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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Amarillo City Hall runs off the rails -- again

If you thought the stupidity out of Amarillo’s City Hall couldn’t get worse, think again. A story from
ABC 7 News reports that the city is considering making the $3 million Santa Fe Depot, which it bought with taxpayer money, into an “Intermodal Transportation Center.”


Normally I don’t quote a story this extensively, but I’ll make an exception in this case because you’ll have to read the verbiage to see how pathetic this is. The idea seems to have come from Downtown Amarillo Inc., which quoted DAI’s board chairman John Lutz, “We could take all of our transportation assets such as our busing — both private and public, our taxi system, and different things and put them all right here. This way they could be a better resource for the city at large.”

Yes, let’s do that, Mr. Lutz. All the assets, and “different things.” What different things? Like Amtrak? Oh, wait, the passenger train doesn’t stop here anymore. Does “all” include bringing the airport downtown?

Of course, that last little dig is mine, mainly to show how silly, ill-informed and scared the downtown development cabal is running. And if you want some more vague generalizations, check out the quote from Amarillo’s city manager.

“You're going to have the opportunity for many things,” said Jarrett Atkinson, City Manager. “You can take advantage of the space, take advantage of those historic buildings and keep moving forward.”

“Many things.”

“Keep moving forward.”

The city and DAI are grasping at straws, trying to generate some semblance of progress on downtown development. A few weeks ago, it was the Liberty Theater, with misleading information, if not lies, about how that icon of civil rights in Amarillo will be preserved. Now this.

You see, while the city, DAI, the Amarillo Economic Development Corp., the Local Government Corp. and the City Council were financially fornicating with Wallace Bajjali, and getting screwed in without even a kiss, the city sat on its butt doing nothing to get the Southwest Chief rerouted. Or, to explore other options that might have revived rail service for Amarillo. Can’t be done, you say? Look at other states: Illinois, the New England state; ones along the route of the Crescent up the East Coast.


Thanks for ABC 7 News for exposing another problem with a City Council that is at the heart of a mismanaged city.

Amarillo City Hall runs off the rails -- again

If you thought the stupidity out of Amarillo’s City Hall couldn’t get worse, think again. A story from
ABC 7 News reports that the city is considering making the $3 million Santa Fe Depot, which it bought with taxpayer money, into an “Intermodal Transportation Center.”

Please See My Other Blog

I have restricted my commentary on this blog until the May 9 Amarillo City Council elections are done. This decision is to distance my personal activity during the election season from the consulting role I have with ABC7. Postings here will be restricted to hard news for the time being.


For commentary and other information, please visit my relatively new blog “The Quintessential Curmudgeon.”

Let's ask council incumbents some questions

I have already voted in the City Council, Amarillo College and Amarillo ISD races. As a result, I see
no need to attend the campaign ploy that Paul Harpole is running under the guise of being a mayor’s “town hall meeting.” That meeting was announced using city of Amarillo resources, by the way. The notice came from the city’s community relations coordinator and is posted to the city’s website (http://www.amarillo.gov/?p=6880).

If anyone goes, or knows of anyone going, please feel free to circulate these to pose to Harpole. In fact, if anyone encounters a city incumbent anywhere, perhaps these would be good questions to ask.


Why did the council ignore The Amarillo Independent’s findings about Wallace Bajjali? If The Amarillo Independent wasn’t good enough, why go to a law firm to investigate? Why not do your own due diligence?

Why did Alan Taylor retire? Was there any truth to the rumor that he disagreed with the downtown plan?

The Strategic Action Plan effort had fewer than 1,000 participants. Why did the City Council consider that representative of the city?

Why was the Herring not included in the land use planning? Why has the City Council ignored the Herring Hotel as a resource for conventions? Who is behind the squeeze play on the Herring?

What happened to the “citizen vote” that was promised? With such a pathetic voter turnout in 2013, how can you justify that this was a mandate or endorsement of the ongoing plans?

If the new hotel is such a strong asset, why does it need to be protected by a non-compete clause? Or revenue guarantees?

How does city ownership of the hotel square with this community’s prevailing Libertarian or Republican ideals of a free market, a market where government doesn’t pick winners and losers?

How is it that the City Council ignored university studies that showed the very cookie-cutter plans that Wallace Bajjali brought to you don’t result in economic development?

How can the city contract with the Southern Independent League without a city-owned stadium to play in?

Why does the City Council and city management stonewall public records requests?

Why does the City Council protect the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.’s and Downtown Amarillo Inc.’s incompetence?



Let's ask council incumbents some questions

I have already voted in the City Council, Amarillo College and Amarillo ISD races. As a result, I see
no need to attend the campaign ploy that Paul Harpole is running under the guise of being a mayor’s “town hall meeting.” That meeting was announced using city of Amarillo resources, by the way. The notice came from the city’s community relations coordinator and is posted to the city’s website (http://www.amarillo.gov/?p=6880).

If anyone goes, or knows of anyone going, please feel free to circulate these to pose to Harpole. In fact, if anyone encounters a city incumbent anywhere, perhaps these would be good questions to ask.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cynicism is justified

I have been looking around the Amarillo Municipal Code. I was trying to figure out if the City Council had a choice in scheduling the city election on May 9 on Mother’s Day Weekend. This arose because of a lot of local buzz that the council had set the election for Mother's Day Weekend to suppress turnout. The idea here is that a low turnout favors the status quo. It is a testament to how cynically a lot of people in Amarillo view their elected officials for the issue to arise this way.

I wanted to see for myself and found part of the code, but it isn’t helpful: “The regular municipal elections of the City of Amarillo shall be held on the date allowed by state law that occurs on or nearest to May 1 in each odd numbered year. If state law provides two election dates which are equally near May 1, the Council shall select one.”

I asked my Facebook friends if someone could point me to the state law that ties in with the city code on this. My friend, Bill McHugh, found the citation in the state election code that has settled the issue: the choice of date was unavoidable. The codestates that elections occur on “the second Saturday in May in an odd-numbered year … .” I don’t know why we need the ordinance in the Municipal Code when the state law is so specific, but there it is.


But I also found something else interesting. The Amarillo City Council has the power to conduct investigations and has subpoena power, the power to compel and power to charge those resisting providing information with contempt. Clickhere to see this part of the ordinance, but I call it to your attention because it provides a basis for one of the first things the new council should undertake.

What is that, you may ask?

It’s to launch two investigations of entities which operate on behalf of the city, the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. and Downtown Amarillo Inc. You might want to argue that these are not “any office or department of the City government,” but don’t forget The Amarillo Independent won a ruling from the Texas Attorney General that would apply here. The ruling the Indy won some years ago forced DAI to behave like a government entity, making it fully subject to the Open Meetings and Public Records acts. The basis was that DAI was funded by the government to carry out a governmental function. The same logic would apply to the AEDC.


Such an investigation might be the only way to learn what has really gone on behind the closed doors at these two entities. The public’s right to know that is long overdue. Given the track record of the City Council, Amarillo Economic Development Corp. and Downtown Amarillo Inc., wanting this investigation is not cynical.

Cynicism is justified

I have been looking around the Amarillo Municipal Code. I was trying to figure out if the City Council had a choice in scheduling the city election on May 9 on Mother’s Day Weekend. This arose because of a lot of local buzz that the council had set the election for Mother's Day Weekend to suppress turnout. The idea here is that a low turnout favors the status quo. It is a testament to how cynically a lot of people in Amarillo view their elected officials for the issue to arise this way.

I wanted to see for myself and found part of the code, but it isn’t helpful: “The regular municipal elections of the City of Amarillo shall be held on the date allowed by state law that occurs on or nearest to May 1 in each odd numbered year. If state law provides two election dates which are equally near May 1, the Council shall select one.”

I asked my Facebook friends if someone could point me to the state law that ties in with the city code on this. My friend, Bill McHugh, found the citation in the state election code that has settled the issue: the choice of date was unavoidable. The codestates that elections occur on “the second Saturday in May in an odd-numbered year … .” I don’t know why we need the ordinance in the Municipal Code when the state law is so specific, but there it is.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

An Open Letter to Brian Eades

As I got out of the car yesterday morning after dropping my wife off at a sub job, I thought I got a whiff of the smell of cattle money. I didn’t detect a breeze, so I was mystified why the odor was so strong. Then I read your email and realized the smell was coming from that.

For someone who has repeatedly sat on the dais and said he makes public policy on the basis of facts and evidence, your pattern of behavior, support of the downtown plan and Wallace Bajjali betrays your principles. And that’s a fact.

Now, let’s address some of your comments.


· “Since that time, we have a new city manager, new mayor and all new city council members technically except for me.” — The “new” city manager was a long-time city employee and well in the loop about the downtown planning. If he wasn’t in the loop, your oversight of the city management is flawed because, as assistant manager, Jarrett should have been in the loop. A “new” mayor is equally fallacious. Paul has been part of the City Council before. He was well aware of the City Council issues and activities. And the same goes for other councilors. Jim Simms can’t be consider as new. Ron Boyd had been on the commission for years. Ellen was active on the Traffic Commission. Verdict: Spin failure due to your bad information or lack of understanding.

· “We have a new hotel developer, a new TIRZ chair, a new Center City president, a local government corporation and a new DAI executive director.” — The NewCrestImage people are not new. They did the Fisk Building, despite Melissa Dailey’s attempt to undercut them. The “new” TIRZ chair was on the TIRZ board so he wasn’t “new;” and he is a prominent lawyer in town and did the legal framework for TIRZ and Downtown Amarillo Inc. The Center city president came from within its own board, so he wasn’t new either. The new LGC board was made up of veteran city people, council members and others who have long been deeply involved with city public policy in one form or the other. You helped appoint them. If they were too new to do the job right, you shouldn’t have. And the DAI executive director? A third-rate or fourth-rate transportation planner who had no broad experience in major planning issues. Verdict: Spin failure due to your bad information or lack of understanding.

· “We have a new traffic engineer and even a new animal control director etc.” — Yep, sure do. Verdict: Irrelevant for downtown planning but emblematic of the City Council’s incompetent oversight of city functions.

· “Yes George, things change. As does the weather, economic indices, financial fortunes and your investment portfolio.” — And smart managers and others charged with oversight take changes into account and adjust accordingly. Verdict: Failure to oversee the environment properly.

· “Thanks heavens for some modicum of continuity.” — Wait, wait. Continuity? Didn’t you just regale me with all that “new” stuff that you think excused you from the poor decisions in which you participated and in which other commissioners/councilors undertook? Verdict: Contradiction exposes spin failure (again).

· “Now, in regards to your statement, I can't for the life of me find a question mark anywhere in there.” — This sentence elevated you from hubris past arrogance to unmitigated gall. Are you saying I have to bow and scrape to you, oh royal one, and can only ask you questions? I don’t see it that way. You and the others continue to run on the platform you represent all the people, but it seems that the only people to whom you listen are other Amarillo royalty. No, Brian, I wasn’t asking you questions. I was pointing out that you and the other council members are refusing to acknowledge how poorly you have governed this city. And how incredibly bad the decisions are you’ve made, especially with respect of downtown.

Further, on this last bullet point, my email to you and the other councilors was about how you and others ignored good, solid information about Wallace Bajjali — information beyond The Amarillo Independent’s 2010 story — that a simple Google search would have gotten you. (Spare me the Dallas law firm. They didn’t “vet” anything.) The council, had it been following WBDP’s problems elsewhere like Waco, Corpus Christi and Joplin, had the chance to kill this deal off in Nov. 2013. You didn’t. The council didn’t.

Verdict: The Amarillo Independent and others were right all along and the City Council continues to refuse to publicly acknowledge that fact. Let me say it again, slowly: The.Amarillo.Independent.was.right.

So, you want questions. OK, here are some questions.

First question: Are you up to answering the following questions honestly?

If you’re so wedded to facts and evidence in making public policy, why did you ignore them in choosing Wallace Bajjali? Why did you and the council ignore The Amarillo Independent’s findings?

Why did Alan Taylor retire? Was there any truth to the rumor that he disagreed with the downtown plan?

The Strategic Action Plan effort had fewer than 1,000 participants. Why did the City Council consider that representative of the city?

Why was the Herring not included in the land use planning? Why has the City Council ignored the Herring Hotel as a resource for conventions? Who is behind the squeeze play on the Herring?

What happened to the “citizen vote” that was promised? With such a pathetic voter turnout in 2013, how can you justify that this was a mandate or endorsement of the ongoing plans?

If the new hotel is such a strong asset, why does it need to be protected by a non-compete clause?

How does city ownership of the hotel square with your Libertarian or Republican ideals of a free market? A market where government doesn’t pick winners and losers?

How is it that the City Council ignored studies that showed the very cookie-cutter plans that Wallace Bajjali brought to you don’t result in economic development?

How can the city contract with the Southern Independent League without a city-owned stadium to play in?

And one final question for you, as I think back over the discussions we have had through the years that I’ve been a citizen and taxpayer in Amarillo. How is it that when we’ve discussed public policy on health care, you agree with me in private and then take opposite positions in public? You’ll want examples, so I’ll give you two. Certificate of need and that health care isn’t a free market.


I await your responses.

An Open Letter to Brian Eades

As I got out of the car yesterday morning after dropping my wife off at a sub job, I thought I got a whiff of the smell of cattle money. I didn’t detect a breeze, so I was mystified why the odor was so strong. Then I read your email and realized the smell was coming from that.

For someone who has repeatedly sat on the dais and said he makes public policy on the basis of facts and evidence, your pattern of behavior, support of the downtown plan and Wallace Bajjali betrays your principles. And that’s a fact.

Now, let’s address some of your comments.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Irony, hubris and time will tell

The Amarillo Globe-News’ editorial on April 23 makes clear it is fed up with the city’s problems. And, in
the height of irony and hubris, refers to the “Wallace Bajjali debacle.

Anyone following city government, downtown development and the Globe-News’ role in all this knows that, for years and especially since 2008, the city could do no wrong. The city and the Globe-News were so enamored with one another that the City Council placed the paper’s publisher, Les Simpson, on key boards tasked with planning and implementing downtown redevelopment. In fact, Simpson was the head of Downtown Amarillo Inc.’s board when DAI recommended Wallace Bajjali as a master developer for the downtown effort.


You have to wonder what prompted the paper’s 180-degree turn-around. What triggered such a falling out between two lovers? I’d love to know other people’s theories on this one.

The Globe-News exhorts people to turn out to the upcoming city election. Stating it this way, “Voters that (sic — it should be “who”) are content with the way things are going in Amarillo — feel free to show your support for the status quo at the ballot box. Voters that (sic — it should be “who”) see the need for a new and fresh approach to leadership, at least for Amarillo government, opportunity is knocking — as the saying goes — at the same ballot box.”

The editorial concludes, “Amarillo residents can talk change all they want, but voting is the only way to accomplish change.”

But in the end, how much change does the Amarillo Globe-News really want? We’ll see when the Globe-News lists its endorsements in the race.

Early voting begins Monday and citywide polling occurs May 9.


Irony, hubris and time will tell

The Amarillo Globe-News’ editorial on April 23 makes clear it is fed up with the city’s problems. And, in
the height of irony and hubris, refers to the “Wallace Bajjali debacle.

Anyone following city government, downtown development and the Globe-News’ role in all this knows that, for years and especially since 2008, the city could do no wrong. The city and the Globe-News were so enamored with one another that the City Council placed the paper’s publisher, Les Simpson, on key boards tasked with planning and implementing downtown redevelopment. In fact, Simpson was the head of Downtown Amarillo Inc.’s board when DAI recommended Wallace Bajjali as a master developer for the downtown effort.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Being well-informed is not always comfortable

I spend a lot of time on my computer, but one of the benefits of reading at least 15 news websites each day is I learn things. In the past 12 hours, I have learned two things by reading the Dallas Morning News website. And both are distressing.


First, a group of entrepreneurs is trying to build a high-speed train route between Dallas and Houston. The plan would use the Japanese Bullet Train technology to zip people between these cities. You can read about the plan itself on various sites. Just Google “Texashigh speed rail” and follow the threads down the rabbit holes. Some legislators want to derail this plan, which is privately funded and asks for no public money. In a Dallas Morning News column, Steve Blow points out, “Opponents of the train are using the boogeyman of eminent domain to try to kill it. A bill passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee would strip that right from the project.”

One of those voting to remove the power of eminent domain for this company is Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton, who, according to Blow, said eminent domain is “probably the most horrific power that the government has.” More than capital punishment.

So, what are the lessons here? One is that Hall doesn’t know the difference between taking a life and taking property, which raises the question of whether he, and those who would agree with him, are smart enough to handle public policy issues. Another is that some people in the Legislature would take from the Texas Central Railway the same power they have given over the years to other private firms. A third lesson is that capitalist hypocrisy trumps free market rhetoric. One thing I haven’t learned is whether Southwest Airlines is repeating its opposition to competition and using the easily influenced state government to profit from its oligopoly.

The second trouble lesson came Sunday morning when the DMN published Dave Lieber’s investigationthat showed the state is selling our private information to firms so they can market their wares to us.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety sells your name and address off your driver’s license to data mining companies, insurers, tax-collecting law firms and electricity companies, to name a few,” Lieber writes, noting that private companies are required to notify us of their information sharing policies. The state government, not so much.

So, now you know from where that junk mail and those robocalls originate. What’s to be done about it? Well, in true public service fashion, Lieber gives the names of two Texas lawmakers who want to rein in this practice. Here they are:
Rep. Gary Elkins — Email: Gary.Elkins@house.state.tx.us
Address: Room 4N.3, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg — Email: Jodie.Laubenberg@house.state.tx.us
Address: Room 1N.7, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 76768


If you want to contact any other state official about either of these issues, here is a fulldirectory, courtesy of the Texas Tribune.

Being well-informed is not always comfortable

I spend a lot of time on my computer, but one of the benefits of reading at least 15 news websites each day is I learn things. In the past 12 hours, I have learned two things by reading the Dallas Morning News website. And both are distressing.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

climate change deniers threaten our world

We are running out of time to change who determines the fate of the world. Will public policy be driven by the greed of multi-national companies and their corporatist masters? Or, will public policy be wrested from the 21st Century robber barons and returned to the hands of people and the rational thinkers who balance commerce with public good?

At this point, it looks like history’s political pendulum has swung back to resemble the business world of the 19th Century. The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Goulds and other “captains of industry” are now replaced by the Gates, the Waltons, the Murdochs, the Wall Streeters and other capitalists.
Economists refer to unfettered capitalism and free markets as amoral. Left alone, firms seek to operate without any constraints, seek to crush or buy out competition and crush anything else in the way of profit. In the Gilded Age, he result was dirty air, polluted water, contaminated food, exploited labor, including children, rampant poverty and disease. As those effects became clear and intolerable, a reformation of sorts brought us legislation and government oversight that reined in those excesses.

With the 1980s and the Reagan administration, the reins have incrementally loosened and we’re facing another such age — this time manifesting as a threat far beyond our sensibilities, but our existence. The only reason the climate deniers are waging a war against science and sound public policy is to return to the days of the robber barons. We have choices, of course. We can re-energize our efforts and force the capitalist community to be less greedy and to accept lower profits. After all, how much is enough? And that is the crux of the argument, isn’t it?


We have to start addressing which path does more long term hard to our existence. The downside of continuing the soiling of our world is much, much worse than that of a little less profit for the owners of large firms. When will we ever learn?

climate change deniers threaten our world

We are running out of time to change who determines the fate of the world. Will public policy be driven by the greed of multi-national companies and their corporatist masters? Or, will public policy be wrested from the 21st Century robber barons and returned to the hands of people and the rational thinkers who balance commerce with public good?

At this point, it looks like history’s political pendulum has swung back to resemble the business world of the 19th Century. The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Goulds and other “captains of industry” are now replaced by the Gates, the Waltons, the Murdochs, the Wall Streeters and other capitalists.

Democrats need a Hillary alternative

I have generally posted on matters about which I believe I can claim some knowledge and some expertise — health care, the Amarillo City Council and downtown development. I shy away from some of the national news and stories. But occasionally something resonates strongly with me and Thomas Farragher’s article did just that.


I’ve wanted to go “all in” about Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations and, in 2008, was inclined to back her until Barack Obama came along with a more populist message. Now, however, I see both of them as different sides of the same coin — corporate captives who have long abandoned the middle class and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Maybe I don’t understand national politics and the concessions politicians must make to move incrementally to a goal.

What Farragher’s column demonstrates to me is that the Clinton campaign will be a marketing/sales blitz to paint her as “the people’s” candidate. I won’t be buying it. As Farragher points out, using the word “inauthenticity,” Clinton neither can, wants to nor will listen to or understand anyone but those in the plutocrat class. More’s the pity, because I see a backlash against her that would open the door to a Republican presidency — and at this point in the United States’ history — that would be a disaster.

If those in our country want a clear choice, and if the Democratic Party wants to give us a clear choice, we need a ticket like Warren-Sanders or the equivalent thereof. It ain’t gonna happen, but I can hope.


Democrats need a Hillary alternative

I have generally posted on matters about which I believe I can claim some knowledge and some expertise — health care, the Amarillo City Council and downtown development. I shy away from some of the national news and stories. But occasionally something resonates strongly with me and Thomas Farragher’s article did just that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Harpole's hubris fools no one except the Globe-News

Yesterday I posted an observation that Mayor Paul Harpole’s “town hall meeting” was a political ploy that used the city of Amarillo’s resources — taxpayer money — to further his re-election chances. I wasn’t the only one to raise that issue, as some of the commenters on the Amarillo Globe-News storyon Tuesday noted. That Tuesday story shilled for Harpole and failed the basic test of journalism: thinking critically and asking the questions. So transparent. In the end, the Globe-News will end up endorsing the incumbents and call for staying the course on downtown development.


Today the Globe-News story raises the questions that should have come with the “announcement” storyon Tuesday. And the story confirms that Harpole fooled no one — except the Globe-News the day before. Also Wednesday, my friend and former Globe-News colleague John Kanelis bloggedabout this as well, asking whether Harpole “truly understands how some people can perceive what looks so patently obvious.”

The fact that this ploy blew up in his face means that, in this case, the perception was the reality and (1) a political move ahead of an election; (2) a crass attempt to undercut the Democratic hosts’ forum; (3) a calculated misuse of taxpayer resources for political purposes; and, (4) a reflection of Harpole’s hubris and arrogance, thinking he could get away with this.

As of a few moments ago, three commenters on the Amarillo Globe-News site were spot on about this ploy. What is more interesting is the Amarillo Globe-News helped Harpole in his denial of the ploy — very telling about the AGN and its ethics. And, finally, that he is moving the next so-called town hall to a private venue means someone has figured out that it’s clear it was a political poly that had no place in taxpayers’ property.


Harpole's hubris fools no one except the Globe-News

Yesterday I posted an observation that Mayor Paul Harpole’s “town hall meeting” was a political ploy that used the city of Amarillo’s resources — taxpayer money — to further his re-election chances. I wasn’t the only one to raise that issue, as some of the commenters on the Amarillo Globe-News story on Tuesday noted. That Tuesday story shilled for Harpole and failed the basic test of journalism: thinking critically and asking the questions. So transparent. In the end, the Globe-News will end up endorsing the incumbents and call for staying the course on downtown development.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Amarillo mayor uses city resources as part of campaign ploy

At about 3 p.m. Monday, the city of Amarillo issued a news release announcing what Mayor Paul Harpole and Sonja Gross, the city’s public relations person, call a “town hall meeting.” You can read the entire release here. However, for those of you who wish to be critical and analytical thinkers, let’s deconstruct this release before we get too dizzy from the PR spin the city seems to live for these days.

Harpole and Sonja Gross, the city’s public relations person, calls a “town hall meeting.” You can read the entire release here.



·“Although it is customary for Amarillo City Council to welcome public comment at the end of each regular meeting, the public is limited to addressing the Council about City policies, programs or services that are not on the agenda. In turn, City Council can only respond with facts or direct specific questions to staff.” — Not totally true. While it is true that the city attorney’s interpretation of the Open Meetings Act restricts the councilors’ comments, it is not true that the act restricts what members of the public may say to the City Council during the comment period.

The notion that the City Council welcomes comments (the new release’s words) challenges my ability to believe what the city puts out. I’ve attended enough of the council meetings to state with certainty that the council, and the mayor especially, brooks no disagreement and is often boorish in his treatment of those he disdains.

·“Because of these limitations, Mayor Paul Harpole is hosting town hall meetings with one scheduled for this Tuesday following the regular City Council meeting.” — The limitations are false. And, it is questionable that, as the City Council election shifts into high gear, that an elected official seeking re-election uses the city and its resources for an obvious campaign ploy.

By the way, “those limitations” noted in the release don’t mention the three-minute limit the City Council and city have imposed on speakers. This restriction came under Mayor Debra McCartt’s reign when she and the councilors tired of citizens confronting them with disagreements over the depraved downtown development plans.

·“‘There will be no time limitations and no restrictions on what the public can ask,’ says Mayor Harpole. ‘This is another opportunity for citizens to tell me what is important to them and their neighborhoods. I look forward to hearing people’s specific concerns, provide them with the best information possible and hear suggestions on how we can improve our great City.’” — The citizens of Amarillo have been telling the mayor and council what’s important for years, since 2008, in fact, when they rammed Downtown Amarillo Inc. and the other sleight-of-hand approaches to downtown down Amarillo’s throat.


·“The Mayor’s Town Hall meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14 at the Amarillo Public Library downtown, located 413 E. 4th Ave, in the Harrington Library Consortium Room.” — Without time limitations, the mayor’s little campaign ploy might prevent him from getting to the candidate forum that the Democrats are hosting from 6-8 p.m. tonight. God forbid Harpole should face a crowd that doesn’t adore him. In truth, no one could attend his little ploy at the library and he could still have cover for not attending by claiming his “town hall” meeting was in progress. What about those ethics?

Amarillo mayor uses city resources as part of campaign ploy

At about 3 p.m. Monday, the city of Amarillo issued a news release announcing what Mayor Paul Harpole and Sonja Gross, the city’s public relations person, call a “town hall meeting.” You can read the entire release here. However, for those of you who wish to be critical and analytical thinkers, let’s deconstruct this release before we get too dizzy from the PR spin the city seems to live for these days.

Harpole and Sonja Gross, the city’s public relations person, calls a “town hall meeting.” You can read the entire release here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mind boggling dishonesty

The unbelievable dishonesty, audacity and disrespect the Amarillo Globe-News has in this story for this community and its readership boggles the mind. Really.

First, Downtown Amarillo Inc. didn’t “vet” Wallace Bajjali. Melissa Dailey and Les Simpson came to the City Council in November 2010 to jam Wallace Bajjali down the city’s throat. If it hadn’t been for the former Amarillo Independent and Greg Rohloff and Gina Haschke, the city would have “bit” on the Wallace Bajjali bait then and there. Instead the city backed off and got the Dallas law firm to look at the Wallace Bajjali record. No one has publicly acknowledged that fact and they probably won’t. It’s the height of dishonesty for city councilors to tell these half-truths and for the AGN to regurgitate those excuses uncritically.


Second, the article implies no one at the AGN has read the Strasberger Price law firm report. I did. It was a long time ago, but the bottom-line of the report was that developers get sued all the time, Wallace Bajjali seems no different so protect yourself. Fact is, it wasn’t a vetting as much as a cautionary tale — protect yourself fully.

Third, city manager Atkinson’s remark about the 2008 real estate market is a misdirection and disinformation. We’re talking 2010-2011; the real estate bubble nationally popped in 2008-2009.

Fourth, no one quoted in this story, including the city councilors, are being honest about other things. For example, NewCrest was already in Amarillo, having developed the Fisk Building into the Courtyard by Marriott (despite Dailey’s attempts to sabotage the deal way back when). Why didn’t the City Council ask NewCrest at the get-go? In fact, if what councilors and the mayor are saying now (We can go forward without a master developer.), why did we need one in the first place?

I could go on longer — forever like some other posters here (right, OTFB?) but I’ve got other things to do.


Contracting with Wallace Bajjali isn’t this City Council’s only problem. The Commerce Building deal, the coziness with the former mayor’s husband and other operational issues are evident now. If the AGN had done its job as a real newspaper without a conflict of interest instead of bringing its self-righteous indignation to the party after the implosion, we could be more charitable. As an old eighth grade teacher used to say, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”

Mind boggling dishonesty

The unbelievable dishonesty, audacity and disrespect the Amarillo Globe-News has in this story for this community and its readership boggles the mind. Really.

First, Downtown Amarillo Inc. didn’t “vet” Wallace Bajjali. Melissa Dailey and Les Simpson came to the City Council in November 2010 to jam Wallace Bajjali down the city’s throat. If it hadn’t been for the former Amarillo Independent and Greg Rohloff and Gina Haschke, the city would have “bit” on the Wallace Bajjali bait then and there. Instead the city backed off and got the Dallas law firm to look at the Wallace Bajjali record. No one has publicly acknowledged that fact and they probably won’t. It’s the height of dishonesty for city councilors to tell these half-truths and for the AGN to regurgitate those excuses uncritically.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Liberty theater legacy at risk from DAI


I have learned something distressing today. And, perhaps, not terrible surprising.

A few years ago, a group of folks, began an effort to resurrect the Liberty Theater to honor its essential part of the city’s racial relations history. Before 1952, according to the “Honor the Liberty” Facebookpage, it was the only venue for Latino and African-Americans to see what we now call first-run movies. But, with a caveat — they had to sit in the balcony.


Now, although the renovation effort is gaining traction, that balcony, one of the essential elements in remembering the Liberty’s role in Amarillo, is at risk now that Downtown Amarillo Inc. has gotten involved in the project. According to Keith Jones, one of the key ramrods behind the renovation and memorialization of the building, DAI has now proposed a renovation without the balcony even after Melissa Dailey, DAI’s executive director, assured Jones that the balcony would be preserved. Now, typically, DAI is stonewalling Jones on why the balcony is excluded.

As Jones posted on the Facebook page, “I have yet, despite repeated attempts, to get any information from DAI about why the balcony must go. Do they want us to forget this part of our past? I say no. We must honor our past and all of the pioneers who bravely led us to freedom.”

As Jones also wrote on that page, people can do two things to help. First, “Like” the Liberty’s Facebook page; and, get out and vote in the city’s upcoming election.


I agree. The current City Council has given DAI, the Amarillo Economic Development Corp., the Local Government Corp. and others too much free rein in downtown. It is time to rein them in and the way to do so is to replace the entire City Council.

Liberty theater legacy at risk from DAI


I have learned something distressing today. And, perhaps, not terrible surprising.

A few years ago, a group of folks, began an effort to resurrect the Liberty Theater to honor its essential part of the city’s racial relations history. Before 1952, according to the “Honor the Liberty” Facebook page, it was the only venue for Latino and African-Americans to see what we now call first-run movies. But, with a caveat — they had to sit in the balcony.

Monday, April 6, 2015

An open letter to Bill Gates

I have read your letter celebrating Microsoft’s 40thanniversary and your exhortation for the company to look forward, as in this quote, “Today though, I am thinking much more about Microsoft's future than its past.”


Certainly looking forward is more productive than looking backward when considering strategic planning future of a firm.

But your praising your CEO’s leadership is in error. I would suggest that you and the inept leadership at Microsoft concentrate on the present before considering the future. For, indeed, the evidence of ineptitude in serving your current customer base is beyond dispute.

Unless your sycophants and minions have shielded you from my March 15 correspondence, you might be aware that I have been struggling since October 1, 2014 to have your firm live up to its representation under the Assure program. Instead of providing the advertised support, the “ministrations” have resulted in me needing to rebuild my computer entirely — causing me to devote weeks of time to that effort. I thought, on March 25, that my recent correspondence with you other Microsoft board members about this matter had attracted enough attention to offer me some rectification of my situation.

However, once again, your firm has failed in its ability to live in the present by even minimally fulfilling a representation made to a customer. And while I may be seen as one disgruntled customer (Isn’t it so easy to discount someone like me that way?), given how large Microsoft’s customer base is, do you really believe I am the only one experiencing this kind of abysmal service?


To anyone who reads this open letter, I  have an entire file on Microsoft’s inability to deliver. I am willing to share that with those who would ask.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hypocrisy continues on Harrison Street

I am deeply concerned about the health of the leadership at the Amarillo Globe-News. In the story about getting public records from the Amarillo Police Department, the paper’s publisher, Les Simpson, risks breaking his arm patting himself on the back. I wonder if that’s covered under workers comp?

But, the reality in this story is once again, the Amarillo Globe-News continues its disinformation campaign.
There are, in fact, times when the city of Amarillo and the APD have made it more difficult to get public records. But, the APD knows well what is and isn’t public record and with the right information and approach, the department will turn over records. Usually, Sgt. Brent Barbee and Cpl. Jerry Neufeld can turn a request around quickly. Not always. And, yes, they are protective of the department’s foibles. But Barbee and Neufeld aren’t much different than another of the other public information officers in Amarillo. The culture in Amarillo is that the media are here to serve as the public relations mouthpieces for the governments and big institutions.

Some of that attitude is reflected in the Globe-News story, if accurate, quoting APD Chief Robert Taylor as claiming redacting the reports to remove privileged information is, in essence, too much work.

Part of the problem, of course, is that Morris Communications and the Amarillo Globe-News have eviscerated the newsroom. Those in the trenches are spread pretty thin. That’s no excuse for the “cops” reporter, who should be making a daily trip to the APD to check the blotter (I did that on occasion) and to maintain a professional relationship with the department’s PR people. Blaming the police department for the paper missing a story because the department didn’t issue a news release is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

However, there is a larger problem to which I’ve referred often. It’s the hypocrisy of the Amarillo Globe-News leadership. Simpson, quoted by his own media outlet, said ““Our job is to report and disseminate news and to determine what’s in the public interest.”

So, why hasn’t this third-rate devoted the same effort to covering downtown development? Or the City Council? Or Downtown Amarillo Inc.? Or the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.?

Clearly, the City Council and others spending millions of our dollars without due diligence isn’t in the public interest, according to the Globe-News. Clearly, hiring a master developer with a clear record of fraudulent behavior isn’t in the public interest. But why go on.


Early voting for the City Council begins April 27. The election is May 9. You know what you have to do.

Hypocrisy continues on Harrison Street

I am deeply concerned about the health of the leadership at the Amarillo Globe-News. In the story about getting public records from the Amarillo Police Department, the paper’s publisher, Les Simpson, risks breaking his arm patting himself on the back. I wonder if that’s covered under workers comp?

But, the reality in this story is once again, the Amarillo Globe-News continues its disinformation campaign.

Unanswered Questions, a Typical Political Ploy to Duck Issues and Accountability

City Councilor Brian Eades, in one of his moments of hubris, seems to think we serfs could only come before the royals to ask questions. Of course, that only gives councilors the chance to spin and bamboozle. Nevertheless, I posed some questions to which, I believe, the public, voters and taxpayers deserve answers. Want to see those questions? Click Read More. But don’t look for answers. Those haven’t been forthcoming.


So, you want questions. OK, here are some questions.

First question: Are you up to answering the following questions honestly?

If you’re so wedded to facts and evidence in making public policy, why did you ignore them in choosing Wallace Bajjali? Why did you and the council ignore The Amarillo Independent’s findings?

Why did Alan Taylor retire? Was there any truth to the rumor that he disagreed with the downtown plan?

The Strategic Action Plan effort had fewer than 1,000 participants. Why did the City Council consider that representative of the city?

Why was the Herring not included in the land use planning? Why has the City Council ignored the Herring Hotel as a resource for conventions? Who is behind the squeeze play on the Herring?

What happened to the “citizen vote” that was promised? With such a pathetic voter turnout in 2013, how can you justify that this was a mandate or endorsement of the ongoing plans?

If the new hotel is such a strong asset, why does it need to be protected by a non-compete clause?

How does city ownership of the hotel square with your Libertarian or Republican ideals of a free market? A market where government doesn’t pick winners and losers?

How is it that the City Council ignored studies that showed the very cookie-cutter plans that Wallace Bajjali brought to you don’t result in economic development?

How can the city contract with the Southern Independent League without a city-owned stadium to play in?

And one final question for you, as I think back over the discussions we have had through the years that I’ve been a citizen and taxpayer in Amarillo. How is it that when we’ve discussed public policy on health care, you agree with me in private and then take opposite positions in public? You’ll want examples, so I’ll give you two. Certificate of need and that health care isn’t a free market.


I await your responses.

Unanswered Questions, a Typical Political Ploy to Duck Issues and Accountability

City Councilor Brian Eades, in one of his moments of hubris, seems to think we serfs could only come before the royals to ask questions. Of course, that only gives councilors the chance to spin and bamboozle. Nevertheless, I posed some questions to which, I believe, the public, voters and taxpayers deserve answers. Want to see those questions? Click Read More. But don’t look for answers. Those haven’t been forthcoming.

Friday, April 3, 2015

An Easter message and major reconciliation

I stumbled across an interesting post on Facebook today, passed along by a fellow Episcopalian who lives in New England and is also an expert on fountain pens. I’ve only begun, on this Good Friday of 2015, to explore the website, “Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith,” and I like what I see so far. It contains conversations about Christianity from a perspective of progressive Christians — something we don’t hear often in a public square dominated by the shouting fundamentalists. Perhaps I like it because it confirms some of my own bias. It is also someone, a Presbyterian minister, far more qualified as a biblical scholar than I, to support some of the thoughts I’ve long held.

In “FollowingJesus Means Being Political and Advocating for ‘The Least of These,’” Rev. Mark Sandlin’s point about Jesus’ crucifixion is that Jesus didn’t die to atone for our sins. Jesus was executed as a threat to the state by advocating for “the least of us” and threatening the social order, a social order run by a theocratic government enforced by the Roman legions in occupied Judah. Sandlin draws disturbing parallels to today’s United States.

The climactic moment that dooms Jesus to the cross was attacking the moneychangers at the temple during Passover, Sandlin writes. “He confronts the corrupt system that misuses its power and oppresses those in need. He literally and figuratively begins flipping tables on the powerful.”

For me, this essay is stunningly powerful, the more so on the morning following a dramatic Maundy Thursday service at the end of which the altar is stripped, the clergy shed their vestments and the church goes dark, literally and figuratively, and symbolic reminder of how Jesus’ clothes and life were stripped from him.


I have often wondered, especially in the face of being called hateful and angry, how I reconcile that with my efforts to be a good and faithful Christian. And in Sandlin’s closing line I now understand: “You simply can’t fully follow Jesus if you aren’t willing to be political and stick out your own neck, challenging the hypocritical power structures and leaders on behalf of the oppressed.”

An Easter message and major reconciliation

I stumbled across an interesting post on Facebook today, passed along by a fellow Episcopalian who lives in New England and is also an expert on fountain pens. I’ve only begun, on this Good Friday of 2015, to explore the website, “Patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith,” and I like what I see so far. It contains conversations about Christianity from a perspective of progressive Christians — something we don’t hear often in a public square dominated by the shouting fundamentalists. Perhaps I like it because it confirms some of my own bias. It is also someone, a Presbyterian minister, far more qualified as a biblical scholar than I, to support some of the thoughts I’ve long held.

And Now We See Why People Call the City Council Arrogant

Since 2008, when the City Council as a commission, rebooted downtown devilment after 20 years of previous failures, people coming to this “august” body have been treated poorly. The mayor has been boorish and all of these elected (I must remind you we’re at risk of them being re-elected) officials have brooked no contradiction. No disagreement with their agenda. No input needed, taxpayers and voters, because we know better. And if you want a good example of this, click Read More to see if Eades’ response reflects what we see at City Council meetings.


· “Now, in regards to your statement, I can't for the life of me find a question mark anywhere in there.” — This sentence elevated you from hubris past arrogance to unmitigated gall. Are you saying I have to bow and scrape to you, oh royal one, and can only ask you questions? I don’t see it that way. You and the others continue to run on the platform you represent all the people, but it seems that the only people to whom you listen are other Amarillo royalty. No, Brian, I wasn’t asking you questions. I was pointing out that you and the other council members are refusing to acknowledge how poorly you have governed this city. And how incredibly bad the decisions are you’ve made, especially with respect of downtown.

Further, on this last bullet point, my email to you and the other councilors was about how you and others ignored good, solid information about Wallace Bajjali — information beyond The Amarillo Independent’s 2010 story — that a simple Google search would have gotten you. (Spare me the Dallas law firm. They didn’t “vet” anything.) The council, had it been following WBDP’s problems elsewhere like Waco, Corpus Christi and Joplin, had the chance to kill this deal off in Nov. 2013. You didn’t. The council didn’t.


Verdict: The Amarillo Independent and others were right all along and the City Council continues to refuse to publicly acknowledge that fact. Let me say it again, slowly: The.Amarillo.Independent.was.right.

And Now We See Why People Call the City Council Arrogant

Since 2008, when the City Council as a commission, rebooted downtown devilment after 20 years of previous failures, people coming to this “august” body have been treated poorly. The mayor has been boorish and all of these elected (I must remind you we’re at risk of them being re-elected) officials have brooked no contradiction. No disagreement with their agenda. No input needed, taxpayers and voters, because we know better. And if you want a good example of this, click Read More to see if Eades’ response reflects what we see at City Council meetings.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Are we going to hold the City Council accountable?

How can we trust the City Council or the city of Amarillo?

In Thursday’s Amarillo Globe-News, the story tells us that the Local Government Corp. now seeks developers for the proposed downtown parking garage. What arrogance! What hubris! One commenter going by the handle of Bubba_Billybob said it better than I could, so let me give him credit: “When Wallace-Bajjali was fired, the LGC said it didn't need any outside help to develop and manage the project. Now it says it does, which is probably a good decision.”

The LGC is populated by three city councilors: Ron Boyd, Brian Eades and Lilia Escajeda, all of whom were on the LGC board when Wallace Bajjali imploded.

Are we going to hold the City Council accountable?

Are we going to hold the City Council accountable?

How can we trust the City Council or the city of Amarillo?

In Thursday’s Amarillo Globe-News, the story tells us that the Local Government Corp. now seeks developers for the proposed downtown parking garage. What arrogance! What hubris! One commenter going by the handle of Bubba_Billybob said it better than I could, so let me give him credit: “When Wallace-Bajjali was fired, the LGC said it didn't need any outside help to develop and manage the project. Now it says it does, which is probably a good decision.”

The LGC is populated by three city councilors: Ron Boyd, Brian Eades and Lilia Escajeda, all of whom were on the LGC board when Wallace Bajjali imploded.

Are we going to hold the City Council accountable?

Incompetence and Contradiction

The next two sentences reflect on the City Council’s inability to oversee the economic environment and contradicts yesterday’s responses. Of course, in keeping with what the notion of talking about the definition of “is,” anyone taking the council’s side will engage in a debate over “modicum.” Reader, you be the judge.
  

  • · “Yes George, things change. As does the weather, economic indices, financial fortunes and your investment portfolio.” — And smart managers and others charged with oversight take changes into account and adjust accordingly. Verdict: Failure to oversee the environment properly. 

  • · “Thanks (sic) heavens for some modicum of continuity.” — Wait, wait. Continuity? Didn’t you just regale me with all that “new” stuff that you think excused you from the poor decisions in which you participated and in which other commissioners/councilors undertook? Verdict: Contradiction exposes spin failure (again).



Incompetence and Contradiction

The next two sentences reflect on the City Council’s inability to oversee the economic environment and contradicts yesterday’s responses. Of course, in keeping with what the notion of talking about the definition of “is,” anyone taking the council’s side will engage in a debate over “modicum.” Reader, you be the judge.
  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New City People Means New Lame Excuses


Although I was a little snide, the substance of what City Councilor Brian Eades wrote is important. Click Read More to see how he claims new personnel and councilors are part of the problem.


Brian,

As I got out of the car yesterday morning after dropping my wife off at a sub job, I thought I got a whiff of the smell of cattle money. I didn’t detect a breeze, so I was mystified why the odor was so strong. Then I read your email and realized the smell was coming from that.

For someone who has repeatedly sat on the dais and said he makes public policy on the basis of facts and evidence, your pattern of behavior, support of the downtown plan and Wallace Bajjali betrays your principles. And that’s a fact.

Now, let’s address some of your comments.

  • · “Since that time, we have a new city manager, new mayor and all new city council members technically except for me.” — The “new” city manager was a long-time city employee and well in the loop about the downtown planning. If he wasn’t in the loop, your oversight of the city management is flawed because, as assistant manager, Jarrett should have been in the loop. A “new” mayor is equally fallacious. Paul has been part of the City Council before. He was well aware of the City Council issues and activities. And the same goes for other councilors. Jim Simms can’t be consider as new. Ron Boyd had been on the commission for years. Ellen was active on the Traffic Commission. Verdict: Spin failure due to your bad information or lack of understanding.
  • · “We have a new hotel developer, a new TIRZ chair, a new Center City president, a local government corporation and a new DAI executive director.” — The NewCrestImage people are not new. They did the Fisk Building, despite Melissa Dailey’s attempt to undercut them. The “new” TIRZ chair was on the TIRZ board so he wasn’t “new;” and he is a prominent lawyer in town and did the legal framework for TIRZ and Downtown Amarillo Inc. The Center city president came from within its own board, so he wasn’t new either. The new LGC board was made up of veteran city people, council members and others who have long been deeply involved with city public policy in one form or the other. You helped appoint them. If they were too new to do the job right, you shouldn’t have. And the DAI executive director? A third-rate or fourth-rate transportation planner who had no broad experience in major planning issues. Verdict: Spin failure due to your bad information or lack of understanding. 
  • · “We have a new traffic engineer and even a new animal control director etc.” — Yep, sure do. Verdict: Irrelevant for downtown planning but emblematic of the City Council’s incompetent oversight of city functions.




New City People Means New Lame Excuses


Although I was a little snide, the substance of what City Councilor Brian Eades wrote is important. Click Read More to see how he claims new personnel and councilors are part of the problem.