Tag Archives: Amarillo

Will this action rile ’em up?

For the nearly 18 years that I worked for the Amarillo Globe-News, I learned something about the population of the city where my wife and I lived during all that time … and then some.

It took a whole lot to rile folks up enough to take strong political action against local government.

That brings me to my point: Will the city council’s decision to pile on $260 million in debt to build a new civic center and relocate City Hall be enough to fire up the masses?

I don’t live there any longer, so I don’t have a dog in that particular fight. Thus, I’ll reserve judgment on what I believe my friends who remain there will do.

Amarillo voters cast ballots en masse during the November 2020 election in rejecting a bond issue to build a new civic center. It was roughly a 60-40% “no” vote. The council, though, decided to go after something called “anticipation notes” totaling $260 million. The debt will boost the municipal tax rate about 59% over a period of time.

If you own, say, a $250,000 home in Amarillo, the tax bite will be substantial.

I’ve already implored Mayor Ginger Nelson and City Manager Jared Miller to get ahead of this matter. Explain the thinking behind what appears to the untrained eye to be a slap in voters’ faces. I am casually acquainted with Nelson; I don’t know Miller. I cannot predict what they are thinking or pondering.

If they do not explain themselves, though, there might be enough latent frustration in the city to spur some sort of political uprising. Perhaps it will come in the form of a recall election. Or perhaps it will occur at the next citywide municipal election when a slate of candidates could run against the current council and, well, give ’em the boot.

It happened just a few years ago when some residents disliked the push to build the downtown baseball park now known as Hodgetown. That tempest turned out to be all for naught. The park rose up and they’re filling the stands most nights at Hodgetown with fans cheering for the Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team.

This dust-up won’t dissipate anytime soon.

Just remember that voters throughout the land are angry at government at all levels for reasons that at times make no sense. Raising people’s property taxes, though, over their expressed desire against it seems to be cause for some turmoil.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What will happen to this site?

I lived in Amarillo, Texas, for 23 years and worked each day for nearly 18 of those years at the Globe-News, a once-good newspaper.

My daily journalism career came to an end in August 2012. The newspaper remains, but at this point it is a newspaper in name only. Yes, the paper still publishes seven days a week. It no longer publishes at the building where it operated for many decades. The printing press is in Lubbock and I don’t know how they handle business affairs, or circulation matters.

The newsroom? A formerly vibrant working environment has been all but eliminated; they’re down to maybe two or three reporters and some stringers (I guess).

The building is vacant. It is in a state of architectural decomposition. The corporate moguls vacated the building and moved what is left of the staff to an office in a downtown bank tower.

The once-proud structure is “tagged” with graffiti. They put out a fire inside the structure a few weeks ago.

The company that used to own the newspaper is still trying to sell the building, from what I hear. I do not know the state of that effort, such as whether it is being marketed aggressively. I don’t get back often to Amarillo, but my hunch is that it is just going to rot some more.

I want to lament the demise of that structure one more time.

The Globe-News used to aspire to becoming a great newspaper. It didn’t quite get there. We did a good job of reporting the news during my time there. I tried to lend some leadership via the opinion pages during my tenure as editor of those pages.

That was then. The here and now suggests to me that the newspaper itself is fading into the community’s past. It saddens me greatly.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Roadwork does not end

Every return to Amarillo brings new discoveries for us, such as our most recent venture to the city we called home for more than two decades.

The latest discovery deals with road construction. Suffice to say, the slogan that the late Stanley Marsh 3 was fond of displaying — “Road Does Not End” — needs a slight change … to “roadwork does not end.”

Wow! The Loop 335 extension along Helium Road is a monstrous project that to my eyes looks to be years from completion. Same for the work that the Texas Department of Transportation is doing along the southwestern quadrant between Soncy Road and Georgia Street.

Oh, and how about Interstates 40 and 27? I’ll say that our return enabled us to haul our fifth wheel safely and without a hint of peril along I-40, as most of the work along its easternmost lanes is largely complete.

We didn’t around too much of the city during our most recent visit. We trekked to Canyon a couple of times and spent a glorious autumn day hiking in Palo Duro Canyon. Getting from our RV park to those locations proved to be, um, a bit of a nerve-tester as we wound our way through the roadwork.

I want to offer a bit of friendly counsel to our many friends who must endure this seeming madness. Be patient. Please. Do not let your frustrations boil over.

I remember when this work was in the discussion stage. The state and the city haggled and dickered over what to do, when to do it and laid out the best-laid plans possible for a massive job.

That job is now underway. May it continue apace. Just remember, that the “roadwork actually does end.” Eventually.

Until next time …

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Freeway work nearing end?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — I’ll be brief.

We returned to our former city of residence and discovered something as we zoomed westbound along Interstate 40: The Texas Department of Texas construction crews are making visible progress in getting the job completed.

Finally!

My goodness it seems as if the I-40 work has gone on forever and ever (amen!). 

I am beginning to believe, even in light of the uncertainty of so many things in life these days, that TxDOT has turned the corner on this massive lane-expansion project.

I happen to know for a fact that my former neighbors are anxious for an end to this highway madness.

Happy Trails, Part 190: The journey continues

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Earlier today I realized something that I should’ve known when I crossed that threshold.

It is that I have lived most of life in a place I never dreamed when I was much younger I would find myself in retirement. That is Texas.

I am now 71 years of age. We moved to Beaumont, Texas in the spring of 1984 when I was a mere pup of 34. We gravitated from Beaumont to Amarillo nearly 11 years later. Then we pulled up our deeply rooted stakes on the Caprock and ventured to Collin County with our No. 1 goal to be near our granddaughter.

I mention all of this because when my wife and I got married nearly 50 years ago we never imagined, never even discussed the notion of moving to a place so far away from Oregon, where I was born and where my wife essentially grew up and came of age.

Texas beckoned in late 1983 with a phone call from my former boss, who had relocated to Beaumont to become executive editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. He wanted to know if I would be interested in working there as an editorial writer. My first reaction was to laugh.

One thing led to another in the course of the next day or two and I decided that, yes, I would like to explore that opportunity. I flew to Beaumont from Portland and spent a couple of days visiting with my old friend and mentor.

I returned to Oregon. I told my wife that the job looked appealing. My friend called, offered me the job, I accepted his offer and then relocated. Our sons were still quite young, 11 and 10 years old. My family joined me that summer.

My wife and I considered Beaumont to be part of a “three- to five-year plan.” We would live there, I could develop some more experience and then try to peddle my skills to another employer … somewhere else! Maybe back “home” in Oregon.

It didn’t transpire that way. Another opportunity did present itself in Amarillo. I flew from Beaumont to Amarillo in late 1994, spent a day interviewing at the Globe-News, returned home to Beaumont. The publisher offered me the job … etc. You know how this played out.

We are now happily retired. I still get to write. I have my blog. I also work as a freelance reporter for a couple who owns a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County. I write for the Farmersville Times. It is a serious, unabashed blast. I have returned, in a way, to where it all began for me in the 1970s: covering city council, school board and writing the occasional feature.

It has been a marvelous journey. Retirement is everything it’s cracked up to be. The road ahead still beckons and to be honest, I am thrilled that our three- to five-year plan never panned out.

More good news, Soddies’ fans!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Silly me. I have  been briefed on changes that got past me. So here is an amended — and corrected — version of an earlier blog item.

***

Hey, y’all … I understand the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ 2021 baseball schedule is set.

Are you happy? You should be! The Sod Poodles will get to play ball this season, even though the Texas League where they competed in 2019 no longer exists. The Sod Poodles are playing in the Central League, so a “defense” of their Texas League pennant is now off the table.

The season begins May 4. The Sod Poodles will open their home schedule two weeks later, May 18, at Hodgetown.

Amarillo Sod Poodles announce 2021 regular season schedule (msn.com)

The picture you see with this blog was taken in 2019. There likely won’t be a packed ballpark when the Sod Poodles take the field in Amarillo against the Midland RockHounds. Social distancing requirements in the ongoing fight against the pandemic will limit crowd sizes at all sports venues in Texas. Will that quell the enthusiasm of the fans who will attend? Hardly.

I just want to sing the praises of the Amarillo minor-league franchise. It has signed a 10-year agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks of the National League. The franchise, in only its second season of hardball, is getting national recognition.

I will hold my breath, too, as the Soddies get ready to play ball.

Will the fans hold onto their enthusiasm? Uhh, yep!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My old trick knee — which has let me down from time to time while I ponder political prognostication — is acting up again.

The throbbing is letting me know that my former neighbors and current friends up yonder in Amarillo are waiting with bated breath for the start of their favorite baseball team’s 2021 season.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles won the Texas League title in 2019 in their first year of existence. Then they were sent to the showers for the entire 2020 season; the COVID-19 pandemic took out its wrath on the fans’ enthusiasm.

My hope for the fans is that they will be able to cheer once again for their beloved Sod Poodles. They likely will be unable to pack Hodgetown for every game. My sense is that Gov. Greg Abbott or city leaders will impose outdoor gathering restrictions at least for the start of the season.

We’re hearing some encouraging news about the fight against the pandemic. The infection, hospitalization and death rates are receding. Good news, yes? Of course it is!

That will allow sports fans all across the state and the nation to begin gathering — eventually — to cheer for their favorite athletes.

The Sod Poodles hope to pick up where they left off at the end of their inaugural season in 2019. That trick knee of mine is telling me the fans will respond.

Growing city needs strong newspaper

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was speaking the other day to a member of my family; we were talking about two issues simultaneously: the growth and maturation of Amarillo, Texas, and the long, slow and agonizing demise of the newspaper that formerly served the community.

It occurred to me later that both trends work at cross purposes. I find myself asking: How does a community grow and prosper without a newspaper telling its story?

That is what is happening in Amarillo, I told my family member.

The city’s downtown district is changing weekly. New businesses open. The city is revamping and restoring long dilapidated structures. Amarillo has a successful minor-league baseball franchise playing ball in a shiny new stadium in the heart of its downtown district.

The city’s medical complex is growing, adding hundreds of jobs annually. Pantex, the massive nuclear weapons storage plant, continues its work. Bell/Textron’s aircraft assembly plant continues to turn out V-22 Ospreys and other rotary-wing aircraft. Streets and highways are under repair and improvement.

Amarillo is coming of age. Its population has exceeded 200,000 residents.

What, though, is happening to the media that tell the story of the community? I can speak only of the newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years before walking away during a corporate reorganization of the newspaper. The company that owned the G-N for more than 40 years sold its group of papers … and then got out of the newspaper publishing business. It gave up the fight in a changing media market.

The newspaper’s health has deteriorated dramatically in the years since then. Two general assignment reporters cover the community. That’s it. Two! The paper has zero photographers and a single sports writer.

The paper is printed in Lubbock. It has a regional executive editor who splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock and a regional director of commentary who does the same thing.

There exists, therefore, a serious dichotomy in play in a growing and increasingly vibrant community. I see the contradiction in the absence of a growing and vibrant newspaper that tells the whole story about what is happening in the community it is supposed to cover.

Spare me the “it’s happening everywhere” canard. I get that. I have seen it. None of that makes it any easier to witness it happening in a community I grew to love while I worked there. I built a home there and sought to offer critical analysis of the community from my perch as editor of the Globe-News editorial page.

I do not see that happening these days.

Meanwhile, Amarillo continues to grow and prosper. If only it had a newspaper on hand to tell its story to the rest of the world.

Big Beaners goes bye bye

A brief, but still weird, story has come to a close up yonder in Amarillo. It might have an actual final conclusion, but for now the story appears to have gone dormant.

The story involves a restaurant opened by a flamboyant and flashy Amarillo personal injury lawyer, Jesse Quackenbush. It used to serve Mexican food, until the city closed it for reasons I do not yet know.

The joint got off to a rocky start, owing to the weird — and blatantly scurrilous — name that Quackenbush attached to it. He called it Big Beaners, which a number of folks in Amarillo interpreted as an anti-Latino slur.

And … it is. The term “beaner” is meant as a slur against people of Latino heritage. Quackenbush, of course, defended the name, even though in some circles the name “beaner” is nearly equal to using the n-word when referring to African-Americans or any assortment of epithets hurled at Asian-Americans.

Big Beaners is no longer open, which is just as well.

The universe is full of quirky, catchy, market-friendly names that do not hurl an ethnic slur.

Christmas spirit is alive and well in our neighborhood

My wife and I have settled in nicely in our new digs in Collin County.

We have become acquainted with our neighbors on both sides of us, with neighbors in four homes across the street, a couple living on the corner … and apparently some children we see playing and cavorting on occasion.

Our community is becoming comfortable to the both of us daily.

We have received a taste of the Christmas spirit that seems to abound in our Princeton neighborhood.

The doorbell rang and a young man was standing on our porch. He handed my wife a small box. It contained freshly baked cookies prepared in the gentleman’s kitchen.

He handed my wife the box. We opened it. The cookies beckoned. We ate them. They were delicious.

Why mention this? I guess it’s because we have just experienced a neighborly gesture one doesn’t see all that often.

I thought momentarily of when we moved into our brand new home in southwest Amarillo in December 1996. We had just had the house built. We pulled out belongings out of storage, where they sat for nearly two years.

One day, just before Christmas, a neighbor walked across the street carrying a large plate of brownies. She wanted to welcome us to the neighborhood.

In all our years of marriage, in all the places we had lived that was the first time a neighbor had done something so kind. It made us feel as if we were part of the community.

It was the only time someone had extended a bit of holiday cheer to us … until tonight. 

The Christmas spirit is alive and well. We can testify gleefully to its good health.