Tag Archives: Texas State Capitol

Time of My Life, Part 20: Going local

The final three years or so of my journalism career were fraught with challenges as the shape and substance of media were undergoing significant change.

The Amarillo Globe-News and its parent company were seeking ways to cope with those changes, with limited success . . . or so it appeared to me.

One of the ways I sought to cope with those changes was to redirect the emphasis of commentary on our opinion pages. I obtained buy-in from the publisher of the paper, which as I look back on it now was peculiar, given that our relationship was deteriorating at the time.

I proceeded with the change. It was to place much greater emphasis on local issues, while forgoing comment on national or international issues. By “local,” that included editorial comment on matters of regional concern throughout the High Plains region we sought to cover. I sought to make daily comment on issues pertaining to our core circulation areas covering Randall, Potter, Moore, Deaf Smith and Armstrong counties. Amarillo and Canyon remained central to our concern as well.

Then there were state issues that spilled over into our part of Texas. Those issues got our attention as well.

I would keep a daily log of those editorials. I categorized them: local/regional, state, national and international. My goal always was to focus on local/regional issues first.

Why the change? Well, it became obvious to me that national media — cable TV and the Internet — were absorbed with national and international matters. Our readers had access to that information and to those opinions. Their own opinions were cast in stone. We would be wasting our energy trying to guide them into accepting whatever we thought about those matters.

So we turned our attention to City Hall, the county courthouse, the State Capitol.

There were a couple of months when we were able to devote every day of editorial commentary on local/regional or state matters. Those days gladdened me and made me more determined to continue on that course.

I believe it produced a positive result. We had tremendous traffic in letters to the editor and unsolicited essay submissions from readers. They wanted to weigh in on some of the local issues of the day and, yes, to speak out on the national and international issues we were setting aside.

The Globe-News tossed those changes aside after I resigned in August 2012 and returned to commenting on national and international matters. That was their call. I am just proud to have concocted a strategy I thought was a reasonable response to the change that is continuing to upend print media.

This plaque is a museum piece

The presumptive speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is making his presence felt even before the next Legislature convenes.

Republican Dennis Bonnen has joined the chorus of those who want to remove a plaque in the State Capitol Building that declares that the Civil War was “not a rebellion” and that its “underlying cause (was not) to retain slavery.”

Duh! Of course it was to keep allowing people to enslave fellow human beings. And, yes, it was a rebellion by 13 states comprising the Confederate States of America to separate from the United States of America.

Bonnen has joined Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a fellow Republican, in calling for the removal of the plaque. Indeed, Gov. Greg Abbott — yet another GOP officeholder — has assigned a board in charge with managing state grounds to consider whether to remove the plaque. Abbott’s decision comes after Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled that the board has the authority to remove the plaque if it sees fit to do so.

The plaque contains text under the heading “Children of the Confederacy Creed.” It revises history to suggest that the Civil War, which began when Confederates opened fire on the Union garrison stationed in Charleston, S.C., was not a rebellion. It most certainly was!

As for the slavery issue, the CSA formed to preserve what it called “states’ rights,” which included the “right” for citizens to keep owning slaves, denying fellow human beings any semblance of citizenship.

According to the Texas Tribune, state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, whose office is next to the plaque, wrote Texas Historic Preservation Board, telling the agency that the plaque “is not historically accurate in the slightest, to which any legitimate, peer-reviewed Civil War historian will attest.”

Yep, the plaque needs to come down. As George P. Bush stated in a tweet, “these displays belong in museums, not in our state capitol.”

Perry portrait unveiled … sans glasses


Let’s talk about something truly insignificant for a moment.

I’ve had a busy day doing one of my part-time jobs. I am a bit worn out, so I thought I’d share my view on former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s portrait unveiling at the State Capitol in Austin.

He’s not wearing the glasses he donned prior to running for president the second time.

No, his portrait depicts him barefaced. No specs.

That’s all right with me. I came to know the governor without the corrective lenses. I always thought he donned the glasses prior to running for president for effect, anyway. They were intended to make him look smarter.

Actually, he didn’t need them for that purpose.

It’s not that I believe the former governor is a dummy. I don’t … and he isn’t.


As a glasses-wearing individual myself, I am kind of partial to eye wear on politicians.

Now for a quick aside: I’ve worn specs since the eighth grade. I want to salute Mr. King, my science teacher at Parkrose Heights Junior High School in suburban Portland, Ore., for noticing I was squinting one day while watching a film strip.

The bell rang for the next class and he took me aside and asked, “Can you read what’s on the blackboard?” I responded incredulously, “Well, no-o-o-o,” as if he thought I should be able to read it.

He sent me home that day with a note to my parents.

Looking back on it many decades later I am convinced I was born blind.

I got the glasses. I threw up in the car on the way home from the optometrist. Why? Seeing the leaves blowing in the breeze made me sick to my stomach.

The glasses might have made me look smarter, too. They didn’t make me a better student.

Back to the former governor …

I’m glad the portrait shows him without the eyeglasses. I made his acquaintance in 1990 when he campaigned for Texas agriculture commissioner without them.

He did pretty well over the years in Texas — politically speaking — without dressing up his face.

Open-carry in Texas? Let's talk about this one

Gun-packing in Texas took another step toward something that makes me quite uncomfortable with passage by the state Senate of a bill allowing licensed concealed-carry permit holders to pack heat in the open.

Man, this one give me the heeby-jeebies.


Senate Bill 17 passed 20-11 in the Senate. Republicans supported it, Democrats opposed it.

It allows those who already have a concealed carry permit to strap a gun on their holster and display it in the open, kind of the way they did in the Old West days — which made the Old West a much safer place than it we have today, correct?

A four-hour debate ensued before the Senate voted for it. One of the more interesting comments came from the “dean” of the Senate, Democrat John Whitmire of Houston, who’s hardly a squishy liberal. He argued in vain for an amendment that would ban carrying openly in the State Capitol. Why? Well, he said the Criminal Justice Committee he chairs often gets unstable witnesses testifying before it and he fears someone might pull out a gun and start blazing away.


The Texas Tribune reported Whitmire’s comments this way: “Relating his experiences dealing with angry or mentally ill individuals before his committee, Whitmire said it would now be easy for such a person to grab handgun out of a holster to use it to attack bystanders.

“’It’s dead wrong … to say there’s not disturbed people in this building,’ said Whitmire, who chairs the Criminal Justice committee. ‘It’s not if it’s going to happen it’s when it’s going to happen, and you know it and I know it.’”

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, called Whitmire’s scenario “far-fetched.”

Interesting. OK, assume it’s far-fetched. Does that somehow justify allowing just one individual to twist off in a rage that results in gunfire?

What am I missing here?


What have you done for us lately, legislators?

Texas Panhandle Days is coming up.

An entourage of Texas Panhandle residents is going to travel to the state’s capital city, Austin, sit down with legislators and tell them what’s on their minds. They’re going to tell them what kind of legislation they want passed and they’ll inform our elected representatives of the results they expect to get from their efforts.


The Amarillo Chamber of Commerce puts it on. The link kinda/sorta talks about Panhandle Days’ mission.

I’ve never attended one of these events. The only way I’d ever be invited would be as a journalist covering it for my employer. I’m out of the full-time journalism game now.

So I’ll pose a two-sided question: What really and truly gets accomplished at these events and how the folks who organize measure their success?

I’ve known many individuals — from business and industry, from government, civic leaders, professional do-gooders — who’ve attended these Panhandle Days functions in Austin. They all come back and say what a “great time” they had. By “great time,” I suppose that means fellowship, consuming adult beverages and nice meals — all of that kind of thing.

But they’re not the only regional group that goes to Austin to receive the royal treatment. The Metroplex sends a delegation, as does San Antonio; Houston sends its posse to Austin; same for the Piney Woods and the Golden Triangle (where I formerly lived and worked); Coastal Bend sends a team, along with El Paso and the Permian Basin.

They all get their “days” in Austin, their time to slap a few backs, tell each other proud they are of what they’re doing and schmooze a bit with key state government movers and shakers.

They all have specific needs and interests. They’re all competing for the same pool of money to hand out. They’re all trying to get their legislators to pull strings for their interests.

Who are the big winners — and the big losers?


Rep. White: profile in cowardice

Texas state Rep. Molly White has conducted a shameful demonstration of cowardice.

The Belton Republican posted a message on her Facebook page for all Muslims gathering in Austin for Texas Muslim Capital Day to “pledge allegiance” to the United States and to renounce Islamic terrorism. The message provoked a strong counter protest against what otherwise have been another seemingly quiet demonstration of solidarity by one of the state’s many constituent groups.

And then she wasn’t even in the State Capitol to stand and speak for herself about why she chose to ignite the hateful counter demonstrations.


The counter protests revealed a quite ugly side of human nature. I won’t suggest for a minute it’s reserved for Texans only. Those who shouted epithets at their fellow Texans — the Muslims who were seeking only to have an audience with legislators — demonstrated pure hate.

Let’s understand something about people of all faiths.

No one faith is “evil.” It can be perverted, twisted and molded into something not recognizable by the authors of the holy book its followers read. That holds true for those who read the Old Testament, the New Testament or the Quran.

What the counter protesters revealed was pure ignorance by shouting down the Muslims gathered at the State Capitol. Their sole intent, as I understood it, was to assemble peaceably — a right that the Constitution of the United States grants them as citizens of this great country.

And where was the provocateur? She was back home in Belton.

What a disgrace.