Commentary

Wed
21
May

Wildfire dangers remain high

New 'Ready, Set, Go' program seeks to make residents 'firewise'

By Ken Esten Cooke— Recent news images from fires in San Marcos, California, are disturbing. But the images and evacuations should hit home with those of us residing in the Hill Country.

The fires serve as a reminder that, despite recent rains, we in Gillespie County are still experiencing “exceptional drought” conditions, just as is Southern California.

A new group, the Hill Country Prevention and Readiness Coalition (HCPRC) is trying to focus area residents’ attention on fire prevention measures and incident response readiness. The all-volunteer effort is promoting the “Ready, Set, Go” program in hopes of residents being “firewise.”

Wed
14
May

'Hey, golfer, golfer -- Swing and a miss!"

By Richard Zowie —

There will be no invitations for me to join the PGA tour, no offers for me to golf at the Masters or in San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open. Whenever I drive by the Boot Ranch Golf Course, they probably will hoist a handwritten sign saying, “Do Not Enter. This means YOU, Richard Zowie.”

Of the many things in life I’ve always wanted to do, golf was one of them. It’s now gone from that list, and it left with a whimper.

It’s funny how you can spend years craving to do something, and then finally do it and think of how it was nowhere near as fun as you had imagined.

For years, a maroon golf bag with a used set of golf clubs occupied a corner of my bedroom. Often, they’d talk to me.

“Rich, it’s BORING in this golf bag!” they’d say. “We want to hit golf balls!”

Wed
14
May

Amendment victory due to poor turnout

Two things stood out from Saturday’s election.

First, never doubt the effectiveness of a small, but determined, group of people seeking change. Combine that with flat-out apathy from the majority of local, eligible voters, and change is given (though without much “cents”).

Second, don’t doubt that unintended consequences will occur from the passing (by 25 votes) of the first-ever amendment to the city charter. Calling elections every time the city needs to transfer funds to keep business running smoothly will be cumbersome and expensive, and numb voters’ interest in municipal dealings.

While lawyers will now interpret what this new burden will mean to city staff, rest assured it will cause some administrative heartburn. Even the newly elected council members say as much.

Wed
14
May

Stop elder abuse, neglect

Elder abuse doesn’t get as much attention as child abuse, but it still is very real. Around Texas, nearly 70,000 investigations took place, with more than 48,000 turning out to be confirmed cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation. (Self-neglect also was a factor in many of these cases.)

In Gillespie County last year, there were 75 investigations and 45 victims. That hits home.

When people with disabilities or the elderly become ill or depressed, they sometimes can no longer care for themselves, or they quit trying. Self-neglect is also a factor in care for the elderly. That’s when others need to step in.

A new website, EveryonesBusiness.org, has been established to show how to recognize adult abuse or neglect. Anyone who suspects abuse may also call 1-800-252-5400 or report online at www.TxAbuseHotline.org.

Wed
07
May

Look at what all you can buy on television!

Like most everyone else, my first exposure to infomercial advertising on television came from Ron Popeil. Remember him? He sold everything from the Chop-O-Matic to the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone to the Showtime Rotisserie, and the Smokeless Ashtray to the GLH-9 hair-in-a-can for those male-pattern bald spots (I’m not sure about this product; it could have been left-over black paint in a spray can).

While I never ordered anything from the master of “But wait, there’s more,” I always thought he was a No. 1 salesman of the highest degree. I’m sure he could have sold the proverbial freezer to proverbial Eskimos.

Later on, TV advertising advanced to such products as the Bamboo Steamer. With this device I could cook an entire menu of food — small sections of corn on the cob, raw green beans, broccoli, carrots, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, and so on — with the steam power from a pan under this revolutionary cooking invention.

Wed
07
May

TTU visits a sign of commitment to area

President provosts, dean show up for local graduation reception

By Ken Esten Cooke— Texas Tech University President Duane Nellis made his second trip to Fredericksburg in his short tenure. The president was accompanied by the school’s provost, Lawrence Schovanec, its vice provost, Melanie Hart and the dean of the TTU School of Education Scott Ridley.

Bringing that much academic official firepower to a Saturday reception featuring 25 area graduates shows that TTU is committed to its regional campuses. It’s reassuring, and we hope for continued commitment and investment from this first-class university.

All of the graduates will receive bachelor’s degrees in official graduation ceremonies later this year. And all are what are now termed “non-traditional” college students.

Wed
07
May

A rightful salute to nurses

Week recognizes contributions of 'front line' employees in patient care

By Ken Esten Cooke— May is a month that brings spring flowers and some important recognition for nurses across the country.

National Nurses Week this year is May 6-12, ending on the birth date of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and also graduation day for many nurses. Many graduation ceremonies remember Nightingale, the “first nurse,” as a part of a time-honored tradition.

Let’s all thank the nurses in our lives, who represent the largest profession by numbers in a rapidly changing healthcare system. It is because of their dedication to professionalism and patient care that they have been repeatedly voted by the public as the most trusted profession in America.

Wed
30
Apr

TWDB's rural post a welcome change

Water development board’s ombudsman will help towns navigate processes

The State of Texas may never truly figure out how to have enough clean water for its exploding population, but it is not ignoring the problem.

Senator Troy Fraser and Carlos Rubinstein, Texas Water Development Board Chairman, were here last week to introduce the TWDB’s new “rural ombudsman” Doug Shaw. The new position will help rural Texans figure out complicated water needs and provide guidance on equally difficult-to-execute water and wastewater projects.

Small towns often lack the expertise and tax base to support water infrastructure projects, whether it is a new water tower, a wastewater plant or replacing leaky pipes installed in the 1930s. Navigating bureaucracies based in Austin can add to the frustration. So, the new ombudsman’s job is to go to these places and ask what is needed and how can the TWDB help.

Wed
30
Apr

See 'what's growing on' at local farmer's market

Thursday will mark the beginning of “fresh and local” season. Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market will kick off its seventh year, and Marktplatz will again be abuzz with trade in the best, cleanest fare that our pennies can purchase.

And as I sit here typing this in my white shirt and shined shoes, I am reminded that farmers get down and dirty in their chosen field. It’s generally sun-up to sun-down, and, like a dairy, there are no vacations. You know the old joke, “How do you get a million dollars in farming? Start with $2 million and go from there.”

What we purchase at the farmer’s market will be the end result of a lot of sweat and toil, a lot of trial and error and a lot of poker playing with Mother Nature herself.

Wed
30
Apr

Bad-mouthing politicians with Elmo

In the mid-1950s, Sam Houston State Teachers College was a small school. It’s now Sam Houston State University and has several times the enrollment that it did in the fall of 1955, my freshman year, when the student body numbered 1,900 and the freshman class accounted for 900 of that enrollment.

I mistakenly signed up to live in a dormitory that was mostly for freshman boys (no co-ed dorms in those strait-laced days of imposed morals and naiveté).

Before the end of the first semester, I’d found a private home across the street from the campus with rooms to rent. I had a journalism scholarship that paid books, tuition and fees and I had a job to pay other expenses. I was a short order cook at the Club Café, down the street from my ultimate home for three semesters, in the home of Elmo and Falvey Welch, a delightful couple in the their late 70s.

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