Commentary

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.

Wed
22
Apr

GCAD's jail remodel has good, bad points

It seems that the Gillespie Central Appraisal District’s move into the “old jail” is almost a done deal. But, at the risk of speaking out too late, we have to wonder if this is the best move for the taxpayers of this county.

Approved by the boards of nearly every taxing entity, expediency has been a driving factor. Time is a huge concern, given the additional duties the GCAD will assume. GCAD will take over tax collection duties after the Gillespie County’s Tax Assessor/Collector Office efforts were found inept and insufficient.

But we hope this move is not throwing good money after bad.

Many citizens took a tour of the old jail before voting on the bond issue for the new facility on East Main, which opened last week. The 41-year-old building can be functional for GCAD, but the half that housed the actual jail will be nearly unusable except for storage. We hope the facility doesn’t become a money pit.

Wed
22
Apr

'Bat boy' experience built good memories

In my effort to be a loving and sensitive husband, and remembering that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, I once took my wife to a baseball game.

It was only later that I learned she likened America’s pastime to watching paint dry. And I can understand that; baseball is one of those sports that has to be savored like a good wine. It’s an acquired taste.

Unlike my better half, my relationship with baseball runs deep, thanks, in part, to my early experiences with the game.

As a sports-minded youngster who had the unique honor of growing up, literally, on a college campus (Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina), I had the ability to participate with the school’s baseball team since about the fourth grade.

In the early 1960s, I was a student at the on-campus elementary school that was a part of the college’s dedication to producing teachers.

Wed
15
Apr

Paper or plastic?

The other afternoon, during one of those television show marathons, I watched a show about a grocery store in the Midwest that offers its customers no-frills shopping as a way of saving money.

Groceries are displayed in “warehouse shopping” fashion like we’ve become accustomed to these days. But, during an interview with one of the managers of that grocery chain, he mentioned that the customer is offered two or three of the most popular varieties of a certain product and not six of eight as other chains do.

By offering several of the top brands, he said those products could be purchased in larger quantities and that the savings could be passed on to the customer.

Wed
15
Apr

Wildflower bloom shows bounty of Mother Nature

There is something special about wildflower season. The annual show brings forth the cycle of life from seed to full, glorious maturation. It is a reminder of our blessings in every field, on many corners in residential areas.

It is another reason to be thankful for the many good fortunes we have here in the Hill Country, from flora to fauna.

Tens of thousands of people will drive to Gillespie County to see nature in its full brilliance this spring. Whether on a well-known route like the Willow City Loop, or just happening by a yard temporarily filled with color, they will leave with a further appreciation of nature.

The springtime beauty literally boosts the local bottom line.

In the last Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau study, a full 17 percent of visitors listed viewing wildflowers as the top reason for their visit. That’s nearly a fifth of 1.5 million visitors to Gillespie County. Wow.

Wed
08
Apr

River cane a serious threat to waterways

Sometimes Mother Nature gets manipulated. Non-native species of both plant and animal show up in unexpected places and pose unexpected problems. These invasives sometimes can crowd out native habitat and species.

Witness “River Cane,” a.k.a. Arundo donax, which we covered in last week’s Standard-Radio Post. The Asian import, which likely got its domestic start as an ornamental plant, uses tons of water and its clumping root system clogs waterways and even forces changes in the natural water flow.

That’s what we’re seeing around town in Barons Creek and Town Creek. The ugly, out-of-place, tall reeds are embedding themselves, crowding out other plants in the riparian area around the creeks, and using up our precious water resource. The cane also endangers the health of the Pedernales River, into which Barons Creek and Town Creek feed.

Wed
08
Apr

Two new books have ties to wine industry

Jim Kamas, the local horticulturist and friend to grape and peach growers, has released “Growing Grapes in Texas: From the Commercial Vineyard to the Backyard Vine,” published by Texas A&M University Press.

And, Russell D. Kane, a.k.a. the Texas Wineslinger, has released “Texas Hill Country Wineries,” a pictorial history of how wine got established and became a cornerstone of our local offerings and economy.

Kamas’ book outlines the state’s growing regions and climate-related challenges to growers (as local growers pray for no damaging late freezes or hailstorms). He gets into choosing a vineyard site, water challenges and land preparation. Then he addresses grape varieties, their physiology, pruning techniques and so much more.

Wed
01
Apr

Walkability key to a friendly downtown

Our city is friendly to walkers, and hundreds of residents take advantage of that each day.

Wide streets, an attractive Main Street and nature trails at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park provide an inviting place to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.

Still, we are glad to see the city’s plan to address some not-so-walker-friendly areas of downtown. A plan should be adopted by the city council within the next month.

Less than three years ago, the city began including $100,000 per annum in its budget for sidewalk improvements. Today, sidewalk improvements can be seen on South Washington Street, Austin Street and in front of the law enforcement center. Leadership Gillespie County also has designs on a 1,200-foot walking trail as part of its effort to renovate Frantzen Park.

City plans are in the works for improvements for North Adams, West Travis, South Milam and East Austin streets. Those will improve walkability tremendously.

Wed
01
Apr

Third time not a charm for jury duty

Always a groomsman, but never a groom.

A few weeks ago, for the third time in my life, I received a jury summons in the mail.

For the third time, I sat in a courtroom as lawyers asked us the usual questions about being impartial. Whenever a potential juror spoke of possible conflicts or strong opinions, the lawyers took feverish notes.

And for the third time, I was not selected.

My first time in a jury pool was in 2000 and involved a San Antonio student accused of bringing a gun to school. The second time, about a year later, a San Antonio man was accused of murder.

Both times I was more than willing to serve, and both times I didn’t make the final cut. It’s ironic, considering that in the murder trial, the judge selected a businessman who begged not to serve, saying he’d lose well over a thousand dollars daily.

“I’m my only employee,” he said, throwing himself onto the mercy of the court as a potential juror rather than as a defendant.

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