Commentary

Wed
18
Mar

'Sunshine Week' eyes your right to know

Sunshine Week was created 10 years ago around the birthday of James Madison, the father of the Bill of Rights. Sunshine Week this year is March 15-21, so you may have noticed our brethren at your daily papers promoting it as well.

The agenda of Sunshine Week is simple: To promote your right to know. Open government works only when public information flows freely.

Public servants are mostly good people with a great desire to serve. They just get into issues when they try to become the gatekeepers of information, failing to realize that every single thing they do (short of on-going police investigations) is and should be public information. One councilman in Maryland threatened to sue if his name was even printed in his local newspaper. He was rightly ridiculed beyond belief by that paper and on social media.

Wed
11
Mar

Daylight Savings Time spurred by two Texans

Were you late to church on Sunday? Can’t get to sleep at night? Have you felt groggy this week as you find your way to work in the still-dark morning?

These are the short-lived effects of Daylight Saving TIme (DST). A friend of mine wondered on Facebook at about 10 p.m., Monday night, “Would some lawmaker who keeps approving these time changes like to come put my two small children to bed? Now would be good.”

I have felt a bit out of sorts as well, but I am one who likes the additional daylight after work for sometimes squeezing in a couple of sets of tennis or getting some yardwork done (usually in that priority). And at our house, Fredericksburg Independent School District’s early spring break, combined with the time change, means our two middle school sons have lurked about well beyond normal bedtimes, and lay sprawled out on couches and beds until mid-morning.

Wed
11
Mar

Lessons in hospital's continuing success

Hill Country Memorial is at the top of its class, as witnessed last week by its fourth consecutive (and fifth overall) award of being named a Truven Top 100 Hospital.

That independent award — hospitals don’t apply for that recognition — is the result of a study of more than 900 rural hospitals in everything from patient satisfaction to their bottom line.

As Texas finds its way in the healthcare landscape, seeking to lessen its number of uninsured, our hospital stands out even more, because having a healthy rural hospital is not a given.

In the past five years, a dozen small Texas towns have lost their hospitals (and 45 across the nation), due to higher levels of Medicaid and Medicare patients and the declining level of federal reimbursements. Those problems are then compounded, because a community cannot realistically grow and attract new business without a viable healthcare facility.

Wed
04
Mar

Town of Alvin holds childhood memories

As I am faced with one glaring question: What should I do with any available free time?
Perhaps I should visit a place that I haven’t been in 20 years.
Houston.

More specifically, a not-so-little-anymore town about 20 miles southeast of the Bayou
City that my family and I called home from 1981-1983.
Alvin.

When my family and I moved to Texas from Kansas in 1981, Houston is the first thing I remember about the Lone Star State. We’d stopped for the night in Oklahoma (Ardmore, if I remember correctly) and then hit the road bright and early to head to our new home in Alvin.

I fell asleep and woke up and saw we were on a road called Interstate 45 on the outskirts of Houston. Traffic was at a standstill. I’d never seen a city so huge (and wouldn’t until 1986, when my family on vacation drove through Los Angeles). Dad explained to me that an oil truck had overturned and that we’d have to wait until the oil was cleaned off the road.

Wed
04
Mar

Public Schools Week: Vote for bond plan

Welcome to Texas Public Schools Week, March 2-6. We use this week to encourage voters to support a local bond issue and to continue to urge our state legislators to restore funding cuts.

Locally, we urge voters in the Fredericksburg Independent School District to support initiatives and improvements. Recently, a $16-million bond was called for campus improvements. This includes new classroom space, fine arts and gymnasium upgrades, security fencing and more. (See our Feb. 11 front page story for details.)

The FISD has long been good stewards of our tax dollars. And as FISD is considered a property wealthy district, calling these bonds helps make local improvements while lessening the amount it has to send back to the state to supplement poor districts. This works much like a deduction on an individual or business tax return.

Wed
25
Feb

Must be getting taller, 'cause I see my head

As I approach the golden years, my hair has been turning silver.

This is not a new discovery on my part, just a realization of the fact that Father Time and Mother Nature are marching on and I’m struggling to keep up. I’ve seen the “distinguished” patches of gray growing on the sides of my head for some time. But now, the gray has spread all over.

(QUESTION: Why is it when a man turns gray his hair looks “distinguished,” but when a woman encounters the same thing her hair is “mousy?” That doesn’t seem fair.)

I used to make a joke when I’d get my hair trimmed by telling the stylist to cut only the gray hair. Yuk, yuk. But now I’ve realized that if I were taken seriously, I’d have all my hair snipped off by the end of the session.

It seems that hair is a funny thing. Animals have hair to stay warm while we humans have it to trim, comb, style, frost, weave, fry into permanents, bob and shave off altogether.

Wed
25
Feb

Litter tarnishes our Hill Country jewel

Fredericksburg is often lauded for its orderliness and cleanliness, two characteristics that speak to the town’s German heritage. But every now and then, even our clean little ’Burg needs a helping hand.

One piece of litter may not seem like it makes much of an impact. But together, the costs are enormous. A 2013 study by Environmental Resources Planning, LLC, for the Texas Department of Transportation tallied litter at 253 sites around the state, each a one-tenth-mile stretch of a roadway maintained by TxDOT.

The study found 434 million pieces of visible litter from those roadways. (You read that right.) That’s what accumulates on Lone Star State roadways each year. Amazingly, the 2013 total was a 34-percent reduction since the group’s 2009 study.

In 2012, TxDOT spent $47 million to clean litter along roadways, according to the study.

Wed
18
Feb

We need stories like 'The One Who Builds'

Film captures positive immigrant experience

If you could do something nice for the people who helped your ancestors get to this country, would you?

That question went through my mind as I watched “The One Who Builds” recently at “Eat. Drink. Be Inspired.,” the Hill Country Film Society fundraiser event held Jan. 30 at Hoffman Haus. This is one of the events and screenings put on ahead of the sixth annual Hill Country Film Festival.

I thought of my ancestor Robert Cooke as he boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic in 1720 from Scotland. He no doubt had help from others when he got settled, including the man for whom he was an indentured servant for a year to pay for his passage. That was a common arrangement in those days, unlike the service offered to our African brethren. The man even later found Robert a wife.

Wed
18
Feb

Intriguing choices for Old Fair Park

It’s never easy when potential big changes are in the works. But we appreciate the city looking ahead and coming up with some options for the redevelopment of the Old Fair Park area.

No decisions have been made, nor will they be for some time, but on Monday night the council was presented with three conceptual plans by design firm Freese and Nichols of Fort Worth. The concepts include everything from leaving the park intact with only minor tweaks, to adding retail development while retaining green space, to a full-blown development of retail and residential development.

Again, the process is barely underway and no decisions have been made. Council members all voiced guarded enthusiasm along with reservations about potentially moving baseball and soccer fields from the Ufer and Lincoln Street locations.

Wed
11
Feb

Vaccinate children for the health of all

Measles, mumps and rubella vaccines (MMR) are routine parts of child immunization. A recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland in California was caused by too many parents “opting out” of routine and medically accepted vaccinations. The outbreak exposed more than 1,000 children to an illness that should be nearly eradicated.

We looked into vaccination “opt out” rates for local schools, and found some who still deny the vaccines for their children for “reasons of conscience.” We hope they are legitimate reasons, and not because a celebrity scared them into this thinking.

Those who deny vaccine benefits are not a monolithic bloc. Some see government-driven conspiracies, while still others simply believe every alternative medicine study they see on Facebook.

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