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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Candidates for Amarillo City Council election on May 9


Candidates for Amarillo City Council election on May 9


The Turner Report: Joplin officials don't like coverage

I have alluded to the parallels between Joplin’s experience with
Wallace Bajjali Development Partners and the Amarillo City Council’s experience
and behavior. And I’ll continue to post on this issue in the future.
However, I want to call my readers’ attention to Randy
Turner, a blogger in Joplin who is also a retired journalist and has been a
great source of information on that city’s situation. Like Amarillo, Wallace Bajjali
came in with grandiose plans and promises. And like Amarillo Wallace Bajjali
failed.
In his post, linked below, he refers to the way the media
has handled the Wallace Bajjali debacle. There only one television station,
KOAM, is really covering that city’s problems with Wallace Bajjali. In Amarillo,
the situation is similar, with ABC 7 News-KVII the only outlet truly
investigating the downtown issues. 
The Turner Report: Joplin officials send disapproving message to KOAM...: E-mails obtained by KOAM through a Sunshine Law request show that city officials were not at all pleased with reporter Jordan Aubey's...

The Turner Report: Joplin officials don't like coverage

I have alluded to the parallels between Joplin’s experience with
Wallace Bajjali Development Partners and the Amarillo City Council’s experience
and behavior. And I’ll continue to post on this issue in the future.

Live long, prosper and rest in peace

Mr. Spock has been beamed up for the final time. He goes where Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett or Nurse Chapel, Scotty and Bones, and all those nameless ensigns who died on the away team, have gone before.

Leonard Nimoy, who played the Star Trek’s iconic Vulcan, died Friday from lung disease at the age of 83. Spock wasn’t the only character Nimoy brought to life. He played other roles. But what Nimoy did with the Spock character was bigger than life. He and Spock became inseparable, despite Nimoy’s insistence “I am not Spock.”

Spock represented the best in humanity no matter that he was half Vulcan, the race known for logic without emotion. Roddenberry’s Star Trek did the same, trying to show the world the best humanity is or could be. And those messages are what, I believe, make Star Trek and Nimoy different from other celebrities and separates them from the despicable cult of celebrity. His passing and the messages from the original Star Trek, a/k/a TOS, and carried on in The Next Generation, or TNG, make this remembrance as worthwhile as the themes he helped create.

Live long, prosper and rest in peace

Mr. Spock has been beamed up for the final time. He goes where Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett or Nurse Chapel, Scotty and Bones, and all those nameless ensigns who died on the away team, have gone before.

Leonard Nimoy, who played the Star Trek’s iconic Vulcan, died Friday from lung disease at the age of 83. Spock wasn’t the only character Nimoy brought to life. He played other roles. But what Nimoy did with the Spock character was bigger than life. He and Spock became inseparable, despite Nimoy’s insistence “I am not Spock.”

Spock represented the best in humanity no matter that he was half Vulcan, the race known for logic without emotion. Roddenberry’s Star Trek did the same, trying to show the world the best humanity is or could be. And those messages are what, I believe, make Star Trek and Nimoy different from other celebrities and separates them from the despicable cult of celebrity. His passing and the messages from the original Star Trek, a/k/a TOS, and carried on in The Next Generation, or TNG, make this remembrance as worthwhile as the themes he helped create.

More Harrison Street Hyposcrisy

In my experience as a journalist, nothing provokes a reporter with fire in his belly more than someone lying or showing rank hypocrisy. An in Amarillo, we have plenty of that to go around ahead of the city elections. Here is the latest display of hypocrisy from the Amarillo Globe-News, the daily rag owned by Koch Brother allies Morris Communications, which is based out of state, “Forget downtown redevelopment problems and other controversies that have stained city government the past few months and years.”

Residents and voters of our fair city must remember this at May’s City Council election. You see, much of the blame for staining city government lays directly at the feet of the Globe-News, which aims to be an opinion leader. The paper’s publisher, Les Simpson, has been involved in the stain that is downtown development. He is a key member of the Downtown Amarillo Inc. board, serving as chairman at the time that DAI Executive Director Melissa Dailey brought us Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, or WBDP. You know what WBDP stands for, don’t you? We Break Development Promises.

I’ll have more to write about Wallace Bajjali and the City Council in subsequent posts, of course. But the message here is clear. Readers should treat “information” and opinions in the Amarillo Globe-News like “Seinfeld” episode “The Bizarro Jerry.” Do the opposite and you’ll be better off for it.

More Harrison Street Hyposcrisy

In my experience as a journalist, nothing provokes a reporter with fire in his belly more than someone lying or showing rank hypocrisy. An in Amarillo, we have plenty of that to go around ahead of the city elections. Here is the latest display of hypocrisy from the Amarillo Globe-News, the daily rag owned by Koch Brother allies Morris Communications, which is based out of state, “Forget downtown redevelopment problems and other controversies that have stained city government the past few months and years.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Help fighting City Hall

Several candidates have stepped forward to take on the incumbent City Council and they can get more help from a new source. One Drew Alexander at (806)340-9088 wants to help. Here is ABC 7 News’ story.

Help fighting City Hall

Several candidates have stepped forward to take on the incumbent City Council and they can get more help from a new source. One Drew Alexander at (806)340-9088 wants to help. Here is ABC 7 News’ story.

Welcome and let's get re-acquainted

Welcome to my newly activated blog.

As a long-time journalist and investigative reporter, I hold dearest our rights enshrined in the Constitution’s First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is the prohibition against restricting my free speech and free press rights on which I established The Amarillo Independent nine years ago. I did so to offer Amarillo a progressive voice and form of investigative journalism that, in 2005, none of the city’s other media offered. The Indy had a good run, going multi-media and the in 2010 online only.

In August 2013, after several years of being the only source for video documentation of the Amarillo City Council, decided to “hang it up” and convert the news site into a blog. In doing so, I morphed from the straight news effort into a combination of news and commentary, occasionally still breaking information for the community no one else had, as I had done most recently on Jan. 24. That’s when I learned that Amarillo’s master developer, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, had self-destructed.

But it was just weeks after that August 2013 decision, when ProNews 7 and now ABC 7 News or KVII, approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse given the new owner’s commitment to hard news and accountability journalism: consulting and assisting in investigative reporting. By that time, I was The Amarillo Independent, so I notedmy obligation for proper disclosure in November 2013. My blogging and views were distinct from my consultation with ABC 7 News. However, as I wrote on Feb. 25, circumstances changed again and I will be more involved with the upcoming city of Amarillo elections. As a result, I am erecting a bigger wall between The Amarillo Independent and ABC 7 News and my personal activities.


This “The Quintessential Curmudgeon” is the result. Once again, it is personal and no way reflects on my role as a consultant. These views are mine and mine alone, as they say. I still hope to have fun and hope you will too.

Welcome and let's get re-acquainted

Welcome to my newly activated blog.

As a long-time journalist and investigative reporter, I hold dearest our rights enshrined in the Constitution’s First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is the prohibition against restricting my free speech and free press rights on which I established The Amarillo Independent nine years ago. I did so to offer Amarillo a progressive voice and form of investigative journalism that, in 2005, none of the city’s other media offered. The Indy had a good run, going multi-media and the in 2010 online only.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Special Announcement from The Amarillo Independent


In November 2013, I posted a disclosureon this blog that I was consulting with KVII, now known as ABC 7 News or ABC7 Amarillo. My agreement with ABC 7 News recognized that I could help promote ABC 7 News and indulge in punditry here. That post also made clear the opinion blogging here was distinct and separate from ABC 7 News.

I have made my views clear, without interfering with my ABC 7 News role, that Amarillo’s City Council and City Hall leadership have failed miserably on several fronts. The city hired Wallace Bajjali Development Partners despite warnings the firm was dishonest. Four years later, the master developer has vaporized itself, and not one city councilor has acknowledged what a filthy mess they have made of downtown development.


However, Amarillo city elections are coming in May. With the candidate filing period ending Friday, Feb. 27 and campaigning beginning in earnest, this election may well be a watershed moment for Amarillo, although that remains to be seen. My role in this election will be more than consulting, investigating and writing in this blog. My private and personal role will be more active in the campaign and, I anticipate, in support of some candidates.

As a result effective Saturday and indefinitely, I am going to discontinue this blog and will no longer post my political or opinion pieces here or link political or opinion pieces to The Amarillo Independent Facebook page.

I have established “The Quintessential Curmudgeon” as a personal blog and will begin posting to it after I finish setting it up. And I will become more political — if that’s possible — on my personal Facebook page, which is clearly my personal opinion.


I end this posting with this thought: Long before I became a journalist, I thought one of our most precious rights as United States citizens was our vote. I have become stronger in that belief as I’ve gotten older. Yes, I care how elections go but I still hold the process dear in the hope that ultimately the American people at all levels of government will vote for their best interests. That hope has been challenged lately, but in Amarillo, at least, I believe we have the chance to do what is best for our city and replace the City Council. I have often said and written that we get the government we deserve. So, please, study the issues, study the candidates, look beyond the slogans and rhetoric. And vote.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Train service to Amarillo a fading dream

For the past couple of years, the possibility that Amtrak would re-route its iconicSouthwest Chief through Amarillo has twinkled like blinking ditch lights. But if the essence of a reportin Sunday’s out-of-own owned daily paper, is correct, New Mexico’s Legislature could derail passenger rail service to Amarillo for the foreseeable future. If doesn’t happen, some of the blame can be levied at the Amarillo City Council and city management for their lack of intelligent, incisive and proactive leadership.

In a nutshell, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s has severely curtailed maintenance on the section of its current route that takes the Chief over Raton Pass, which the Chief reaches from Newton, Kan., traveling through the corner of Eastern Colorado before turning south and going into New Mexico. The only regular trains over those tracks are the two daily Chief trips, although it’s possible a rare slow freight could use the route. But, track conditions along the route force the Chief to reduce speed and thus degrade its schedule, something Amtrak would rather avoid. To keep the present route at acceptable speed, BNSF has said it needs $200 million over the next 10 years for maintenance, up from $100 million some sources cited some years ago, with the costs shared among BNSF, Amtrak, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.


For freight, BNSF’s preferred trackage is known as the Transcon, which is mostly double-tracked on its entire route from Chicago to Los Angeles. And, that would be the alternative for the Chief to come through Amarillo should any deal among those five parties crater. But, Kansas, even with its Neanderthal Gov. Sam Brownback, came up with some money with a federal grant that kept hope for the Chief alive through the western part of the Sunflower State. And progressive Colorado has also managed to come up with funds to add to the maintenance pot, perhaps with tax revenue on pot easing its fiscal situation. So, it’s only poverty-stricken and cash-strapped New Mexico, with Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, that needs to pony up a contribution to the rail route. How that plays out is the key issue, with Martinez part of the GOP wing that abhors Amtrak. Whether this anti-government governor will sacrifice the well-being of New Mexico residents in favor of hewing to a regressive public policy remains to be seen.

Given that background (and I hope you got through those two paragraphs faster than it took me to write them), we come to the important points about this for Amarillo. Amarillo’s City Council and management has known about these issues for about two years. With the city’s penchant for secrecy, which we now know may have some unsavory repercussions, we don’t know on the face of it how pro-active Amarillo has been trying to influence the Chief’s route. We can only conclude not much. In part, the reason is a general lack of creativity inside City Hall. But the largest part of the reason Amarillo is unlikely to see passenger train service is the imbecilic downtown development plan.

Yes, we beat that drum again, because Downtown Amarillo Inc. and Wallace Bajjali-gate have huge implications for the city. Here is what DAI Executive Director Melissa Dailey, the one who claimed Wallace Bajjali was well-vetted and in some part responsible for the master developer debacle, said about the Chief coming through Amarillo, “We’re really hopeful, but we’re the default. It’s not in our control.”

Dailey and the city leadership could be been creative in the past five years. They could have been more active in lobbying for the re-route, perhaps arguing for bringing the Chief through Amarillo on alternative days. Or, they could have looked at how the Texas Eagle relates to the Sunset Limited. The Eagle is considered a Chicago-Los Angeles route through but it actually connects to the Sunset in San Antonio. Why not work with other cities along the Transcon to accommodate going through Amarillo as a supplemental train? What about exploring the BNSF route along U.S. 287 into Fort Worth with what are known as multiple diesel units, or DMUs. The 3- to 4-hour trip into the multi-model center in Fort Worth wouldn’t require a full consist. As The Boston Globe pointed out last fall, “… DMUs are essentially little trains, which can use the same tracks and stations as big commuter rail locomotives, but would be quieter, cleaner, cheaper, and more suitable for frequent service on routes with stations close together.”


You have to wonder what the $113 million proposed for the hotel, garage and ball park would have done to renovate the Civic Center and work with BNSF and Amtrak for a pilot project. We doubt we’ll ever know. And the shame? Nope. We can’t understand why not.

Joplin takes Wallace-Bajjali-gate to heart, Amarillo doesn't

KOAM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Joplin, Mo., has been on top of the Wallace Bajjali story from the start of that city's attempts to recover from a devastating tornado that struck in 2011.

Unlike Amarillo, that city's manager in Joplin is taking the Wallace Bajjali debacle to heart. Here is a story from that KOAM's newscast that provides a stark contrast to the stonewalling from our city's council and manager.


KOAM TV 7

Friday, February 6, 2015

ABC 7 News investigates the Amarillo Commerce Building

ABC 7 News was to run this story on the 10 p.m. news Thursday, but technical difficulties prevented this story from airing. It aired this morning on ABC 7 News’ Daybreak and will air again tonight on the 10 p.m. newscast. It’s the tip of an iceberg. Please let your friends know about this. Urge them to watch it. City elections are coming in May and voters should be aware of how the City Council has handled this and other aspects of Downtown Development.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

ABC 7/KVII will feature questionable downtown deal


ABC 7/KVII will feature questionable downtown deal


ABC 7/KVII will feature questionable downtown deal


ABC 7/KVII will feature questionable downtown deal


ABC 7/KVII will feature questionable downtown deal


Monday, February 2, 2015

Lessons from Wallace Bajjali

It’s been ten days since this blog broke the news that Wallace Bajjali, the master developer for Amarillo and Joplin, Mo. had abandoned its offices there and the development’s home office in Sugar Land, Texas.

And a hell of a ten days it was.

The short version of this sordid saga is that The Amarillo Independent broke a story in 2010 raising serious questions about the developer’s sleazy history. We managed to get the City Council’s attention, but the council blew off the concerns. After a litany of problems here and in Joplin, Mo., where their City Council brought in Wallace Bajjali to help the city recover from a devastating 2011 tornado, the firm cratered. The Turner Report has covered the problems in Joplin.


That both cities have in common they are holding the bag for a dishonest flimflam firm point us to other characteristics the two communities share.

The first is that both city councils refused to believe the alternative news sources that brought seriously credible information about Wallace Bajjali. It assumed that Downtown Amarillo Inc., with the Amarillo Globe-News Publisher Les Simpson as president and Melissa Dailey, the executive director, were more equipped to provide good information. After all, this is what Dailey told the Independent Nov. 15, “We have not come across anything negative. When we looked into it in detail, it all was positive.”

In Amarillo’s case, the City Council (then commission) had already embarrassed itself even further by coming across as rubes during a presentation by David Wallace as demonstrated in this video from Nov. 9, 2010.

The Turner Reports from Joplin show a similar arc, but one other commonality is the more devastating.

Both cities’ daily newspapers (using that term loosely) — the Joplin Globe and Amarillo Globe-News — are owned by out-of-town corporations, the former by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. and the latter by the infamous Morris Communications. And both papers were in the tank for their councils and the developer. Now, each of the papers are back-pedaling, walking back their support but in different ways.

For Amarillo, it’s important to see what is happening here with two items on Sunday's Globe-News website. First, workhorse reporter couple Kevin and Karen Welch penned a storythat outlined the Wallace Bajjali implosion, clearly using deep information. But, with their ultimate boss Simpson, up to his eyeballs in the advocacy of Wallace Bajjali, the story didn’t mention that connection. For, Simpson was not only the president of the DAI board, on which he remains, but he also sits on the board of the Amarillo Local Government Corp.

Then, there was an editorialthat essentially declares a form of journalistic jihad against the city staff and, perhaps, some of the City Council. The piece was a litany of problems in the city, which were legitimate concerns. But in some of the worst hypocrisy possible, the editorial ended with a slam at the city staff and an abject failure to hold accountable the City Council and all the advisory boards, including the ones on which Simpson serves.

Make no mistake about these two items in the Amarillo Globe-News. These pieces are the beginning of a campaign to deflect blame away from Simpson, the Globe-News and the unholy alliance between this dishonest paper and the City Council. And, if the councilors don’t continue to play ball with Simpson and the Globe-News, they will also become the targets of reportorial retribution. In fact, one candidate seeking the Place 4 seat and sure to win the favor of the hacks on Harrison Street is Steve Rogers, who is associated with the suspicious Commerce Building deal. Look for more of this drama to unfold.

The lessons from this debacle are many. One lesson for the city councilors is to take to heart the value of humility. And to be more critical in their thinking skills. The other lesson is to be careful with whom you crawl into bed. When you lie down with snakes, you’re going to be bitten.

There is also a lesson for Amarillo citizens. We get good service from the businesses we support. Let that statement and the implications of the statement sink in. But the most important lesson is that we also get the government we deserve. The turnout for city elections have generally be pathetic, although the cell phone and smoking issues did spike some interest in civic activity. But this situation is more important. Amarillo’s next municipal election is just a little more than four months away. Think about it.