In early August 2014, a couple of folks met to explore the idea of launching a slate for the now-recent municipal elections. The slate would carry the name “Reform Amarillo.”
We never got that off the ground, but I played with some planks for a platform focused on downtown development. I thought these ideas would resonate with the voters who wanted to reject the insider dealings and the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plans. Since then, of course events overlook this platform. But, still, are the key elements:
- As soon as possible terminate the contract for Wallace Bajjali as master developer. This provision should be offered to the public with as much fanfare as possible, emphasizing that Wallace Bajjali failed to meet several deadlines and benchmarks; and, point out the City Council’s extension of those were poor public policy. This should also freeze development of the ballpark, convention center hotel and parking garage.
- As soon as possible defund and dismantle Downtown Amarillo, Inc. The only funding for DAI that would remain are the amounts needed to dismantle the corporation. Any contracts in place with consultants would be terminated or bought out. The new City Council will seize all DAI records, including cell phone records and texts, for possible turning over to investigating authorities.
- As soon as possible defund and dismantle the Amarillo Local Government Corp. The only funding for the LGC that should remain in the budget is the amounts needed to dismantle the corporation. Any contracts in place with consultants would be terminated or bought out. The new City Council will seize all LGC records, including cell phone records and texts for possible turning over to investigating authorities.
- Undertake a legal and forensic review of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to determine if it should remain a viable entity or if it can and should be dissolved.
- As soon as possible, instruct the city staff to develop Requests for Proposals to redevelop and/or renovate the Civic Center with an emphasis on attracting and accommodating larger and “better” national shows and conventions. The criteria in the RFP would place greater weight on local businesses being involved with the studies, designs and construction of the Civic Center.
- Restart the downtown redevelopment process, possibly using Center City as the facilitator. As part of this effort, review for likely revision both the area under the downtown development rules, the rules themselves and the specific design standards.
- Conduct a forensic/management audit of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. Conduct a management audit and review of the city staff. Promise to freeze taxes until the management audit and review are complete.
The new City Council can do this. The City Council has the power under Section 19 of Amarillo’s Municipal Code, to “investigate the financial transaction of any office or department of the City government, and the acts and conduct of any officer or employee. In conducting such investigation, the Council may compel the attendance or witnesses, the production of books and papers, and other evidence, and for that purpose may issue subpoenas or attachments which shall be signed by the Mayor; which may be served and executed by any officer authorized by law to serve subpoenas or other process, or any peace officer of the City.”
Sec. 19 is a powerful tool in the City Council’s arsenal. Under this provision, an investigation might provide answers to some very serious questions. An investigation under this provision in the Code would have serious consequences for those who might lie their way through such a probe. Can you say perjury?
Given the suspicions surrounding downtown development, much less city management, the City Council should move to do this as soon as possible, either with a new city attorney or with a contract attorney retained directly by the council. And, to those status quo people now attacking the new councilors, I say this: What do you think the message will be if you oppose such an investigation?
If not the new council, who? If not now, when?