The vote not taken

Over the last eight months, I have received more communication from the district about the Speaker of the House than any other topic. Some think he should be replaced; some think he is the only one with any sense. Spending the 140 days of the regular session immersed in the culture and process of the legislature has given me a slightly different perspective on the issue than I had going in, one I feel deserves sharing.

The problem with singling out one member of the legislature, one leadership team, or one Speaker of the House as being the problem is that it assumes that the problem lies with the person and not with the power itself.


Jail 'depopulation' draws response from Llano County Sheriff

The sheriff responds, here, to ideas heard in a Llano County Commissioners Court budget workshop. They were published in the Tuesday, Aug. 8, edition of The Highlander and here, on

A Letter from Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn:

I would like to address the article in last week’s paper concerning the “depopulation” of the Llano County Jail.

First, only in the last two weeks did I know the term “depopulation” existed.

As to my current understanding of the term, it would mean shutting down jail operation, firing all jail personnel, transfer all prisoners to Burnet County Jail, transport people arrested in Llano County to Burnet for incarceration, which includes all arrest made by the City of Llano, Sunrise Beach Village, the portion of Horseshoe Bay that lies in Llano County and all arrest made by Llano County SO in all of Llano County, all arrests made by Texas Rangers, Texas DPS troopers, Texas Parks and Wildlife and any and all Federal Agencies that arrest in Llano County.


'Train' concert rolls through Austin

Lew K. Cohn/The Highlander

Train lead singer Pat Monahan snaps a selfie with Highlander Managing Editor Lew K. Cohn's cellphone during a Saturday night, May 20, concert at Austin360 Amphitheater.





By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor, The Highlander

Few bands can boast a discography as diverse and celebrated as that of Train, the San Francisco-based roots rock band which released its tenth studio album, “a girl, a bottle, a boat,” earlier this year and made a stop at the Austin360 Amphitheater Saturday night on its “Play That Song” tour with opening acts Natasha Bedingfield and O.A.R.

That's because while some musical acts cannot weather change, Train owes its success to not only dealing with change, but embracing it. Their touring lineup Saturday included lead singer Pat Monahan as the lone holdover from the band's debut self-titled 1998 album, which brought them to the nation's consciousness with their infectious calling card of a tune, “Meet Virginia.”


Texas 71 deadly

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander

The curvy, hilly stretch of Texas 71 between Spicewood and the Pedernales River bridge may seem serene and majestic to some, but it certainly can lay claim to being one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the Hill Country.

Since last year, at least five people have died on that leg of Texas 71, including earlier this month, when three Round Rock women died after their vehicle crashed into a charter bus carrying the Huston-Tillotson University baseball team on its way back to Austin from a game in New Mexico.

The women failed to yield the right of way to the bus as they turned left from Fall Creek Road and pulled out in front of it shortly before midnight on April 1. June Smith, 18, Isabella Torres, 17, and Taylor Mendez, 17, all of Round Rock, were killed in the crash. The bus driver, Adolphus Kimbro, was injured and taken to a local hospital.


Garden shows this weekend and next, think about planting

The Hill Country Lawn and Garden Show will be going on Saturday, March 25, from  9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Burnet Community Center, 401 East Jackson Street.

Demonstration, many vendors, kids’ corner, many plants, native and garden, plus supplies will be featured. For more information call Irene Dauphin 254-498-6009 or to be a vendor Roxanne Dunegan 512-756-9396.

The Llano Master Gardener Lawn and Garden Show follows on  Saturday, April 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the St. James Lutheran Church 1401 Ford Street in Llano. Plants, prize drawings and programs are on the agenda.



You can go home again

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

They say you can't go back home again, but this past weekend, I did.

I went back to Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, this past Friday, March 17, for the first time in 30 years for my cousin Savannah Garst's Bat Mitzvah celebration. The last time I had been at Jacobs Camp, I was an awkward 16-year-old teenage counselor-in-training, or CIT.

Jacobs Camp was a formative place in my youth. It was a home away from home for four weeks every summer, from third grade to eighth grade, and again as a senior when I became a staff member.


Rep. Wilson reports on weeks 8-9 of the 85th Legislature

By Rep. Terry Wilson

House District 20

The last two weeks of the legislative session saw the first bills voted on by the House of Representatives, passing changes to help the overturned Child Protective Services system for Texas, my first committee meetings, and my first meeting as a member of the Texas Conservative Coalition.

The Texas Conservative Coalition, or TCC for short, is a group of 73 House members, and 16 Senators, who have a shared set of values they pledge to put at the center of all their decision making as legislators.

  1. Protect Constitutional Rights

  2. Advance economic freedom by reducing barriers for first-time employers and job seekers

  3. Promote government reform, accountability, and fiscal responsibility

  4. Encourage job creation through tax reform, reduction, and elimination

  5. Improve education


Texas must repair Public Information Act

Kelley Shannon is executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, a non-profit promoting open government laws and the First Amendment rights of free speech and press. The organization, since 1987, has presented the annual James Madison Award to journalists, politicians, academics, attorneys and vigilant citizens to celebrate outstanding achievements or distinction in the areas of open government, freedom of information and other related First Amendment issues. Follow this link to read about all of them:






By Kelley Shannon

Executive Director

Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas

We Texans are fortunate when it comes to access to government information.

Correction. We were fortunate.

For more than 40 years, Texas’ open records law was one of the nation’s strongest. The Texas Public Information Act, originating during a time of scandal in the early 1970s, presumes all government records are available to citizens, unless there’s a specific exception preventing release of the document.


Four years pass since Marble Falls bridge came tumbling down

Glynis Crawford Smith/The Highlander

The 77-yer-old US 281 bridge implodes on Sunday, March 17, 2017, witnessed by spectators in Lakeside Park and on Lake Marble Falls.

The Highlander reported on the implosion of the US 281 Bridge in Marble Falls in many editions, including on Friday, March 15, 2013, before the event and Tuesday, March 19, afterward. The stories below may spark your own memories of river bridges past or the day of the "blast" that made way for the new bridges that span the Colorado River in Marble Falls. Take a minute and share with us on Facebook:

Countdown to bridge implosion begins - Public to gather at Lakeside for historic event

Sunday implosion will end 77 years for the 281 bridge

Friday, March 15, 2013


House, Senate approve bills to protect children in foster system

AUSTIN — Both houses of the Texas Legislature last week passed bills to improve the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in response to Gov. Greg Abbott's call for emergency action to improve child protection programs.

Tasked with protecting children, elders and people with disabilities from abuse, neglect and exploitation, the DFPS, part of the Texas Health and Human Commission, has attracted attention in recent years for inadequate funding and staffing to meet obligations. 

Senate Bill 11, whose primary author is Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, was approved by the Senate on March 1. The bill would shift to private contractors the DFPS’s foster care management mission, but the state would remain the ultimate guardian over foster children, Schwertner said. The bill also contains oversight and accountability provisions to enable close monitoring by the DFPS and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.


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