Much has been written lately about drought conditions in California, but right here in Texas a shortage of water is also critical. Throughout West Texas and the Panhandle, lakes are drying up at a few each year. These lakes are not just puddle jumpers, but some are water sources for cities and rural customers alike. Years ago, Lake Meredith, near Amarillo, started to lose volumes of water each year until it no long could provide drinking water to one of the states largest cities. To the south of Amarillo near Lubbock, Lake Alan Henry is facing the same dire consequence as Lake Meredith in the near future. While the central and eastern parts of Texas are in pretty good shape right now when it comes to available stored water in lakes, the same is not true out west and each year this drought continues more lakes will dry up. I remember when I was kid visiting my grandparents who had a small home on Lake Buchanan. Back then, the 1970's, that lake was full of water and people on boats enjoyed the recreation of a large body of water that lake provides. In recent times, Lake Buchanan has been full only on a handful of occasions mainly due to the requirement that water be released to keep lakes downstream at a constant level. It may be true that California is in worse shape than Texas right now when it comes to water shortages, but we are not that far behind. If this drought is not broken soon, other large cities will be forced to drill even more wells into a dwindling underground water table. It is possible that hundreds of thousands of Texas residents will be forced to relocate into the eastern part of the state, if our current drought continues to get worse.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
For the most part - the economy in Killeen, Texas is above average - simply because the Fort Hood military base, nearby, continues to grow. For several years now, the US Army has been closing bases around the country and the main beneficiary of that move has been Fort Hood. While economic growth in Killeen is primarily a good thing, there is a dark side to all those extra people and the money that goes with them flooding into the city. Crime is on the rise in Killeen as has been witnessed by the almost daily news reports on television of their SWAT team being called to protect the public. For the longest time, Waco was the largest city in Central Texas between Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin. However, the latest census reported that Killeen now holds that honor. A little known fact is this, when cities go through a fast period of growth - it is impossible for local leaders to keep up with the pitfalls that come along with it. The biggest problem revolves around police and fire services, which can not increase as fast as the population. I remember back in the 1970's when an oil boom caused Houston to increase it's population by a staggering 5000 new citizens per week. During that time, Houston experienced the same problems Killeen is facing right now. The good news is that fast population growth does not last forever and eventually city services do catch up with the increasing growth. However, now that Killeen has a population of over 100,000 people. That nasty little problem of more crime is something that will never completely go away. There is always bad that goes along with good and that's just the way it is.
A police officer in Fredericksburg, Texas was shot and seriously injured yesterday after a traffic stop. 31-year-old Robert Adrian Rendon has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. When you look at the list of most dangerous jobs in Texas, being a police officer is right up there at the top. I sometimes wonder why smart folks who could make more money and take fewer risk in life decide to join law enforcement instead? I think some police officers choose a life of public service simply because they had a good experience with someone in law enforcement when they were a kid. I think most people respect police officers, but unfortunately there are a few folks like this guy in Fredericksburg on Saturday - who make working as a law enforcement officer a very dangerous profession. Another reason why some people choose law enforcement as a career is simply because they are a giving person at their core. Frankly, few professions allow a single person to make as much of a different in the lives of others than serving as a street police officer. I hope that Fredericksburg policeman makes a full recovery and is able to return to the job as soon as possible. If you are like the vast majority of Texans who respect not only the law, but the men and women who enforce it. Why not pick up the tab for a police officer the next time you see one eating at a restaurant. That is a simple and inexpensive thing to do that will certainly make that persons day after dealing with some of the worst people we never want to come into contact with.
Over history, it has been proven time and time again that when bad behavior is not met with real consequence, society begins to disintegrate. That is what is happening right now in Texas on many levels, but today I want to focus on how it has affected our schools. Hardly a day goes by when a teacher in Texas is not accused or arrested for an inappropriate relationship with one of their students. Back when I was young, in the 1960's and 1970's, there were teacher student sexual interactions – but at that time they were almost exclusively between male teachers and female students. These days, that mix has changed – but the problem is just as bad or maybe even worse. The state has laws protecting minors for one simple reason. Kids have not matured enough to be able to make their own decisions on matters of sexuality. While I do not understand why there seems to be an increase in the number of sexual encounters between teachers and students, I do believe that the old habit of covering up these problems, in the past, has lead to an explosion of them in recent times. Sadly, school systems in Texas made the choice to look the other way when these issues first started occurring a long time ago. That attitude created a situation where there were no consequence for bad behavior and in return that inaction lead to even more problems. In the world today, if something is not personally hurting you – we are taught to just look the other way and accept the behavior of others you do not agree with. Even in an anything goes society, there should be tough consequences when a teacher becomes sexually involved with a student. If not for any other reason, it might discourage that conduct from happening in the future.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
I always hate it when young people die after doing something that is risky or just down right stupid. Early Saturday morning, 17-year-old Lelys Leyva-Monreal was riding with friends in an SUV when she fell out of a window and was hit by another vehicle. Please don't think I am judging Lelys', because it is only through the grace of God that I survived my own reckless teenage years. Sadly, as adults too many of us quickly forget some of the bad choices we made while growing up. Fortunately, most of us had the chance to mature before our own lives were lost to crazy behavior. According to police, this tragic accident occurred at 2:45 AM and most likely alcohol or drug use played a role in what happened. Now Lelys Leyva-Monreal's family is left to pickup the pieces and try to make sense out of something that should never have happened. While teenagers believe life is tough, it is nowhere close to the stress, worry and concern suffered by parents when their most prized possession is out of sight. Early this morning, thousands of DFW parents awoke to find that their child made it home safe after a Friday night out on the town. Sadly, Lelys Leyva-Monreal's were not so fortunate.
Once again there is talk in Washington that US House of Representatives leaders have committed to passing an immigration reform bill before congressional elections this fall. Sadly - we have heard all of this before from these same leaders, but nothing ever gets done. There is a huge split in the Republicans Party when it comes to immigration reform. On one side, there are business leaders who want to see some kind of road to citizenship for people who entered the country illegally. The other side is made up of 'Tea Party' voters who are dead set against rewarding people who have broken the law. The battle-lines have been clearly drawn on this issue and neither side is expect to blink and give in to the other. Here in Texas, most voters in the Republican Party lean toward the side of the 'Tea Party' when it comes to immigration. While I'm sure there are business interests in Texas who are pushing for immigration reform too, they are usually very silent and keep those opinions to themselves. I think national Republican leaders in Washington D.C. will fail again, if they try to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2014. In a nutshell, the 'Tea Party' has taken over the Republican Party not only in Texas – but nationwide as well. In the past, big money business interests may have control the debate on issues like immigration in the GOP, but it's now Tea Party voters who are calling the shots.
Only a few hours ago, Spacex had another successful launch of a spacecraft headed for the International Space Station. Father time has not dwindled the amount of enthusiasm I have each time a rocket-ship blasts off into space. Until recently years, all space travel was done by countries like the United States and Russia. However, now in the USA those missions are designed and carried out by private companies like Spacex. Not far from Waco in McGregor, Texas there is a Spacex facility where testing of the next generation of rockets is taking place. The McGregor facility is known for some of it's late night tests where the skies around Waco are lit up like the glow of the sun when those massive rockets are ignited. Spacex has brought some high paying jobs to Central Texas along with their state of the art rockets. Ever since NASA started cutting back on jobs in Houston, some of the best minds in the United States were finding themselves unemployed. However, now that Spacex has built a testing facility in McGregor – at least some of those smart folks have a new place to work their magic.
Friday night in Houston, there was a tragic accident where a young boy was killed. Police said the kid was riding in the back seat of a small car when that vehicle was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler truck. Traffic along Highway 290 was brought to a standstill as rescue workers tried to removed people from the damaged car. While it's possible that no amount of protection would have save this young boy from death, I do believe he would have had a better chance of survival, if he was riding in a bigger and heavier car. It's been the norm in recent years for cars to be made smaller. In fact, some of the smart cars of today seem like little more than death traps, if hit by a large SUV or big rig truck. I know everyone is trying to save money on gasoline these days, but is it wise to put our children in danger just to save a few bucks? I feel so bad for this family who lost a child tonight. It was reported that the type of vehicle involved in this fatal accident was a Kia. I personally like the design of Kia cars, but I have often wondered if any type of vehicle that small is really safe while traveling busy freeways in Houston, DFW or San Antonio? It was reported out of Houston tonight that the truck driver was to blame for this accident, because he took his eyes off the road for just a split second to change the channel on his radio.
Friday, April 18, 2014
For years I have watched as liberals and conservatives have used school children as pawns in a game to mold the thinking of the next generation of Texans. Put simply - this is nothing more than trying to brainwash future citizens into following propaganda, instead of allowing them to make their own choices based on education and experience. Before both political extremes started using the classrooms of Texas to push political ideology, our children for years were subjected to a few extremist - who made it their mission in life to rewrite history in order to make their brand of propaganda more acceptable to future generations. I wish I could report that there was a solution to this problem, but there is not. Like the old saying goes, some people look at ideology in the much the same way as religion and those folks believe it is their calling in life to push that agenda on everyone else. We just need to have faith that future generations will be able to examine what is being sold to them and make the right choices.
Yesterday, marked the first anniversary of the West fertilizer explosion that took the lives of 15-people and changed the lives of thousands of others, forever. People who call West home and others like myself who live nearby will never forget where we were and what we were doing when the news broke of that terrible explosion. I was at work when my cell phone started beeping about the breaking news and as the hours went by and the TV video of the extent of the damage began to be broadcast to my living room, I felt a huge sense of depression and sadness. Like many other folks, I have stopped in West to get something to eat while traveling to and from Dallas for decades. Over the years I have done this, I have never personally met an unfriendly person who greeted me during my stops. I also work with two women who call West, Texas home. I felt so bad for them yesterday, as those horrible memories started pouring back into their minds of what happened on April 17th, 2013.