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Three nominated for LEDCO board of directors

Three local professionals have been nominated to serve on the Longview Economic Development Corp. board of directors as nonvoting members.

Trinity School of Texas’ College Advising Director Ranjit Kodali, Eastman Chemical Co.-Texas Operations Learning Services Manager I.J. “Pete” Lamothe III, and Dollar General Corp. Senior Human Resources Manager Erin Ann Oakes will be considered Thursday by the Longview Council Appointments Committee and then the full City Council.

If approved, they would replace Chairman Conner Cupit and non-voting members Frank “Penny” Edwards, who passed away earlier this year, and the Rev. D.J. Nelson.

“Nonvoting (members) are 100% part of every decision, (but) they just don’t vote,” Cupit said Monday. “Ideally, we want non-voting to be a segue into a voting seat.”

Cupit has rolled off the board, saying that he is “now 100% relocated to Dallas, so it made most sense for me to roll at the turn of the fiscal year” on Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, nonvoting member David Cowley is slated to become a voting member, and Natalie Lynch has been proposed for renewal as a voting member of the board, Cupit said.

LEDCO’s independent board of directors — five voting members, five non-voting members — is appointed by the mayor and City Council.

Oakes has worked three years supporting Dollar General’s supply chain human resources, particularly with the company’s distribution centers in Kentucky, Oklahoma and two in Texas, including the Longview center that opened to full capacity this June.

The San Antonio native is a graduate of The University of Incarnate Word, and she spent time abroad in South America including Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she lived and continued her studies, according to her bio.

Lamothe has been learning services manager at Eastman since April 2001 and is responsible for managing the training and learning functions at the Longview site. He has worked with the company since June 1975 when he began as a wage and salary representative.

The Morehouse College grad is also a 1992 graduate Texas A&M University’s Executive Development Program. His list of activities and accomplishments includes past chairmanship of the Workforce Solutions of East Texas Board and past president of the American Apprenticeship Round Table, the Longview Museum of Fine Arts Board, Mu Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and the Leadership Longview Board. He is also founder and past chairman of the East Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering.

Kodali volunteers for a variety of departments at Trinity School of Texas along with preparing students for the college admission process. He also is an active community volunteer, serving with Legacy Longview, the LeTourneau University President’s Advisory Council and also as vice president of the Gregg County Historical Museum Board.

He is president of the school’s Alumni Association and co-chaired the school’s 60th anniversary gala this past year.

Kodali received his bachelor of arts in biological sciences and history from Southern Methodist University, his juris doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center and his bachelor of science in health care studies from the University of Texas at Dallas.

The Council Appointments Committee meets at 4:45 p.m. Thursday at City Hall’s anteroom. City Council members then will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers of City Hall.


Local
'Piney Portal' or 'City Signs'?: Finalists for new Longview monument unveiled

Consultants unveiled two concepts Monday for a monument along a Longview entryway, with many residents at a public meeting favoring what’s called the “Piney Portal” plan.

The Piney Portal, a 16-foot-tall by 60-foot-long masonry wall with a 10-foot pedestrian portal and a linear grove of trees, was one of two monument concepts that received the biggest positive response from residents at a similar public meeting two months ago.

“I like that!” Marie Edwards said about the Piney Portal during presentations Monday at the second meeting held by consultants and city staff at LeTourneau University.

The Piney Portal and a “City Signs” concept, which calls for 20-foot-tall art motifs spelling out the city’s name, were the finalists from dozens of potential picks for a monument planned at the convergence of Estes Parkway, High Street and Mobberly Avenue.

To meet a goal in the city’s Comprehensive Plan, city leaders intend to build an iconic monument along the major southern entryway into downtown Longview, the transportation center, LeTourneau University and other significant areas of the city’s center.

District 2 Councilwoman Nona Snoddy said she preferred the City Signs concept because it was unlike anything she’s seen, at least in the region.

As for the Piney Portal, Snoddy said, “This is another wall. I don’t know how well it would be received in the community. It’s just another wall.”

Residents can continue to have their say online. Both options will be unveiled on the city’s website — www.longviewtexas.gov — as early as today to view and pick, said Wendy Shabay, vice president of the consulting firm Freese and Nichols.

In November’s municipal bond election, voters set aside $3.3 million to redo the intersection from a “Y” configuration to a “T-shaped” convergence. About $600,000 could be used to construct the monument on a half-acre triangular grassy area along the east side of the intersection, said Joe Hart with engineering firm Johnson and Pace.

Johnson and Pace is handling designs for entryway reconfiguration and construction.

Consultants with the Plano-based Freese and Nichols firm said the monument also will serve as a gateway to Mobberly Avenue, which is getting a $5.1 million complete street facelift.

The City Signs concept includes 4-foot graphic element decals atop each metal structure with a letter that spells out the city’s name. Beneath the decals would be eight themes, or art motifs, about the city in the body of the structure, with an idea of repeating their theme farther north along Mobberly.

A sidewalk would be built from Edwin Drive along High Street that would curve with Mobberly Avenue, consultants said. Other planned amenities are lighting to make pedestrians feel safe and trees as a backdrop so that they don’t get in the way of visibility.

The Piney Portal concept includes seat walls meant to guard pedestrians from motor traffic as well as provide rest. A sidewalk running down the area would cross beneath the 10-foot portal of the wall, and there could be bench seating and lighting with color changes.

Longview would be spelled on both sides of the wall in similar fashion and with a similar type style to other entryway structures in the city, consultants said. They also are considering having red brick on one side of the wall and stone on the other side.

“We don’t want a lot of high maintenance,” said Dave Retzsch, also a consultant for Freese and Nichols. “We don’t want a lot of landscape features that we have to maintain.”

Residents picking the Piney Portal seemed most interested in adding art decals promoting Longview’s heritage and focal points on the wall.

Each of the concepts provides access and parking to Jodac Office Outfitters, a longtime business at the intersection immediately east of the grassy area.

“We went through a lot of voting and feedback on those two,” Shabay said of the concepts.

After a preferred design is selected, consultants and the city will prepare a final design that could be approved by the City Council as early as November. Once approved, construction documents would be prepared, the project would then be advertised for bidding and a public bid opening could occur in June, consultants said.

Construction is tentatively identified for July 2021, though consultants said that all dates are preliminary.


Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice. It was the latest example of Trump’s approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that he sometimes reverses and that frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane ... they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House had said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday. But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his latest decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., another strong Trump supporter, said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed concern.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. ... Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.


Local
Fall finally arrives in East Texas as temps drop

Two weeks after fall officially began, the temperatures to go with it have arrived in the Longview area.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mario Valverde said the cold front that moved in Sunday will keep high temps in the 80s today and Wednesday. Another front Friday that is expected to bring storms will drop temperatures again.

Today’s low will fall to the mid-50s with a high around 80, Valverde said. On Wednesday, the low will be in the mid-60s with a high in the mid-80s. Thursday morning is expected to be in the mid-60s and warm up to the upper 80s. Highs are expected in the lower 70s and mid-60s this weekend, with lows falling to the 40s Friday and Saturday.

Longview received about .2 inches of rain Monday. For the year, Valverde said the city is above average for total rainfall at 34.91 inches, which is 5.94 inches above normal.