Commentary

Wed
19
Mar

The Long Walk’ back to healthier habits

The title of this column is borrowed from that of a Stephen King dystopian novel, one of an alternate America where there’s an annual race called “The Long Walk.” The winner of that physically and mentally-grueling race would get anything they wanted for the rest of their lives. The losers not only lost the race, but also their lives.

Whereas King’s novel (written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) sounds scary and sinister, I’m engaging in a long walk of my own. This one has healthy intentions. There’s nothing macabre about it.

Why all the walking?

A January visit to the hospital and a subsequent checkup by my doctor revealed to me something startling: the health problems that put me into the hospital could return unless I lose weight.

Wed
19
Mar

The sun should always shine on government

PR, lobbying efforts, ‘walking quorums’ close off access to policymakers

By Ken Esten Cooke— The El Paso Times, in a series of investigations, uncovered an outrageous test score-inflation scandal by the El Paso Independent School District that led to jail time for its former superintendent.

Just last year, the Victoria Advocate found that a program designed to promote economic development in nearby Goliad saw public officials handing out loans to friends and family members, many of which were defaulted on without penalty, and no accurate records of where the public funds had been spent.

These are just two Texas examples of why open government is so needed in our society, and why we recognize Sunshine Week, March 16-23, and its focus on the freedom of information.

Wed
19
Mar

Insight into water challenges

Thursday forum to bring experts’ talk of Pedernales

By Ken Esten Cooke— The Pedernales River rarely seems mighty anymore. Drought has taken its toll, but so have other, man-made factors, such as population growth, land fragmentation and changing land use.

These and other factors will be discussed at the next Texas Water Symposium event, titled “The Pedernales: Challenges and Opportunities Facing an Iconic Hill Country River Basin,” set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hill Country University Center in Fredericksburg.

State water guru (and sometimes Stonewall resident) Andrew Sansom, former executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, will moderate the discussions. Sansom now leads the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and has become the authority on water-related issues in the Lone Star State.

Wed
12
Mar

Which song put the Beatles over the top?

With the recent commotion about the 50th anniversary of when the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, I’ve been reintroduced to my affinity for the Fab Four.

A 12-year-old ’tweener at the time, I well remember the excitement of that Sunday night when the Beatles performed on TV with the young fans in the audience screaming their heads off.

Now, go forward 50 years and remember all of the influences that band from Liverpool had on the entire world. From music to fashion, and beyond, they shook up the world in a way that had never been felt before.

But through all of the time-tested influences of the Beatles, what would you think was the most important song to the success and staying power of theirs? I’m not necessarily talking about the one that made you tap your toes or wiggle your hips the most, but the song that really solidified their importance on the world scene.

Wed
12
Mar

Dispatch from the voting booth outpost

Now I understand what it was like for those lonely pioneers who staked out a homestead on the vast prairie — miles away from the nearest town or neighbor — longing for a friendly face and human interaction.

My husband and I staffed the Democratic polling place for Precinct 6 in Stonewall on Election Day, March 4.

Yes, it’s a brave and lonely job, heading out into the heart of GOP country to man a desolate outpost, but with my stalwart companion by my side, I loaded provisions into the covered wagon (also known as my aging GMC Yukon) and headed out in the pre-dawn darkness.

Oh, I had been warned.

“Don’t go there,” some said.

“You could be under attack at any time,” others warned.

An “old-timer” shook his head in a prophetic warning, “It’s a lonely, lonely day.”

Wed
12
Mar

Businesses stand out with national awards

Large organizations to small thrive in business-friendly Fredericksburg

By Ken Esten Cooke— Fredericksburg has no shortage of savvy business people, and two were recently recognized with national awards for leadership in their industry, while a handful of others were lauded for their volunteer efforts.

For the third year in a row, Hill Country Memorial Hospital was named one of the nation’s Top 100 Hospitals by Truven Health Analytics. The award places the local, rural facility in the top one percent of hospitals after an exhaustive survey of more than 2,800 around the nation.

Patient satisfaction, length of stay, safety, operating margin, readmission rates and other factors make up the study. With HCM’s focus on community wellness, this stellar organization looks far beyond its bottom line.

Wed
12
Mar

Budget ducks tough choices

No changes proposed for largest drivers of deficits and debt

By Ken Esten Cooke— It’s a shame that politics now drives budget proposals more than common sense. And President Obama’s latest offering shows just that with its lack of addressing the true drivers of federal deficits.

The Senate, led by Democrats, has said it won’t bother to pass a budget this year. And House Republicans are fighting among themselves to come to an agreement.

Though annual deficits have fallen in recent years, long-term trends and the failure to address them, will continue to press future generations. Entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid continue to crowd out defense and infrastructure, which leaves the country compromised in a variety of ways.

Thu
06
Mar

Agony of defeat gone with a Dr Pepper

Our 11-year-old wrapped up his first season with the Little Billies basketball program, and our little man-child learned a lot about winning and losing.

We spent most of Saturday morning at the Fredericksburg High School gym, and we saw some close competitive games from these future Billies. We marveled at how much the kids learned under their coaches — ours was Bruce Stafford, but the others also brought out the best in their kids.

Little Billies lights a competitive fire in our kids, all while learning the basics, and that’s great. They learn to try their best, and they learn that losing can sting a little.

Our son’s team finished third, but they were beaten in the “semi-final” game by a team they had topped earlier in the season. In fifth grade, the prevailing thought is if we beat them once, we’ll beat them every time. But the other team played a gritty game and won by a single point.

Thu
06
Mar

No ifs, ands or butts in smoking debate

A funny thing happened on the way to smoke-free restaurants and bars in cities and towns — business didn’t suffer as much as predicted amongst the gnashing of teeth and predictions of mass walkouts. Some people actually preferred not sitting in a fog of second-hand smoke as they enjoyed their drink or food.

Recently, CVS Pharmacy announced it would stop selling cigarettes as it stood in direct view of their mission of being a health services company. For 50 years, we have known that cigarettes were bad for us, but it is only now that it dawns on a major pharmacy that selling them is counter-productive to its efforts. Most independent pharmacies made the decision decades ago.

Still, we wait to see if other large retailers follow suit. With teen smoking on the decline and the majority of the public’s 40-year kicking of that habit, maybe they are seeing the writing on the wall.

Wed
05
Mar

A night with Rumsfeld

Former Secretary of Defense has valued grasp of policy; kudos to foundation for event

By Ken Esten Cooke— We were honored to be able to attend the third annual Distinguished Speaker Series last Monday, sponsored by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation.

The talk by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was yet another example of the foundation bringing a top-notch speaker to our town so supporters could hear from leaders who have shaped recent history.

Rumsfeld was remarkably lucid at age 81, and he hadn’t seem to age a day since he was broadcast throughout the nation during press conferences in the early days of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He answered questions from the audience with his trademark candid style, and he minced no words about whom he thinks would not be a good White House occupant.

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