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'Problem' Longview intersection targeted for traffic signal

A traffic signal would be installed at the intersection of McCann and George Richey roads in a proposal that would see four local entities come together to pay for the project.

The project went before the Longview Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors and Longview City Council this past week. The item was not an action item for LEDCO, with Wayne Mansfield, president and chief executive officer, saying the discussion was informational for now.

Traffic at that location has generated a number of complaints, said Mansfield and Longview Public Works Director Rolin McPhee.

“I advocated for it when we built George Richey,” McPhee said, but at that time, the Texas Department of Transportation had said installing the signal wasn’t on the radar until it was warranted.

“At this point, it’s needed,” McPhee said. He later said studies of traffic volume and crashes at the intersection showed the need for the signal.

He said the signal would cost about $400,000. LEDCO, the city of Longview and Gregg County would each contribute $60,000. The City Council on Thursday gave approval for city staff to apply for a $200,0000 grant to pay for the rest of the project from the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority. The grant application is due June 15, with a decision anticipated by the end of the summer.

“They’d like to be the mortar between the bricks,” McPhee told the LEDCO board of NETRMA. “They don’t want to build the whole wall.”

The city of Longview would provide “design, construction administration, construction inspection and coordination with Texas Department of Transportation through an advanced funding agreement for this project,” information presented to the City Council said.

The intersection is in David Wright’s City Council District 5. He was unable to attend Thursday’s council meeting because he was celebrating his mother’s 90th birthday, but District 4 Councilwoman Kristen Ishihara read a statement from him.

“As anyone who has been through the McCann/George Richey intersection knows, that intersection has been a problem since it opened a few years ago,” his statement said, and he added there have been many wrecks and probably many near misses there. McCann Road traffic pauses at a stop sign on either side of George Richey.

He thanked city staff for bringing the project forward.

“Because of your work, that intersection will be much safer for those using it in the future,” Wright said in the statement.

During virtual book club chat, McConaughey talks next 'leadership role,' growing up in Longview

Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey told the Longview Book Club and others Tuesday that he’s “looking for the next leadership opportunity” in his life as he discussed his book and growing up in Longview.

“I do feel that I’m being called to a leadership role in my life coming up in the next chapter,” McConaughey said as questions continue to swirl surrounding his possible run for governor. “I am measuring how can I be most useful to myself? How can I be most useful to my family? How can I be the most useful to the most amount of people?”

“I don’t know if that’s in politics,” he said of being “useful,” listing examples of other areas where he also could serve. “I may be more useful as a preacher. I may be more useful as being the best father I can be and let that be an example. I may be more useful writing another book. I’m not sure.”

He said running for governor is something he’s considering.

McConaughey chatted Tuesday evening with Longview Book Club founder John Nustad through Zoom with other guests joining virtually. A group of more than 20 people also gathered to watch the broadcast at Books & Barrels in downtown.

Robert Brown at Lennis Designs in Longview and John Grubbs, speaker and author, helped connect Nustad with McConaughey. Nustad set up in Grubbs’ Longview studio to connect to McConaughey and then made the video available via Zoom.

McConaughey said he was joining the call from one of his four Airstream travel trailers in Austin.

“Basically, my office is in the backyard,” he said.

He said his book, “Greenlights,” started to come together when he took his journals — about 37 years’ worth — out into the desert.

“It was awkward starting because it was kind of scary,” McConaughey said, calling the work of writing and looking back on his life intimidating. He narrowed down the themes of what he has been writing about for decades to categories: stories, people, places, prescriptions, poems, prayers and bumper stickers.

“Greenlights” was published in October and topped the New York Times’ bestsellers list as well as the USA Today bestselling list.

McConaughey said he wanted to make sure the chronology of the book flowed well and detailed what he learned writing it.

“One word can make all the difference,” he said. “The hardest part of the day was getting the very first sentence to start with.”

McConaughey also talked about parenting his three children, ages 12, 11 and 8.

“We don’t say ‘can’t’ — we don’t say ‘hate,’ ” he said. His children have been taught that to the point that when they do have to say “hate,” they won’t say it but will spell it.

Stephanie Myers attended the watch party at Books & Barrels and said she was glad her submitted question was answered. She said she enjoyed hearing McConaughey speak about his children.

“In his book, the main thing he ever wanted was to find the perfect person, but he definitely wanted to be a dad,” she said.

In parenting, McConaughey discussed the ways his children are having values instilled in them and the way his parents taught him the same values.

Nustad brought up a few stories from “Greenlights” of McConaughey growing up in Longview, including when he stole pizza from Pizza Hut, leading to laughter among the crowd at Books & Barrels.

He said he believes moving to and living in Longview expanded his perspective on life and the world.

“Having the idea of hey, you know, I know Dallas seems like it’s all a long way away, and we usually don’t get past Tyler, but there’s a lot on the other side of Dallas,” McConaughey said, adding that he started really thinking about other states and other countries.

McConaughey also spoke about his Just Keep Livin’ after-school program, which has been implemented at Longview High School.

“Wherever it’s needed,” he said, of expanding the program. “If there’s a school where you think it’s needed, please reach out.”

Chuck Tomberlain came to Books & Barrels to watch the chat with his wife and said he enjoys hearing about McConaughey’s successes.

“I’m always interested in keeping up with what Matthew does in movies and all that and him being a good, local, hometown boy,” he said.

Tomberlain said he’s looking forward to reading “Greenlights.”

“This was very interesting,” he said. “It brings life to the words.”

The Longview Book Club meets at 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at Books & Barrels, 206 N. Center St.

Republicans say they'll tweak part of Texas elections bill criticized for impact on Black churchgoers
  • Updated

Two days after House Democrats broke quorum to kill Texas’ elections overhaul legislation, Republicans say they plan to use a special session to change a controversial provision that raised concerns it would hurt get-out-the-vote efforts by Black churches.

A last-minute addition to the final version of Senate Bill 7, negotiated behind closed doors, set a new window for early voting on Sundays, limiting it to 1 to 9 p.m.

Democrats and voting rights advocates said GOP lawmakers were targeting “souls to the polls,” the longtime practice by Black congregations that encourages members to go vote after Sunday morning services.

In an interview Tuesday with NPR, one of the negotiators, Rep. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches, said the 1 p.m. start time was an error and that it should have been 11 a.m. Despite his claim, no Republicans raised an issue with the start time during final debate over the bill, and one of them even defended it.

Clardy told NPR that the Sunday start time was “one of the things I look forward to fixing the most” in a special session.

“That was not intended to be reduced,” Clardy said. “I think there was a — call it a mistake if you want to — what should have been 11 was actually printed up as 1.”

Lawmakers are set to revisit the legislation in a yet-to-be-called special session after Democrats staged a walkout late Sunday night that blocked passage of SB 7 in the regular session, which ended Monday.

After Clardy’s interview with NPR, another GOP negotiator and the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park, said what Clardy said was “true” and that they intended to fix the start time in a special session.

Despite the new claims that the 1 p.m. start time was a mistake, Republicans did not flag it as an error in debate over the final version of SB 7 this weekend. In the Senate, SB 7’s author, Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, stood by the start time under Democratic questioning late Saturday night.

“Those election workers want to go to church, too,” Hughes said. “And so that’s why it says 1 p.m. [and] no later than 9 p.m. You can make Sunday service and go after that.”

When Dallas Democrat Royce West pressed Hughes on that justification, Hughes admitted it wasn’t based on conversations with election workers but suggested that “souls to the polls” efforts promoted voting after the lunch hour.

“You can correct me, but souls to the polls — I thought we went to church and ate lunch and then voted,” Hughes said.

When the House moved Sunday night to pass SB 7, Cain noted that it did not outlaw voting initiatives “such as souls at the polls.”

Asked about Clardy’s comments Tuesday, Hughes said the “intent was to extend the Sunday voting hours” and that lawmakers would “make this clear in the special session.”

Current law requires counties with a population of 100,000 or more people to conduct early voting on the last Sunday of the period for at least five hours. The final version of SB 7 in the regular session revised that to say counties with a population of 30,000 or more can conduct early voting on the last Sunday of the period for at least six hours between 1 and 9 p.m.