Commentary

Wed
27
May

Aid roundup for our neighbors to the east

Mother Nature showed her power this week and Central Texans are ailing in her storm’s wake. Rainfall helps refill our aquifers, but rainfall on saturated ground is sent to rivers and creeks, which can cause damage.

Our neighbors and friends in Wimberley, San Marcos and Austin took the brunt of the damage, with the Blanco River rising to record levels and destroying around 350 homes along its banks. There have been several confirmed deaths around Central Texas, a dozen are still missing, many more injured and there will be a huge financial damage toll.

Wed
27
May

Digging for water in the Doss Valley

One morning last week while heading to work, I met one of those large water well drilling rigs heading for the Doss Valley.

And following right behind was another truck loaded down with drill stem and water.

“Hmmm,” I said to myself. “Who in the Doss Valley could be having water well issues or having another well drilled?”

There’s always this concern among ranchers, as everyone trying to make a living “off the land” knows just how critical it can be when the well goes dry.

In our neighborhood northwest of Doss, water is a precious resource and a very deep subject … literally.

For example, the main well on our ranch is 695 feet deep, while others in the neighborhood are well over 900 feet straight down.

And while it might take today’s drillers with their pneumatic rigs two or three days to drill a 700-foot well, it took a couple of months to drill that hole in the ground nearly 100 years ago.

Wed
20
May

Blame misplaced in GCAD, old jail flap

A flood of letters over the Gillespie Central Appraisal District moving into the Law Enforcement Building has pointed fingers at both the Gillespie County Commissioners Court and the Appraisal District’s board of directors. They say a hasty decision was made without consideration for an existing master plan for the courthouse square.

But the root cause goes beyond those two entities wanting (and needing) to get something done quickly. A poor performance by the tax assessor-collector has caused problems across multiple offices:

• Now the county must chase that money from her bond insurer, RLI Surety of Peoria, Illinois (which we reported two weeks ago). All entities are “lawyered up,” so to speak.

• Now the GCAD has to rush to find office space.

• Now the county was put on the spot to offer suitable office space for the GCAD.

Wed
20
May

We've lost some great talent recently

The world of entertainment, especially in the area of music, has taken quite a hit lately with the death of several key people who added their talents through the years.

Most recently, noted performer B.B. King passed on, leaving behind a legacy of soulful music that fused several elements into the one we know today as the blues. His version of the blues could grab you up, take you to the depths of his heart, then reinvigorate you with his overall sound and expression.

Although King had hit recordings in the early stages of the 1950s — such as “3 O’Clock Blues” and “You Know I Love You,” I didn’t really know about him and his music until my teenage years in the mid-to-late-1960s. But King’s blues music, especially what was called “electric blues,” quickly got the attention of this Rock ’n Roll die-hard who was deeply immersed in the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Wed
13
May

Only public schools deserve public funds

Fredericksburg Independent School District’s Teacher of the Year, Naomi Pyka, recently wrote poignantly in this newspaper about coming back to teach in the halls of Fredericksburg Middle School where she had at-tended classes and where her parents and grandparents had attended classes.

She wrote about being inspired by the mentors who helped guide her early teaching days and being awed by the young teachers she sees today. She watched her own children go to school here and graduate.

Wed
13
May

Utility vs. appeal: LEB is sticking point

The Courthouse Square story entered a new chapter this week when Gillespie County and the Gillespie Central Appraisal District neared an agreement for a 10-year lease of the Law Enforcement Building.

Those who have been looking forward to the square’s redevelopment feel slighted Some of those come from the members of the Courthouse Advisory Square Committee, a 501(c)3 organization that helped draw up a master plan to match Courthouse Square with the iconic Marktplatz.

But county commissioners feel the building still has life and should be utilized. They have some valid concerns, such the costs of destruction of the LEB and having to move communications equipment to another location. Those costs are unknown and pricey propositions. Also, the redevelopment of the square would come with its own costs, if full plans were to be implemented.

Still, the dreams of a nicely developed square are attractive.

Wed
06
May

It's good to turn it off, unplug and unwind

I looked down at my cell phone to see the “No Service” message and I smiled.

We at the newspaper manage to always have about 50 irons in the fire, so the knowledge that I was going to relax by the Pedernales River and not hear my cell phone dinging, ringing and buzzing was a welcome respite.

We had a busy Saturday helping our newspaper team with its garage sale to benefit the American Cancer Society. We also got rid of some old computer equipment at the city-sponsored electronics recycling event at the fair grounds.

That afternoon, I snapped photos at the Fredericksburg Art Auction and the Texas Rangers cornerstone ceremony.

Lastly, I enjoyed with my nephew, some flicks at the Hill Country Film Festival and, later, the awards presentation. (The newspaper, and our GoFred app, help sponsor that event.)

Christine had a friend visiting, so we stayed up until about 1 a.m. catching up.

Wed
06
May

Travel and Tourism week spotlights economic backbone

Fredericksburg is no longer a sleepy little town, nor is it a secret to people wanting a unique travel experience.

During Texas Travel and Tourism Week, May 2-10, we highlight some of the benefits of this “clean industry” that benefits our area as it continues to attract more visitors.

Travel spending around Texas totaled more than $70.5 billion in 2014, a record amount. Money spent by millions of travelers across the state directly supported 630,000 jobs across many sectors, from retail, to real estate, to hospitality and leisure. Those monies indirectly support another estimated 474,000 jobs.

More than half of that statewide financial influx came from out-of-state or international markets. Domestic travel (both Texans and non-Texans) increased four percent. Think of these as our “day trippers.”

Wed
29
Apr

Fraser's bill to limit wind has bad energy

These are exciting times in the energy industry, and broad changes are expected in the next few decades.

• New advances and large scale production of batteries (by Space X founder Elon Musk’s company) may soon be able to run households.

• Costs are coming down for solar panels and their use is becoming more commonplace around the nation.

• And the wind industry continues to make documented gains that have made the Lone Star State a leader in renewable energy.

But our State Senator Troy Fraser seems intent to carry the water of the coal and gas industries and stifle innovation and renewable energy gains. The Horseshoe Bay Republican has filed a bill (SB 931) which would repeal the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which subsidizes these burgeoning industries to help them get off the ground.

Wed
29
Apr

'Planet' Pluto to strike a pose for space probe

To the casual observer, the image might look unremarkable. Within a field of blackness is a small, mostly pale blurry ball, possibly gold, light brown or even grayish-white. Near that ball is a smaller, perhaps grayer ball, half its size.

This picture, taken in mid-April by the New Horizons space probe, is the probe’s first color photo of Pluto and its primary moon, Charon. New Horizons at that time was the same distance from Pluto that the sun is from Venus (71 million miles).

I will grow more excited in the coming months as New Horizons, launched in 2006, gets closer to this unexplored system. On July 14, the space probe will make its closest approach to Pluto at approximately 6,000 miles from the dwarf planet’s surface. On its website, NASA reports the probe will be able to map surface details on Pluto as small as a few miles across.

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