Tag Archives: Collin County

Retirement journey takes us to hot spot

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My wife and I have been on the most remarkable journey a married couple can take.

We entered the world of full-fledged retirement not many years ago. We had lived for more than two decades in Amarillo, Texas. Then we packed up our belongings, sold our house and settled eventually in what once was a sleepy little burg just northeast of Dallas.

Princeton sits in Collin County. We moved to a city with a declared population of 6,807 residents, according to the 2010 census.

Well, I’ve got a flash for you. That sleepy little burg isn’t so sleepy these days. The 2020 census became known this week and Princeton saw its resident total triple in the past decade.

The population now stands at 18,338 residents. Near as I can tell, even that figure is likely out of date. You see, my wife and I reside in a residential development that continues to grow every single day.

New houses are sprouting up all around us. Cement trucks are pouring slabs to our west and south. Houses are being framed right on top of the newly dried cement. I have no clue what the population of Princeton is at this very moment; I only can conjecture that the census figure is a bit low.

I don’t recall ever in my life moving into what could be considered something of a residential hot spot. I keep hearing stories from Realtors and others in the business about how people selling houses end up being caught in the middle of bidding wars as people seek to move into Collin County, or to Denton County, or to Dallas County, or to Tarrant County.

It’s crazy, man!

It took very little time for us to settle into our new digs. We’re delighted to have gotten here when we did, as the price of homes springing up around are selling for prices that would have scared us away when we were preparing to purchase a home.

The Princeton city manager told me not long after we moved here that the city’s long-range growth plan projects a population of about 115,000 residents in the next three decades. I don’t know if we’ll be around to watch that happen.

What I am watching now, though, is sufficient to make my head spin.

Happy Trails, Part 193: We timed it well

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

When we moved into our “retirement home” in February 2019, we were struck at first glance by all the construction that was occurring on our street, not to mention in the Collin County, Texas, community we now call home.

Two-plus years later our timing seems even more profound than it did when we signed the papers on our home in Princeton.

They haven’t yet released the 2020 census figures for Princeton, but our trick knees are telling us that the 2010 figure of 6,807 residents is going to grow by several thousand.

City Manager Derek Borg has said he believes we have nearly 20,000 residents living in our city. He ought to know, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Our subdivision remains a work in progress. They’re continuing to pour slabs and are erecting house frames to our west. The elementary school that opened in 2019 already has exceeded its capacity for students; I am wondering how Princeton Independent School District is going to deal with the steady in-flow of new students.

I’ll be candid about one point, which is that Princeton remains quite underserved in many areas despite the intense and rapid growth. We have no hotel space inside our city limits. Grocery shopping remains limited to one massive supermarket. Fine dining does not exist in the city, at least not yet. We do have an abundance of Mexican food joints, but given my continuing squeamishness about the pandemic, we aren’t eating out much these days.

Princeton City Hall is going to move at the end of the year from its location at U.S. Highway 380 and Second Avenue to a new municipal complex just east of Princeton High School farther east on U.S. 380. That’s going to be a huge accomplishment for the city and I look forward to its opening.

All of this is my way of suggesting that my wife and I have exhibited our impeccable timing. Yep, we’re here for the duration.

Frantic moment turns out OK

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Our retired life had a moment of frantic activity this afternoon.

It involved a stolen vehicle and a seemingly endless line of police cruisers in hot pursuit. It played out, if only briefly, along our normally quiet street in Princeton, Texas.

It is good, therefore, to offer a word of thanks and gratitude that it didn’t end up tragically.

Someone had stolen an ambulance in Dallas and, thus, launched a lengthy high-speed chase through Dallas and Collin counties. The ambulance — with its motor vehicle thief at the wheel — drove north along U.S. 75, then turned west on U.S. 380. It bore down on Princeton.

We heard the sirens. And then the helicopter. I stuck my head out the door and noticed the ‘copter was hovering over us.

Then I looked east along our street and watched an ambulance make a high-speed turn and head west along our street. It zoomed past our front yard. Right behind it came the cops. Lights flashing and sirens blaring. They ripped along our street at a speed I could not calculate; I’ll just say they were exceeding the posted 30 mph speed limit … by a whole lot!

I am guessing about a dozen cruisers roared along our peaceful street.

Later, I learned they caught the dimwit in McKinney, near the airport.

As I have tried to process what we witnessed this afternoon, I find myself transfixed by a couple of realities. One is that our particular street in Princeton often is bustling with children. They play in their front yards; they ride their bikes; they toss balls around, often into the street. And ours wasn’t the only residential neighborhood to undergo this moment of fright.

The other is that our street runs adjacent to an elementary school, which at the time of the chase was still in session, meaning that the grounds might have been filled with youngsters.

Therefore, we avoided a serious tragedy. How in the world that happened is beyond me. I won’t spend another moment worrying about what might have been. I will give thanks that the incident ended without injury … or worse.

Wild ride through ‘hood

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s just chalk this up to something one doesn’t see very every day.

My wife was tracking a high speed chase from Dallas, north along U.S. 75 toward McKinney. An idiot had stolen an ambulance and the cops were in hot pursuit. Then the moron turned east at McKinney down U.S. 380.

Where do you suppose he went? The dipsh** turned the stolen vehicle down our street … at a very high rate of speed. The sirens were blaring behind him.

Then came the cops. I counted about a dozen police vehicles. From McKinney, Texas Department of Public Safety, from Princeton PD, from the Collin County Sheriff’s Department, a couple of unmarked cruisers.

They roared west behind the moron, who had turned the ambulance south through some new home construction.

At this moment, I do not know the status of the chase.

This is when the cops earn their keep. Man, I hope they nab that lunatic. Oh, and if the ambulance missed a call that resulted in the death of a patient who needed medical attention, they need to throw — at minimum — a manslaughter charge at the loon.

***

This just in: The police caught the nimrod in McKinney. May they find the biggest book they can lift and toss it at him. Film at 6 and at 10 … 

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.