1. Easter happenings. Easter weekend is one of the quietest in Abilene during the year, with few competing events scheduled. Egg hunts are popular, as are daybreak worship services. Every other year, Pioneer Drive Baptist Church stages its pageant at the Abilene Convention Center. The final two performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. It's free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Call 325-692-6776 or go by the church, 701 S. Pioneer Drive, before noon Friday.
The Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden could be a nice Easter weekend destination. (Photo: Joey D. Richards/Abilene Reporter-News)
2. How about art? With a light entertainment schedule this weekend, it may be a good time to check out the exhibitions at The Grace Museum or Center for Contemporary Arts, both downtown. And if the weather is nice, perhaps a stroll to visit the sculptures at Everman Park and the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden.
3. Time for a movie. With "Avengers: Endgame" looming on the horizon (next weekend), no big movies are planned to open against the blockbuster. Until then, there's "Captain Marvel" and four movies related to pets — "How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World," "Dumbo," "The Mustang" and... "Pet Sematary." The latter may not be exactly family entertainment.
The Rotary Club of Abilene will present its annual Taste of Abilene all-you-can-eat food showcase from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St. Around 50 area restaurants and vendors will offer food and drink samples.
Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door, with proceeds going to community organizations and culinary scholarships. For tickets or information, go to tasteofabilene.com.
The annual Abilene StrEATs outdoor fundraiser meal benefiting the United Way of Abilene will be served at 7 p.m. June 1 on the 200 Block of Cypress Street. Food and wine will be provided by Cypress Street Station, The Local, Taylor County Taphouse, Birdie and Rancho Loma Vineyards. Participants must be at least 21 years old.
Tickets are $125, and must be purchased by May 24. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com. For information, call 325-677-1841.
Piano students of Kathie Goodrich will present spring piano recitals at 5 p.m. May 12 in the Amy Graves Ryan Recital Hall at McMurry University. The high school showcase will begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony. Admission is free.
Robert E. Howard Days
Project Pride will conduct the annual Robert E. Howard Days June 7 and 8 at locations around Cross Plains. Events include panel discussions, tours and a symposium. A banquet and auction featuring guest of honor David C. Smith will begin at 6:30 p.m. June 7.
Registration is $15. For information or registration, go to rehupa.com or email ProjPride@yahoo.com.
In conjunction with the event, the Barbarian Festival Parade will begin at 6 p.m. June 6, with the festival open from 9-4 p.m. June 8 at Treadway Park.
ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge has been honored with the Hero Award from Interested Citizens of Abilene North (I-CAN).
Mayor Anthony Williams presented Chief Standridge with the award at the I-CAN luncheon.
Standridge issued the following statement about receiving the award.
"This award is a direct reflection of the daily efforts of our Police staff, sworn and civilian. I am convinced of this truth: for this City to be successful, its Police Department must be successful. We are linked, precisely because “we” are community.
I work very hard to be inclusive. I echo our Mayor’s belief that people need a seat at the table. The issues facing us are huge and require authentic partnerships. You will see such partnerships in our alliance to end domestic violence, our homelessness initiatives, our radical changes to mental health response and crisis prevention, our Child Advocacy Center, and the increasing use of technology to enhance efficiency.
I-CAN is a group of dedicated leaders who believe they can make a difference. So is your Police Department, and we are committed to working alongside our neighbors to bring about change, one family at a time."
Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
That's Darrin Cox's goal for the homeless student population in the Abilene Independent School District.
Cox, the district's homeless student liaison, welcomes the responsibility to make sure no student has an excuse for not attending class.
So far, he said, the hard work is paying off in segments. Much more work, momentum and money is needed to transform his efforts into tangible success.
"I'm counting this year as an improvement," Cox said. "Our attendance vs. the overall attendance is about one percentage point below the general population. For me, one of the first things I set out to do was remove barriers.
"And it's happening."
A numbers game
Cox and social worker Heather Melchor — a team of two under the federal programs umbrella of the school district — have seen increases in homeless students each year they've been involved.
Melchor serves as the district's McKinney-Vento social worker. She works exclusively with students who qualify under federal law as homeless.
The position originated under the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, a federal law that provides federal money for homeless shelter programs and determines if a student is considered homeless by school district standards.
These federal regulations are far broader than simply not having a permanent roof overhead at night.
Through February, Cox said 1,216 students from early childhood education through to 12th grade have been identified. And there's more to come in the final months of the school year.
Last May, Cox reported 1,495 students identified. The year before that, 1,217 students. Fewer were identified the year before that.
According to Cox's data, the overwhelming majority of the students are in elementary school in "doubled-up" situations.
Doubled-up means the student possibly is couch surfing or the family lives in another family's home or apartment. Slightly less than 90 percent of the total homeless student population in AISD is in this type of dilemma.
So far in 2018-19, kindergarten has been hit the worst with 113 students reported homeless. Of those, 102 are listed as doubled up.
Data also tracks students who are unsheltered, living in a motel or hotel or in homeless shelters.
Cox's numbers show Hispanic students account for the most homeless situations.
As of February, 485 Hispanic students (40 percent of the total homeless student population) reported being homeless. Meanwhile, 330 white students and 265 black students reported the same situation.
Mixed race/ethnicity students account for 110 homeless students, while small numbers were reported for Asian, Native American and Hawaiian within the district.
Melchor said boys suffer more in elementary while girls catch up in the later grades, as serious issues such as sex trafficking key on young women at higher rates than young men.
Melchor focuses much of her attention at the high school level, she said. Those students find themselves in situations where they can't or won't be at home, either because something happened to prevent being there or they've been pushed out.
"They've been kicked out for any reason," Melchor said. "They don't have anywhere to go. They end up couch surfing where they have to worry about getting kicked out again from where they're staying."
Melchor said one of her students was kicked out of the house because the student consumed the last doughnut at breakfast. Just like that, a student becomes a statistic, as long as he or she reports their situation.
Cox and Melchor hope more and more students, and their families, follow through on reporting, not just to track the numbers, but also to receive some of the benefits they can take advantage of while they're in these messy situations.
Less of a problem to the south
While Abilene ISD figures continue to increase each year, Wylie ISD said its homeless student population is not an issue.
Superintendent Joey Light said there are students in the district who are using the services the district provides, but the numbers are small.
"There has been no problem I'm aware of, and we haven't had difficulty working with the kids," Light said. "The numbers are low but we do have options to meet the needs of those kiddos. We just don't have many."
One of the most publicized benefits Abilene ISD can offer its homeless population is access to its store.
However, these items aren't for sale — they're available to everyone.
New socks and underwear, shirts and shoes, backpacks and school supplies. They're available thanks to a number of donors who have stepped up over the course of the past three years to turn the store into a full-fledged shopping experience for anyone who walks through the district's administration center doors at 241 Pine St.
"There's not a day where somebody doesn't bring me something," Cox said. "And there's not a day someone doesn't come in to get something."
Cox started the store small, with whatever he could gather in an effort to provide some form of support to some of the neediest students who came through his office.
As word spread throughout the community of Cox's efforts, donations started coming in by the truck load. With the increased support, those emotional barriers to success started coming down and students became supported in ways they struggled with before.
"We've moved forward a lot," Cox said. "Everything a student needs to go to school is here, and we have help for them every day. There's no reason anymore for a basic need to get in the way of going to school."
Cox said the store, which now occupies multiple rooms in the district's Federal Programs offices and a storeroom in the administration building's bottom floor, is completely incapable of holding on to enough socks and underwear for the student needs it faces.
It's always running short in that department, he said.
School supplies are another struggle, as students continue to go through paper, pens and pencils throughout the school year.
Part of Cox's inability to keep the shelves stocked might be his attitude toward providing these items to those who ask.
"I don't say 'No,'" Cox said. "Every time someone asks. It's crazy, it's fun and I'm enjoying my job."
Hierarchy of needs
In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed a new look at human motivation. It's a scientific theory that permeates all aspects of the student homelessness issue within the district.
Maslow believed that human needs best fit on a triangle. The base of the shape is where basic, physiological needs reside. Above are the security needs, such a food, water and shelter.
You have to climb the triangle to the top to find areas where education becomes a need, with self-actualization being the peak. This is where a person studies morality, creativity and is able to concentrate on fact-finding.
Maslow's theory suggested people — young children or adults — need base needs fulfilled before they are motivated to seek these higher goals such becoming educated.
"When a child is coming from that sort of situation, when they come to school, the first thing on their mind is not learning," one AISD first-grade teacher said.
(The Reporter-News granted anonymity to focus on the issue, not the teacher's school).
"If they don't have a place to sleep that's warm in the wintertime or comfortable in the summertime, they're not going to sleep," she said. "If they're exhausted, they're not able to learn. Many times, these kids are way behind where they should be when they're coming in."
This is where Cox's store comes in, the teacher said. Maybe it's getting the students clean clothes to wear so they're not ridiculed or their own set of crayons so they feel they belong. But each barrier that's broken allows the students to focus on education a little more than the day before.
The teacher said day-to-day work with these students to build relationships with them. Working in small groups helps, allowing them to form relationships not just with the teacher but with a few others in the class.
The goal is to make sure the student feels accepted in the classroom.
"Often, their behavior issues are the result of something that's gone on at home," the teacher said. "It's something they have no control over. So, before we can close those gaps, we have to build those relationships so they trust us.
"Often, we modify some of our expectations to get that relationship going. We start where they are and get them to where we need them to be. It's helping them understand that we all make mistakes, we're not perfect. We help them feel safe here, that they're not going to have this held over their head all day or all week.
"We know if those basic needs aren't met, their minds are on those things and not in a place where they're ready to read."
Big need, big ask
While day-to-day life requires undergarments and students need new tools to complete their school work, there's a much bigger problem at play that both Cox and Melchor said needs immediate attention.
"The biggest thing Abilene needs is a youth shelter," Melchor said. "A 17-year-old kid who leaves home because his mom is on drugs goes to a friend's house, then is told they have to leave because of an argument or something.
"You don't want to put a 17-year-old in the system. But they're just regular kids, just like all of the rest, from the valedictorian on the tennis team to the kid in trouble. They're all the same with the same basic desires."
Abilene has created facilities for homeless adults. And the foster care system addresses needs for young children. It's the teens who fall through the cracks, Melchor and others say.
It's like that all around the country and throughout the world. Abilene is no different than other communities, they say.
Cox also is working on expanding some of the programs that help get food into the hands of the students who need it the most. It's another barrier that could come down if he's able to expand programs such as the Taylor Snack Pack program, which provides students food for the weekend.
Improvement, but not finished
Abilene ISD has taken steps to address its homeless population's needs.
And with interest brewing in expanding the food programs and building up a new youth and teen shelter, there might be hope for bigger things in the future.
"We need to take some serious steps in the next two years," Cox said. "We've seen drastic improvement over the last two years but we still have some who are below where we can even help them. Some of our students are in drastic situations."
That's where getting the word out, spreading the message of AISD's programs, can help, Cox said.
Community groups have played a tremendous role in helping expand the store. He's enjoyed having an intern, Samantha Pennese of Hardin-Simmons University, spending part of her time organizing and restocking the store when she's not working directly with Melchor.
The more the word spreads about the school district's efforts and what they want to do in the future, the more they'll be helping, Cox said. And it'll end whatever negative stigma gets attached to seeking help when unable to help yourself.
"It's not a disgrace or an embarrassment to come in here for help," Cox said. "We don't want anyone to feel that way, because it's not. We're just here to help. We just want to help."
And “as the health of it goes," City Manager Robert Hanna continued, "So does the rest."
“Downtowns are special places,” he said, serving as a cultural, social, commercial, and residential centers. “Abilene is blessed to have all of these components in the downtown because of the work of those that came before us.
"Our job now is to capitalize on that work and leverage it into further growth and prosperity.”
Building on a legacy
Abilene is thankfully, “beyond the days of worrying about our city center being on a respirator,” Abilene Chamber of Commerce president Doug Peters said.
Many still remember Abilene's downtown in the 1980s, said Lynn Barnett, executive director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council. The area was a "boarded up, lifeless area attracting no residents or visitors."
“One by one, beginning with the Paramount, then the Grace, The Center for Contemporary Arts, the (National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature), Abilene Ballet Theatre, Frontier Texas!, etc, a new and vibrant life was brought to an area that was on life-support,” Barnett said.
Today, a still-in-the-works downtown convention hotel is expected serve as the major “catalyst” for new development, Mayor Anthony Williams said in his recent State of the City address.
That project expected to be funded through a mix of private donations, Hotel Occupancy Tax dollars, $1.5 million in public sector funds and $40.5 million in private sector development.
Hanna said at a recent council retreat that he planned to bring discussion about the hotel project to the council by spring.
The chamber, Abilene Downtown Association, city of Abilene and others have committed to help advance the cause of downtown, Peters said.
But while many consider the downtown hotel to be essential to the city's future, it's not — by far — the only card in the deck.
An effort of the chamber, the city and more than 1,000 area residents created the City Center Growth and Development Plan, a four-part planning document that identifies key development, infrastructure, and public/private partnership opportunities to spur the successful redevelopment of Abilene’s downtown core, he said.
In recent City Council actions, Williams also created a Downtown Task Force, charged with studying the plan, identifying ways to implement it and recommending realignment of on-street parking in the downtown area, with the aim of increasing the number of parking spaces available.
Among manifold focus areas of chamber's efforts, Peters said are focus on housing, making certain downtown is a clean and safe environment for people to invest in and to visit, improving walkability, and identifying opportunities to leverage public and private investment for the greater good of the community.
“We want to help downtown Abilene to become a recognized to live, work and play, and as a partner we are focused on the elements of an 18-hour downtown rather than one where the population drives home to the suburbs at 5 p.m. each day,” Peters said.
Many already are working directly to bring what Hanna termed their own "sweat equity" toward downtown endeavors.
For example, at 202 Cypress Street is the future home of a 30,000 square-foot commercial development that will include a brewery, Grain Theory, along with other tenants, Hanna said.
Alex Russell and her husband, Justin, are renovating the old Busch Jewelers into a taco bar featuring local produce and fresh ingredients with an interior highlighting pieces by local artists and stocking Texas spirits.
The goal is to have an "updated atmosphere, good food, and a celebration of all things local," Russell said, noting in early March that remediation and abatement had been completed and the couple were in the process of collecting bids to start construction.
And they and others work to bring businesses online, efforts continue to beautify downtown's public image in eye-catching ways.
Based on those successes, nascent plans were recently discussed at a Parks and Recreation board meeting to revivify Minter Park, with ideas floated such as a performance area, digital water curtains and/water mist projection systems, a tree-and-trellis structure that would allow for projector systems, security cameras,or lighting, and seat- and stool-height stones.
Committed to the cause
The yearly Children’s Art & Literacy Festival, venues such as the NCCIL and the city boasting the largest collection of storybook sculptures in the United States have created new opportunities for visitors and helped cement an identity for the community as the “Storybook Capital of America,” Barnett said.
That designation conveys to the rest of the country the value that our community places on art, literacy, and family.
“The arts should remain a strategic partner and focus moving forward, and an anchor for the on-going development of a possible downtown hotel, new restaurants and other businesses,” Barnett said.
But neither the community's storybook components and theme, nor the arts by themselves can be a successful strategy for downtown development, since a downtown is “far more complex than just its cultural elements,” she said.
Creating a "unique urban vibe" that can help attract workforce necessary to long-term economic success is a vital goal, Peters said.
Downtown is the first impression of Abilene many visitors get, "and for those of us who call Abilene home, our downtown’s vitality is a big part of what retains us," said Megan Dobbs, marketing and communications director for Community Foundation of Abilene and a member of the Downtown Association.
Dobbs said that in her opinion, the more the community bolsters imaginative and capable small entrepreneurs, the better downtown and other pockets of town thrive.
From a city perspective, "we need to be careful not to create a regulatory environment that messes up much of what the private sector is already trying to accomplish," Hanna said.
"We need to meet the private sector where their ability to solve a problem is limited, and work with the private sector to solve it," he said. "It's going to take the city and the business community working together to continue to make our downtown into the best version of itself."
Offense was hard to come by for the purple-clad Wildcats who got on the board with Hayden Farquhar's 3-pointer three minutes, 36 seconds into the game after Kentucky scored the first eight points. ACU trailed 39-13 at halftime before having its season end with a 79-44 loss.
And while it ended, this is a season and team that will be celebrated at ACU for years to come.
"I think it was the best season in ACU history," ACU coach Joe Golding said. "I don't think it was one of the best, I think it was the best season in school history. And we're going to celebrate those three seniors and this team like it was the best because they deserve it."
ACU missed its first four shots before Farquhar got his trey to fall. But it would be five minutes before ACU scored again, at that point Kentucky built an 18-5 lead and took away any hope.
"In this tournament, (starting well is) really important," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "What happens when teams are desperate, they'll do stuff they don't usually do, and if you let a team hang around, something stupid, crazy, like what just happened, can happen ... We got out of the gate really guarding and blocking shots and did a pretty good job and shot a high percentage."
That left ACU looking for answers, and it took until the second half to find them. ACU was just 5 of 26 shooting over the first 20 minutes of the game and had eight turnovers — leading to 10 Kentucky points — at halftime.
"We just couldn't make shots, shot 19 percent in the first half," senior guard Jaylen Franklin said. "And then the second half we pretty much shot 45 (percent) — 45? Yeah, I guess. And just the first half, turning the ball over first half really hurt us."
Senior forward Jaren Lewis was one constant for ACU, finishing with a team-high 17 points and pulling down an ACU-best five rebounds. The result is a hard pill to swallow, but playing on the biggest stage in college basketball against a premier program is something to be proud of.
"I mean, it was a great experience being out there for March Madness and everything," Lewis said. "It was great knowing it was the first time in our school's history, but at the end of the day, it stings losing like that. And being me, Jaylen and Hayden's last game, it hurts, but it was a great experience, probably something we'll never forget."
And as much as Golding stole the show from a torn suit at the end of the Southland Conference championship game through telling his team, "I love you. And thanks" before the game, he wanted to make sure the real story was his team.
ACU was led by its three seniors all year long and battled through two players being removed from the team late in the year. They battled through it all to win the Southland tournament and reach its first-ever NCAA Tournament.
"I want to make sure moving forward that this team is celebrated," Golding said. "It's not my hole in my pants, it's our team, and it's our university because they deserve it, man. These guys have been incredible, man. I'm fortunate to coach them. They took me on a hell of a ride, one that I'll never forget the rest of my life."
Payten Ricks scored all nine of his points in the second half while Franklin scored seven of his nine in the second half. ACU was more itself over the final 20 minutes of the game.
"It's tough adjusting to all the length at the rim, and we knew what we had to do," Lewis said. "It was just a tough challenge for us getting on the glass. But yeah, the turnovers killed us, and then we just couldn't see anything fall in the first half, so it was tough."
It was the final game at ACU for seniors Franklin, Lewis and Farquhar. And when the time comes to shift focus to the 2019-20 season, ACU will do so with an experienced group coming back, but a question on how to round out the roster.
With two rising seniors no longer with the program, Golding doesn't need to just find bodies. He needs to find experienced bodies who can have an instant impact.
"I mean, time will tell with that, but we have a bunch of young kids back," Golding said. "We're also losing three really good seniors, but we've got some good young kids back ... We've built this on high school kids and a culture and really developing, evaluating talent and trying to develop, and so we might have to get creative in recruiting here through grad transfers, JuCo or something, but we're not going to change who we are, and I think our program is going to move forward."
Cliff Waters couldn’t have been happier when a representative for the private company developing a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston offered to buy his Freestone County land. With power lines slicing his property in two, he had already been itching to get rid of the land before Texas Central Partners LLC approached him.
“The people were very professional,” said Waters, who also owns land in Mexia and Galveston. “It was a good thing for me for sure.”
But 100 miles away, Liz Machac has been adamant about holding on to her 235 acres of Grimes County property in the path of the proposed bullet train. Texas Central asserts that state law gives it the right to use eminent domain and force unwilling owners to sell their land, but Machac isn't so convinced. As legal battles and bureaucratic processes that could resolve such key disagreements play out, Texas Central is holding off from condemning anything — and Machac is holding on to her property.
“My family was born and raised here, and it’s a special place,” Machac said. “There’s a historically designated cemetery on the land and just a lot of history in this area.”
Holly Reed, Texas Central’s managing director of external affairs, said the company prefers not to use eminent domain “at all” and would rather work out amicable sales agreements for the thousands of parcels needed to construct the 240-mile project across 10 counties. And the company vows to minimize how much the line will impact the land around it.
“Each person has a different story about what’s important to them,” Reed said. “We listen to hear, you know, are we impacting your driveway or your stock tank, and we come back, and we work to see what we can do to solve for those problems.”
Given the fierce opposition to the project in rural areas, eminent domain is likely to become a necessity at some point. Texas Central remains embroiled in the ongoing debate about its authority to condemn land. In one Harris County case, a judge agreed the company has such powers. But that same legal question is at the heart of other ongoing court cases across Texas.
Meanwhile, a newly elected lawmaker who has long opposed the project plans to file legislation that addresses what he calls “systemic flaws” in state statutes that arguably allow the company to condemn the land it will need.
“It’s nothing more than you and I sitting in a room with a couple hundred million dollars and saying, ‘We’re a railroad company, and we’re going to condemn your property,’” said state Rep. Ben Leman, R-Anderson. “And then the landowner is sitting there scratching his head and saying, ‘Who do I turn to?’”
One of Leman's biggest concerns about the project is that even if Texas Central can use eminent domain, there is apparently no state agency explicitly charged with determining if its plans for high-speed rail would benefit the public enough to warrant condemnation proceedings in the courts.
But once upon a time, there was.
A forgotten agency
Back in the 1990s, the Texas High-Speed Rail Authority was a government entity tasked with determining if Texans wanted a high-speed rail system and awarding the right to build one to the most qualified private applicant, according to records from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
During its short tenure, the authority had the power to exercise eminent domain and condemn property that was “in the public interest” on behalf of Texas TGV, according to the bill which authorized the authority.
In a final report on the authority, former executive director Marc H. Burns underscored the need for state involvement in high-speed rail projects.
“The State should retain planning and oversight roles in all new transportation infrastructure, particularly where new right-of-way may be required,” Burns wrote in the report. “[High-speed rail] is a mass transportation project and the role and power of safeguarding the public must be reserved to the State. Only after we have articulated how the project may be accomplished without denigrating the lives of Texans can we seek a private partner to implement a plan designed to better Texas.”
Leman thinks such oversight is valuable. But he also worries his new legislative colleagues may not have an appetite for creating a similar agency again. That's because lawmakers in recent years have limited state involvement in Texas Central's project. The private company has vowed not to spend taxpayer money for the high-speed rail line, though it may apply for federal loans that it would repay. And lawmakers have forbidden the use of state funds to plan, build, maintain or promote the project.
State Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr., the vice chair of the House Committee on Land and Resource Management, agreed that landowners in the path of the proposed project could benefit from increased state oversight. But the Magnolia Republican also admitted it could be “a double-edged sword” because new agencies create additional costs and bureaucracies.
“It behooves us to either assign the task of structuring eminent domain by statute to an existing agency or consider placing that responsibility in the hands of a new agency,” Bell said.
New attitudes and federal oversight
Constructing the line that could run America’s first bullet trains will cost between $15 billion and $18 billion, according to company estimates. Texas Central has already inked deals with construction and operations partners. Heavily backed by Japanese entities, it's gained access to more than $425 million in investments and loans as it keeps pushing forward with development.
The company said it has secured purchase agreements from landowners on 30 percent of the parcels likely needed for the train’s route. But it has not said how many parcels it still needs.
Trains could run at speeds of up to 205 miles per hour and cut a trip that would normally take four hours by car down to 90 minutes. Texas Central's president Tim Keith told the Tribune in February that trains could start running in 2024.
The route was chosen after careful studies into the project's financial viability, impact on the environment and potential ridership numbers. Project supporters, especially those in the state's two largest urban areas, see it as a transformative project that could finally get Americans out of their cars and traveling between cities by rail. As more Texans flock to urban areas — and eschew car-centric lives in favor of other transportation modes — many see this as the right time to introduce a new way to travel.
And Reed, the Texas Central executive, said her company learned from the failure of the previous high-speed rail attempt and has developed “a better approach for Texas that will work.”
“When you have a project that is not government-driven, you have the discipline of following the data,” Reed said. “This project works because it's in the sweet spot of the too far to drive, too short to fly. It's got a strong market.”
Meanwhile, the project has some federal oversight. As required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Federal Railroad Administration began its environmental review process of the project and released a draft environmental impact statement last year. It was that review process that identified the likely path for the proposed project. The FRA is working on addressing the public comments it received and will publish a final environmental impact statement next year.
Texas Central also filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board, a federal agency that regulates railroads, asking it to assume federal jurisdiction over the project. Previously, the STB declined Texas Central’s 2016 petition. But the company filed another petition this year asking the STB to take jurisdiction over the project, this time because it has a “through ticketing agreement” that would allow Texas Central riders to connect with Amtrak’s rail network. The proposed Dallas station is about a 15-minute walk from an Amtrak station. The Houston bullet train station is miles from an Amtrak stop. The STB has yet to issue a decision on Texas Central's latest petition.
“Every other major railroad, passenger and freight, is regulated by the STB,” said Reed. “So it puts this project on a level playing field with those other major railroads.”
But even if the STB assumes jurisdiction over the project, Texas Central will still need to prove that it has eminent domain power in Texas, according to Patrick McShan, an attorney for the group Texans Against High-Speed Rail.
“The Surface Transportation Board can’t grant eminent domain,” McShan said. “They can’t get Texas Central over that hurdle.”
Kyle Workman, the chairman and president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, said the company will still face intense battles at the county level.
“At every one of those intersections where the railroad crosses a county road, there is going to be a permit that is required,” Workman said. “They’re going to have to prove that they have eminent domain, and the counties are not going to allow them to take the property.”
Reed said that Texas Central would like to work “collaboratively” with the counties in order to get the project built and become a “major economic engine” for Texas.
Meanwhile, lawmakers will return to Austin for a new legislative session that begins in January. And Leman expects Texas Central to be the target of legislation. In 2017, 10 lawmakers filed more than 20 bills aimed at the high-speed rail line. But for the second legislative session in a row, the project emerged relatively unscathed after bills aimed at hamstringing or killing it failed to get much traction.
Leman, though, thinks there could be movement in the regulatory chess game facing Texas Central as he and others file bills next year that try to balance private property rights and economic enterprise. What would upcoming legislation look like? Well, Leman's playing that one close to the vest.
“This should be a big session to discuss this project,” Leman said. “But I don’t want to tip my hand too quick because they are not giving me their hand.”
Pushy or progressive?
But beyond the regulatory weeds of whether or not Texas Central has the power to take land — and whether a state agency should have oversight if it does — there remains a more fundamental divide between people like landowners Machac and Waters.
For Machac, Texas Central is “pushy,” and the project solves a problem that doesn't exist.
“It's not necessary, and we don't have the population density to support that,” Machac said.
For Waters, the project represents progress and will go a long way toward removing much of the gridlock on Texas' highways.
“People never agree to progress,” Waters said. "They always want to live in the past. They’ve inherited [land], and they don’t like people changing their property, and I understand that. But it’s something that needs to happen.”
Disclosure: Texas Central has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
The Wolf Abilene, Texas – 95.1 The Wolf will have a “New” but “Familiar” sound in the mornings when Justin Case, long time radio personality takes over Mornings beginning November 1, 2018. Justin has been heard in markets that include Los Angeles, Houston, Memphis and since 1993 right here in West Texas on radio stations that included KEAN, KBCY and 102 The Bear. During Justin’s long career as a radio personality he has developed friendships with many of todays top country artist. He is also well know for his in depth interviews with artist that include George Strait, Garth. Brooks and Dunn, Reba, Merle, Willie Nelson, and many more. With the strong influence of Texas Artist in today’s music scene, that artist relationship continues in that genre of music. Justin says, “I am extremely excited to be joining the team at 95.1 The Wolf as well at 96Q. I’ve always said that The Wolf has the best sound in town and could win in any market in the US. Being locally owned and operated Community Broadcast Partners is very community oriented and that is important to West Texas. Plus entertaining during the mornings will be so much fun and I look forward to connecting with listeners there.” Owner of 95.1 The Wolf, David Klement says, “We are very excited to have Justin back on the air in Abilene. His reputation and involvement in the community will be a great asset to us, our listeners and advertisers!"
A hunting trip took a terrible turn Saturday when a bear that had been shot by two soldiers fell from a ridge and struck one of the men.
Specialist William McCormick, 28, and Pfc. Zachary Tennyson, 19, were on a recreational hunting trip in the area of Carter Lake, Alaska, about 100 miles south of Anchorage, when the incident occurred, according to KTVA.
Both soldiers are members of the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Dispatchers were reportedly notified of the accident through a beacon signal from a Garmin inReach satellite communication device.
The situation was dire by the time help arrived.
“The pair were hunting in the area and shot a bear above them on a ridge,” authorities told KTVA. “The bear rolled down the slope dislodging rocks in the process. [McCormick] was injured when he was struck by both a rock and the bear.”
With the help of Alaska state troopers and personnel from two fire departments, McCormick was carried to a helicopter to be medically evacuated, the report said.
From there, he was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where he has reportedly been listed as sustaining “life-threatening injuries.”
A spokesman from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told KTVA that it was a black bear that had fallen from the ridge just above the two soldiers' position.
Thursday May 31st. My Emergency Room 24/7 + Urgent Care want to sayThank you to first responders in surrounding areas. (Fire, Police, EMS, Constable, and Sheriff for Abilene and all surrounding areas)
Come out 11:30am to 1:30pm to My Emergency Room 24/7 + Urgent Care. “next to Firestone on clack in the old Gangus Grill”. My Emergency Room 24/7 + Urgent Care is wanting to give a BIG thank you to ALL first responders in ALL surrounding areas and buy your lunch to say thanks. Also Wolf Abilene will be out helping My Emergency Room 24/7 + Urgent Care involvement in the community by Supporting Hendrick Children's Hospital (CMN). For every $75 Donation, we will give you a pair of tickets to Schlitterbahn! So come out and have a great lunch. Also help out some kids May 31st. 4438 S Clack ST Abilene, Tx
If you're looking to add some bacon to your Whataburger product lineup, you're in luck! Starting this week, Whataburger's Hickory Smoked Bacon will be sold at H-E-B!!!! This just made Bacon wrapped peppers even more Texas!!!!!!!!
The bacon is available in one-pound servings and includes 16-18 slices per package.
“Whether fans are topping mac and cheese or adding crumbles to baked potatoes, we’re proud to introduce Whataburger’s Hickory Smoked Bacon and make it easier than ever for fans to cook up their favorites from home,” said Whataburger Vice President of Retail Mike Sobel.
This isn't the company's first foray into meat]if you did not know Whataburger launched sausage in 2014.
Wolf Abilene is very excited to be apart of the Cogdell Memorial Foundation Benefit Concert June 2nd in Syder, Tx, benefiting Cogdell Memorial Hospital Foundation. This concert benefit will feature live performances by country music artists Tracy Byrd, Rick Trevino and Deryl Dodd.
The Cogdell Memorial Hospital Foundation is committed to helping promote good health within their community. Their board members are community-committed citizens. They are your friends and family members and trust Cogdell Hospital with their medical care. They have your best interests at heart and generously donate their time to ensure that Cogdell Memorial Hospital has state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and programs to help the physicians and staff provide quality care. You can get Free tickedts for the asking at Wolf Abilene Studios!
Bucking For Heroes is an organization helping our Veterans in there own awesome and Texas way. It was founded by PJ Perkins, who also suffers from PTSD. He lost a friend from suicide who also served by his side in Iraq. Since then he has vowed to help others that have also served. Their individual events hosted to benefit other programs exploded with response from our communities to be in assistance. Since then, Bucking for Heroes have become established and continue to set out to help any way possible. They Assists veterans and their families with housing, food, counseling, education, employment, and any basic needs not being currently met. They are fully funded by donations and there many sponsors from the Big Country area and consists of only unpaid volunteers and members. They hold many events through out the year to cover any costs to help improve the lives of the heroes who have served the nation. The next event they have is the 2018 Bucking For Heroes Poker Run in memory of SFC Phillip Leeman. No entry fee but donations are welcome. Multiple prizes to be given away. Then the big rodeo June 16th at Nolan County Coliseum. It will be a sanctioned event by Rock You Pro Youth Tour. They will have muttin bustin, mini and big broncs and mini and big bulls. Please Support these guys as they are doing amazing things! For more info viste there Facebook Here
Texas country music star Zane Williams comes to Abilene Tx. May 18th at Homer's Bar and Music Venue in support of his latest album Bringin’ Country Back. More than a catchphrase, “Bringin’ Country Back” is a rallying cry for a return to authenticity and substance in mainstream country music, and a fitting title for his sixth studio album.
“I think of country music as poetry for the common man,” Zane says reflectively. “The stories that draw you in, the simple truth stated in a way you wish you could’ve said…there’s an honesty to country music that totally grabbed me the first time I heard it.”
Born right here Abilene, TX, to a pair of college professors, Zane was moved as a child first to Kentucky, then West Virginia, and then California as his parents pursued their academic careers. While he enjoyed singing harmony in church and composing his own instrumental pieces on the family piano, it wasn’t until he turned sixteen and got the car keys (and control of the radio inside) that he had his first transformative experience with country music.
“I’m flipping stations and I land on Bob Kingsley’s Country Countdown one Sunday morning after church, and I hear this guy Garth Brooks singing “The Dance.” I had just broken up with my first girlfriend, and that song wrecked me; it cut right through me like no song ever had.” Not long after, his parents bought him a used guitar as a reward for good test scores, and Zane began trying his hand at writing his own songs"
Redbud Park 633 Walnut
Abilene, TX 79601
May 25, 2018
· Here are Friday’s winning Mega Millions numbers (Jackpot was $45 million): 14 - 38 - 40 - 53 - 70; Mega Ball was 22; Megaplier was 3.
· Here are Saturday’s winning Powerball numbers (Jackpot was $257.9 million): 22 - 42 - 45 - 55 - 56; Powerball was 14; Power Play was 3.
· Kevin Harvick won Saturday’s KC Masterpiece 400 NASCAR race.
· In a commencement speech at Duke University yesterday, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told graduates to be "fearless" like the women in the #MeToo movement and the high school students from Parkland, Florida, who both stood up to rally the masses in a quest to change the world for the better. Some three decades after he graduated from Duke's Fuqua School of Business, Cook returned to the Durham, North Carolina, campus bent on inspiring a new generation to reject the status quo and "and dare to think different." He cited recent examples of people who have been driven to confront the powerful standing in the way of change.
· Donald Trump praised his incredible mom in a heartfelt Mother's Day video, but the president made no mention of the First Lady and mother-of-one, Melania Trump. “This Sunday is one of the most important days of the year. It's a special opportunity to thank all of the mothers and grandmothers in our lives,” Trump said at the start of the video. Trump's mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was Scottish-born and emigrated to New York in 1930. She found work as a domestic worker before marrying Trump's father, Fred Trump Sr., in 1936. MacLeod passed away in August 2000.
· A massive new fissure opened on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, hurling bursts of rock and magma with an ear-piercing screech yesterday as it threatened nearby homes within a zone where authorities had just ordered an evacuation. The fissure, a vivid gouge of magma with steam and smoke pouring out both ends, was the 17th to open on the volcano since it began erupting on May 3. Dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people forced to evacuate in the past 10 days.
Texas Summer Jam Presented by Whataburger with Randy Rogers and Friends is taking place at Toyota Music Factory on Saturday August 25. Live music on two stages, great food and plenty more. Tickets go on sale Friday May 11 at 10AM. Buy tickets at LiveNation.com and visit ThePavilionTMF.com for more festival information to be announced.
TOUR: Texas Summer Jam Presented by Whataburger Festival With Randy Rogers and Friends
VENUE: THE PAVILION AT TOYOTA MUSIC FACTORY
SHOW DATE: SATURDAY, AUGUST 25, 2018
ON-SALE: FRIDAY, MAY 11 AT 10AM
Stay Tune to 95.1 as we give you a chance to Win Tickets!!!!
· The KC Masterpiece 400 NASCAR race airs tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. ET on FS1 (From Kansas Speedway)
· Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is $45 million.
· Tomorrow’s Powerball jackpot is $257 million.
· The Food and Drug Administration declared a temporary shortage on the life-saving EpiPen device, both name brand and generic versions, worrying families who rely on the shot in emergencies. Manufacturers say the EpiPen is available, although companies faced recalls and supply disruptions last year.
· Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz died early yesterday morning at the age of 60. The Baltimore County Executive died at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center after cardiac arrest. According to a release from Baltimore County police, Kamenetz was at home sleeping in Owings Mills, Md., when he woke up around 2 a.m. ET because he was feeling sick. He was taken to the hospital where he then died at 3:22 a.m. Kamenetz was a fixture in state politics for nearly 25 years.
· Sipping on a refreshing Bloody Mary while cruising at 36,000 feet is how many airline passengers like to mark the start of their holidays. But those traveling on United Airlines have been left up in arms after the carrier stopped serving tomato juice - a key ingredient. The airline recently revamped the refreshment offering on some of its services saying it was part of streamlining. But passengers found out that it meant no more tomato juice - at least on its short-haul flights that are less than four hours. For those wanting a Bloody Mary, a pre-mixed can of Mr. And Mrs. T Bloody Mary is offered instead.
· Iran is likely to launch cyber attacks on Western countries within months in retaliation for the U.S. ripping up the nuclear deal, experts warn. “All bets are off” with Donald Trump's move to reinstate tough sanctions as the Islamic regime was angry and saw no reason not to use its capabilities in response. Most at risk were banks and financial services, government departments, critical infrastructure providers, and oil and energy firms.
· Donald Trump says he will meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore. Trump revealed the date and location of their much-anticipated meet-up on Twitter on after witnessing the safe return from North Korea of three American detainees in wee hours of yesterday morning.
· Rudy Giuliani resigned from his law firm after his partners got fed up with his bloviating defense of President Trump during a series of over-the-top media appearances, a new report said yesterday. Rudy took a leave of absence in April from the firm, Greenberg Traurig, to defend Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and other controversies, including the $130,000 payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. But the firm said yesterday that he had quit the day before, the New York Times reported. “After recognizing that this work is all consuming and is lasting longer than initially anticipated, Rudy has determined it is best for him to resign,” said the law firm’s chairman, Richard Rosenbaum.
WEIRD FACT OF THE DAY
Here’s today’s weird fact of the day.
On average, there are 200 seeds on a strawberry.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.
ADVICE OF THE DAY
Put pennyroyal or tansy leaves in your pet’s bedding to deter fleas.
· REMINDER: Mother’s Day is right around the corner; May 13.
· Cambridge Analytica, the data firm at the center of the Facebook privacy scandal, is shutting down. The move comes after the company admitted making mistakes over the misuse of data harvested from Facebook accounts. SCL Group, parent company of Cambridge Analytica, is closing in the wake of rising legal costs in the Facebook investigation and loss of clients.
· White House lawyer Ty Cobb is retiring and will be replaced by the attorney who defended Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings. Emmet Flood will replace Cobb, who was hired to liaise with Trump's personal attorneys and handle the White House's end of the Russia probe, the New York Times first reported. The White House attorney had been one of the Trump lawyers pushing the president to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. His departure at a time when the White House is bracing for a potential subpoena from Mueller is indicative of a change in legal strategy.
· Here are last night’s winning Powerball numbers (Jackpot was $195 million): 5 - 14 - 31 - 40 - 50; Powerball was 6; Power Play was 2.
· Seven states, led by Texas, have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — launching a new front in the fight over the Obama-era immigration policy. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia joined Texas to collectively urge the federal government to declare the program unconstitutional and halt the issuing or renewing of DACA permits. The lawsuit alleges that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority when it unilaterally created the program without the approval of Congress.
· WWE star Kane, whose real name is Glenn Jacobs, won the Republican nomination for the Knox County mayoral race in Tennessee. Jacobs collected 14,633 votes, narrowly edging out Brad Anders, who had 14,616 votes. The results won't become official until all of the provisional ballots are counted. Jacobs declared himself the winner on Twitter.