Tag Archives: Collin County

Biden declares 77 Texas counties to be in ‘major disaster’ mode

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wanted all 254 of Texas’s counties to qualify for “major disaster” relief from the U.S. government.

President Biden granted that status to 77 of them, or a just a bit less than one-third of what Abbott had sought in the wake of the terrible Texas snow and ice storm.

I saw the list of all the counties and, as a Collin County resident, I was heartened to see my county on the list of declared places, along with Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Others in our immediate area received the designation. So did other major counties, such as Bexar, Travis, Harris and their immediate surrounding jurisdictions.

One of the regions where I once lived, the Golden Triangle, also got the disaster declaration, but the Texas Panhandle did not get that designation.

I was struck, though, by the absence of Hunt County from the list of counties to receive federal aid under the designation. Commerce’s water supply system went kaput. It came back, but the city has been on a boil-water advisory for several days; the advisory is expected to last a while longer.

What does it take, therefore, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a county a “major disaster” when that county is suffering through, um, a major disaster?

I cannot really know what goes into the decision-making processes within FEMA. I just am an observer of how various jurisdictions within my particular orbit are dealing with the mess that the storm has left behind. From my perch in Collin County, it looks for all the world like our neighbors to our east — in Hunt County — are going through precisely the same tragedy that Mother Nature brought to my neighbors and my family members.

Abbott called the disaster declaration from President Biden a “good first step” in helping our state recover. Perhaps a “good next step” would be to expand the list of counties that receive this disaster declaration.

Jury duty will have to wait

JPhoto by Jason Doiy
By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

An automated phone call this afternoon dashed my hopes … yet again!

I had hoped to be called for jury duty next week when I reported to the Collin County administration building. Alas, it won’t happen. The call came to inform me that I was being dismissed, that my services are not required.

Maybe next time, yes? Perhaps? Do ya think?

This is a big deal for me. I have always wanted to serve on a trial jury. Not because I lust for the duty. It’s just that I always have wondered to myself what happens in a jury room when a group of men and women gather to ponder how a particular case — civil or criminal — should go. I guess it’s the reporter in me, the nosey, inquisitive side of my persona that drives this interest.

Then again, perhaps I can blame the career I pursued for nearly 37 years as one reason why I never have been called.

When we lived in Randall County, Texas, I would get a summons. I would call the day prior and the automated system would tell me not to bother.

I did serve on a grand jury in Randall County for a period of time. That was a fascinating call to duty. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the jury room pondering whether to indict someone on a criminal complaint. When we were sworn in by the presiding judge, though, I recall vividly something the district attorney at the time told us. James Farren said we likely never would be summoned for trial jury duty in Randall County because of our grand jury service. Why? Defense attorneys would strike us because they could argue we are prejudiced in favor of the prosecuting side. Oh, well.

We moved from Randall County to Collin County. I want to wipe the slate clean.

However, the call won’t come this time. Again!

I’ll have to wait for another summons. I hope to serve on a trial jury before I check out of this world.

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.

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.

We moved to a ‘battleground’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As if anyone needed to persuade me on how to vote for president of the United States … I now have learned that my wife and I have moved into a key “battleground” community in the fight for presidential power.

We now reside in Collin County, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas, which has been trending Democratic for the past couple of election cycles. That’s a big deal in Republican-leaning Texas.

Our little town (for now) of Princeton is seen as a prime battleground to be fought over by forces loyal to Joseph R. Biden and Donald J. Trump, the contestants for president.

Indeed, the ‘burbs all across the state have become prime targets of opportunity. Biden and the Democrats seem to think they can swing enough suburban voters — particularly among women — to make the state competitive. I can think of at least one suburban woman who has cast her lot with Biden and the Dems. Indeed, she is a true-blue Bidenista. How do I know?  I am married to her.

And so the fight for supremacy in Texas will rage over the weekend and into Tuesday morning, when the entire nation commemorates Election Day.

Make no mistake that we have been deluged with a flood of political ads, not just for president but for Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Supreme Court. What’s more, Princeton is electing members of its City Council and its school district board of trustees; but those are non-partisan contests, so they’re off this blog post’s grid.

I am a tried-and-true political junkie. Thus, I rather like being the center of attention.

City future likely in good hands

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I made a most interesting acquaintance today on the front porch of my home in Princeton, Texas.

A young man was walking the neighborhood when he rang our doorbell. We answered the ring and he introduced himself as John Kusterbeck. He is 41 years of age and is married to Brandy, who’s 36 years of age.

They appear to be the leaders — although John Kusterbeck gives his wife all the credit for being the “driving force” behind it — of a movement that seeks to improve the quality of life in the rapidly growing Collin County community.

He presented me with a card titled “Princeton TX United.” The group’s aim is to promote “racial equality, unity, diversity and change” in the city.

Here is what fascinates me about this fellow and the group he leads with his wife: The group appears to have a substantial following of literally hundreds of members who live in and around Princeton.

The group sprouted legs in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the hands — or under the knee — of a former cop who’s been charged with murder. They’re registered as a non-profit organization. Princeton TX United is dedicated to promoting candidate for public office who represent the diversity of the community. John Kusterbeck said some of that diversity is hidden because of the perception that Princeton comprises mostly older, Anglo residents who remain hide-bound to the Old Way of Doing Things. Kusterbeck doesn’t buy into that notion.

I could not help but think as we spoke of a one-woman “movement” that appeared in Amarillo some years ago when the city was debating whether to build a ballpark in the city’s downtown district. The Amarillo Millennial Movement turned out to be a serious flash in the pan.

AMM was composed of precisely one member, a young woman who campaigned vigorously for passage of a referendum endorsing construction of the ballpark. The measure passed and then the young woman moved to Fort Worth. The “movement” was no more.

I don’t sense that Princeton TX United fits that description of “movement.” This one looks like the real thing.

This group makes ample use of social media sites. It spreads its message throughout cyberspace. It seeks to bring in folks of all races, ethnic backgrounds, creeds, sexual orientation … you name it.

I wish them well. I also believe that if this organization has staying power that it could become a political force in a community that — based on its exploding population — is destined for some serious change at virtually every level imaginable.

Here we go again with business reopening

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelils_92@hotmail.com

All righty. Here is what is about to happen in the county where I live with members of my family.

Collin County Judge Chris Hill has declared that bars will reopen to 50 percent of capacity early next week. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has left the decision up to county officials. It’s that pandemic thing that keeps getting in the way.

So help me I don’t know how I feel about this.

I do not intend to frequent any bars/lounges in the near future. I keep hearing from pandemic experts that bars and restaurants are among the most “dangerous” places to be, that they provide more opportunities to get infected by this potentially fatal viral infection.

We’ve been down this road before. I recall that bars did reopen for a time; then they shut down again. The pandemic continues to sicken too many Texans daily, let alone killing too many of us.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins isn’t reopening bars just yet. Tarrant County officials remain undecided on what to do. Collin County is moving ahead, although with due caution.

I want a return to “normal” as we used to define the term as much as the next guy. I do not want to see us rush toward that return if it means we’re going to sicken and possibly kill more Texans.

My message to Judge Chris Hill is simple: Be as quick to shut these places down if there’s any hint of a spike in illness. We’ve got a long way to go before declaring the pandemic to be over.

Never mind what the Dunce in Chief says in Washington, D.C.

Where’s outrage, Rep. Taylor?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Van Taylor is likely to be re-elected to a second term as congressman from North Texas. He is a Republican running in a solidly GOP congressional district, which includes my neighborhood in Princeton in eastern Collin County.

However, the young man has pi**ed me off royally.

Let me stipulate off the top that I honor his service as a combat Marine in Afghanistan. He parlayed that service into a winning campaign in 2018 to succeed the retiring GOP Rep. Sam Johnson, a former Vietnam War prisoner who served the district with honor for many years.

It’s Taylor’s military service that brings me to the point.

We have learned that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin offered bounties to Taliban terrorists if they killed U.S. servicemen and women on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Donald Trump has been silent about it. He has declined to confront Putin directly about the bounties; good grief, he actually admitted to glossing over the issue in conversations with his pal, Vlad.

What about Rep. Taylor? Why in the name of sacrifice hasn’t the former combat Marine spoken out?

Surely it cannot be because he gives Putin a pass on this hideous action against our service personnel, as Trump has done. Or perhaps he fears some retribution from a president who I doubt seriously at this moment even knows of Rep. Taylor’s existence in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I, too, am a veteran of a foreign war. I didn’t serve in combat in Vietnam, but I am quite certain I would be horrified knowing that a foreign power had put bounties on the heads of my brothers in arms.

Why, then, has Rep. Taylor remained eerily silent on this matter as he campaigns for re-election? And, yes, I have seen the TV ads touting his service in Afghanistan. Go figure.

Can we vote yet?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I guess  you could say I have come full circle on this early-voting matter.

There once was a day when I would resist casting my ballot early, fearing that my candidate(s) would do something stupid or possibly illegal between the time I cast my vote and Election Day.

Those days have been plowed asunder over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. I now am anxious to vote and to vote early.

Texans can begin voting next Tuesday. My wife and I will venture to First Baptist Church in Princeton to cast our ballots. My hope now is simply to cast my vote and to ensure that it is recorded properly in the Collin County election system, which is as high-tech an apparatus as you’ll see anywhere.

Am I concerned about voting in person? Yes, but only a little. We voted at the church in this year’s primary and we were impressed with the care the poll workers took to ensure we were masked up, that kept appropriate “social distance” and that we didn’t touch anything that didn’t relate directly to the act of voting. Through it all the poll workers were spraying every surface they could find with disinfectant.

We are going to have our voices heard no matter what. I guess my preference would have been to vote by mail. We have chosen instead to troop down the street for just a few minutes to vote in person.

We have heard the message from Joe Biden and others who back him: Vote early, either in person or by mail … just be sure to vote.

Vote early … or else?

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I truly cannot believe I am saying this, but the decision we have made in our house to vote early is beginning to look more attractive with each passing day.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made the decision even more righteous by deciding to limit hand-delivered absentee drop boxes to one per county. That’s one place to drop off your ballots no matter whether you live in a small rural county or a large urban one. My wife and I reside in Collin County, home to 1 million Texans.

Let’s see how this works. Democrats blame the Republican governor of employing voter-suppression tactics by issuing such a restrictive order.

The Texas Tribune reports: Voting rights advocates say Abbott’s move will make absentee balloting more difficult in a year when more Texans than ever are expected to vote by mail. Drop-off locations, advocates said, are particularly important given concerns about Postal Service delays, especially for disabled voters or those without access to reliable transportation.

… Abbott described his proclamation as an effort to “strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state.” A spokesperson did not respond to questions about how allowing multiple drop-off locations might lead to fraud.

The USPS has come under intense scrutiny over the way it plans to handle a huge spike in mail-in voting in this pandemic age.

My wife and I intend to vote early in person at one of the polling locations set aside here in Collin County. We might vote at the Allen Event Center, which is a sizable venue that provides ample space for us to “socially distance.” Or we might vote at First Baptist Church in Princeton, where we’ve voted in earlier elections. We were impressed with how well the poll workers kept us safe during that election, so we might stay close to home to cast our ballots.

I would have preferred to wait until Election Day to cast my ballot. I now will heed the plea offered by Joe Biden and others in his camp who urge Americans to vote early. Vote “in person” if we can. Well, we can vote in person so we will do that and we will do so early.

I want my vote to count. I suppose, furthermore, that perhaps Donald Trump has sown enough suspicion in my own mind and heart about the Postal Service to make sure I vote in person at the earliest possible moment.