Today, I learned that I have more to learn about sensitivity when dealing with issues of importance to transgendered people.
Each year, on April 1st, we have a little tradition of posting an April Fools article to pull the legs of our readers. It’s one of the things I usually look forward to, because those fake stories are fun to write, and we usually end up with a few people writing in to tell us they had us going for a minute, or that we fooled them for a brief time. April 1st isn’t the only time we’ve written satire, but there is usually a little bit of difference between the infrequent satire we do here, and the nonsense we run on April Fools.
Regular satire sort of starts and ends with absurdity, and unless one is extremely gullible, it’s pretty clear it’s satire from start to finish. This bit of tomfoolery by “Josh N. Yoo” about color-changing garbage cans is a good example of that.
With the April Fools jokes, the idea is to see if we can fool you for a paragraph or two, have you questioning by a couple more, and have you laughing well before the end and whatever we’re lampooning. Throughout the year, I jot down ideas and anxiously await the chance each April 1st to see who I can fool.
This past year, I went to a tour of a new Lewisville ISD facility where staff were taking visitors around and showing them the new building’s amenities, including the ample restroom and locker facilities for both men and women. A somewhat awkward part of that tour was when the group all went into the women’s locker room - a place that as a young teen, I might have loved to visit, but was just a little weird to me as a cis-gendered adult male to visit. At one point, we we were shown one of the women’s rooms there, and having my camera out to cover the tour, I snapped a photo of our now-retired and also male superintendent walking into the women’s room. I never posted that photo at the time, but sort of had in the back of my mind that it might make good fodder for some sort of April Fools day silliness.
Now, I recently have read about the plight of our transgendered brothers and sisters, who find themselves unwelcome in public restrooms by people who for reasons I can’t understand, resort to all sorts of bullying and shaming tactics on them. I guess there is an assumption there, that a human being who needs to use the toilet might be there instead as some way to satisfy some type of sexual fetish. I personally think that is preposterous, and believe that using the toilet is a personal, private human function that just doesn’t or shouldn’t lend itself to that. But taking into account people’s regressive attitudes toward transgendered individuals, it should be a no-brainer for large public buildings to provide gender-neutral bathrooms. And this is not just to accommodate the transgendered, but basically anyone who might need extra privacy, or perhaps some help using the toilet due to a disability. Throw in the fact that parents or other adult caregivers often need to deal with children who need to use the toilet, and must either bring the child into a restroom opposite to the child’s gender, or send the child in alone.
Having followed the Lewisville City Council and city elections for years, it has become clear to me that it helps the discussion to lay out some framework on what types of qualifications make a good council member. As candidates announce their campaigns, we can examine them in light of these qualifications rather than the more squishy criteria of who we like, and who is most popular.
So here's my current list of what I consider to be qualifications:
• Has high intellectual capacity, and able to look beyond the superficial and quickly understand the nuance and complexity of the issues that face government.
• Has lived in the City of Lewisville a sufficient length of time to understand the demographics, the trends, the history, and the shared values of our citizens. Definitely not less than 5 years, but preferably more than 10.
• Has an up-to-date voter registration and a good history of voting in all elections, especially local ones, which evidence a long-term concern for local issues.
• Has consistently followed City Council actions, attended meetings, workshops, budget hearings, and retreats. Given that all of the meetings are open to the public, a candidate should have actively attended meetings-- not only to stay up-to-date on the issues frequently discussed, but to show a dedication and availability that will be required once they get on Council.
• Has demonstrated leadership by serving on one or more of the City's boards or commissions.
• Has demonstrated commitment to the City by volunteering for, or supporting one or more of the City's non-profit or civic groups.
• Is more dedicated to the City of Lewisville than to a political party or ideology. Partisan politics have ruined Washington and Austin. They cloud judgement and make it hard to work together for pragmatic solutions.
• Is not using the office for personal achievement or gain, or as a stepping stone to higher office. Time and time again we see politicians who see municipal service as nothing more than a platform for grandstanding and demagoguery. These people waste city resources and create strife, then run for higher office, leaving others to deal with the consequences and cleanup.
• Understands the relationship between city services, property values and quality of life.
• Demonstrates compassion for mankind by charity.
• Lives to a high standard of ethics in all that they do.
• Pays their taxes. The biggest part of the City Council's role is to set the budget and corresponding tax rate each year. It is hypocrisy for a council member not to be current on their city taxes.
• Puts the health and safety of the citizens above all else.
• Capable of listening to multiple points of view, and ensuring that all concerns are heard and addressed.
• Dedicated to seeking truthful information-- not just the information that may support their particular view on something.
• Doesn't have character flaws or a severe or untreated mental illness that would interfere with or distract from accomplishing the City's business.
• The candidate should not have an axe to grind. In other words, he or she should not be running because of a strong feeling or passion about one issue, or because the council ticked you off about something. The person MUST be able to put single issues behind them and focus on all the other issues that will come before them without having their judgment clouded by holding grudges over votes on the issue they feel strongest about. (Borrowed from Ken, below)
• Has the ability to understand the differences between local, state, and federal government issues, and work within the scope and constraints imposed on local government from above. (Borrowed from BC - via Facebook)
• Must be honest and truthful, and hold truthfulness as a strong personal value. Liars have no business in a position of public trust. Honesty is paramount.
Happy New Year! As we reflect on the year that just passed, and spend time in reflection thinking about what we will make of 2015, we thought it would be nice to share some wishes for our community in 2015.
Violence happens everywhere, and Lewisville is not immune. This does not define who we are as a community, but it represents a risk to each of us who live here. We don’t really have answers to this complex problem, but finding ways to reduce the violence in our community would be our highest wish for Lewisville in 2015.
#2: Finishing the Plaza The Old Town Park Plaza / Ferguson Plaza project has been a long time in the making for Lewisville, and it’s beyond time to wrap it up and get it completed and opened to the public. Delays have been a source of frustration and loss for businesses in Old Town Lewisville. The park will be a beautiful place to relax and have a picnic lunch or let the kids play in the water on a hot summer day. It will host all types of outdoor events and festivals, and just be a pretty place to hang out. The contractor said they would have the park done by April 1st, 2015, but we hope that is not just an April Fools joke. There has been good movement on this lately, so we truly hope it's done before then.
As I sip my coffee this morning, and take a moment to reflect on what I'm thankful for this year, all the normal things come to mind. Of course, I'm thankful for supportive friends and family, a good job, good health, a roof over my head, and plenty to eat. I'm thankful to live in a place of relative calm, in a community where a lot of good people give of themselves day after day, going above and beyond to make this a better place to live. Everything I said in last year's Thanksgiving message still applies.
But sometimes it takes tragedy before you truly understand some of the things we have to be thankful for. We have all watched with some mixture of frustration, disgust, disappointment, and anger, the events unfold in Ferguson, Missouri over the past months and days.
We all understand that police have an inherently dangerous job, and that they sometimes have to use deadly force to protect themselves and the public. The controversy in Ferguson had many facets, including a terrible municipal court, a police department that wasn't very representative of the population, and some questionable decisions after the Brown shooting that served to escalate the situation. We won't even go into the other factors in the Ferguson situation, but there is plenty of blame to go around.
My point is that yesterday in Lewisville, we had a very dangerous criminal that police were pursuing, and it could have turned out much worse in so many ways. A man pulled a shotgun and tried to carjack people. He pointed the gun at Lewisville police and pulled the trigger. Our police returned fire and stopped the man from being a further danger. These things are what they train for, and what is expected of our police officers. They go to work each day knowing that the gun on their hip is more than a decoration, and that they may be called to make a split-second decision to use deadly force to protect a citizen or protect themselves.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room in Louisiana, exhausted from an all-day meeting, and still stuffed from a fabulous business dinner with my clients and colleagues from my day job. It's the second week in a row that I've been out on travel, and it follows a week that saw my employer get bought out by another company, causing me endless paperwork and disruption.
Regular readers know this, but maybe some people don't realize that The Lewisville Texan Journal is an all-volunteer effort run on a shoestring. About 10 years ago I started this site as a blog, serving as an outlet for my curiosity that was part soapbox and part therapy. Over time, it morphed to a point where the content was less opinion and observation, and more facts, information, and news. In late 2011, we changed the name of the site to better reflect our coverage.
I've never been entirely comfortable with what to call this thing that we do here. In some ways - especially lately - it's more of a blog. But many times we do journalism. Whatever you want to call it, the point has been to try to improve the overall coverage of what goes on in Lewisville in several ways:
- Filling in the gaps in coverage where we can, when other outlets miss something. - Going deeper on some topics. - Investigative reporting - which is sorely lacking - Being first to cover something when we can - Having better sources when we can - Getting information out on social media more nimbly than others - Setting the record straight where other sources have got it wrong - Encouraging Lewisville and its residents to get involved and make this community a better place.
Since most of the time, it's just me writing, and I work a full-time job with business travel involved, and I have kids, and I have volunteer work to do, I have to be pretty selective about what I spend time to try to cover. Even then, what happens far too often is that I'm able to shoot photos or video, or maybe talk to someone and begin to gather information... then promptly get extremely busy at work or with some situation at home, and whatever it was is either no longer newsworthy, or it becomes a part of the ever-increasing backlog.
You may have noticed the past few weeks, we really haven't posted much. It's not because there is a lack of material. We still get a ton of press releases and story tips. We still know of things going on that need to be shared and explained. Nobody is more disappointed than I am, that this is not happening on the schedule I would like it to. If it just weren't for that pesky problem of having to earn a living, I would be able to do this full time, and I might get close to covering a third of what is newsworthy here. Personally, I'm just pinning my hopes on winning the Powerball (which, I once again didn't have any matching numbers tonight). A multi-million dollar jackpot would fund a heck of a staff. Or perhaps a wealthy donor would step up with a start-up grant... Or monkeys might fly out of my butt.
Anyhow, I just thought I'd put this note out here tonight to let the readers know that the plan is for LTJ to keep doing what we do. It's just that I don't have a lot of time to give here lately, and to be totally honest, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I need more volunteers, but that means I need to not only keep things going, but I need to recruit and train people. And the software that runs this site is not the easiest and most intuitive thing in the world to learn.
I hope none of this scares anyone off. I hope you'll keep sending me story tips, and keep sending me your press releases, links, and information. I hope you'll keep visiting and keep reading, even if there are times like now where I don't have much original content to share. I also hope that if you have a talent for writing, and can share any time with us, that you'll contact me. There is so much going on here in Lewisville that deserves more attention. I hope that together we can make it happen.
Check in with LTJ on Saturday, because I have a ton of links to share with you all.
I am not going to use anyone’s real name in this post. I’ll use initials for the accused, and you’ll soon know why.
A conversation overheard at an animal adoption event resulted in a woman in Sherman, Texas thinking that a man there (J.B.) was looking for a “bait dog” to use in hunting feral hogs. The woman apparently talked to J.B. and got his business card. She wrote an email explaining that “bait” dogs were intentionally being injured or crippled and staked out as bait to attract wild hogs, which hunters would then go after. The point of the email, in which she attached a photo of J.B.’s business card, was that shelters should beware of the guy and not let him adopt any dogs. Supposedly, J.B. was looking for Catahoulas, Aussies, or Black Mouth Curs.
Another woman who had received the email, posted it on her personal Facebook wall, along with the photo of the business card showing the J.B.’s name, phone number, and personal email address. Within four hours, it had been shared nearly 600 times, and presumably viewed by many thousands of people. One commenter on the post I saw mentioned something about breaking the guy’s kneecaps. Others were very quick to condemn, and said they’d be sharing the link.
There’s just one problem: As best we can tell, in hog hunting, there’s no such thing as “bait” dogs. Hog hunters who use dogs often use "bay" dogs though.
After discussion here at LTJ, we removed a story from the site and from our Facebook page today due to a very negative reaction in the community.
It's not often that we remove items from the site - especially when they are factual and fair, which we thought the article was. The reason we removed it is that the discussion on social media had vilified one of the unnamed people in the story to the point that the online discussion seemed like a lynch mob waiting to happen. The breaking point was when the discussion turned to personal bullying of others who expressed opposing viewpoints.
We do this service to spread the facts, and increase our community's understanding of one another and the institutions that make our community tick.
I'm just so incredibly disappointed right now to have had this forum and our work used in such a negative way.
Perhaps at some point, the story will come back into the archive, but for now we think it's best for all involved to cool off.
The Lewisville Texan Journal’s editorial team is pleased to unanimously select Allison Stamey as our Lewisville Citizen of the Year for 2013. Stamey received an honorable mention last year, and is being honored this year for the work that she does, going above and beyond the call of duty in her job as Student Activities Director at Lewisville High School. Because of work that Stamey initiated and has continued to do, our Lewisville community is a better place to live, and the lives of hundreds of students and their families have been a little better. Her can-do attitude means that she is the type to see a need in the community, and rather than waiting around to see if someone else will do it, she says “why can’t we do it?”
Stamey has facilitated the adopt-an-angel program at Lewisville High School for over a decade. The program is run by the LHS Student Council, which she is a faculty advisor for. School counselors identify children whose families are in hard times, and who could use some help at Christmas with toys, clothing, food, or other needs. Individuals and community organizations then adopt individual kids from the list to buy gifts for, or contribute money, which is used to buy gifts for kids who were not adopted. Stamey and the other volunteers then deliver the gifts to the students. You can read more about the program in our story on the 2013 Angel Tree, which helped close to 700 students.
LHS Student Activities Director Allison Stamey (File photo courtesy of Rotary Club)
Years ago, there were other organizations running Angel Tree programs in Lewisville, but Stamey saw that those programs often were not able to serve all the children who needed help at Christmas time. So she took on the task of organizing the program at LHS.
In addition to the Angel Tree, Stamey also helps organize the Lewisville High School homecoming activities, including the homecoming parade, which is a major event for the city. We are told that the parade is one of, if not the outright largest homecoming parade in the State of Texas.
Last year, Stamey was part of the group that organized Hey! Day, a new annual event to welcome LISD kids in the LHS feeder patterns back to school, and connect the community to the students and vice-versa. In her role as an advisor to the LHS Student Council, the largest in the State of Texas, she oversees a student mentoring program that pairs up high school students with students in elementary and middle schools who need help.
Stamey treats everyone like family, according to Sarah Marcus, LISD’s current Assistant Public Information Officer, who formerly worked with Stamey as the LISD Central Zone Communications Coordinator. “She taught me how to be a Farmer,” said Marcus. “I’ve never seen her say no. She’s just amazing!” she added.
Jane Recchia, who works in the LISD Central Zone office, nominated Stamey. “Ms. Stamey represents Farmer Pride to the utmost and her continuous contributions to both the City of Lewisville and the Central Zone schools, as well as the positive influence she has on the students of Lewisville, makes her a strong contender for the Lewisville Texan Journal's Citizen of the Year award," wrote Recchia. We agree.