Commentary

Wed
24
Feb

Some questions for county candidates

By Ken Esten Cooke 

We have weighed in before about our hopes of razing the old jail behind the county courthouse. Recently, our county commissioner candidates also have been posed with questions about the county’s “buy and hold” strategy on local properties.

Here are a few for the candidates to consider. Thanks to readers for weighing in on these, as well.

What are your plans for the former county jail? Do you think the courthouse side of downtown’s central blocks should be developed to rival Marktplatz in usefulness and attractiveness?

If the county has unused downtown property, would it consider a sale to the City of Fredericksburg or another entity that would make use of it? If not, what are the plans for the property?

How does sheriff’s department spending compare to other counties our size (taking into account we have much more tourism)?

Wed
24
Feb

Where would an army career have taken me?

On Feb. 22, 1996, the night I joined the U.S. Army, a bus took me and other recruits from the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on a 136-mile trip to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for eight weeks of basic training.

Over the next 24 hours, I’d get one hour of sleep. At basic training, six continuous hours of sleep was a luxury.

For four years, I trained and served as a voice interceptor (first Mandarin Chinese, then Russian). I was a linguist in the military intelligence field. My duty stations were Presidio of Monterey, California, Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo and the now-closed Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.

I received an honorable discharge after four years on Feb. 21, 2000, in part because I wanted to become a journalist.

Had I made it a career, Feb. 22 would’ve marked my 20th year of service. Those who serve that long are eligible to retire.

Wed
17
Feb

Horse racing's future hangs in the balance

By Ken Esten Cooke 

 

The issue might be a little confusing, but the end result could be the demise of horse racing in Gillespie County.

If you enjoy going to the races during the summer (currently four weekends each year) you may soon have to go to Louisiana to do the same. If you make your living through training, boarding or breeding horses, your livelihood in the Lone Star State may be short-lived.

This stems back to a decision by the Texas Racing Commission (TRC) to endorse historical racing terminals, which some legislators believed was an illegal expansion of gambling in the state. The TRC did this to help boost revenue and help its purses offered by race tracks.

Last week, a Brownsville judge prevented TRC members from voting on the future of historical racing at horse and greyhound tracks after a suit by the Texas Greyhound Association.

Wed
17
Feb

What ever happened to 'take two aspirin'?

Back in the days when my brothers and I were youngsters, the only time we ever went to the doctor was when we needed our shots updated.

Even though we were rough and tumble kids, we never broke any bones, and luckily, we didn’t suffer from ear issues.

Occasionally, one of us would have to make a trip to get stitched back together, and that was usually Hank. Somehow, he always seemed to get the short end of the stick.

If we did catch a virus or cold, we’d wait a few days for it to run its course. We prescribed to the old adage that if we went to the doctor, the cold would get better in a week, but if we waited for it to run its course, it would be gone in seven days!

When I turned school age, my mom dragged me kicking and screaming to Dr. Springall for “school shots.”

Wed
10
Feb

CTC goals align with local school leaders

By Ken Esten Cooke

Central Texas College is off to a great start locally for higher education pursuits. In its first semester, it enrolled 300 students, a great start for a new institution. Its low-cost tuition allows more students to take courses, where other institutions might prove cost-prohibitive.

CTC Chancellor Jim Yeonopolus was in town last Thursday to hear from school and civic leaders about this community’s needs and what courses CTC might consider offering.

Wed
10
Feb

Being in the moment with my musician friend

By Ken Esten Cooke-

As two-thirds of the rhythm section in the Odessa College Jazz Band in 1986, Mark Rubinstein and I found shared interests in music from bebop, to punk rock, to old-school country.

Mark is an incredible pianist and I was a passable drummer, but our off-stage interests spurred our friendship.

The guy can sit down at a piano and play anything. He’s one of those revered sidemen who can cover any style and make any musician sound better.

But he also has a devious sense of humor and can read cliché musical phrases. I’ve heard him play note-for-note with a sax soloist, only a half-step up. Though he’s the nicest guy, he has his limits. And when he hits them, that’s his idea of fun.

Wed
03
Feb

Candidate forum: who can represent?

Last Wednesday’s State Senate Candidate Forum at Hill Country University Center was eye-opening as to who will replace long-serving Sen. Troy Fraser for Senate District 24. The large district, which stretches from west of Austin through the Hill Country and to Abilene, has drawn conservative candidates that seek to replicate Fraser’s conservatism, though they won’t at first be able to replicate his tenure or sway.

Attending were the six Republicans on the March 1 primary ballot: Dawn Buckingham, Jon Cobb, Ryan Downton, Susan King, Brent Mayes and Reed Williams. We thank them for their attendance and a chance to get to know who might next represent us in Austin.

We heard many things we liked, including that most supported public education and foresaw the damage that a true voucher system would do to public education’s base.

Wed
03
Feb

Initial success: loving college hoops by the letter

I admit it; I’m a big fan of college basketball. And this time of the year finds my affinity for the sport growing by leaps and bounds.

By now, schools are battling for tournament positions in their upcoming conferences’ playoffs. Everybody’s looking to improve their chances of going to the “Big Dance” that’ll take place in the near future.

If my favorite teams aren’t on the TV, however, I’ll flip around the dial looking for close games that look like they’ll go down to the wire. When I find such a contest, I’ll put down the remote and watch. (Note — It’s good to have a back-up game to switch to when the first one goes to commercial. And a heart-felt “thank you” to the person who invented the “recall” button!)

As the game I’m watching continues, I’m also keeping an eye on the scores from other college games floating by on the crawler at the bottom of the screen.

Wed
27
Jan

Hill Country ranches can attract thieves

 

If your family has owned land in Gillespie County since its founding or if you recently bought your dream ranch, there are tips to deter thieves who may want to get a piece of your property.

Special Ranger Mike Barr addressed the Stonewall Chamber of Commerce banquet attendees on Monday night. Comments about Barr’s Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) experience can be found elsewhere in this edition.

But Barr also had tips to benefit ranch owners, both those who have been here for generations and those who are much newer to the Hill Country.

 

TSCRA Theft Prevention Tips

-Display the TSCRA member sign on gates and entrances. Barr said it is an excellent deterrent because thieves know they’ll be pursued.

-Lock gates.

-Brand cattle and horses and make sure the brand is recorded with the county clerk.

-Put driver’s license number on all saddles, tack and equipment.

Wed
27
Jan

Conservation easements and imminent domain

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has proposed to construct a large electrical transmission line across the largest piece of protected land — public or private — in Gillespie County.

                Owned by Mrs. Terese T. Hershey, one of Texas’ most renowned conservationists, the 1,500-acre Hershey Ranch is protected by a conservation easement which was supposed to conserve it in perpetuity.

The Hill Country Land Trust, one of Texas’ 30 private, nonprofit land trusts, “holds” the conservation easement, and is entrusted with ensuring that the land is protected forever.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement — individually negotiated between landowner and land trust for each property — that perpetually restricts all future non-agricultural development of the property.

The landowner retains title to the property, while being assured that it will stay in its natural, productive state forever.

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