Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Is the defeat of the bond issue for the ARC a backlash against city leaders?


That’s the word that comes to mind to describe the defeat of the $31.5 bond issue for the $37.5 million Amarillo Recreation Complex. The measure, which would have raised taxes $25 per $100,000 valuation per year for homeowners to put the city further in debt, had the backing of the “establishment,” a/k/a the good ole boy network that includes the newly renamed City Council.

Why the backlash?

The public perception was the city leadership rolled the plan out and shoved it at the voters at the last minute. And, in doing so, the plan followed the city’s similar last minute move in acquiring the old Santa Fe Depot from auctioneer Bob Goree. Both moves were seen as fast and slick, and not in a good way. But the negative perception didn’t stop there.

Proponents of the ARC couldn’t convey that they’d raised the $6 million in private money to supplement the bond issue and bring the capital raised to the full $37.5 million project. On the other hand, opponents, without the help of the big marketing campaign, reminded voters that the Globe-News Center’s private fund-raising fell short and that the city stepped in with an additional $1.8 million. The fear of history repeating itself was evident. The perception that the project would never operationally break even and the fear of the complex being a money pit was also an issue.

In short, the pitifully few voters, some 16 percent of the registered voters in Amarillo, simply didn’t trust the City Council to be good enough stewards of taxpayer money to permit the city to and ask property owners to shell out more for a what is essentially a big loan.

Whether the City Council gets that message or comes up with some other spin to justify other unpopular moves remains to be seen.