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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Politics makes strange bedfellows

Often quoted, but rarely attributed to 19thCentury journalist Charles Dudley Warner, the notion is that people with otherwise strongly different and disparate views can cooperate on a common goal.

So it seems that I am now allied with some Amarillo folks over downtown development — specifically advocating a vote opposing the baseball stadium so-called multi-purpose event venue. But on other issues, these people hold personal and political views so opposite to mine that I am a little flabbergasted I am working with them. These people are far more conservative, perhaps even right-wing, more religiously fundamentalist and overt about it. Their ways with words are also different, reflecting more of their more salt-of-the-earth characteristics than my university-educated and 20-year journalism career approach to thinking and writing.


But make no mistake about this: These are good people with good hearts. They have concluded, as I have, that, the current Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan for downtown development is fatally flawed. These are good people who smell a rat, or several rats, in the downtown development cabal.

I don’t know if their views would lead to alternative plans or whether their views arise from a strict view that government’s role at every level should be limited and that so-called public-private partnerships betray that notion. From a pragmatic perspective on this one issue, it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, I hope we can turn the direction of downtown development back to revitalizing the Civic Center, restoring the Herring Hotel to its former glory and properly exploiting the cattle-cowboy-railroad Western Heritage to attract tourism.


For me, however, it’s a strange sensation, given my long history of wanting alliances to be with people more philosophically pure than on a case-by-case basis. At age 70, it is a strange sensation, one I like, although I still struggle a bit with the discomfort.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The more we know, the worse it gets

The Joplin, Mo.-based Turner Report posted two items of note Monday, both giving us more insight
into the post-tornado debacle with Wallace Bajjali.

As I noted, the parallels between Joplin and Amarillo are uncanny. Even more to the point, however, are the behaviors of the Joplin city manager and some of its council members.

In a most important post, Turner calls attention to Amarillo's city attorney report, who used the then-Strasberger Law Firm (now Strasberger & Price) findings and other sources, to determine whether the city should use Wallace Bajjali. The Amarillo City Council ignored warnings from the Independent and the law firm to engage Wallace Bajjali. And, in reading Turner’s posting, Joplin officials were made aware of the Amarillo’s information and ignored the risks as well.


Other findings, including the state audit, indicate certain people in Joplin ignored the warnings for reasons other than denial. Some, including a Joplin city councilor and former city manager, have been implicated in “insider” dealings that might turn out to be illegal — perhaps criminal — activity. That activity may not turn out to be criminal, but it’s suspicious enough for the Missouri auditor to refer findings to a prosecutor.

To even imply that such a thing could happen in Amarillo will prompt screams from former elected officials and those associated with them. Those protests would include asking why some little outsider (after all, I’ve only been here since 2003) would have the unmitigated gall to question their integrity. I experienced such a reaction from Laura Street in 2006 when I questioned her about the then-City Commission sneaking $1.8 million to make up a private funding shortfall for the Globe-News Center. But in this case, I am no longer willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt. I have come to believe a preponderance of evidence points to insider dealing, aided and abetted by knowledge of the moral bankruptcy of David Wallace and Costa Bajjali.

Then, the lateston the David Wallace bankruptcy here indicates to me the Wallace Bajjali deal was a scam from the start. And the rubes on the then-City Commission fell for it. Or, again, were they really rubes?

If the FBI and grand jury find nothing and the current City Council fails to conduct a Sec. 19 investigation, we may never know. Such a pall over a fine city like Amarillo would be a shame.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities: An Open Letter to the Amarillo City Council

An Open Letter to the Amarillo City Council:

I am sending this letter to you and posting it to The Amarillo Independent blog for a specific reason. I
had thought about coming before the council during its session in the Council Chambers to read this. But I chose not to for a few reasons. First, what I have to convey, even if read very quickly, will likely take longer than the three minutes. Second, after watching the former commission and now council, I am quite aware how Mayor Harpole treats those with whom he disagrees. I thus choose to not subject myself to the highly likely interruptions, verbal abuse and boorish behavior that characterizes the way he runs these meetings.

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a week-long camping trip. I only followed the news alerts about Wallace Bajjali sporadically. Now I’ve caught up about Wallace Bajjali’s situation in Joplin, where the now-defunct firm was also a master developer. If anyone wishes to get caught up on that situation, all they need do is Google “Wallace Bajjali” and Joplin or go to The Turner Report. Turner provides a pathway to the media coverage and the damning Missouri State Auditor report. In fact, the findings in Joplin are so bad they have been turned over to a prosecutor for possible criminal action. If you and other leadership haven’t studied the information you best do so.

The audit found that Wallace Bajjali seemed to have an inside track in Joplin, aided in part by the Chamber of Commerce months earlier giving information to Wallace Bajjali firm to respond to the RFP. According to the audit, “It is unclear how Wallace Bajjali was able to obtain 11 letters of intent for various projects within the redevelopment area before the concept of a master developer was presented to the city council or a RFP was issued unless the firm had prior knowledge of potential project details.”

As I’ve written before, much of what happened here and in Joplin are uncannily parallel.

The audit also faulted the decision-makers in Joplin for ignoring the Wallace Bajjali’s problems with regulators, financial liabilities, failures here in Amarillo and other warning signs. In Joplin, Wallace Bajjali won the deal over bidders with no liabilities; their City Council, like ours, ignored warnings, including those that told them engaging Wallace Bajjali would be a huge error. And, in Joplin, that information was kept from the public.

Of course, how Amarillo ended up with Wallace Bajjali remains murky at best, what with so many meetings behind closed doors. But, in November 2010, The Amarillo Independent’s story raised the same issues that later unfolded in Joplin and at the then-Amarillo City Commission Nov. 16 meeting, Downtown Amarillo Inc.’s Melissa Dailey, with Amarillo Globe-News Publisher Les Simpson, who was her board president, said DAI had done due diligence. Dailey downplayed the Independent’s findings. Now, of course, we must raise the same questions about Wallace Bajjali’s selection here. It is a fair question to ask what DAI's Dailey and Simpson knew and when they knew it.

Then there is a matter of the $947,000 in so-called “pursuit costs” the city paid to Wallace Bajjali, even as some councilors knew the firm wasn’t delivering on its promises. What we know now from Joplin is that David Wallace and his firm submitted invoices for such things as a $161 pair of dress shoes for Wallace while in Springfield, Mo.; a hotel stay in Springfield for $333; and, booze for Wallace, Costa Bajjali, a then-city councilor and then-city manager and Joplin Chamber of Commerce employees. Even more incriminating was an invoice for hotel costs in Arkansas for $222 four months before the city issued an RFP. But in Amarillo, we’ve never seen a public itemization of those costs so we don’t know any of those details. Do we have the same issues here and we just don’t know it — yet?

This tale of two cities continues with “newspapers” of record being lapdogs instead of watchdogs. The Joplin Globe, like the out-of-town-owned Amarillo Globe-News, was in the tank for Wallace Bajjali from the start. And while the Joplin paper, as best I can tell, was simply egregious in slanting or not reporting about Wallace Bajjali and downtown development, the Globe-News here was grossly unethical in its participation in downtown development. With its publisher on the DAI and Local Government Corp. boards, how could anyone expect anything but lapdog behavior and boosterism?

It’s time for all of us to know more about this Wallace Bajjali-“catalyst project” albatross around our collective taxpaying necks. So, I am once again calling on the City Council to take decisive action on downtown development:

·Invoke Sec. 19 of the Amarillo City Code and launch a full investigation on the entire eight-year-with-nothing-to-show-for-it effort, issuing subpoenas to all concerned for documents and testimony about their roles in downtown development.

·Suspend any further development on the hotel and parking garage — contracts be damned because if the deals were put together illegally they are void.

·Investigate the investors in the hotel and determine if they have acted with “insider” information equivalent to what would constitute insider information under the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Texas Securities laws.

·Investigate who and what is behind the treatment of the Herring Hotel and why the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone provided abatements to Wallace Bajjali and subsequently the Patel group without them submitting applications as others have done.

·Freeze all payments to Downtown Amarillo Inc. until further notice.

·The Nov. 3 vote on the “MPEV” is advisory only and poorly worded. No matter the vote, freeze any decision until the Sec. 19 investigation is completed.

This entire downtown development effort has been tainted from the start. And throughout, the advocates of the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. approach, including former Mayor Debra McCartt and former councilors, Mayor Harpole, Councilman Eades, City Manager Jarrett Atkinson and members of the DAI, LGC and TIRZ boards have been more than disingenuous — they have been dishonest. No taxpayer money was the biggest lie, but each week we get a new revelation that oozes from one of the contracts.

The City Council with three new members elected can not only stop this insanity and reboot the planning process. But it can also restore trust in city government. I beg you to do so.

Friday, August 14, 2015

TIRZ action on Herring Hotel tip of iceberg

It’s been about 10 months since the FBI served the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. with a
grand jury subpoena, launching a probe into some of the activities associated with the so-called downtown revitalization project. Since then, we have heard nothing about the investigation into the deal involving Alan Rhodes, a shareholder in the Underwood Law Firm, and the AEDC. The deal at issue is a transaction involving the Commerce Building, West Texas A&M University and local property owners.

Secrecy is a common characteristic of this type of scrutiny. But in addition to learning about the probe, we have learned much about the tentacles gripping downtown development:

· Alan Rhodes and Joe Bob McCartt, the husband of former Mayor Debra McCartt, are involved in a deal to invest in the Newcrest Images/Supreme Bright convention center hotel. That information became public last month despite Chuck Patel, the chief financial officer for Newcrest, telling us who are the investors in the publicly subsidized part of the project that the information is none of our business;

·Statements by the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. crowd have claimed, in too many places to document here, that neither the Xcel Energy building now under construction nor the convention hotel would proceed without the ballpark and other guarantees. And yet we recently learned that Newcrest/Supreme Bright has told Richard Brown, the point person on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, that construction begins this fall despite the vote on killing the ballpark part of the MPEV being on the ballot;

·The contract with the city of Amarillo for the heavily subsidized convention center hotel, part of the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-inspired trifecta that includes a ballpark and parking garage, includes a non-compete clause barring the public assistance of any type for another downtown hotel;

·The parking garage contract with the now defunct fraudster firm of Wallace Bajjali includes the city’s requirement to eliminate free street parking downtown with parking meters. One implication not fully explored at this point are the costs and scope of that requirement give nthe large area in the “downtown” definition established eight years ago;

·In a scurrilous act of betrayal of the public, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone has sat on the Herring Hotel’s request for a tax abatement for three years. And, in a more despicable move than a civil tongue bars other words, on Thursday finally denied the iconic hotel’s request.

What we know about FBI-grand jury investigations in general are they are carried out secretly — that neither the FBI nor grand juries make information known to the public during their process. What is less well known here is that the investigation may well delve into more than the Commerce Building. I have it on good authority that the FBI is fully aware of the situation with the Herring, including the possible anti-trust implications. Of course, no one on the outside knows about the progress or depth.

But I have a couple of theories that I have mentioned to an attorney or two and, while I may not be right about these as I was about Wallace Bajjali, those hypotheses make sense.

First, I believe the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” cliché is plausible here. Had the federal level investigation cratered early on, it would have stopped; the public would have known, in part, with the release of information about the lack of indictments. That may be a bit simplistic, of course.

Second, I think there is a fair chance this investigation is being done under the framework of RICO, or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. This law, born in the 1970s to for after the Mafia, covers far more than the Goodfellas these days.

As the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan advocates move forward and we see Amarillo divided in a war within itself, one can only think the famous Winston Churchill line: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

It also brings to mind another observation about the truth: The advocates of the Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan for downtown development find the truth so precious that they use it sparingly.

I wonder when the facts will emerge to give us the truth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More theocratic and magical thinking driving propaganda and public policy

It had to happen sooner or later. The Amarillo Globe-News has jumped on the ill-informed bandwagon, accusing, by implication, Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue and calling for a Congressional investigation of the organization and the practice.

Here is the full paragraph in the Wednesday editorial that implies the profit while it also insults everyone following this right-wing witch-hunt:

Unless you suffer from a vision and/or hearing impairment (or honesty impairment) and cannot comprehend what is happening in the many related videos out there, it is obvious Planned Parenthood is selling parts of aborted babies. This is not necessarily against the law, but it is against federal law for Planned Parenthood to profit from such sales.

Going deeper into the screed, the Globe-News makes another indirect accusation, along with inflammatory language, by writing of “the real possibility” of the profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Let’s leave aside the internal contradiction that the Globe-News has already drawn its conclusion while simultaneously asking for an investigation.

The editorial goes on to suggest that Planned Parenthood “donate” the “aborted baby parts,” asking if the cost of procurement is that high. I don’t think Dave Henry, the editorial page director (no, I won’t call him Director of Commentary), is too busy these day to make a few phone calls to learn the techniques and costs to provide these tools for valuable medical research. Hell, he wouldn’t even have to pick up the phone to educate himself. A look at the National Institutes of Health fact sheet on stem cells would offer some insight — including the notions that the material must be properly collected, treated and preserved.

As long ago as last month, as the Center for Medical Progress’ secretly recorded videos were disseminated, The Annenberg Public Policy Center, part of the University of Pennsylvania, released its fact sheet deconstructing the right-wing spin. But that rabid anti-abortion group, in secretly recording and releasing videos (some of which were done in California and others in Texas) may have violated both state and federal privacy and wiretapping laws. And while the California attorney general is launching a probeof those violations, our Tea Party Texas AG, one Ken Paxton, is strangely silent on the possible illegal recordings. But then, so is the Globe-News. The cavalier attitude (a word that’s been applied to Planned Parenthood) at the Globe-News about accountability and consistency reflects a cowardice we’ve sadly come to expect in Amarillo.

However, dissecting this and other right-wing propaganda at this micro-level overlooks some important considerations:

·This kind of editorializing has infected the Globe-News’ news pages, thereby eroding credibility and making it no better than Fox News;

·This type of editorializing, carried out nationwide by a variety of “conservative” media outlets, is really an attempt to sell the “magic” of a theocratic approach to public policy. Not only is the purpose of this misdirection to feed red meat to the already cognitively biased fundamentalists, it is also to distract them, and us, from the corporatization of our democratic republic;

·The fundamentalist theocratic approach to public policy is a direct assault on science and modern scientific method, part of the broader agenda to decry science when it counters their view of public policy and the rights of businesses to rule our lives;

·And, finally, it is also part of that broader right-wing agenda to dumb down the population and undercut the educational system’s ability to teach analytic and critical thinking based using real facts instead of a variety of Biblical myths.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Did a Wallace Bajjali plan derail another approach to downtown revitalization?

My friend, John Kanelis, works part-time for KFDA-Newschannel 10. He has posted a storyabout
Santa Fe Railway's Madame Queen at
the city-owned mini-park downtown
Walter Wolfram, an Amarillo attorney who has tried for years to establish a railroad museum here. After all, Amarillo was a huge railroad town and remains an important part of BNSF’s Transcon route.

Wolfram has proposed to the city of Amarillo using the old Santa Fe Railway depot for such a nonprofit enterprise. You remember the Santa Fe depot that the city bought for $2.3 million from Bob Goree, the auctioneer, in September 2013. At the time, ABC7 News/KVII reported that now-former Commissioner “Lilia Escajeda said even though the city has no use for it right now, there are definite plans for the future.”

Escajeda went on to say the building and six contiguous acres might be used for the Civic Center and, at that time, also made clear the deal was no intended to attract Amtrak. At the time, Amtrak’s Chicago to Los Angeles Southwest Chief route through Colorado and New Mexico was in jeopardy and sending the iconic train through here on the Transcon was a possibility. However, as far as I know, the city made no real effort to further that possibility. And now, that train has left the station since then Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico have worked out an agreement with Amtrak and BNSF to keep the current route.

But I got sidetracked, didn’t I?

According to the Kanelis story, “Wolfram submitted his proposal to the city this past March. He’s waiting for a response.”

Once again, we can see the damage to the city from the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-inspired ballpark. Even were the Southwest Chief always a lost cause for Amarillo, the entire issue and controversy about an under-sized ballpark has distracted the downtown development advocates away from a viable form of economic development. Train tourism is a big deal and with a museum in the historic depot as a nucleus, more development could follow. It is certainly no more speculative that vying for convention business against cities with far more to offer.

More instructive to those watching the performance at City Hall is that five months later, Wolfram hasn’t heard from the city. That’s just plain rude. At a minimum, good manners would call for an acknowledgement of receiving the proposal.


I guess, that too, is too much to expect until the culture at City Hall and the city’s leadership changes.

Spread the word

To those of you who like my blog, I am looking for ways to get more circulation. You can share those with your friends in any number of ways, including your own Facebook pages and your Twitter accounts. Please do so.

Thanks.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Double standards for Wallace Bajjali supporters

From what I can tell by seeing reactions to the Amarillo Globe-News stories posted to Facebook as well as other Facebook posts, the allies of the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan for a ballpark are in panic mode. These people are running scared because the voters dared to turn out in the past municipal election to vote against the entrenched “leaders” of the city. Those are the same leaders who gave us an insider’s plan for making money on a downtown development plan flawed from the start. And, if it succeeds, is sure to put money in the pockets of prominent lawyers, a former mayor’s husband and others who have insider and advance knowledge.

It’s my observation that all this social media activity is an attempt to mischaracterize this recent election and nullify the results by insulting the new councilors, Randy Burkett, Mark Nair and Elisha Demerson. I noted the most recent attacks in a previous blog post. The direct attack came in the story attacking Burkett and Nair on their interactions with the group of some 20 or so millennials who claim to represent the 43,000 millennials in Amarillo.

Here is how Laura Street tried to discount the results of the recent election, according to a Globe-News quote, “They feel they have the mandate of the public, but only 15 percent of registered voters voted.”


Two years ago, then-incumbents were re-elected with a lower voter turnout than we had in 2015 and they claimed a mandate to continue with the downtown development plan, even though some of them knew then that master developer Wallace Bajjali was in trouble in Joplin, Mo., and had missed deadlines in Amarillo. When Wallace Bajjali cratered in January 2015, the incompetence of the City Council, DAI and others became part of the election calculus. It was not just the city’s operation problems that led to the defeat of two incumbents and the defeat of an “establishment” candidate for the open seat. The egregious examples of the lack of diligence were very clear to the voters who wanted things fixed, changed and done so transparently.

Street and her Wallace Bajjali-loving allies need to explain how they can now claim the election with a better voter participation is less legitimate than the one before with a lower turnout. And they need to do it in context and honestly.

Enough said


Amarillo's media schizophrenia

The Republican debate and Donald Trump have dominated so much of the news over the past few days that Amarilloans may have been sidetracked from the escalation in the schizophrenic propaganda war about Amarillo’s downtown development. Or lack thereof ager eight years of wheel-spinning, word-spinning, elections and massive tax money spending.

A war of words is now unfolding on social media, especially Facebook, a shift away from the Amarillo Globe-News website since the AGN disabled comments a couple of weeks ago. In disabling public dialogue, the out-of-town-owned media outlet has also made more evident than ever that it’s not a news outlet any more. Of course, those of us who consider ourselves real journalists stopped calling the AGN a newspaper a long time ago.

Now what AGN readers are getting is pure propaganda — and worse. Like a snake, the AGN has turned on those it previously supported. The recent obvious hatchet jobs (hereand here) on newly elected City Councilor Randy Burkett are examples of a media outlet that can no longer be trusted. It is also one afflicted with political schizophrenia. Burkett was one of the challengers during the most recent campaign in which those challengers made clear they wanted to make drastic changes at City Hall. The AGN supported him, as it did successful challengers Elisha Demerson and Mark Nair. Also noteworthy was the AGN’s lack of endorsement for the incumbent mayor, Paul Harpole.

The Amarillo Globe-News is under no legal obligation to explain its positions, changes of position, editorial policy or matters of news judgment. And one can argue, in fact, no moral or journalism ethical rubric would require it to do so. I suspect that articulating a rational, non-schizoid explanation without their, or our, heads exploding would be impossible. Let’s face it, the local chief executive was the chairman of the Downtown Amarillo Inc. board and, along with the DAI executive director, brought us Wallace Bajjali.

Of course, there’s a real tragedy here. A look at United States history makes clear that the strength of our republic rested on a vibrant free press and an educated electorate. Since the 1950s, radio and television have supplemented and complemented the print outlets. But electronic media can only do so much. In Amarillo, only ABC 7 News/KVII is doing accountability journalism.

And while the age of Internet and the World Wide Web has certainly impacted the news landscape, communities relied on their “newspaper(s) of record” to provide the basis for civic discourse and publishing information adhering to solid journalistic standards that demanded balance, fairness and accuracy on news pages.

Amarillo has lost that and now social media has become the forum here.


What a shame.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What did we get for our eight years of work?

Tuesday evening’s Amarillo City Council meeting gave voters that which they’ve been begging for
these past eight or so years — hearing the voice of those with a vested interest in the overall health of the city instead of those vested in the health of their and their friends’ pocketbooks. On a 3-2 vote, Councilors Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair fulfilled their campaign promise to place the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan for a ballpark on a November ballot.

Bill Gilliland’s and Laura Street’s last-minute attempt to keep the question of building a ballpark away from people who are now seeing through the charade this entire downtown development fell short — as short as the fund-raising they did for the Globe-News Center a decade ago. What is illustrative of how failed this downtown development effort came in the reportby the Amarillo Globe-News, the Wallace Bajjali-DAI public relations arm. The paper’s website showed that these two local high rollers and their allies pushing the ballpark couldn’t tell us what we’re getting for the public and private money; but that isn’t different from what we’ve heard from all of the leadership on the ballpark.


Why no one seemed to question Tuesday night why we know so little after eight years is astonishing. When Wallace Bajjali cratered in January, the City Council spun the almost $1 million of our tax money paid to the fraudsters as a worthy expense. But no one has really explained what we got for the money and, at this point, we’re looking at a ballpark that is more a figment of imagination than a playing field. Field of Dreams? More like a Field of Nightmare. Nor, after the Gilliland and Street act Tuesday, did anyone question where these big spenders were over the past eight years. Why, if so eager now to build the mystery MPEV, did it take the moneyed crowd so long to line up the capital?

It’s clear that The Amarillo Independent’s warnings about entrusting revitalizing downtown to the former City Council leadership and its alphabet soup allies would fail are coming true at each step of the way. The path is littered with missed deadlines, revelations of changed plans, misinformation and disinformation and egregious incompetence. And those critiques are charitable.

We are now going to move into a three-month battle sure to be riddled with propaganda and continued name-calling. The election, ostensibly in November 2015, will hinge on turnout and turnout will also hang on how angry and motivated each side remains. Certainly the Amarillo Millennial Movement representatives’ disrespectful behavior and magical thinking won’t help their cause, whatever they believe it to be. Mayor Paul Harpole continuing to show his colors made no friends among those who want a responsive city government.

But the outcome of the election will also hang on the wording of the resolution put before the voters. The city will best serve its public to make that resolution honest and straightforward. In addition, we’ll need to keep our eye on everyone involved, especially the City Council, DAI and the LCG, so no violations of the election laws that bar using public resources to advocate on this matter occur.


We can but hope.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wallace Bajjali-DAI ballpark plan goes to November vote

The people of Amarillo will now have their chance to directly express their opinion on whether the
downtown development should include the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-inspired ballpark. The non-binding referendum is scheduled for November will give the people of Amarillo what they’ve been asking of City Hall and the City Council for years — to be heard.

ABC 7 News/KVII made the meeting available over the Internet with a live stream, with far better quality than the city feed to Suddenlink.

The measure passed on a 3-2, with newly elected Councilors Mark Nair, Elisha Demerson and Randy Burkett prevailing after also defeating Councilor Brian Eades’ attempt to move the election to May 2016. The three new members lived up to their campaign promises to be more responsive to the voters while Eades and Mayor Paul Harpole continued to fight for the status quo. 

However, an Eleventh Hour stunt showed just how panicked the moneyed, establishment old guard is about the people of Amarillo having a say in their city government. Bill Gilliland and Laura Street “surprised” the packed Council Chambers by saying their mover and shaker friends had worked over the weekend to get pledges of about $2 million to contribute to “something” — but exactly what wasn’t clear. And, Gilliland and Street had a proviso: The money would come after construction. Other terms of the rich and famous crowd weren’t clear. Don’t forget, it was the same two people who, some 10 to 15 years ago pushed for the Globe-News Center with a plan then to raise about $30 million. The fund-raising came up short in 2005 by $1.8 million and the City Commission at the time made up the difference. That’s the same amount of money being bandied about for a ballpark about which no one seems to know anything.

I am glad the three new members adhered to their promises. I wish they had run on a promise to vote the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-based plan down. But, nevertheless, it is where we are and now we’re going to have another three months of campaigning, lying, spinning and name-calling — all in the shadow, by the way, of an FBI and grand jury investigation on part of the downtown plan.


Hang on, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.