One side benefit of my extended California stay was my mom talking me into venturing out Friday night for the Fall Festival Evening Under the Stars. It was a nice night, and once the sun went down, the weather was perfect.

It was my first festival since we moved, and let me tell you, it’s a much more festive event when attending for pleasure. For once I was able to get ready without worries of auction totals, expense receipts and rushing to make sure I was there an hour early to help with any last minute setup.

Instead it was nice to surprise many friends who didn’t think I was still in town, and I got to visit with so many people… I don’t think I actually got to finish a single conversation all night.

And it was especially nice to be able to enjoy myself guilt-free, knowing full well how much work goes on behind the scenes so that the Friday night kickoff to Fall Festival weekend goes off without a hitch.

While I wasn’t able to make it down to the park over the weekend, I talked to more than a few who said everything was wonderful, with the parade in particular being a highlight.

Everyone has heard the long running line about the festival being a convenient reunion of sorts for every who has moved away… but as someone who has, it truly is a nice way to plan a visit, or spend an impromptu weekend seeing friends and family knowing that so many will be around.

I was also very happy with the committee’s choice to honor the Newman Police Department as the Festival’s grand marshals. Planning with the police department starts well before the event schedule is finalized every year, and special considerations are made after tragic events that happen so close to home… like the Garlic Festival shooting. Organizers and the police department want to create a safe, family friendly atmosphere for the Fall Festival, while keeping the park as open and inviting as possible, and that takes planning and communication. Without the support of the city and department for all these years, the festival would not be the event we all get to enjoy every year.

Congratulations to the entire Fall Festival Committee for another successful event...and a big “thank you” for all the hard work!

•••••••••

News is still coming out after the seemingly random shootings in Odessa and Midland, Texas. One bit of news that is overly bothering me is reporting that the shooter had been calling both local police and FBI - for years - leaving incoherent messages. He also called before ever firing a shot.

Texas Governor Abbott also released that the shooter failed a background check, but had privately purchased a weapon.

Many times after a crime of significant magnitude the public finds out the perpetrators were what pundits call known wolves. This evil shows itself, again and again, on the radars of neighbors and law enforcement, and no one has the proper tools to deal with any of it.

Politicians and activists grandstand before families have even been notified. Laws and bills already written, at the ready for crisis and tragedy to further their political agendas. None of these bills do anything to target or prevent these types of tragedies. Usually, steps to limit the rights of law abiding citizens are what is called for, and symbolic stances… like Walmart no longer selling certain types of ammunition, or handguns in Alaska. None of this fixes what is broken. All of it limits the abilities of those who follow the laws but lose rights and accessibility to their legal property.

There is no talk of giving police the tools remove guns from people who should not have them. Specialized mental health units working with concrete, hard rules and standards that include safeguards that aren’t subject to the whims of people who could use red flag laws for ulterior motives… whether they were personal or political...are logical.

Enforcement against and prosecution of those who illegally purchase weapons, attempt to purchase weapons or who illegally sell weapons and arm criminals would be another logical step for our governments to take and actually seems easier to implement than a bunch of new laws that make zero difference.

But when someone makes a point to be on the radar of law enforcement by repeatedly calling and leaving incoherent or over the top messages, the public should expect that law enforcement  would be alarmed enough to pay the person a visit and, when necessary, take appropriate action to protect the public.

Instead, cities are no longer prosecuting petty crimes of most types, and criminality is allowed in incremental doses until there is complete lawlessness. All you have to do is look at the inner cities in Chicago and Baltimore to see what happens when complacency and a blind eye to basic decency takes over.

We’ve allowed the inevitable numbing that has followed the excesses of sex, drugs, rock-and-roll and “Greed is Good” mentality to foster an almost puritanical devotion to government as God and the salvation to every societal ill. 

And we are decidedly worse off for it, in every way.

We must all take responsibility for what we put into, and remove from, society. We must begin to take responsibility for ourselves, and our fellow man, and stop looking to a national government for solutions. And everyone needs to pay better attention to what is going on around them.

These known wolves are dangerous, and even without the benefit of hindsight, they exhibit behaviors that should have set off the alarms people around them, and usually do, but those alarms are ignored or not communicated.

Law enforcement personnel should not be nearly as complacent, and should be more vocal about what would make enforcement and policing more effective in dealing with people in the grips of mental health crises.

When law enforcement ignores the red flags and problems, the results can be decidedly more deadly… as we have seen over and over again.

Our police are on the front lines of too many situations that they are ill-equipped to deal with. Officers with specialized training, working with mental health professionals, could be empowered to actually help people but instead are hampered by regulations and homeless advocates who push personal choice and civil liberties over compelled treatment for many who desperately need it.

Even in a perfect world where we had a handle on all of societies ills, sometimes evil still triumphs. Sometimes random evil happens. What matters is what happens after.

What matters most is who we turn to.

I can guarantee the last place I am going to look to for guidance during times of tragedy is toward any politician residing in Washington, D.C.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.