Scenic Texas


State Agency Fails to Provide Evidence to Support “New Traffic Safety Program”

(AUSTIN, TEXAS) August 24, 2020 — Scenic Texas, the state’s only non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of our state’s visual environment, particularly as seen by the traveling public, is urging the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to stop two TxDOT highway projects in Northeast Texas from destroying 250 acres of trees. This project is part of a “safety program” that TxDOT is piloting in East Texas to be applied to the rest of the state.

In a July 13 letter sent to the Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT and legislators, Scenic Texas outlined its concerns about two TxDOT projects (see below for project details) in the agency’s Atlanta District which encompasses nine counties. Combined, these projects will clear approximately 250 acres of trees along 110 miles of public Rights-of-Way (ROW) by an unprecedented doubling of clear zones from 30 feet to 60 feet. Scenic Texas believes these are the first two projects approved under this program but because the program is state-wide, these types of tree-clearing projects could happen anywhere in Texas.

Scenic Texas Executive Director Sarah Tober says that, “Scenic Texas agrees our state’s highway infrastructure should meet rigorous safety standards and provide ample clearance in case of an accident or need to pull over. However, engineers from TxDOT have seemingly based their decision to double this already generous clear zone on intuition rather than evidence. No state or national studies, data, or calculations have been publicly provided to support this decision. While TxDOT provided information to Scenic Texas on the number of off-road crashes in the area, no detail was given to demonstrate whether the injuries or fatalities involving drivers who ultimately hit trees had contributing factors before leaving the highway. For example, distracted driving, drunk driving, texting, or other driver error could have been the actual cause of most if not all of the accidents and thus the real reason the driver left the road and hit a tree.”

Tober continued, “In fact, a number of studies exist that conclude trees along highways help to slow down drivers. Trees also provide valuable environmental benefits including the protection of pavement and a scenic drive that, in some instances, took decades or centuries to make. Additionally, the decision to double the clear zone in the public ROW will have fiscal implications for TxDOT since broader ROWs require more maintenance.”

Scenic Texas maintains that the current 30-foot clearance zone has proven to be ample enough space for public protection, and that clear-cutting publicly-owned trees beyond 30 feet has not been proven to increase highway safety. Moreover, it reflects a lack of good stewardship of taxpayer dollars and harms the state’s scenic beauty. If allowed to proceed, these projects will set a negative precedent for TxDOT to arbitrarily double the clearance zone in the public ROW and destroy hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of publicly-owned trees, many of which are native.

In his August 11 letter to Scenic Texas, TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said that TxDOT, “will be planting wildflowers along the stretch of roadways where the trees have been removed.” Scenic Texas believes that most Texans cherish their trees and would consider this a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars and contrary to the 20-year-old Green Ribbon Program. This taxpayer-funded initiative is intended for abatement of non-attainment standards under the Clean Air Act through the planting of highway trees and shrubs. While Scenic Texas is in support of most beautification efforts by TxDOT, the nonprofit organization of 35 years is adamantly against the clearing of trees only to plant wildflowers in these trees stead. In addition to severely altering the beauty of our highways, taxpayers will first be paying for the clearcutting of trees and then will be paying for the planting of wildflowers and other maintenance of the expanded ROW.


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Area counts seem to be increasing but slowly. I should have new information on Tues. We still have some ICU beds in our Trauma Area G.  There were 64 new Covid cases in Gregg County and 139 in Smith County on Saturday. 

Until listening to NPR this morning, I had not considered  that our nursing homes are currently full all over the US. Where will discharged Covid patients go? There will be a bottleneck that will keep Covid patients in the hospitals longer than necessary. Where are those patients who need rehabilitation and/ or more care at the time of hospital discharge from ICU and the wards. If recovering patients are too weak or unable to be cared for at  home, where will they go — to some makeshift temporary space in a gymnasium or under a large tent? Behind a large rock? 

How about utilizing a nearly empty 5  story (6 floors) hospital that is not being used at this time. Of course, I mean Kahn/Memorial/Good Shepherd/Christus Good Shepherd Marshall Hospital.These newly discharged patients should not be contagious and might even have immunity. They will be well enough to leave a general hospital but too sick or weak to go home. The medical environment should be safer for the level of medical care and rehabilitation that the facility would provide. In a short time, such a facility should provide many new jobs for area people that are medically safe and worthwhile — as well as filling a medical vacuum and utilizing a very large hospital building that seems to be in good condition. 

J. Harris

Staying sane in our new COVID-19 world

(J.Harris: Some explanations and recaps but some comfort and suggestions. Very readable.)

 “… during the pandemic there is also renewed purpose, hope, and community emerging. Scientists have responded with focus to their work and to developing appropriate guidance, treatments, or vaccines. Meanwhile, many citizens have taken on roles in their communities running welfare groups, delivering groceries to elderly neighbours, or working on communal gardens. Early on in the pandemic, health-care workers showed up on COVID-19 wards without appropriate personal protective equipment committed to their vocation of serving others. As we compare our pre and post COVID-19 selves, perhaps we should emphasise how the pandemic has shown who each of us really is…

“…Some governments, such as in the UK, initially turned to experts to become the oracles and predict the future—first to mathematical modellers and behavioural scientists, then to vaccinologists, and, finally, to public health experts and economists. And when these experts are not always able to provide the answers that appease the need for concrete predictions with dates, a backlash followed against experts with their balanced and contextualised statements. This gap was exploited by social media pseudo-scientist celebrities predicting the future and offering comforting lies on easy solutions.

“…One of these comforting lies being told is that we can have our pre-COVID-19 life back for the “acceptable” loss of some old and vulnerable people. Terms like “herd immunity” have been the ammunition of those who would see it as the perfect cover for lifting all restrictions and letting a dangerous virus spread through the population, starting with the young and fit.”

Suggested by Hopkins:

1. CHINA Shanghai, China, reported a locally acquired case of COVID-19 on November 10. While many countries around the world are battling a surge in COVID-19 incidence, this marks the first locally acquired infection in Shanghai in several months. According to local officials in China, the individual worked at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, and at least 25 close contacts have been quarantined. While SARS-CoV-2 emerged in China, China has largely contained its epidemic. In fact, the vast majority of cases over the past several months have been among arriving travelers. In an effort to maintain this level of epidemic control, the Chinese government is reportedly taking new steps to limit the possibility of importing COVID-19. One aspect of these efforts involves disinfecting packaging and transport vehicles carrying imported frozen food, after China identified contaminated food products as the source of several SARS-CoV-2 infections among cargo handlers and port workers.

Lessons From Europe, Where Cases Are Rising But Schools Are Open (NPR) Across Europe, schools and child care centers are staying open even as much of the continent reports rising coronavirus cases, and even as many businesses and gathering places are shut or restricted. Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy appear to be following the emerging evidence that schools have not been major centers of transmission of the virus, especially for young children. And experts say these nations are also demonstrating a commitment to avoiding the worst impacts of the pandemic on children.


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Donald J Trump Is Not The President

By George Smith — 11/16/2020

Correction: He IS the current president, but he is not governing, not taking a leadership roll in guiding the country through this perilous time. In fact, instead of being the commander in chief, he has donned the mantle  of abstainer in chief.

As expected, he is tweeting, moaning his daily choruses of “Woe is me! Yet another hoax to fight,” and still looking for fictitious election fraud ploys in various states to prove he was cheated  out of a second term.

Oh, he is golfing and watching TV cable news and screeching at any commentator who dares suggest his barrage of lawsuits in multiple states will not change the Electoral College total. For him, that’s business as usual.

But…he is not performing the duties of president.

He is going out of office like he came in, poor-mouthing his treatment by the media, claiming he won the election in a landslide, making promises he cannot keep, striking out at anyone he considers “disloyal”, acting like a Tootsie Pop stealing bully during recess.

To those supporters of Trump: This cannot be a happy time; too much rancor and vitriol have been passed around in the last four years to make this transition from delusional egotism and ignorance of how government works to a calm, try-to-get-along-with-the-opposing-party administration an easy one.

But, it’s time for the supporters of this spit-fit persona of a political clown and a personality disaster to think more about the future of this country and less about upholding the allegiance to  the Cult of Trump.

Donald Trump was not/is not a straight shooter; he lies when the truth was evident and would have served him and his party better.

He was not a skilled negotiator; Russia, Syria and North Korea played him for a fool; his trade agreements and his statements about their success were laughable; getting out of the Iran nuclear agreement and the global climate accord endangers the future of this country.

His decision to attack the competency of the national media AND the nation’s intelligence services was stupid and asinine.

In a phrase, Trump sees himself as a dictatorial strongman whose word is law and every thought and whim are of genius caliber.

I will not argue nor second-guess the support Trump garners from those who totally are absorbed by their belief that abortion is wrong. Personally, I will not insert myself in a situation between a woman, her doctor and her God.

But in all other issues, I cannot understand how anyone who is not a hardshell racist remains blind to the damage this self-centered, megalomaniac who shows not a shred of empathy for anyone, is doing to the democratic fiber of this country.

Trump relishes in the turmoil he has caused, continuing and expanding the partisanship of party politics that intensified with the election of the first black president in 2008.

Go back 13 years and remember that Trump was one of the leaders in denouncing Obama’s candidacy, perpetuating the lie that Obama was not born in the U.S. He was wrong, of course, but like all of his other lies, he has never admitted it nor apologized for promoting the fabrication.

Trump will eventually leave the White House. But, unfortunately for America, he will not just go away.

He is a master manure stirrer and spreader. And stir and spread more of his tongue fertilizer he will do. After all, he still has his followers, his Trumpuppets, to please. And the only way he can continue to hold his audience is to posture and preen and keep his cock o’ the walk act fresh by inventing new conspiracies and frauds perpetuated upon his person.

The Trump Show will continue. Count on it. He has no other place to go to get the adrenalin surge that keeps him

at the same emotional and needy psychological level as he did for being the most powerful man in the world for the past four years.

He is an addict and he needs his fix.


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