Tag Archives: KETR-FM

Bad move in Greenville

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Allow me this bit of unsolicited advice to educators everywhere: Do not engage in “jokes” that seem to mirror hideous news events.

So it is, then, that a Greenville Independent School District teacher has resigned after being suspended over a picture of her placing her foot on the back of a Lamar Elementary School student’s neck. Sound familiar? Yep, the teacher took part in this supposedly good-natured stunt on the day that a Minneapolis jury convicted former cop Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd by pressing his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in 2020.

The ”joke” went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Could the timing of this incident have been any worse?

When the picture went viral, the school district suspended the teacher. The youngster on whom the supposed joke was perpetrated said he didn’t take offense. The boy’s mother said her family has a good relationship with the teacher and she, too, spoke in support of the educator.

Then the teacher quit. I should point out that the teacher is white and the student is African-American.

Good grief.

KETR’s Mark Haslett reported: “We take this situation very seriously. It will be thoroughly investigated, and appropriate action will be taken,” Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said in an email that went out to parents of Greenville ISD students. “We have heard from many community members, and we understand their concern and anger.”

The anger apparently prompted the teacher to resign rather than face possible recrimination for her action.

The entire world’s sensitivity to this kind of conduct has been heightened tremendously by the Chauvin trial and the incident that resulted in his conviction of murdering George Floyd. Chauvin is a white former police officer who applied unreasonable force to restrain Floyd, a black man who was arrested for – get this – passing some counterfeit currency in a Minneapolis convenience store.

So, for a Northeast Texas educator to take part in a so-called prank and have the image of her foot on the back of a youngster’s neck released on the very day of Chauvin’s conviction smacks of the height – or the depth – of poor judgment.

So, there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this. I believe the world’s eyes have opened wide to people’s perception of actions intended ostensibly to be done as a good-natured joke.

NOTE: This blog post was published initially on KETR.org.

Seeking a slowdown

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton City Councilman Mike Robertson wants to slow ‘em down along U.S. Highway 380. He professes patience as he works with his City Council colleagues and the Texas Department of Transportation.

However, given his own experience as the victim of a serious auto accident while he was living in Irving, it appears that his patience might have its limits.

Robertson is proposing to TxDOT to slow traffic to 40 mph along the entire highway thoroughfare as it bisects the city. The speed limits now vary, from 55 to 45 mph. Robertson says that’s too fast, given the incredible growth and the associated increase in traffic volume.

“When the speed limit is 60,” he said, “you have little chance of getting through a wreck without injury.”

TxDOT must perform traffic studies before it decides whether to adjust the speed limits along any major thoroughfare. The city already has installed a new traffic signal at the intersection of 380 and Princeton Meadows near the city’s western boundary. Another signal is planned for the site next to the new municipal complex under construction closer to the eastern boundary along 380.

Once that project is complete, Robertson said, TxDOT will be able to conduct the requisite traffic studies to help the agency make its speed determination.

Robertson said he doesn’t drive much these days, as he works from home running a continuing education program for chiropractors; he no longer is a practicing chiropractor.

“The frequency and the number of speed-related accidents along the highway” are a great concern for the councilman. He said the Princeton Police Department responds daily to wrecks along the highway and expresses great concern about what the anticipated future growth of the city will do to the traffic volume.

Help is on the way, though, in the form of new thoroughfare construction planned for Princeton and for communities along the Highway 380 corridor. Robertson noted that TxDOT wants to build a 380 bypass that will divert through traffic to a thoroughfare north of the current highway. “The bypass eventually will relieve a lot of the traffic congestion,” Robertson said.

Moreover, the city plans to turn Myrick Avenue south of the highway into a second major east-west right-of-way.

All of that will take time. Perhaps lots of time. It’s the period between now and then that concerns Robertson, which is why he wants TxDOT to make a decision sooner rather than later on the speed limit along Highway 380. “We might get to drop the speed,” he said, “but maybe not as much as I would like.”

Traffic remains a concern along U.S. 380 through many North and Northeast Texas communities. Farmersville, for example, recently received a request for a zone change to build an apartment complex near the U.S. 380 corridor. The Farmersville City Council denied the zone change request sought by the apartment developer, citing the “density” of the housing and the potential traffic congestion that it could produce along the rapidly developing thoroughfare.

Indeed, Collin College recently opened its Farmersville campus, which was one of the possible hazards cited by the council in denying the zone change request.

Princeton, meanwhile, continues to grow at a rapid pace. Its main thoroughfare, U.S. 380, continues to have varying speed limits along its route through the city. City Councilman Robertson intends to keep up the push to slow that traffic down to what he believes is a more reasonable and consistent speed.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR.org.

Stay the pandemic course

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

When does a year seem like a lifetime, or even several lifetimes?

When it has been consumed by disease, death and dysfunction.

So it has been around here for the past year living under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s only been a year but to my sensibility it seems as though it’s been with us for a whole lot longer than that.

Too much has happened in Texas during that year, but it’s worth remembering how it tracked here, just as it has throughout much of the rest of the nation.

In just one year 45,000 or so Texans have died from the virus. Do you remember when the president of the United States told us when it would “disappear, like magic” when we had just a handful of reported cases? Yeah, it didn’t work out that way.

Our governor, Greg Abbott, was whipsawed by politics as he sought to find a strategy to help us battle this disease. He placed statewide mandates, closing businesses, ordering us to stay away from each other, ordering us to wear masks when we went indoors. Then he relaxed those orders. Oops! Then the virus spiraled upward, forcing Abbott to put the orders back into effect.

Ahh, but now we’re back to opening up again. Abbott says Texans know enough to follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that we don’t need to be told to wear masks while indoors. Actually, too many of us still need to be told to do the right thing. With that I am going to hope that Abbott hasn’t jumped the gun prematurely yet again.

The Texas Tribune has published a fascinating chronology over the past year, charting the ups and downs of the virus as it has affected Texas.

COVID-19 killed more than 45,000 in Texas in the last year | The Texas Tribune

Where do we go from here? That remains to be seen. We’re getting vaccinated now at an increasing rate. My wife and I are among the Texans who have been “fully vaccinated” and for that we are grateful. Are we shucking our masks and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers at the grocery store? Hardly. We’re continuing to do what we have been advised to do for the past year and our intention is to keep doing it until we are certain the coronavirus has been eradicated.

The Texas Legislature is meeting for the next several weeks to deal with pressing issues of the day, chief among them is electrical infrastructure that needs repair. You remember that monstrous winter storm, yes?

Legislators also must chart a healthier path for Texans moving forward. Yes, there remains a state option to complement the federal strategy being implemented by President Biden and his medical team of experts.

Overall, though, is the belief among us all that we shouldn’t lose faith, nor should we lose patience as we continue to fight through this pandemic. It’s not over. I will not say for certain whether it’s close to being over. We might still have to live through yet another lifetime to welcome that day.

NOTE: This blog was published initially on KETR.org, affiliated with KETR-FM public radio at Texas A&M University/Commerce.

Go slower out there!

BLOGGER’S NOTE — This blog was posted initially on KETR-FM’s website, KETR.org. 

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton City Councilman Mike Robertson is a man after my own heart … speedwise.

He wants to slow motorists down as they travel along U.S. Highway 380, at least while they’re traveling within the city limits.

Robertson is pitching a notion to slow motorists down to 40 mph within the city limits. Currently, the limits vary, from 45, to 50 to 60 mph.

The Princeton Herald is covering this story and it quoted Robertson, thusly: “It doesn’t make any sense to keep such a high speed limit through town.” Yeah. Do you think?

Indeed, U.S. 380 often is clogged with stop-and-go traffic during much of the day. It’s a busy thoroughfare that coarses through the fast-growing community.

The city, though, has limited options. It cannot act on its own because U.S. 380 is maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, according to the Princeton Herald, which reported: “The city does not have the authority to reduce the speed, however, it has taken measures to slow down traffic within city limits with one new stoplight and they are working on installing a second light.”

Indeed, the addition of signals comports with what City Manager Derek Borg told me about a year ago as we discussed the traffic issues along U.S. 380. Borg is acutely aware of the traffic snarls that occur along the highway and thinks the increased traffic signals, among other things, will help motorists seeking to enter the highway from side streets.

I believe Councilman Robertson is onto something. In fact, when I see the Herald each week, I look at the police blotter section on Page 2 … and what do I see? I often see several instances of “major auto accidents” along U.S. 380. The blotter entry doesn’t designate whether they are speed-related. My strong hunch is that, well, many of them are related to motorists traveling too rapidly along a busy thoroughfare choked with other motor vehicles.

The Herald reports that TxDOT is “receptive” to the idea of slowing vehicles down, but notes any action might require some time for a change to be made official.

Whatever you do, don’t drag your feet, TxDOT. I am one motorist and Princeton resident who backs a councilman’s request to slow the traffic down.

Mayor moves on … stays put

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was posted originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Princeton Mayor John-Mark Caldwell only thought he was resigning from the City Council after moving to Rockwall.

It turns out, according to the city’s legal counsel, Caldwell is required to stay in office until after the next election, which occurs on Nov. 3. That’s what the state requires, so Caldwell must remain in place, gavel in hand, running City Council meetings.

As the Princeton Herald reported: The law requiring that a public official continue serving until a replacement is installed was explained by City Attorney Clark McCoy at the … July 27 regular city council meeting. “This is known as the holdover in office provision,” McCoy said. He explained that the law is in place to assure continuity in office and that is the duty of the officeholder to continue serving.

This is even though when he adjourns the meetings, he goes home to the next county over.

I find that rather weird. But that’s just me, I suppose.

Princeton does have a mayor pro tem, Councilman Steve Deffibaugh who, according to the statutes governing the city, can serve as mayor in the absence of the elected individual. Princeton, I should point out, doesn’t have a home-rule charter, and is governed under “general law” established by the state. It well might be that had Princeton been able to approve a charter — which it has failed to do in four municipal elections — there wouldn’t be a problem.

Caldwell had tendered his resignation after it was revealed he had moved to Rockwall. He said when he submitted it that he intended to stay in office until his term expired in 2021, but then changed his mind. It now turns out that he has to stay for a little while longer anyway.

I am just one Princeton resident among the 12,000 or so who live here, but my thought is that the mayor pro tem ought to grab the gavel and run the council meetings, allowing the outgoing mayor to go on his way, establishing a new life in his new community. I should point out that Princeton’s mayor doesn’t vote on issues before the council, except to break a tie. It’s that general law thing that prohibits a mayoral vote.

The election is coming up. Filing for the seat is still open. One candidate has filed: former Princeton Independent School District Superintendent Philip Anthony. My hunch is that Anthony will be the overwhelming favorite to be elected to fill out the rest of Caldwell’s mayoral term.

I am a bit baffled, though, as to why Caldwell just can’t walk away as he intended to do when he turned in his resignation.

Texas AG to California: Butt out of our affairs

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was published initially on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

I am inclined as a general rule to oppose Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s world view on most matters.

However, on the issue of seeking to remove one state’s non-essential travel ban to Texas because of our state’s strong stand in favor of “religious liberty,” I believe he is onto something.

What constitutes “essential travel”? I suppose one example would be in the event of a natural disaster emergency, in which firefighters or other first responders travel from California to Texas to lend aid.

Here’s the issue: In 2017, Texas legislators enacted a law that, among other things, allows foster-care agencies to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. California responded by banning non-essential publicly funded travel from California to Texas, citing what California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called a discriminatory policy against gay Americans. It falls under the religious liberty doctrine, of which Paxton has become an aggressive advocate.

At one level, Becerra has a point. I don’t like the Texas law either. I believe – on this point – that gay couples are fully capable of being loving parents to children who need a home. As one who believes homosexuality is a matter of genetics rather than upbringing or of choice, the Texas law looks to me to be an overreach.

However, so is the California response to this state enacting a law that comports with its residents’ generally conservative world view.

Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on Texas’ behalf. He is asking the highest court in the land to overturn the California travel ban, saying that California is trying to police how other states conduct their affairs.

“California is attempting to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption workers,” Paxton said.

As the Texas Tribune reports, this latest salvo is just the latest in a long-running feud between the states, with California and Texas being the country’s top Democratic and Republican strongholds, respectively. Do you remember how former Gov. Rick Perry would venture to California to lure businesses from that state to Texas? Critics of that effort – and I was one of them – called it “job poaching.”

Paxton – who is in the midst of another fight involving his own indictment for securities fraud – has now joined the battle.

Texas is one of 11 states that have received travel bans from California, which to Paxton’s eyes is acting like a state run by busy-bodies. One of those states, Oklahoma, responded by banning non-essential travel to California from Oklahoma. I suppose Texas could respond accordingly.

Paxton is likely to have a friendly audience if the high court decides to take up the case. It has a solid conservative majority. Yes, it’s only 5-4 at the moment, but the five conservative justices – with the possible exception of Chief Justice John Roberts – are inclined to stand solidly behind GOP policymakers’ point of view.

I will say that I think Paxton makes a solid argument that California need not intrude into the affairs of other states governed by politicians who don’t hue to that state’s political leaning.

In defense of NPR

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo needs yet another lesson in just how the media do their job.

They ask tough questions. They seek direct answers. They also seek to report those answers to the public they serve. You and I depend on the media for answers to our own questions about what our government — especially at its highest levels — are doing ostensibly on our behalf.

National Public Radio reporter Mary Louise Kelly asked Pompeo why he hasn’t defended former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch against criticism leveled at her by the current president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

He dodged the question, saying he has defended “everyone” in the State Department. Kelly sought a specific example of how he has defended Yovanovitch. He cut her off, summoned her to his private quarters, then lashed at her with a profanity-laced tirade, saying that NPR is part of the “unhinged” media that demonstrate a hatred for Trump.

Kelly was doing her job. She has not done a thing for which she should apologize.

Time for full disclosure: I work as a freelance blogger for a public radio station, KETR-FM, based at Texas A&M University-Commerce. 

With that out of the way, I want to tell you that NPR goes the extra mile in ensuring that it reports the news fairly and without overt bias.

A friend of mine who works in public radio explained to me once about NPR’s policy that it enforces strictly. He said that during the coverage of the health-care changes that resulted in the Affordable Care Act, NPR reporters were counseled by their editors to refrain from using the term “reform” to describe the ACA. “It isn’t a ‘reform,'” my friend told me. NPR affiliates were told us call it “overhaul.”

You see, the term “reform” implies an improvement over the status quo. Thus, to describe the ACA as a “reform” would be to endorse it as a policy in NPR’s news coverage. That’s how my friend characterizes the ethos that drives NPR’s reporting of important issues of the day.

And so, it is against that backdrop that I find Mike Pompeo’s tirade against a seasoned, well-educated, dedicated reporter such as Mary Louise Kelly to be just another ignorant tirade coming from a senior official in the Donald Trump administration.

Reprehensible.

Learning more about recycling’s value

I have been working on a story for KETR.org, the website for KETR-FM’s public radio station at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

I will not scoop myself on the story I’ve just completed, but I do want to say I have learned a good bit about the value of recycling.

My wife and I live in Princeton, a Collin County community that has curbside recycling. The city signed a contract early in 2019 with Community Waste Disposal, which picks up trash each week and also collects recyclable material every other week.

My story for KETR.org will discuss the virtues of recycling in the communities that allow residents to take part. My wife and I have embraced the recycling idea fully, with both arms, with utmost enthusiasm.

We’ve lived in communities that allowed us to send recyclable materials, in Beaumont and in Oregon, to places where they are re-used with considerably less consumption of finite energy sources. We have known all along about the value that recycling brings, the way it helps preserve natural resources. Yes, it helps save the planet … the only planet we know of that is suitable for human habitation.

I am looking forward to seeing my next KETR.org story published. I hope it resonates with those who see it. The radio station reaches into many Northeast Texas communities that do not allow residents to take part in curbside recycling.

My hope is that my story will generate enough interest in those communities to spur them into joining the recycling club.

Recycling easily becomes a way of life. Trust me on that. It has for my wife and me.

God answered this pastor’s prayer

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This post was published originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Do not ever tell the Rev. Chet Haney that God doesn’t answer prayers.

On June 19 of this year, Haney – senior pastor of Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville – got word of a terrible storm brewing and moving rapidly toward the church he runs. Rev. Haney had to make a decision … in a major hurry!

It was a Wednesday night and the church was preparing for its usual Wednesday night worship service. Haney had to decide whether to cancel the service. He made the call: There would be no Wednesday night worship at Highland Terrace.

“I then put out the word for two prayers,” Rev. Haney said. “One was to pray that everyone stayed home. Do not go out into this weather,” he said.

The second prayer, he said, was to “have God take authority over this storm.” So, just how did The Almighty “take authority”? Haney said the storm hit 15 minutes later and that on its way to pummeling the church, the destructive funnel cloud lifted off the ground twice and missed hitting the Hunt Regional Medical Center hospital as well as a crowded apartment building.

“Then it hit the church,” he said. “We were very fortunate,” he said, given that no one was injured inside the structure when the EF-1 storm plowed into the building. He said there were about 20 people inside when the storm went through.

“Pieces were ripped off the building and they tore through the building like torpedoes,” he said of the fragments that hit the education wing at the height of the storm. “There could have been children in there,” had there been Wednesday night services. “The sanctuary had gaping holes in it,” he said.

By all means, Haney said, God answered their prayers. The city avoided injury or much worse, he said, thanks in part to the various social media platforms that put the word out as the storm approached the community.

“We were told first that it was a case of straight-line wind,” Haney said, “but then they changed it back to calling it a tornado.” Haney said he was initially a bit reluctant to cancel the services, saying that “I didn’t want to cry ‘wolf!’”

Repair work has begun on Highland Terrance Church, but it is a long way from being done, said Haney. The church has been conducting its Sunday service at Greenville High School, which has loaned its auditorium to the church. Highland Terrace’s Wednesday night service has been taking place at the Fletcher Warren Civic Center.

Soon, though, the church campus’s atrium will be completed, and the church will resume worshiping there, beginning Jan. 12. “That will be a big step forward for us,” Haney said.

The final cost of full restoration of the church campus has yet to be determined, Haney said, explaining that the church is waiting on the insurance company to determine how much money the church will receive.

Haney said he hopes to have the work completed no later than the next 18 months.

“Texas Baptist Men dropped off a pallet full of tarps,” Haney said of the help the church received in the immediate storm aftermath. “We got lots of bottled water, brooms, mops” and assorted other cleanup equipment, Haney said.

“The town was hit hard by the storm,” Haney said. “Downtown was hit hard and some in our church family lost power for several days,” he said, adding that he heard that “Lowe’s and Home Depot ran out of tarps.”

Haney does not appear openly dismayed by the destruction brought to the church building. Indeed, he counts – and cherishes – the blessings he and his church family have received as they continue their recovery from the wrath that befell them.

Haney said, “The church survived, even though the building received all that damage.”

Hey, just try to tell Rev. Chet Haney that God wasn’t watching over the community.

Farmersville ISD enlists its own police force

Blogger’s Note: This blog item was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

As a new resident of Northeast Texas, I am still climbing a fairly steep learning curve concerning local government agencies.

Such as the Farmersville Independent School District, which sits about 8 miles east of where we live in Princeton. I learned something about Farmersville ISD that I want to share here.

The tiny school district has a full-time police department on duty. Yes, the Farmersville Police Department suits up each day to protect the students, faculty and support staff on all four of the FISD campuses, as well as at its other offices.

Farmersville ISD enrolls slightly more than 1,500 students. They attend all 13 grades, including kindergarten. I was struck by the presence of a police officer in full regalia at a recent school board meeting; then I noticed the patch on his left arm – Farmersville ISD Police Department.

During a brief break while school trustees met in executive session, I introduced myself to the young man in uniform. He is Brian Alford, the chief of police for Farmersville ISD’s police department.

We chatted about school lockdown policy. I asked him about his police background. Alford told me he served previously with the Farmersville Police Department, with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and was a military police officer for five years in the U.S. Army. The man brings a solid law enforcement record to his post as FISD police chief.

I still am struck by the existence of a full-time police department, paid for with FISD money. Chief Alford said he has four officers working full time for the department. He also wonders why other school districts, such as Princeton ISD, doesn’t employ a full-time police department. Princeton ISD, Alford told me, uses municipal police officers to provide campus security.

Is there a rash of crime on Farmersville ISD’s campuses? I don’t believe that’s the case. Heck, perhaps it’s the existence of a full-time police department that deters troublesome students from acting out in a potentially violent manner.

I mentioned to the chief that I came to North Texas from Amarillo, which also does not have a full-time police force on its school district payroll. Amarillo educates about 33,000 students each year. It, too, uses municipal police officers and Potter County sheriff’s deputies to maintain safety and order on its campuses.

So … I am learning new aspects of our new community all the time. I believe the Farmersville ISD police chief is a conscientious fellow. He is dedicated to protecting and serving his constituents. I will accept the notion that perhaps the presence of the police force deters possible problems on campus. Is it the right formula for every independent school district? That’s up to each of them to decide for themselves.