Well, it has been a busy couple of weeks since the last update - but I guess that's nothing new. This week, we had a nice little break from the typical Texas July climate with cool weather and much-needed rain. Of course the side-effect of all that rain is that now we're going to have to mow the grass a little sooner.
As of Tuesday, all of Denton County was still in Extrem drought, but we'll find out on Thursday whether that rain changed our official level. According to the National Weather Service's DFW records, we've had 0.81 inches of rain this month, but as you may have heard, there were parts of Denton County that got almost 11 inches in one day. Most of that fell in the Lewisville Lake watershed, and that has caused the lake to rise from a low of 513.60 feet to its current level of 515.23 feet - a 1.63 foot rise. That means we are still 6.77 feet low, but that's much better than where we were at. Dallas Water Utilities reports that overall lake depletion for its reservoirs is at 28.67% - well short of the 50% number that would trigger the next step of water conservation measures.
For what it’s worth, scientists think that higher temperatures and dryer soils are contributing to a lack of needed rains and resultant runoff needed to keep our lakes full over the long run. According to this Texas Tribune article, state water planners are only focusing on water needs of a Texas with a larger population, not a Texas affected by climate change. Pretty bad when even Oklahoma figures climate change into their planning, and we don't.
In Denton, you may have heard that citizens there started a petition to ask their City Council to completely ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing. The problem has been that despite the City’s ordinances and setbacks, owners of pre-existing old-fashioned wells have claimed they were not subject to the city’s ordinances due to “vested rights”. This past week, the Council met to consider whether to pass the ordinance or send it to the voters to decide. After hearing citizen input in the public hearing until the wee hours of the morning, it almost seemed like the Council was going to talk itself into passing a ban, if for no other reason than to get the drillers to the table to put the burden on them for negotiating an ordinance they would obey. But in the end, with great frustration they decided 5-2 to send the issue to the voters in November. Denton Record Chronicle’s Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe has done a great job covering the ongoing story, so we don’t have much to add.
Lewisville Fire Chief Tim Tittle is a leukemia survivor, and is being honored in an event called the Big D Climb, 2015, which will raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
According to a WFAA article, Denton County Criminal Court Judge Jim Crouch threatened a domestic violence victim with jail if she failed to show up and testify at her batterer’s trial. The woman had a pre-scheduled and very expensive trip to Romania that she could not reschedule, and that she had informed the court about months in advance. Crouch should face discipline from the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct for re-victimizing a victim, and telegraphing a message to women that if they report domestic violence, they should expect to have their lives disrupted at great expense for many months.
The Lewisville Citizens Police Academy is taking applications. This is an opportunity for citizens to learn how their police department operates, and get a taste of the training that their police officers must go through. Your editor did this a few years back, and considers it invaluable experience that gives him much better insight on the department.
I should be clear that although it’s common knowledge that Denton used to be the home of a nuclear missile base, we can’t vouch for the accuracy of the claims made by this website, but you might find “Denton Underground Secrets” interesting. Anyone interested in renting a backhoe, and going exploring?
Years ago, I used to attend a local mega-church, which shall remain nameless. At the time, my oldest son was a baby, and I stopped going because it was just such a hassle dealing with him and the crying and diaper issues. When he was a little older, I went back, but only a time or two, because I really didn’t like the fact that it had turned into a cloister flock - a church that seemed to want to serve to further isolate its members from the community at large by having its own book store, coffee bar, sports leagues, and all those manner of things. Anyhow, this article in the Texas Observer struck home to a degree.
If you’ve read LTJ for very long, you know we love satire. There’s now a satire website for the University of North Texas in Denton called The North Texas Pigeon. I’ve often thought about separating the occasional satire we do here into its own website, but it would have to have a really good name. Too bad “Pigeon” is now taken.
Here’s a common problem with today’s political discourse though: assuming that the words or actions of one person reflect the thinking of the party that person is purportedly affiliated with. For example, there was backlash a couple weeks ago when a supposed Democratic Party candidate for office tweeted some dumb stuff, and was then targeted by conservative pundits. Thing is: he’s not even a real candidate. To some extent, you can hold a party responsible for its candidates, but to do so, you have to 1) actually have a candidate, and 2) have competitive primaries.
When Weird Al’s lyrics are better than the original ones, you know something is wrong. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines has such a nice funky groove to it, but it was too bad the lyrics were as some described: “rapey”. Here’s a version you can listen to guilt-free.
By Jason Stanford With Barack Obama's approval ratings getting dragged down by a floundering foreign policy, we might miss one of his biggest successes in a place no one expected—Iran. Whether we extend the interim anti-nuke deal or reach a longer-term agreement to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Obama has backed our enemy into a corner. But fans of cynicism, failure, and partisanship should take heart, because there's still time for congress to turn what should be a win-win for the United States into yet another loss.
What we call "the free world" agrees that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. What we disagree on is how to stop them. The Dick Cheneys and John McCains of the world believe belligerence, saber rattling, and bombings are the wisest course of action, while liberals prefer economic sanctions and diplomacy. And as much as negotiating with Iran seems foolishly naive, it seems to be working.
I've got a confession to make. I didn't think it was going to work, either. Because of the hostage crisis, I grew up hating Iran even more than the Yankees. Later, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's insane claim that Israel must be "wiped off the map" convinced me that the only thing that would bring that country to its senses was a crash course in smart bombs.
That's why I was among those Democrats who quietly thought Obama was foolish about foreign policy when he was running for president. It was one thing to want to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when he said he would meet with rogue states including Iran "without precondition," his reasoning came across like the lofty logic of an ivory-tower egghead with no chance of success in the real world.
LOCAL VETERAN GROUPS, PEER SPECIALISTS, AND COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDERS JOIN FORCES TO DISCUSS THE IMPACTS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS IN THE VETERAN COMMUNITY
DENTON, TX – On Saturday, July 19th, Denton County Veteran Peer Specialists will be joining with leaders from the Ft. Worth Vet Center, the Dallas Center for Brain Health and other local veteran and mental health organizations to raise awareness about the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress on Veterans in America.
The program on Saturday includes a free screening of the documentary “Halfway Home”, as well as a panel discussion with combat veterans and experts in the field of veterans’ mental health issues. Participants will include:
US Army Veteran Lee O’Brien, who served in Afghanistan and will share a personal story about how his life has been touched by combat trauma.
Panel leaders Dr. Warren Ponder, PhD, LCSW from the Ft. Worth Vet Center and clinical psychologist Dr. Linda Ladd, Ph.D., Psy.D.
Marine Corps veteran Cedric Jones, B.A., of the Center for Brain Health, who will share his personal and professional insights.
Please join us as we let fellow veterans and the public know that we care about our veterans, and that it’s ok to get help.
When: Saturday, July 19th at 2:45 PM Where: University of North Texas Gateway Center 801 N Texas Blvd, Denton, TX 76201
Vision 2025 is the city's long-range plan, based on citizen input, that maps out a vision for where the City of Lewisville will be in the year 2025 - just over 10 years from now. Many of the plan's big moves affect or reinforce other plans the city has, such as the planning for the I-35 Corridor Development.
Council needed to accept the Vision 2025 Plan because the I-35 Corridor Plan ties into the Vision 2025 Plan's "Identity Focal Points" big move, which identifies sections along I-35 to express Lewisville's aspirational and actual identity.
Councilmembers also heard a presentation from a consultant regarding the I-35 plan, and City Manager Donna Barron told the Council that very soon, staff would be presenting targeted portions of that plan to the Council for approval. The timeline for implementing some of the I-35 items has accelerated due to the ongoing construction, and the urgency for displaced businesses to relocate to some of the scarce remaining I-35 frontage parcels.
Mayor Ueckert suggested the Council prepare to meet more frequently in special sessions in the coming months so that they can move quickly when needed to get things done. Barron talked about the need to ensure that ordinances and regulations were in place to ensure that the remaining developable land would be developed in ways consistent with the plan.
We'll keep an eye on the Council and let you know what develops.
Here are some photos of people enjoying a day at the lake on July 4th. We post a lot more photos on our Facebook page than here on the website, but thought we would see if we could share a Facebook album here. Let us know how it works for you:
Monday night, the Lewisville City Council will conduct a workshop regarding an ordinance to set two school zones for Lewisville High School campuses. The two areas to be considered are FM 3040 (Round Grove Road) in front of the Lewisville High School Ben Harmon 9th / 10th grade campus, and F.M. 1171 (Main Street) in front of Lewisville High School main campus. The council is considering the ordinance as the result of a petition received in April.
Because the roads are state highways, they are subject to TxDOT regulations regarding school zones. Those regulations allow only a 15 mph drop from the posted speed limit, so any school zone on FM 3040 would drop the speed from 50 to 35 mph, and on FM 1171, the posted speed limit is 40 mph, and could drop to 25 mph. TxDOT stipulates that school zones are only approved based on existing vehicle or pedestrian demand, and not projections. Now that the Harmon campus has operated for several years, that data regarding pedestrian traffic should exist. The presentation set up for City Council shows that there has been one injury accident to a child in front of LHS Main campus on 1171, and no accidents on FM 3040.
Local mother Martha Halter, who has one child who attended Harmon, and one who will attend that campus in a couple of years, supports the school zones and has been pushing for them since the Harmon campus opened. Halter says her husband was first on the scene one day when a car travelling down Duncan Lane - just West of Harmon struck a child who crossed mid-block in a 40 mph zone. “I don’t ever want to see a child in that situation again,” said Halter. “She was released with 16 different injuries listed on her release papers. She is incredibly lucky to be alive today. This accident occurred in a 40 mph zone. The cars in front of Harmon are going 50+ mph. When a student gets hit, it will be fatal.”
Both of the locations have sidewalks and controlled intersections with crosswalks, but the speed limit on FM 3040 in front of the Harmon campus is 50 mph, and the two lights are pretty far apart. The City of Lewisville and LISD reached an agreement in 2012 to install sidewalks and pedestrian crossing improvements totalling about $100,000.
Well, we hope everyone had an enjoyable Fourth of July, and paused at least for a moment to reflect on the meaning of the day, and the audacity of those who signed the Declaration of Independence. I took my youngest son to Independence Fest in Flower Mound, where we saw Kansas and took in a nice fireworks show. There was one thing about the festival that bothered me just a little bit, though. A nice young lady took the stage and began to sing The Star Spangled Banner, and people didn't seem to know how to act. Of all the days, when the purpose of a celebration is to honor our country, why would people think it's alright to just ignore the anthem and keep walking around jabbering. Everyone around you is standing silently, facing the flag, with hands on hearts, and you just need to keep walking so you can get yourself to the corn dog stand. I won't necessarily question your patriotism, but if you do that, you're kind of a douche.
Even worse though, was what I heard from a friend, who was on his way through the gates when this happened. They had security people at the gates searching bags, so everyone with a bag was lined up to get in. These security personnel refused to let this veteran and his family stop and observe the National Anthem, and instead kept rushing people through - basically ignoring the purpose of the day. We hope that people will contact the Town of Flower Mound, and make sure that at least this situation is rectified for next year, since it's easy to fix. We have reached out to Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden, and will let you know if we hear anything.
BTW, Lewisville Animal Services reported Saturday that the animal shelter is FULL. If you are missing a pet, please contact them.
Currently, 87% of the State of Texas is still in drought, with all of Denton County still in “Extreme” drought. 23% of Texas is in Extreme or Exceptional drought. So far this year, the DFW area has had 10.59 inches of rain-- only about half of the normal 20.41 inches by this time of year. Dallas Water Utilities reservoirs, including Lewisville Lake are 30.02% depleted right now. Lewisville Lake is still down 8 feet.
Speaking of the lake, we want to remind readers about the problem of zebra mussels invading Texas lakes. The City of Denton is about to spend $3 million to deal with zebra mussels in its water system intakes, and Lewisville and Dallas probably won’t be far behind.
From the Texas Department of Transportation, regarding SH 121: "The Northbound and Southbound U-turns near Valley Parkway will be closed from 8 months to a year during construction of the SH 121 bridge over Denton Creek."
As a society, we never seem to have the money or resolve when it comes to dealing with serious mental illness. Yet we always seem to be able to pay for more prison cells, and victims and their families always pay the cost for what we are unable to do. An article in the Virginian-Pilot, “Dangerous Minds / Insane System” takes a look at how the mental health and criminal justice systems intersect and fail.
Facebook has blown up in the past week over the case of a 19 year-old Texas woman who posted some photos of herself with her kills when she went on an African hunting trip. You know, I’m all about preserving nature and protecting wildlife. I’m not a hunter, and haven’t been hunting in years - although I would definitely go on a deer hunt or hog hunt if someone would invite me. I would be all over this young woman (or any person) if it turned out that she was poaching - which she wasn’t. But I just don’t understand why she has been singled out over this legal hunt. It’s not the kind of hunting I would do, for sure, but I can’t help but wonder if the treatment she is getting is because she is a young, “cute” female. Would your average Bubba Joe Sixpack get the same treatment? Devon Razey has an article that takes a closer look.
First, to my friends on the left: No, employers are not “controlling” access to birth control - yet. While there are probably exceptions, even Planned Parenthood puts the cost of them at about $15 - $50 per month. And Hobby Lobby will still have to cover 16 out of 20 FDA-approved types, while the rest of private-sector employers will need to cover all of them. The four types not covered are the types that inhibit a fertilized egg’s attachment to the uterus. While Facebook is plastered with new calls to boycott Hobby Lobby, the chances are that you already shop there about as often as I do, which is never, because I don’t need yarn or scrapbooking supplies, or Chinese-made tchotchkes.
For my friends on the right, there seems to be a good bit of ignorance about what birth control pills do. Birth control pills are not abortion because they are simply not abortion - no matter how strenuously you might object to them. This article explains how they work. As for the supposed “moral objections” of Hobby Lobby, you might want to know that the company’s retirement plans held investments in mutual funds that invest in the companies making abortifacient pills. Yes, it’s kind of a pain in the rear to always know what your mutual funds are investing in, but it’s also a pain in the rear to fight a lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court, so there is some hypocrisy there.
As for me, I think the whole debacle just points out for the millionth time how stupid our healthcare system is in America, being so tied to employer-provided insurance. It is a bad path that our country went down, and now we have got ourselves into a situation where we pay twice what the rest of the world pays in terms of GDP, and our outcomes really are not that great. Think of what America could achieve if we could shift this burden off of employers and move to a single-payer system. We would still all pay for it in the form of taxes, but the overall cost would be much less, as you eliminate the insurance overhead, the administrative overhead, and the insurance-based incentives to over-bill. It’s not a magic bullet - nothing is - and you’d still need action to increase the supply of healthcare providers.
While we are on the topic of women’s health, can we look at an actual medical argument that qualified doctors are having right now? The American College of Physicians is now saying that doctors should not do annual pelvic exams. Supposedly the evidence shows that unless there are symptoms of a problem, this doesn’t actually help outcomes. Pap smears are still recommended every three to five years based on a woman’s age. The article says all these extra pelvic exams add $2.6 billion per year in costs to the health care system.
Not all physicians agree though: from the article: “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees that there is no data showing that routine pelvic exams save lives or do a good job of detecting ovarian cancer or infection. But routine pelvic exams do have value, it says. Its guideline, published in 2012, continues to recommend exams and encourages women to discuss whether to have one with their health care provider. If a woman doesn’t want the exam, she should still have an annual check-up.”
Ladies, what do you think? Are you relieved? Disappointed? What if this recommendation turns into insurance guidelines that would only pay for them on a less-frequent basis, or only when you have a problem?
While we are on the topic of gynecologists, local Congressman Michael Burgess has a Facebook page, and someone started a page called “Does Congressman Michael C. Burgess Hate His Constituency?” Hate is a strong word. Burgess’ true constituency are Republican primary election voters, just as it was engineered when the districts were drawn. Sadly, as you know, the crazy wingnuts have basically taken over that party in Texas and changed the conversation from questions about the role and scope of government, and the size of budget and debt (all topics we should be having rational conversations about). The new Republican party is all about willful ignorance of basic government, a full rollback of the social safety net, undoing all human and civil rights advances for the past 50 years, rolling back worker and environmental protections, legislating hate, and desperately clinging to power, overstaying their welcome long after the rest of American society has moved on. Unlike his true constituency, Burgess is an educated mature adult who ought to know better, but has made his choice to roll with the nonsense.
I try to think what it would be like to be in his shoes as a Democrat. What if I were the Congressman, and my party was taken over by the far left, turning the caricature of every crazy leftist idea into reality? Would I stand up to the moonbats and keep it real, or would the power of office be so alluring that I’d swallow the blue pill and go along with it?
Here's one gun guy's take on the idea of walking around with rifles in public, as the Open Carry Tarrant County group has been doing:
Several Lewisville and Flower Mound women are collecting toiletries to deliver to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, and to Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, who are going to deliver them for use by the influx of children who have travelled to America in recent months without parents or papers.
Regardless of what one might think of the immigration situation, these are children in such dire conditions that they would leave their families and brave the incredibly dangerous journey to our country. Human decency dictates that we try to help.
Here is their flyer: (Click to enlarge)
Donors in Lewisville may find the drop-off location at 1533 North Valley Parkway the most convenient.
Here is a listing of the various local fireworks displays around Lewisville for the July 4th Independence Day celebrations:
City of Lewisville: The annual "Red White & Lewisville" 9:30 p.m. just South of Vista Ridge Mall. Best viewing location: Mall parking lot, Convergence office park lot
Town of Flower Mound: Flower Mound hosts its annual "Independence Fest" at Bakersfield Park (Duncan Lane, South of FM 3040) with free admission to the public beginning at 5 p.m. The festival has numerous attractions including a children's parade, car show, free Kid's Zone, and concerts by Back in Black and KANSAS (Yes, that KANSAS). Fireworks begin right after the concert at about 9:45 p.m. Best viewing location: Lewisville High School Ben Harmon Campus parking lot on F.M. 3040, or on the festival grounds itself.
Grapevine: This 25 minute show begins at 9:30 p.m. and is syncronized to an MP3 music file that you can download. The show can be viewed from the rooftop of the parking garage at the Gaylord, but can also be viewed from various parks around town. There are $5-$10 charges for parking.
The Colony:Liberty by The Lake festival lasts all day, but fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. Fireworks are choreographed to music on 99.9 FM. Best viewing location is Stewart Creek Park.
Lake Cities:The Lake Cities 4th of July Celebration, put on by Corinth, Lake Dallas, Hickory Creek and Shady Shores. The free event at Lake Dallas' City Park will include a concert by Eleven Hundred Springs at 7 p.m. to be followed by fireworks afterward at about 9:15 p.m.
Coppell: The City of Coppell holds its fireworks show on THURSDAY, July 3rd, starting at about 9:40 p.m.. The 27 minute show is best viewed from Andy Brown Park East, but can also be seen well from Southern Lewisville and other locations in Coppell.
Farmers Branch: Independence Day festivities in Farmers Branch are held THURSDAY, July 3rd at the Farmers Branch Historical Park. Admission is free, and gates open at 6:30 p.m. and fireworks begin approximately 9:30 p.m., right after the concert by Groove Knight. Lewisville residents can take the A-Train to DART's Trinity Mills station, then ride to the park on DART light rail.
Residents of all North Texas cities are reminded that personal fireworks are illegal in town, and can result in steep fines as well as accidental fires. Pet owners are reminded to ensure that pets are wearing their collars and tags, and are kept indoors after dark, since fireworks are a leading cause of runaway pets on July 4th and New Years.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 2014) Directed by Michael Bay, Written by Ehren Kruger Starring Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammer & Stanley Tucci Rated: PG-13 Review: 1 / 10
By Doug Lane
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is an experiment in temperament and patience. In Michael Bay’s fourth outing with the series and third with writer Ehren Kruger, the duo once more cram a surprisingly whole lot of nothing into 165 minutes. What the film creates in explosions and action sequences, it forgets in everything else. A talented cast, including Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer, can’t save this insipid script from collapsing onto itself.
It’s hard to describe the plot of this film because it feels like six different movies going on at the same time. Cade Yager (Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) discover that the truck they want to scrap and sell for parts is none other than Optimus Prime. But CIA specialist Harold Attinger (Grammer) wants to kill all the Transformers, so they make an agreement with bounty hunter Transformer named Lockdown to hunt them down, while Joshua Joyce (Tucci) wants to melt old Transformers down for McGuffinium...so he makes a deal with Attinger to give him the scrap Transformers he destroys in exchange for money, which leads back to Yager and company. Then there’s a bunch of running, fighting, screaming, more running, more fighting...you get the idea. The few plot points and story beats that get sprinkled throughout only confused the already bloated story or detract from the explosions and effects.
This seems to be a consistent problem with this franchise: the movies get longer, the plots get increasingly contrived, confusing, and the tone gets surprisingly grimmer. Remember how silly the first “Transformers” was, but it seemed to recognize that it was a movie about transforming cars, so it didn’t take itself seriously? Sure, there were plenty of flaws, but they were manageable in terms of the entire film.
Sure, one could argue that this film isn’t meant to be taken seriously, that it’s just “fun” and that you shouldn’t try to critique a Transformers film. But that seems to bring up two problems, one being how “fun” is this film? Of course that’s a subjective point, but comparatively speaking, I find Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” a fun (if silly and ultimately inconsequential) film. That sense of adventure, character and color is completely drained in this film, leaving only a bleak and grim shell of what this movie could be.
But the second problem, and most importantly, is this: how much does one want to turn off their brain in exchange for actual value? Meaning comes from artistic vision, not spectacle. Bay’s movie falls into the latter: a barrage of meaningless images and sounds, hastily put together so that it feels comfortable, but not engaging. It’s a pure economic transaction between producer and consumer with the art completely stripped away. Producer gets a marginal surplus profit, consumer gets a workable product, everyone’s happy, onto the next one.
With “Transformes: Age of Extinction,” the Hollywood capitalistic machine becomes that much stronger, the magic of filmmaking eradicated, ironically reflected in the film’s tone. The question now isn’t how the Transformers films could become better, but how much worse can they become. It seems that while the money rolls in, Michael Bay will continue being Michael Bay; being one of the best businessmen, while being one of the worst artists.
Doug Lane is a Lewisville resident, attending the University of North Texas, where he studies literature. Lane graduated from Lewisville High School, where he wrote movie reviews for the Farmers Harvest Copyright 2014, Doug Lane - Licensed to the Lewisville Texan Journal