicely? OK, I cannot, so I will not … say it nicely.

Donald Trump is insane. His butter has slipped off his noodle. He needs to be committed immediately to the nearest nut house.

The former twice-impeached president of the United States, the nimrod who lost to President Biden in 2020, says he needs to be “reinstated” immediately to the office he lost in a free, fair and legal election. Or there needs to be another election to settle the outcome of the 2020 contest once and for all.

Trump Ridiculed After Calling for His Reinstatement: ‘Ridiculous at Best’ (

OK, let’s see. The outcome was settled already. President Biden collected 81.2 million votes to Trump’s 74.2 million votes. Biden won the Electoral College total with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232; Biden needed 270 electoral votes to win the election.

Trump continues to insist, without a shred of evidence, that the 2020 election was rigged, stolen … whatever.

This individual is nuts. He also is considering whether to run for the office again.

Lock him up!

Last hurrah for Beto?

Oh, brother, I hate thinking about this, but I just have to get something off my chest.

It is that those of us who want to see Texas Democrats break the stranglehold that Texas Republicans have clamped on the roster of statewide public office might have to start looking for even fresher faces to carry their message forward.

I am thinking specifically of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor. This might be the last hurrah for Beto.

I keep reading information about polling that puts Gov. Greg Abbott out front by around 7 to 9 percentage points, which is beyond the margin of error built into these polling surveys. It just feels to me that Beto is running out of steam.

He already came close to defeating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. He got many Texans’ hearts fluttering when he came within 3 percentage points of defeating Cruz. Then he ran for president of the United States in 2020; his candidacy never grew wings.

Now he’s making the case yet again for governor. He has been handed tremendous issues on which to campaign: Abbott’s horrible handling of the border crisis; his mishandling of his response to the Uvalde school massacre; Abbott’s fixation with blaming President Biden over every issue that flashes in front of his mug.

They don’t seem to be sticking to Abbott. At least not according to the public opinion polling.

Look, I want O’Rourke to win. I am doing everything within my limited ability to make it happen. Hey, lightning could strike! There might be something of a political miracle in the making that escapes my attention.

But if not … well, I believe it might be time for Beto to call it good and leave the fight for someone else.

Why give these rookies so much attention?

Regular readers of this blog might remember when I took a then-rookie member of Congress to task for being so damn out front on every issue imaginable. She is a progressive Democrat from New York City: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

She was, well, everywhere. At once! She seemed to defy the laws of physics. She even became known as AOC and became the most visible member of a progressive team of congresswomen known as The Squad.

OK, she’s now in her second term, along with other members of The Squad.

She has given way to another brand of congressional newcomer. This latest batch comes from the other end of the spectrum. These are the right-wingers, adherents to that thing called QAnon.

President Biden recently referred to one of the leaders of the Class of 2020 gang of loudmouths as “What’s Her Name.” The representative from the 14th Congressional District of Georgia just couldn’t stand that kind of put-down. Hey, I thought it was so good, I am going to adopt as my own rule of referencing her in this blog.

From now until I decide otherwise, I’ll refer to this idiot as What’s Her Name. You’ll likely know to whom I am referring.

I guess in a way, Rep. What’s Her Name took a page from AOCS’s playbook two years earlier. Something comes up that gets the media’s attention? Rep. What’s Her Name shows up in front of a bank of microphones. She then spews whatever nonsense she can find. Reporters scribble their notes furiously. She gets all the attention in the world … none of which, I believe, she deserves.

There used to be an unwritten rule that suggested that House members or senators needed at least a term, or two, to earn any attention.

Hah! That rule, just like so many others, has been flushed away.

Graham says riots will ensue if Trump indicted?

The English language seems to lack terminology I determine to be strong enough to condemn the message delivered this weekend by Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The South Carolina Republican said riots will explode on our streets if Donald Trump is prosecuted for breaking the law.

Did the senator call for calm? Did he offer condemnation if that were to occur? Did he call on his cult leader, Trump, to tell the shrinking base of cultists to stand down?

Hell no!

All he did was “predict” street riots would occur.

What a disgraceful comment from a supposedly serious member of the U.S. Senate!

The more that flies out of Graham’s pie hole, the less I think of him.