Signs, signs everywhere

One of my favorite driving spots in Amarillo is eastbound on I-40, just as you come over the rise and head toward the Western Street exit.

You’re greeted by a swarm of signs. They’re free-standing signs. Billboards. Banners. Even a few blinkers.

The city has placed a 90-day moratorium on new signs until it figures out whether to impose a new sign ordinance on businesses. A sign panel has been appointed to study the issue. It’s makeup is an interesting one. It includes a lawyer, Roger Cox, who has railed publicly against visual blight; Dusty McGuire, founder of Keep Amarillo Beautiful; local clothier George Raffkind; CPA Don Marsh; and Gary Cox, owner of a sign company. I don’t know Gary Cox and Marsh, but I do know the other three.

It’s a varied panel, with wide-ranging interests and, perhaps, biases.

They should ask themselves at least this key question: Would allowing more signs along major thoroughfares, such as the aforementioned I-40 corridor, help or hinder businesses that already have signs up, not to mention business owners who want to clutter up our line of sight even more?

I keep wondering every time I make that drive: Who’s able to read even a fraction of these messages when you’re blazing by at 60 mph?

Don’t forget the Panhandle

Tom Schieffer came by this past week to carry his own torch for the Democratic nomination for Texas governor.

He’s an earnest enough fellow. I’d never met him. Schieffer served in the Legislature in the 1970s, before my arrival in Texas a quarter century ago. He also served as U.S. ambassador to two key allies — Australia and Japan.

But he made a pledge I’ve heard countless times during my 14-plus years in the Panhandle: I won’t forget about you if I get my party’s nomination.

OK, whatever.

Let’s be honest here. Candidates for these big-ticket offices go to where their time will be worth the investment. That would be the Metroplex, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Everyone in the burgs knows it, too. What’s more, because this region votes so heavily Republican, the Democratic candidates as a rule don’t care about us, and the Republicans simply take us for granted. Our fellow Texans in the Valley, which votes as heavily Democratic as this area votes Republican, face a similar sense of abandonment.

Schieffer said he’d be different. “The Panhandle is a vital part of the state, with its agriculture and natural resources,” he said.

I mean no disrespect to Tom Schieffer, but if I had a nickel for every candidate’s declaration that he or she will return to the Panhandle …

Palin earns new title: quitter

“I love my job and I love Alaska,” Sarah Palin said.

And then the rookie governor quit.

The chatterers are wondering whether Palin’s sudden walk-away from her job portends a run for higher office in 2012.

Her previous incoherence has been eclipsed by what she said this past week. She didn’t want to become a “lame duck governor” and fall into the trap that ensnares lame ducks: you know, junkets and stuff. Well, who said she had to fall into that routine? She could have, well, just stayed on the job and governed.

None of this makes any sense.

Palin talked a bit the other day about the intense criticism she received since joining John McCain on the Republican presidential ticket in 2008. I’ll concede some of it has been unfair. But the governor epitomizes delusional qualities if she believes it would get easier for her if she is considering a run for the presidency.

She ought to pick up the phone and ask the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton: Madame Secretary, tell me about your eight years as first lady and your eight years as a senator from New York. Did your critics ever go soft on you — at any point? Do you think it was unfair? How did your daughter, Chelsea, like being pilloried when she was a good bit younger than my own teenager daughter?

I hope she makes that call — and I hope Secretary Clinton answers it.

It’s not just the sex, governor

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s affair with an Argentine woman continues to make waves in U.S. political circles.

But it’s not the sex that matters.

Sanford’s major mistake was to abandon his post as governor. He vaporized, lied to his staff, which then misled the public unintentionally as to his whereabouts, only to be revealed as being in Argentina.

The Republican governor’s sexual misdeed is bad enough. He has proclaimed himself to be a born-again Christian. He excoriated a one-time president, Bill Clinton, for his own transgressions and then lying about it. Sanford has held himself up as a paragon of virtue; he now stands before us as a major-league hypocrite.

But the real problem with Sanford now is that he has to explain how he can continue to govern when he has demonstrated an ability to walk away from his job — and then reportedly spend public money to help pay for his romantic misadventure.

If it were me, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, let alone ask my constituents to keep paying my salary.

Al Sharpton, frontrunner

I’m scratching my head.

Watching this incessant, non-stop coverage of the death of Michael Jackson, I’m trying to remember when I’ve ever seen Al Sharpton associated with Michael Jackson in any way when the King of Pop was alive. For the life of me, I cannot recall a single time when Sharpton and Jackson were photographed together, or even mentioned in the same sentence.

Yet there he is on TV screens all over the world: Sharpton speaking to the crowd at the Apollo Theater, Sharpton extolling the contributions Jackson made to American pop culture, Sharpton expressing his deep sympathy to the Jackson family over their loss.

I have asked some folks if I’ve missed something, that Jackson and Sharpton were somehow best friends, but no one knew about it. They cannot remember it, either. Before he became known as a “civil rights activist,” Sharpton’s main claim to notoriety was his role in the trumped-up brutality charges brought by a young black woman against some white police officers, who eventually sued Sharpton and others for slander — and won.

It’s been said of many politicians that the most dangerous place in the world is any space between them and a television camera.

Al Sharpton wins that honor — hands down!