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.


Lynchings ignite Hoodoo War

by Bartee Haile


A masked mob dragged five suspected cattle thieves kicking and screaming from the Mason County jail on Feb. 18, 1875, lynched three of the terrified outlaws and touched off a nasty feud forever known as the Hoodoo War.

In the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War, Texans often took the law into their own hands. Desperate characters, who mistook common folk for easy pickings, were routinely dispatched without benefit of judge, jury or clergy.


Infamous Texas fugitive flees to Brazil

Bartee Haile is a syndicated columnist of 'This Week in Texas History' read in the pages of The Highlander.

by Bartee Haile

The news out of Brazil on Jan. 30, 1977 was that a 19-year fugitive from Lone Star justice, had been arrested for financial misdeeds in his extradition-proof sanctuary.

Long before the savings and loans scandal of the 1980’s, there was BenJack Cage, scam artist supreme. The six-foot four-inch former football player could size up a sucker across a crowded room, or as one of his many victims observed, “He can take your pulse at 20 paces.”

Six decades ago, any Texan with $25,000 and a gift for gab could get into the insurance racket. Taken in by BenJack’s stirring promise to erect “a living memorial to the working people of Texas,” gullible labor leaders helped him launch his own company in 1952.

The AFL-CIO went so far as to encourage locals and members to invest in ICT Insurance. The unions complied by purchasing more than half of the $15 million in stock that flooded the market.


Oakley Facebook comment draws fire

Facebook is a wonderful tool for people to use, but like any tool, it should be used with great care.

The social media site is useful for helping people keep in contact with friends scattered across the globe whom they haven’t spoken to for years. It allows family to reconnect and allows the sharing of photos, ideas and news with others within one’s peer group.

However, it also instantly shows, without context, intent or clarity, the thoughts and ideas a person clacks out on their smartphone or computer keyboard and exposes those posts to instant scrutiny.

Such is the case involving Burnet County Judge James Oakley, who learned a very hard lesson this past week about the lack of anonymity Facebook affords.

On Monday, Nov. 21, Oakley shared a post from the San Antonio Police Department about the arrest of an African-American man, Otis Tyrone McKane, accused of killing San Antonio police Det. Benjamin Marconi on his personal Facebook account.


Thanksgiving, a time to count blessings

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

When I was a child, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite times of year. We'd either go to my grandmother's house or have company over at ours and we'd feast on turkey, dressing, brisket and everything sweet under the sun.

The last few days of school were spent learning about the Pilgrims and the Indians and how they celebrated the first harvest in the New World. We'd dress up like Pilgrims with black paper hats or big white collars or we'd pretend we were the Indians, with feathered headdresses and long hair and breastplates.

It would be a celebration of equality, spirituality and brotherhood that would belie the rest of America's historical treatment of the indigenous people of the North American content, but we didn't know that as kids. We just enjoyed the fun of the holiday, stringing cranberries and popcorn together to hang in the classroom and reading about Squanto, Massasoit, William Bradford and Myles Standish.


Knee replacement: a modern miracle

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

A lot has been written about in this newspaper in the past about the Restore -The Remarkable Join Replacement Center at Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg. It is considered one of the best of its kind, not only in Texas, but in the nation.

In mid-October, Healthgrades released its ratings of nearly 4,500 hospitals nationwide and for the 2017 ratings year, HCM received Excellence Awards in joint replacement, pulmonary care, gastrointestinal care and general surgery, ranking HCM in the top 10 percent in the nation in those four categories.

Specifically, Healthgrades recognized HCM as a five-star recipient for total knee replacement, hip fracture treatment, colorectal surgeries, treatment of COPD, and treatment of pneumonia.


Psychic wife means ghosts in my life

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

Highland Lakes Newspapers

I love a good ghost story, but I am not sure if I truly believed in ghosts before I met my wife. Since that time, a number of things have happened that have made me into a true believer.

My wife told me not long after we began to date that she had been given a gift (or curse, sometimes) of being able to not only see the departed, but to commune with them. Stephen King referred to it as “the shining” in his book of the same name, while others refer to it as psychic ability.

I admit I was skeptical at first, even though my wife is a very direct, honest person. My skepticism didn't last for long. While in the hospital, Betty hesitantly told me there were three spirits with us. (She still wasn't comfortable with talking about her ability because she was afraid of ridicule from disbelievers).


Saying 'goodbye' to a beloved fur baby

Sydney Bristow Cohn (April 27, 2003 to Sept. 20, 2016)

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander


The decision to put my dog down was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. My wife Betty came to my office Monday, Sept. 19, and told me that Sydney had been coughing and struggling to rest all night. That morning, she had coughed up some blood and things looked very bleak for her health.

Sydney, after all, was more than 13 years old. She suffered from cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) and congestive heart failure. Just about six weeks ago, we had to rush her to Austin to the 24-hour emergency clinic because she was having a hard time breathing.


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