Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the reddest part of the red state

Monday, September 30, 2013

Understand the health care act before slamming it

As Oct. 1 brings the nation to the first major step in implementing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, all manner of media are reporting, analyzing and generally trying to bring clarity to a murky and difficult topic. The difficulty of this topic arises from the unique nature of health economics and the egregiously wrong application of general economic and free market principles to the discussion of health care.



While much of the rock-ribbed conservatives are railing against the ACA, the nation as a whole supports health care reform and much of the country is willing to give the reform act a chance. I spent 25 years in all aspects of the health care industry, with my early years witnessing the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid. As a journalist for some18 years, I always had health care as a beat. I have only seen a handful of reporters who “get it” and can explain how the system works. Nevertheless, I would offer these observations:

• First, I heard all the same arguments in 1967 with the passage and implementation of Medicare and Medicaid — and those programs turned out to be a boon for the hospital and health industry. And physicians no longer had to trade services for chickens.

• Second, most of the people posting about and complaining about the ACA are ill-informed and don’t understand anything about health economics, including the concept that the “free market” doesn’t work for health care. It never has and never will. If you want to make intelligent remarks about the ACA, learn about health economics and health insurance. Or get a master’s degree in health care like I did and then come back and make a fact-based argument about these issues.

• Third, the entire underwriting concept of the ACA working is community ratings, which deals with the issue of pre-existing conditions and other matters. It means that we’re trying to spread the risk over the widest population base possible. This will, in the long term, lower costs and accommodate the pre-existing conditions. It will also accommodate, from an underwriting standpoint, the more robust benefits the act imposes on insurers.

• Fourth, one of the reasons the ACA passed was the private insurance companies, BigPharma, hospitals, the organized physician community and the medical equipment industry “got theirs” as part of the bill. The negotiations with them saved the legislation. And, by the way, don’t believe the lies that the GOP tells abut not being part of the process: Iowa’s Chuck Grassley and Sarah Palin being two of the biggest liars claiming the GOP was cut out of the legislative process. The GOP was invited and didn’t play. It’s a typical bush league tactic.

• Fifth, saying government can’t run anything efficiently and it will make the act unworkable isn’t accurate, as popular as bashing government may be. Claiming government can’t run anything well isn’t accurate when focused on health care. Medicare has the lowest retention rate of all the insurers, which is a good thing and reflects the program’s efficiency. In short, it’s run better than all the private insurers could ever hope for.

• Sixth, the ACA has a long-range implementation period and, like Medicare and Medicaid, will need amendments, adjustments and other tweaking. Perhaps, as part of the tweaking, a certificate of need program like the one we had in the 1970s (before Ronald Reagan’s administration ruined it by buying into the “free market” health care idea ruined it) would stem some of the costly competition in capital expenditures. Perhaps a return to regional  comprehensive health planning would make sense.

Seventh, the law is constitutional. Those who argue otherwise reject the rule of law. You can't cherry-pick Supreme Court rulings for their legitimacy.

Eighth, objections without constructive discussion is useless.

Finally, for those citing individual cases, you're too narrow. This is a systems problem requiring a systems overview.

Somehow the vitriol and disinformation about public policy decisions has to stop for us to solve our problems — but that’s another topic.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ted Cruz is a hypocrite

An open letter to Ted Cruz:

As you continue to reincarnate Joseph McCarthy, remember he emptied his own political chit basket by acting like you are acting now — offending good and decent and thoughtful people with lies, invective and utter lack of compassion and decency.



You seem to be doing it more quickly than did the late undistinguished senator from Wisconsin, Your fake filibuster fooled no one — save perhaps the sheeple of the Tea Party — and alienated conservatives in the senate who could have helped your agenda. I am glad you offended them as much as you offended me.

I write you this because you work for me; you’re my employee because you “represent” Texas and because I pay your salary with my taxes. But you also “represent” me because I get to vote for or against you. At the rate you’re going, I’ll be voting for whomever runs against you.

Here is my evaluation, which I know reflects the feeling of many in Texas: You are on the verge of being part of a government shutdown, but according to The Associate Press in this story, you won’t forgo your salary. You are a 24-carat hypocrite.

I hope your time in the United States Senate will be short-lived, at one term. But then, I hope the 535-member kindergartners, even ones who reflect my views, get turned out on general principle.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Learn more before bashing the health care act

As Oct. 1 brings the nation to the first major step in implementing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, all manner of media are reporting, analyzing and generally trying to bring clarity to a murky and difficult topic. The difficulty of this topic arises from the unique nature of health economics and the egregiously wrong application of general and free market principles to the discussion of health care.



While much of the rock-ribbed conservatives in this area a railing against the ACA, the nation as a whole supports health care reform and much of the country is willing to give the reform act a chance. Having spent 25 years in the industry, with my early years witnessing the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid, and 18 years as a journalist who always had health care as a beat, I have only seen a handful of reporters who “get it” and can explain how the system works. I would offer these observations:

• First, I heard all the same arguments in 1967 with the passage and implementation of Medicare and Medicaid — and those programs turned out to be a boon for the hospital and health industry. And physicians no longer had to trade services for chickens.

• Second, most of the people posting about and complaining about the ACA are ill-informed and don’t understand anything about health economics, including the concept that the “free market” doesn’t work for health care. It never has and never will. If you want to make intelligent remarks about the ACA, learn about health economics and health insurance. Or get a master’s degree in health care like I did and then come back and make a fact-based argument about these issues.

• Third, the entire underwriting concept of the ACA working is community ratings, which deals with the issue of pre-existing conditions and other matters. It means that we’re trying to spread the risk over the widest population base possible. This will, in the long term, lower costs and accommodate the pre-existing conditions. It will also accommodate, from an underwriting standpoint, the more robust benefits the act imposes on insurers.

• Fourth, one of the reasons the ACA passed was the private insurance companies, BigPharma, hospitals docs and the medical equipment industry “got theirs” as part of the bill. The negotiations with them saved the legislation. And, by the way, don’t believe the lies that the GOP tells abut not being part of the process: Iowa’s Chuck Grassley being one of the biggest liars claiming the GOP was cut out of the legislative process. Bull! The GOP was invited and didn’t play. It’s a typical bush league tactic.

• Fifth, saying government can’t run anything efficiently and it will make the act unworkable isn’t accurate, as popular as bashing government may be around here Claiming government can’t run anything well isn’t accurate when focused on health care. Medicare has the lowest retention rate of all the insurers, which is a good thing and reflects the program’s efficiency. In short, it’s run better than all the private insurers could ever hope for.

• Sixth, the ACA has a long-range implementation period and, like Medicare and Medicaid, will need amendments, adjustments and other tweaking. Perhaps, as part of the tweaking, a certificate of need program like the one we had in the 1970s (before Ronald Reagan’s administration ruined it by buying into the “free market” health care idea ruined it) would stem some of the costly competition in capital expenditures. Perhaps a return to regional  comprehensive health planning would make sense.

Somehow the vitriol and disinformation about public policy decisions has to stop for us to solve our problems — but that’s another topic.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is Amarillo's purchase of a train station on the right track?

EuroStar trains poised to return to London from
Paris' Gard du Nord station.
The potential of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is all over the news the last few days, with the attention in Amarillo triggered, in part, by the City Commission’s decision to spend $2.6 million to buy the old Santa Fe train station. Normally I would be doing back flips of joy over that kind of news. But this time I am a wary that this is another in a long line of the City Commission’s stupid and ill-conceived fiscal profligacy.



I would like to remind the community that The Amarillo Independent broke this story more than a year ago after attending a “Rail Summit” in Fort Worth in august 2012. At that meeting, we learned that the cost for keeping the Chief on its present route — the so-called traditional one — would be $100 million over the next 10 years. Those dollars were to maintain the tracks from Kansas into Colorado and over Raton Pass into New Mexico so the train could travel the 79 mph needed to meet its schedule.

While calling 79 mph high-speed is laughable, it is also no secret that the United States is far behind Europe with transportation infrastructure, so, I guess, in American terms, it is. But both in Great Britain and on the continent, trains cruise in the triple-digit range. An intercity train from London to York or Peterborough in England, somewhat the equivalent of going, say, from Fort Worth to Amarillo, travels at 125 mph. And, of course, the EuroStar connecting London to Paris in 2½ hours or less zips across parts of the countryside at 186 mph. Other trains on the continent run much faster as do the bullet trains in Japan. And all this rail travel is generally safe, greener than flying and contributes to less crowded skies. The U.S. should do the same, but it seems we are better these days at bombing and destroying countries than building up our own.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has stopped freight service over the Raton Pass trackage and curtailed right of way maintenance; the Chief could not run “high speed” on the tracks. Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas were asked to come up with the money, but not only have they not so far, but New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez also cut and ran from a contract to buy BNSF tracks from Raton to Lamy. That deal would have let the New Mexico Railrunner serve the route from Belen, N.M. to Raton, N.M., opening opportunities for economic development and funneling passengers to the Chief.

As the time grows short and communities along the traditional route panic about losing service, The Garden City Telegram reported the cost of the maintenance doubled to $200 million. That puts the traditional route farther out of reach but it bodes well for the train being routed along the BNSF Trans-Con, which would take the Chief through Amarillo and into Clovis before turning west for the remaining miles to Los Angeles.

So, while there is a certain nostalgic appeal to using the old Santa Fe depot as the Amtrak station, the City Commission and city leadership have not leveled with the community about the full cost. Nor, have they told us about any of the alternatives, some of which could be much cheaper. First, the building isn’t worth $2.6 million and, even with the additional land that City Manager Jarrett Atkinson said was part of the deal, I have to ask if that is the highest and best use. I understand that the platform needs significant renovation to meet Amtrak’s standards and no one has posited what those dollars would be or from when they would come. Nor, if the station were to become a multi-modal hub à la the old Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque or the multi-modal center in Fort Worth, have the commissioners and the city told us what those costs would be and how those expenses would be funded. This will be especially tricky in light of the “no new taxes” pledge for downtown development.

Further, while the appeal is undeniable for the Amtrak stop to be downtown, were any options explored for another location?

The decision for routing the Chief through here is a long way off, but I commend the city leadership for looking at it. It’s something I pushed for. But the city has played this one too close to the vest, as it does with most things. The commissioners continue their arrogant ways of dismissing real and valid citizen and taxpayer concerns. That may be a good way to run a railroad, but railroading this deal isn’t a good way to run a democracy. Ultimately, the taxpayers will pay for the mistakes. Here’s hoping the ride won’t be too expensive.

Who Pays Off rick Perry?

Rick Perry's trip and advertising expenses to poach jobs from other states is another one of this political offal's lies and deceptions. Perry is suckling at the tit of the big corporatist puppet masters and he is dancing to their tunes. Here is a link to show how Perry is in the thrall of corporate America and how he is not working for Texans.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The government isn't broken, it's the rush to privatize that's broken

Government bashers and privatization advocates need to think carefully about how and what they want to be run by public entities versus private corporations — and that’s putting it charitably.

Lax work by a private firm may well be the reason for at least 13 dead and as many wounded in the shooting rampage at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard Monday. Multiple news outlets are reporting that a private firm, USIS, is the target of several investigations, including a criminal probe, for its vetting of Aaron Alexis, the shooter. According to the Washington Post, “The company, which is under criminal investigation over whether it misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks, said earlier this week that it had not handled Alexis’s (sic) case.”


Previously, representatives of the firm — which is owned by Virginia-based Altegrity Inc., in turn owned by Providence Equity Partners LLC, according to Bloomberg News — had denied it did a background check on Alexis.

But, there’s more.

The same firm also did the background check on Edward Snowden, who is in hiding after having blown the whistle on extensive spying on American citizens, probably in violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. I personally believe Snowden did the right thing for our country, which is why the power elite have vilified him. That’s not the issue here.

What is at stake is whether the extensive role of USIS and other private contractors for the United States government can be trusted to carry out their tasks in what is usually phrased in contracts as “a workmanlike manner.” How fair is it to attack a private corporation for missing the signs that one of its subjects would go rogue or go crazy?

Well, there are two contextual answers to that question. First, the Babbitts of corporate America, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the local chambers, bray about how wonderful the capitalist system is in delivering greatness and supporting our exceptionalism. Do they ever acknowledge the flaws and faults? No. And when we the people in the form of the federal government bailed out the too-big-to-fail banks and auto industry, did the chambers and corporate American acknowledge how the capitalist system failed? No, again.

The second contextual answer is that the capitalist economic system is amoral. Note, I didn’t say immoral. In the purest macro- and microeconomic senses, the system is designed to maximize revenue and minimize costs to maximize profit. The history of our country and the labor movement are part of the evidence of what happens when unfettered capitalism is left to its own devices inside the economic model. Eventually, forces outside the pure model must intervene.

It’s clear that explaining the events at the Washington Navy Yard are more complicated than one company failing to properly do its job. But the fact that the consequences of such a failure are so dire should argue for more than just a look at one firm. The entire question of privatizing government work, which for several decades has been the glib solution from the right wing for “fixing” government, needs to be examined. It’s a sure bet that an objective review will show that government isn’t as broken as the right wing would have one think and that a private company taking over is the wrong answer to the wrong question.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Does the reversal of Tom DeLay's corruption conviction reflect a corrupted court?

The Texas 3rd Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the money laundering conviction of former U. S. Rep. Tom DeLay, claiming the evidence against this morally challenged politico wasn’t sufficient.

But, in many of the news outlets which I have read, the reporting fails to mention that the chief justice J. Woodfin Jones dissented from the majority. As usual, the article in the Texas Tribune provides the most balanced account of the court’s ruling.


I find it hard to believe that the jury would be so misguided as to not see through DeLay’s corruption and I find it easier to believe that the political environment permits the appointment of biased judges. In short, it is my personal belief that justice is being shortchanged. It is good to know that the Travis County district attorney will seek a ruling from a higher court. So, the ethically bankrupt former representative may not be free after all.

We are quite isolated in the Texas Panhandle but my exposure to other parts of the country through friends and relatives. My discussion with them informs me of their view that Texans are not well represented by politicians who put special interests ahead of the interests of Texas residents. It is well past time in Texas that this hardball partisanship and battle over power be put aside for the good of the citizens of the state and not for lining the pockets of political allies in the politicians themselves.

TeaParty Idiocy and the ACA

Isn’t it time for someone to be rational about the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare?

Right now, so-called “establishment Republicans are being bullied by the right-wing Tea Party extremists, who are seeking a resolution to defund the ACA in return for, in essence, not shutting down the government. And in that context, the right-wing media are spreading lies (really, can’t I call them for what they are?) as part of concerted disinformation campaign which seeks support for the Tea Party idiocy.


But has no one caught the irony of the GOP-Tea Party war on the ACA?

In order for the Obama administration to push through the legislation, it had to make soul-selling compromises with the healthcare-industrial complex. That means it had to make concessions to the insurance industry so it would be part of the program, providing the exchanges and pathways into the reimbursement system. The pharmaceutical industry won concessions that included barring drugs from Canada and not letting Medicare bid on drugs to lower the prices. In short, the Tea Party mouthy regulars don’t realize — because they are so stupid —that their sub rosa corporatist leaders squeezed major victories out of this legislation. In other words, the corporatists “got theirs” and can now sit back smiling while the great unwashed Tea Party sheep bleat about how bad the program is.

So, John Boehner and his gutless ilk are caving in to the pressure from the right-wing idiocy without the foggiest notion that they are, in a sense, eating their own young. Aside from this insanity, what is it about the ACA the people need to know in order to get a perspective. Well, one of the benefits of being older is the institutional memory. I was just starting my Masters program in hospital and health administration at the University of Iowa when Medicare and Medicaid had just passed as legislation and was in the process of implementation through what was known then as the Department of Health Education and Welfare.

In 1966-67, we heard the same agonized yammering from the healthcare-industrial complex. The predictions of medical Armageddon, patient deaths and physicians fleeing the industry were everywhere. The American hospital Association, American Medical Association and others never tumbled to the fact that these programs would be the greatest source of income and sustenance that they would have ever seen. The less fortunate would now have coverage and physicians could now be paid in good old American dollars instead of trading chickens for their services. Hospitals’ cash flows increased and the race for buying new technology was on.

The Affordable Care Act will provide similar benefits. In fact, the biggest risk to the industry from the ACA will be demand-pull inflation — the same kind of inflation we saw in the 1960s when supply couldn’t keep up with the demand provided by the new insurance programs. The legislation and its cash flow will permit a continued technological arms race as providers compete in a part of the economy that really should eschew competition (but that’s a whole different discussion about economics).

If, dear reader, you understand the points I am making here then you will understand why the Republicans and their Tea Party buddies are being so stupid. Disabling the ACA will hurt the very constituencies that poor money into the Republican and Tea Party coffers.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We Lost a Friend -- RIP Mr. Seewald

This post is a little overdue, but it’s taken me some time to wrap my head around the fact we’ve lost a
great friend. William Hughes Seewald died over the weekend, while my wife and I were out-of-town. I learned of his death Monday from, of all things, Facebook.

My wife and I had supper with him Sunday, Sept. 8, so learning of his death was shocking. The supper was a kind of “farewell” celebration that I would be taking down The Amarillo Independent news website and converting it to a blog site. We didn’t count on it as a farewell dinner to the man himself.



Seewald knew I found his intellect intimidating, although as a friend he was anything but. He was also a man of wide interests, broad knowledge, great culture and unending kindness. We could discuss, and on that Sunday we did discuss, a wide range of topics. Sometimes we disagreed, but on the important progressive political issues, such as health care and gay rights (among other things), we agreed.  I hope I conveyed to him how much I appreciated him writing columns for The Amarillo Independent after he stopped contributing to the Amarillo Globe-News.

Losing Seewald just compounded an important message. Father Clifton Mann two-plus years ago, AJ Swope in January and now Buddy (he asked me to call him Wil) have once again driven home how fragile and fleeting life is.

I’ll miss him.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9-11

Some events sear a date into personal and collective memories.

Hurricanes Betsy and Camille striking New Orleans. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. And the terrorist attacks on the United States Sept. 11, 2001. While most focus today on the twin towers of New York’s world Trade Center, let’s not forget that another plane crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth went down in a rural Pennsylvania field, averting a second strike on Washington, D.C., thanks to the courage of United Airlines Flight 93’s passengers.



That the planes were part of a terror attack wasn’t clear at first, but shortly thereafter the federal officials reached that conclusion. Local authorities in Los Alamos, N.M., reacted quickly, not certain of the scope of the attacks and wanting to protect the nation’s nuclear lab, closed access to the town.

I was in Española, N.M., working on a story for the Los Alamos Monitor, the local paper when my editor called to tell me the townsite, as it’s referred to locally on occasion, was sealed off. Don’t try to come to the office, she told me.

And so I stayed and watch the day’s horror unfold on TV.

Those attacks change the United States forever, and I am not sure for the better. They have led our country into a Vietnam with sand and camels for 12 years. The latest issue in Syria, promises to keep us engaged in Middle Eastern sectarian violence for a longer time than many of us wish.

I don’t know how broadly the Islam or Muslim view reflects the peacemakers or the terrorists. I try to keep an open mind. On this day, as others also reflect on a range of emotions of that day, I am going to reflect on the totality of what wrought 9-11 and what 9-11 wrought on us.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

As the Grocers Turn - an Amarillo Soap Opera

The Amarillo media is all-awash with the news that Albertsons is purchasing United supermarkets lock-stock-and-barrel. The commentary over at the corporate media center on Harrison Street is replete with Albertsons-bashing and lamentations. I’m surprised people haven’t flooded into the streets to rend and tear their garments while gnashing their teeth.


I contacted Albertsons by way of its website to see if I could elicit a response about all of the negative comments being posted on the local corporate rag website. I have yet to hear back, which disappoints me because I would hope that the commentators are wrong about seeing service diminish. My experience at the local Albertsons has been positive, and I am finding it has a better selection of organic products than does MarketStreet United.

However, there are other sources of good product and services in Amarillo. In particular, Natural Grocers comes to mind. It is owned by Vitamin Cottage, so let’s not have any illusions about it not being corporately owned. It is our source for some of the best organic products in Amarillo. I purposely did not include Eat-Rite, also known as “Eat-Your-Paycheck,” because the prices there are outrageous. Yes, I would rather shop with local ownership; but, I have what economists call indifference curve. That means that I have some point between price and local ownership at which price outweighs local loyalty.

The best thing that could happen to Amarillo’s grocery market at this point would be if San Antonio-based HEB showed up. The old Toot N Totum site across Interstate 40 directly south of the old Albertsons store, now occupied by a furniture store, might be too small for an HEB; but, it would be a good start in Amarillo.


I look forward to following this situation, but that would be frequency and overwhelming nature of the former newspaper now owned by Georgia-based right-wingers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Globe-News misleads citizen on city tax issue

On Aug. 23, the Amarillo City Commission published a notice that commissioners contemplated raising property taxes 8 percent, with consideration of the required two votes coming at meetings Sept. 10 and Sept. 17.

Readers of the local shill for the city of Amarillo, a former newspaper that has become a click whore, found an editorial Sunday that was more incomprehensible and misguided than the usual drivel. As best I can tell, the main points the poorly written piece tried to convey were:


  • The city of Amarillodoesn’t hide these decisions and has handled this openly and above board.
  • “No one” showed up to speak against the proposed tax hike except Joe Kirkwood, a former Potter County commissioner.
  • People will complain after the fact that the City Commission didn’t listen to the public.


It’s true that the city has given citizens plenty of notice for the upcoming vote. But it’s not true at all that Kirkwood was the only opponent to the tax hike. Bill Summerford and others along with Kirkwood have fought the imposition of more taxes and a video of the Aug. 27 City Commission meeting will show that.

The piece in the Amarillo Globe-News sidesteps another inconvenient truth: Commission Chambers could be standing room only in opposition to something the commissioners’ plans, and it won’t make a damn bit of difference. The history of the City Commission’ actions, at least since I’ve watched it closely and especially since 2008, has been to bull ahead. This is a juggernaut and it’s hard to see how it can be stopped short of a huge turnout at the next city elections with a slate of candidates to take the city in another direction.


I don’t see that happening. But I’d love to see it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Nancy Tanner is best choice for Potter County Judge

A month ago, Amarillo’s previous mayor, Debra McCartt, announced she will run for the
Potter County Judge position that Arthur Ware is vacating. Ware, you’ll recall, suffered a stroke and has since struggled with communication and other issues, finally acknowledging last month he is no longer able to fulfill the duties of the office. It’s clear, however, that he didn’t struggle with stabbing people in the back because he fired long-time assistant Nancy Tanner after she announced she would seek election to Ware’s seat. This act of vengeance occurred before Ware publicly announced he would not seek re-election. But when Ware announced he wasn’t going to run again, he endorsed McCartt.


I am not privy to all the machinations on this issue, but I got a letter from Tanner’s campaign Friday that announced her bid for the judgeship. She also held a news conference Friday afternoon. The letter I posted Friday lists prominent area citizens whose views, I know, span the political spectrum. Tanner’s campaign website also lists names.
McCartt told me she was “thinking” about the judge race at the First Friday Art Walk on Aug. 2, so her subsequent announcement was no surprise. McCartt’s formal announcement let loose a blizzard of stories and commentary in the local media. And some of that commentary wasn’t exactly kind to McCartt.

Nor, I believe, did it need to be. While many Amarilloans pride themselves of being positive and courteous — and sometimes see facts and truth to be unkind — electing people to make public policy decisions requires a clear eye and open, thoughtful and analytic mind. So, for what it’s worth, here are the only two reasons why Tanner is the right choice to become county judge: She was court coordinator for 20 years and did Ware’s job since he had his stroke.

And here are the reasons why electing McCartt would be a grievous mistake and an affront to good public policy:

• As mayor, McCartt was a moving force in the current and misguided effort in downtown redevelopment but she never acknowledged she had a conflict of interest. Her husband, real estate developer Joe Bob McCartt, had substantial interest in downtown properties at the time. McCartt might not be the only elected official to suffer an ethical lapse, but she did and that doesn’t speak well of her continuing in public office.

• When David Wallace, of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, pitched the Amarillo City Commission to become master developer for the downtown redevelopment plan, he dropped names left and right. McCartt was enthralled. She came off like a bumpkin instead of a serous public policy leader. The Amarillo mayor is largely a ceremonial position, so being enthralled by Wallace dropping Margaret Thatcher’s name in and of itself did little proximate harm. But, being Potter County Judge is a substantial position that goes far beyond running a meeting (which McCartt did well). It requires wisdom when handling probates and mental health issues. What might sway McCartt during these very important hearings?

• McCartt’s relationship, both blood and political, would be a first step in making the City Commission and County Commissioners Court an “interlocking directorate,” something that would be a danger to good public policy in Amarillo. She is part of the “good ole boy” network and for Amarillo to move into the 21st Century, it needs new blood and more diversity. Potter County won’t get that with someone so entrenched and well-connected.

• If truth be told, McCartt’s job situation — she’s been hopping a bit — may be as much a driver for seeking a well-paying elected office. The “wanting to serve” is well-worn rhetoric. And that is all it is — rhetoric. The “wanting to serve” mantra is a sterile but helpful step to seeking higher political office, and it’s no secret among the Amarillo political cognoscenti that McCartt wants to be either a state representative of senator or run for Mac Thornberry’s seat in Congress. Since I can’t accept the “wanting to serve” as the real reason for wanting to be judge, I don’t see any other good one for McCartt to be elected.

McCartt is a personable lady. She is always cheerful and optimistic. But she’s no Nancy Tanner.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Potter Judge race heats up

It looks like we'll have a real race for Potter County Judge. Nancy Tanner has made it official and Debra McCartt, Amarillo's former mayor, has said she is running. Here's Tanner's letter.