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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Verizon outage in Amarillo/Texas Panhandle prompts stupid questions!

According to a source at the Verizon store on Coulter (and reports from Verizon customers) the entire Verizon network for the Texas & Oklahoma Panhandle is down. The outage began shortly after 9:00AM. The cause is not known at this time but both Verizon & AT&T technicians were working to isolate and repair the problem.

The Verizon store at I-40 & Coulter soon became a parking nightmare as anxious customers dropped in to see what the problem was. The staff was soon beset with stupid questions such as "Will Verizon credit my account?" and "How long will this take?"

"No - you will not be credited (see your contract for an explanation) and "We don't know yet." were the standard replies.

Frustrated by the growing crowd of impatient and jones-ing customers all unable to update their Facebook accounts - the staff was finally forced to post a sign in their window. "NETWORK IS DOWN" which stopped the still-arriving throngs of disgruntled customers from entering the store.

Note: as of 11:55 the network appears to be back up - and the world was saved once again from complete anarchy. Thanks Verizon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bloomberg: Perry's education plan leaves Amarillo schools in shortfall ...

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Students at elementary schools in Amarillo, Texas, don't get drawing lessons as a five-year-old finance plan from Republicans led by Governor Rick Perry hasn't delivered funding needed to avoid cuts and improve education.

"We'd love to offer art or foreign languages," said Rod Schroder, Amarillo's superintendent. "But we have never had the revenue to put in those programs."

Perry, a contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and legislative leaders in Austin have blamed this year's public-education funding shortfall on a weaker economy and flaws in a 2006 tax overhaul that hasn't met projections for revenue. In the two-year budget that began in September, aid to local schools fell short by more than $5 billion, a situation that business leaders have said threatens the state's economy.

"Texas needs a structurally sound school-finance system that isn't continually underfunded," Harvin Moore, a board member of the Houston Independent School District, said in a telephone interview. The fourth-biggest U.S. city by population has the state's largest system with about 200,000 students.

"Numerous legislators told me and others that they would rather leave the system broken and wait for districts to sue," letting a judge make the hard choices involved, Moore said. The two-year budget passed in May eliminated a deficit estimated to be at least $15 billion and provides $53.8 billion for schools.

A Budget Priority

Perry has said little on the issue this year, while in his presidential campaign he has called for the elimination of the U.S. Education Department, returning the funding it distributes to the states. His budget proposal, submitted to lawmakers in February, made few references to school finances. Its introduction calls public education a priority and says budget writers had to sort needs from wants in completing their plan.

In terms of spending per student, Texas ranked 43rd among states at $8,562 in the school year ending in 2009, down from 36th a decade earlier, Lynn Moak, a partner at Moak, Casey & Associates, said in October at a conference of school administrators. His firm in Austin advises schools on finances. National Education Association data show Texas ranked 39th in the past school year, at $9,128 per pupil.

Local business leaders including Ed Whitacre, the former AT&T Inc. chairman, have warned that a decline in the quality of public education may undermine efforts to increase jobs.

Aid Trails Growth

State aid hasn't kept pace with the estimated 80,000- student enrollment increase each year, dropping as much as $400 per pupil this year, according to Lauren Cook, a spokeswoman for the Equity Center in Austin. The nonprofit organization represents 690 less-wealthy systems and organized a lawsuit that claims the state's financing mechanism is unconstitutional and seeks to force an increase in funding.

Similar complaints have been brought against other states such as Connecticut and New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie was ordered to raise spending in the 31 poorest districts by $500 million. In a 3-2 ruling in May, the New Jersey Supreme Court said "full funding" for the schools was a "constitutional mandate."

Connecticut schoolchildren haven't been given sufficient resources by the state to make up for disparities in local property-tax revenue, according to Philip Streifer, the superintendent of the Bristol system and president of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding. The group is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which may go to trial as early as next year.

'Expensive' Endeavor

"I wish politicians would understand that given the requirements and labor laws and mandates, education is expensive," said Streifer, an educator in Connecticut since 1971. "This funding problem is systemic. It was in place when I started 40 years ago and it hasn't been resolved."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Body found - police seek info.

DATE: November 17, 2011
TIME: 2:00 AM
CASE NUMBER: 2011-533157
INCIDENT TYPE: Suspicious Death

DETAILS: At approximately 0200 hours on Thursday, November 17, 2011 patrol officers of the Potter County Sheriff’s Office discovered a deceased white male in the ditch at 1800 N. Smelter Road. The deceased subject was identified as Clay Petersen, thirty-seven years old.

An autopsy is scheduled for later today. Anyone with information concerning this subject and his death should contact the Potter-Randall Counties Special Crimes Unit at 806-378-9468.

City-wide ban on texting while driving sought.

CONNECT AMARILLO: AMARILLO, TEXAS -- Texting while driving in a school zone in Amarillo is illegal and eventually, that ban could go citywide.

Wednesday, the Amarillo Traffic Commission talked about the possibility of a citywide ban on texting while driving.

"They wanted input as to if we need an ordinance, is an ordinance feasible," said Amarillo Traffic Engineer, Taylor Withrow. "Are there some other things we could do instead or in conjunction with the city wide ban."

They looked at information from Austin, which has had a city wide ban on texting while driving in effect for the past two years. During those two years, Austin only issued 310 citations for individuals breaking that ban, a relatively small number for such a large city.

Because that number seems so low, discussion during the Traffic Commission's meeting Wednesday turned to the difficulty of enforcing such a law.

"The difficulty comes with enforcing it," said Traffic Commission Chairman, D.J. Stubben. "But our wonderful police department is good about observing the drivers to see if they're driving erratically or anything then they can pull them over for another misdemeanor."

No action was taken on this issue during the meeting but will be discussed again at the next Traffic Commission meeting in January.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Images from Cruise Night - 11-5-2011

Click to enlarge:

All photos (C) Steve Douglass

Quake rattles Oklahoma - felt in Amarillo and Canyon!

SPARKS, Okla. | Oklahomans more accustomed to tornadoes than earthquakes suffered through a weekend of temblors that cracked buildings, buckled a highway and rattled nerves. One quake late Saturday was the state's strongest ever and jolted a college football stadium 50 miles away and was followed early Sunday by a jarring aftershock.

There were no reports in the hours after the quakes of any severe injuries or severe damage.

"That shook up the place, had a lot of people nervous," Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon said of the late Saturday quake, the strongest of a series of quakes. "Yeah, it was pretty strong."

The magnitude 5.6 earthquake Saturday night was centered near Sparks, 44 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, and could be felt throughout the state and in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, northern Texas and some parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, said geophysicist Jessica Turner at the U.S. Geological Survey. A magnitude 4.7 quake early Saturday was felt from Texas to Missouri.

Turner told The Associated Press that the subsequent magnitude 4.0 quake that struck at 3:39 a.m. Sunday was an aftershock centered some 36 miles east of Oklahoma City in the same region. Like Saturday night's quake, she said it was another shallow quake occurring about 3 miles underground, but experts had no immediate explanation for the spurt in seismic activity.

Following the quakes or numerous small aftershocks, several homeowners and businesses reported cracked walls, fallen knickknacks and other minor damage. At Shawnee, the fire department said one spire on the administration building at St. Gregory University had been damaged and another one was leaning, according to KWTV in Oklahoma City.

Live: Amarillo Area Air Traffic Radio

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