Tag Archives: Princeton Herald

Sanity prevails at Princeton ISD

Well now, it appears that the Princeton (Texas) Independent School District board of trustees has stepped away from the slippery slope over which I feared it would plunge.

This is a good thing. The Princeton ISD board announced this week that it will not change fundamentally the district’s policy regarding use of public venues by special interest groups. The policy has been upgraded, according to board president Cyndi Darland, who, according to the Princeton Herald, said that administrators “made great recommendations that we approve of.”

They call it the Facility Use Policy, aka FUP. The adjustments will include some “adjustments” in the rates that groups would pay to use the venues.

The issue surfaced a few weeks ago when trustees questioned whether Princeton ISD should allow certain groups to use the venues. One group intended to rent space to celebrate its “pride” in the community’s gay community. Trustees took the issue under advisement and sent the matter to legal counsel to consider what to do about it.

I am going to presume the lawyers thought better of any notion that the district could ban anyone, or could institute an outright total ban for any group wanting to use the facilities. A PISD spokeswoman said, according to the Herald, “There will be a few rate adjustments and restrictions on certain activities that will be permitted.”

This past year, the issue of a drag show surfaced as a matter of concern. I didn’t see the show, mainly because that’s not my “thing,” if you know what I mean.

The revisions will take effect after spring break, Superintendent Don McIntyre said.

I am one red-blooded Princeton ISD taxpayer who would shudder at the notion of my school district banning anyone from using public facilities, let alone approving a total ban for all groups. These venues belong to us. Think of how Princeton ISD would tell a 4-H group, or a church group, or the Boy and Girl Scouts they couldn’t use these public venues because of resistance to, say, a “Gay Pride” event.

The school district has backed off that silly notion, to which I will offer a hearty hand clap.


Learning the details of school finance

Working as I did for nearly 37 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I learned long ago never to presume I knew all there is to know about anything.

I am learning that truism in real time covering a school district’s effort to wrap its arms around the stupendous growth it is experiencing.

These days I am a freelance reporter for the Princeton Herald. My bosses at the paper have assigned me the task of covering the Princeton (Texas) Independent School District’s long-term planning committee’s work in crafting a growth-management strategy for the district.

The committee has its hands full trying to grasp the myriad complexities surrounding the issue. It met again tonight to start to unravel it. The group is making progress.

So do I as a reporter assigned to tell the committee’s story to the public that needs to know what is going on. It met again tonight to start to unravel it. The group is making progress.

Therefore, this old man who spent a lot of years learning about communities where he worked — in Oregon, the Golden Triangle of Texas and the Texas Panhandle — is now learning a truckload of new things about this Collin County community.

It’s a challenge I accept gladly.

I just need now to wrap my noggin around the complexities of school finance, the implications of a possible pending bond issue and how the district intends to prioritize a very long wish list of needs it has identified.

It makes me dizzy just thinking about it now. Don’t fear for me, though. A good night’s sleep will enable me to clear my head in the morning. Then I’ll be able to make sense of it.

The learning curve awaits.


Watching from ground up

My journalism career enabled me to cover many fascinating subjects and meet some extraordinary people over the course of nearly four decades … but these days I am being given the chance to watch an issue develop from conception to an electoral conclusion.

I am now a freelance reporter working for a newspaper in the city where my wife and I settled four years ago. My bosses at the Princeton (Texas) Herald have asked me to cover the development of an economic plan that likely will result in a bond issue election next May in this Collin County community.

The Princeton Independent School District formed a 49-member citizens committee that is examining how the district will deal with burgeoning student population growth. To be honest, I had never covered such an issue from the beginning, sitting at ringside as the committee hammers out the demographic, economic, taxing issues that await it.

To be utterly clear, I need to be careful that I do not “scoop” my bosses at the Herald by posting something on this blog that pre-dates the coverage I will provide for the newspaper. Still, this much has been published: the district is growing rapidly; a demographer has told the committee where the pace of growth is setting the pace; the committee has planned several other meetings prior to presenting its recommendation to the school board in late January.

This presents me with a serious challenge and a wonderful thrill to learn a great deal about this fascinating community. One thing I have learned already is that Princeton is among the fastest-growing cities in the fastest-growing county in Texas.

It excites me to be able to tell this city’s story to my neighbors and to others in this city who have a stake in the future of their public school system.



Twists and turns on journey

This retirement journey I’ve been on for about the past decade keeps twisting and turning along a strange ride toward, well … I’m not entirely sure where it’ll end.

You might know that I have been working as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times for the past couple of years. The newspaper is part of a group of suburban weeklies owned by husband and wife who live in Collin County.

Well, beginning just the other day, my assignment changed. I am going to cover city government, school issues and writing features for Princeton, where my wife and I have lived for nearly four years.

Yes, the Princeton Herald is my new assignment headquarters. An opening occurred at the Herald, so I asked my bosses if I could be considered to fill the hole on the staff. They said yes. That was that.

This is an exciting new challenge for me, inasmuch as I do not yet know all that much about the politics that drive policy at Princeton City Hall. I now will get to learn about policymakers who determine the taxes I pay to live in my new hometown. I also will get to examine — and report on — the politics that drive public education policy in this rapidly growing community.

This is an exciting new venture for me. I have told my bosses how much I appreciate the faith they place in me. I won’t let them down. Furthermore, this post-full-time-journalism retirement will proceed along this course for as long as my bosses want me to keep reporting or — God forbid! — I am no longer able to do what I love to do.


Home rule for Princeton … finally?

Well, those who serve us at Princeton City Hall are possibly asking: Will the umpteenth election to create a home-rule charter for the city be the one that sticks to the wall?

Actually, what is coming up on Nov. 8 will be the fifth city charter election for Princeton. Count me as one relatively new Princeton resident who wants the measure to succeed and I intend to vote “yes” when the city presents it in just a few weeks.

The charter has failed four times at the ballot box. Opposition to annexation policies torpedoed previous efforts. The 2017 Legislature took care of that issue by declaring that cities cannot annex property without property owners’ permission.

A citizens committee has been working non-stop for seemingly forever on a draft document. The panel finished the work, and the City Council ordered the election to occur this fall.

The draft city charter has a couple of fascinating aspects that should appeal politically to residents. It sets term limits for council members and the mayor; it also creates single-member districts for four council members. The current council does not have any limits on the number of terms members can serve and the current council also is elected citywide. As the Princeton Herald reported: “No city officer will be able to serve more than eight consecutive years as mayor or council member. A total cap of 16 years of cumulative service will also take effect.” 

I covered — as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times — a similar election earlier this year in Farmersville, which also drafted a city charter. That city’s measure passed by a wide margin. My hope for Princeton is that its voters, too, will approve a charter, which to my way of thinking gives the city much greater say in setting the rules by which we all should live. What’s more, there’s a whole lot more of us living in Princeton than there were during previous citywide charter elections.

I have been covering this story as well for KETR-FM radio. I wrote this piece for KETR.org:

Piece of Mind: A Charter For Princeton? (ketr.org)

Princeton’s status as a general-law city means our council’s hands are tied to following state law. It’s fair, therefore, to ask: Would you rather have those rules set by those who live here among us or by those who live in faraway corners of our far-flung state?

State law does require something quite useful as we ponder this upcoming election: It requires the city to send copies of the draft charter to every registered voter in the city. It’ll come in the mail and I encourage all Princeton voters to look it over … with care and discernment.

Our city continues to grow in large leaps and bounds. Our elected City Council needs the power to set its own rules. I hope we have the wisdom to grant our fellow Princeton residents that authority.


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.

Happy Trails, Part 178: Sleepy town is waking up

A little more than a year ago, my wife and I made one of the key decisions of our married life when we found a house in Princeton, Texas and, with the help of our Realtor daughter-in-law, purchased it.

We knew going into this purchase that we were moving into a community on the move. It is a fast-growing city that over time will cease being an insignificant burg that straddles U.S. Highway 380 in Collin County.

A bit of news in the Princeton Herald, though, slapped right across my face. The story talks about the large number of building permits the city has issued since 2014. Then came this item from City Manager Derek Borg, who said the city’s population has effectively tripled since the 2010 census.

The sign at the city limits says Princeton’s population in 2010 stood at 6,807 residents. Borg told the Herald that he estimates the city population at this moment to be between18,000 to 21,000 residents. What’s more, Borg added “and growing.”

I actually gasped a tad when I saw that figure.

My wife and I have long demonstrated an ability to walk into a restaurant just ahead of the rush. You know how it goes: You walk in, get your table right away, eat your meal and then walk out the door past the large crowd of customers waiting to hear the names called for the next available table.

We feel as if we’ve gotten in ahead of the crowd, with this difference: We aren’t walking away and leaving others to take our place!Instead, we believe we have made a prudent investment in our future.

Princeton now is one of those cities that few folks know exists. We tell our friends we live in Princeton, Texas, and they invariably say, “Where’s Princeton?” We have to tell ’em it’s eight miles east of McKinney on Highway 380. We also tell those who are interested that our new home is just a 22-minute drive from our granddaughter, who resides in Allen. The way we see it, 22 minutes is far better for us than the seven hours it used to take to see her when we lived way up yonder in Amarillo.

I am getting the feeling, after reading the story in the Princeton Herald, that a lot of folks are going to know where Princeton, Texas, is in due course.

Happy Trails, Part 176: Rediscovering anonymity

Ahh, anonymity is grand.

It is one of the joys I have discovered on this retirement journey on which my wife and I have embarked.

We relocated more than a year ago to Collin County, Texas, after spending 23 years in Amarillo and nearly 11 years before that in Beaumont. I don’t want to oversell or overstate anything, so I will take care when I write these next few words.

The craft I pursued in the Golden Triangle and then in the Texas Panhandle — as opinion page editor for two once-fairly significant newspapers — gave me a bit of an elevated profile. I was able to write editorials for both newspapers as well as publish signed columns with my name and mug shot along with the written essays. Readers would see my face on the pages and then would greet me with, “Oh, you’re the guy in the newspaper!” 

I went through that little ritual for more than three decades in vastly different regions of Texas.

We now live far from either place. I do write for a couple of weekly newspapers these days — the Princeton Herald and the Farmersville Times. It’s a freelance gig that I sought out. The publisher of the papers has been kind enough to put me to work — but on my terms!

I now blend into the scenery. No one recognizes me on sight. I’m unsure whether my name will remain anonymous, given the exposure it will get by appearing on top of news features I hope to write for the Herald and the Times.

One more point I want to make. In Beaumont and in Amarillo, I occasionally found myself discussing politics and public policy in the most unusual locations. I would encounter friends and acquaintances who seemed to presume that since I wrote about politics at work, that I live and breathe it when I am off the clock. They are mistaken.

I once vowed that I would not discuss work in some places, such as at church. More than once I have told folks in the pew next to me that “I came here to talk to God, not to talk about politics with you or anyone else.”

So far, so good here in Princeton. Anonymity is a joy I intend to cherish for as long as humanly possible.