Commentary

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.

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.

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