Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Interesting Letter

It took me a while to figure out how to get this online, and it is, of course, late. But this is one other thing in the background of the recent election.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

AA baseball for Amarillo?

ABC7AMARILLO has learned plans are in the works to bring the San Antonio Missions baseball team to Amarillo. Watch for team coverage on ABC7AMARILLO at 5, 6 and 10.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bread and circuses

Louisiana’s big media are devoting about as much time and space to the fate of Louisiana State University’s head football coach, Les Miles, as they have to the recent gubernatorial election. Reports on the and New Orleans Advocate websites seem as sharply divided about whether Miles will stay or go or be forced to go as are the commenters after the Tigers’ game today against Texas A&M.

Here is some perspective from someone who when to LSU in the early- to mid-1960s.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Never again?" I am not so sure

It is no doubt irrelevant that I’ve been struggling all day to write this. But write this I must. You see, Donald Trump and the Republican Party have taken an ugly and dangerous turn and in in doing so demands that it and its leaders be called out.

I am always cautious about playing the Nazi card in political discourse. Here’s why: To associate a minor politician and political stupidity with Hitler trivializes the Holocaust. And, oddly, were it not for the Holocaust, I wouldn’t be here. The parts of my family that gave birth to me and my cousins made it out of Europe alive, though not without scars. Other members of the extended family also made it out of Europe — through the smokestacks. While some refugees have said “Never again,” and still believe that, I think my refugee parents thought it could happen again. I have come to understand that those beliefs could informed their decision to suppress their Judaism and raise my brother and me as Christians.

But I am watching Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott and their supporters replicate the behavior in Germany leading up to the Holocaust. Trump, of course, is leading the charge, sounding more like Hitler each passing day.

As the NewYork Times put it, “If it’s a lie too vile to utter aloud, count on Mr. Trump to say it, often.”

Cruz sounds less like Hitler and more like Joseph McCarthy. And Abbott? More like Himmler or Goebbels, only so stupid as to bring more derision to Texas.

Other Republicans and their followers are also echoing Germany in the mid-1930s — standing by and saying nothing. Where are the statements from John Cornyn, Kel Seliger and Four Price and others loudly repudiating the racist comment and outright lies? Yes, lies. They and others should be loudly and clearly repudiate Trump’s labeling, called for a database and the lies about American Muslims cheering as the World Trade Center Towers fell. Or, that he witnessed people falling from the towers during 9-11 from his apartment four miles away. Or, his supporters pummeling a black man at one of his rallies and Trump supporting such criminal behavior.

Demonizing others and turning a presidential primary into a hate-fest doesn’t address the public policy issues of this country. It raises a specter. “Never again?” I am not so sure.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Lightweight Journalism

A couple of weeks ago, a website specializing in covering government, feted the upheaval at Amarillo’s City Hall. The so-called reporter didn’t do any original reporting. He used all secondary sources, including the local propaganda sheet also known as the Amarillo Globe-News.

Of course, in doing so, he perpetuated the local propaganda favoring the Wallace Bajjali-inspire downtown plan, but he also overlooked the entire back story, a legitimate shift in power and direction at Amarillo City Hall. I wrote him the following email:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Perpetuating lies -- sadly no surprise

I have often either quoted or paraphrased the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan about opinions and facts: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

So, once again, the Amarillo Globe-News has decided to ignore facts to twist an editorial position into its own perverted worldview. The editoriallaments that Congress didn’t show the same stupidity and crassness that the right-wing propaganda rag does on a daily basis. Look, the publisher, Les Simpson, and his main editorialist, Dave Henry, are entitled to their puritanical ignorance. They are even entitled to impose their retrogressive views on their readers. But here is the important part:

Those of us who do a far better job of critical thinking and are far better educated than these two intellectual lightweights have a right to call out their reprehensible behavior. In fact, we have a moral and ethical duty to do so. In the case of the Mondayeditorial, the Globe-News continues its attempt to give legitimacy to the Center for Medical Progress’ videos. Those videos have been roundly discredited and, somewhat surprisingly, some of the anti-choice propagandists have admitted as such. I recently deconstructedthe Globe-News’s prior propaganda piece, so I won’t do so here.

What I will say is attempt to perpetuate the lies has a dishonorable link to history ¾ the techniques of Josef Goebbels. Yes, I am playing the Nazi card because it fits in this case. I suppose if that is what people here want to believe, no amount of factual information is going to change their minds. The area is, sadly, the poorer for it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why the downtown cartel isn't interested in Route 66

Many may have wondered why the city of Amarillo and those pushing the Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan for downtown have given such short shrift to Route 66 as an economic driver. And my interest in this matter came up because an advocate of the Wallace Bajjali plan spread some false information on Facebook.

Here is the text of the post and linkto Facebook:

There are limited uses for HOT, which Lissa apparently doesn't understand. Demerson is right about San Jacinto, but he's fighting an uphill battle, and that is a battle against the way the city promotes and supports development. The city in general does not proactively manage growth here, mostly it sits back and watches development happen and capitalizes on that by instituting lots of silly building ordinances and collecting building permit fees. I can't imagine the city becoming proactive about development planning; it would seem far too "liberal" and interfering for the locals. But maybe he will draw attention to our city's need to maintain its historical neighborhoods. We'll see.

Well I have a theory. I just did a PRAD search of Southwest Sixth Streetand not one of those properties is overtly owned by the downtown development cartel members like the Wares, ANB, Joe Bob McCartt or Alan Rhodes. Some of the owners along that stretch of the Mother Road (that’s what it is) are clearly non-Anglo, non-Panhandle pioneer names. That should explain a lot about why the power elite in Amarilloaren’t promoting Route 66.

The assertion that the city doesn’t “proactively manage growth” here is so false on its face that I can hardly respond. The entire rationale of the downtown development debacle and the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan is to “proactively manage growth.” Unless, of course, economic development isn’t growth. Oh, wait, it is growth for the insiders’ bank accounts who knew what the then-City Commission and prior City Council had planned.

The city has been overtly picking winners and losers for at least the last eight years — with nothing but a cascade of lies falling on more lies. And, Colin Cummings, your post above is a good example of the lies, disinformation and propaganda the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News cartel continues to spread, Goebbels-like, including throwing down the “L” word in order to paint the resistance to the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan as bad for Amarillo.

If you want to throw down the “L” word, thrown it at the then-City Commission, prior City Council and the city administration who bought the prostitute services from Wallace Bajjali with the Globe-News and DAI serving as main pimp and madam.

Resignation and honor, an example to follow

One of the reasons I’ve not attacked Paul Matney about his support for the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News ballpark is that at the base of it, I judged him an honorable man. And, he proved himself that today by resigning from the DAI board.

However, DAI still has a major problem with its executive director and board treasurer. Melissa Dailey, I believe, continues to violate state election laws, her organization’s own by-laws and city conflict of interest rules by doing all the advocacy for her Wallace Bajjali-inspired plan. This conflict has arisen since the City Council placed the advisory vote on the ballpark on a city ballot for a Nov. 3 vote. Dailey should have immediately and radically modified her behavior.

As for the DAI board treasurer, Les Simpson, he is in a similar position to Matney. Either he has to leave the DAI board immediately or he must henceforth restrict any mention of the Nov. 3 election to the outlet’s news pages. Any advocacy of for the Wallace Bajjali ballpark must stop forthwith. Otherwise others should, and likely will, file formal complaint with the proper authorities. Given the Globe-News’ track record for journalism ethics, I don’t hold out much hope for either of those events to occur.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lies, damn lies and the Amarillo Globe-News

Not too many years ago, corrections or retractions of articles in a daily newspaper were rare. And less
frequently were legitimate accusations of news stories containing outright lies for propagandizing. In addition, when running either opinion pieces or editorials, facts and some semblance of truth informed the newspapers’ opinions. Somehow in Amarillo, we have fallen far from those standards.

The Sept. 20, 2015 version of the Amarillo Globe-News offers readers two examples that should have never seen the light of day.

The first is the long and winding editorial, about defunding Planned Parenthood and the videos that purported to show that the organization is “hit with a scandal involving the sale of aborted baby parts.”
The editorial continues with this entirely false one-sentence paragraph, “Speaking of the videos, there really is no debate justifying an investigation, not if you look at the videos from a logical and nonpolitical perspective.”

This line is such an outright lie that I don’t care if someone thinks my criticism is discourteous and unseemly The videos made public were from a rabid anti-woman group that secretly recorded and edited content in the worst way possible — to portray the exact opposite of the facts. It isn’t news when it’s done that way. It is fomenting lies based on the kind of propaganda Joseph Goebbels promoted against Jews during World War II. (Yes, I am playing the Nazi card here, because that is how low the Center for Medical Progress and the Globe-News stooped to put out their lies.)

As LauraBassett points out in her Huffington Post piece, a forensic analysis of the videos on which the Globe-News relies “found they are so egregiously manipulated that they would never be accepted as evidence in a court of law.” It is bad enough that the Globe-News is going to conclude those videos are nonpolitical and a logical basis the basis for an investigation. Congress has asked for the full and unaltered videos from the Center for Medical Progress. We’ll have to see what those show and whether the Globe-News will have the ethics and decency to make that information public.

And speaking of ethics, let’s look at our controversial local issue: the downtown development debacle and the upcoming vote about the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News ballpark. In a story about DAI’s Facebook page, the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. propaganda rag has this line, “But voters in a Nov. 3 election will decide the fate of the $32-million MPEV.”

That is flat-out incorrect and, given the Globe-News’ position on downtown development and Wallace Bajjali, its publisher’s role in the Wallace Bajjali and Downtown Amarillo Inc., one can only conclude this is misleading on purpose. In other words, it’s a lie. For those interested in facts, the vote is advisory; it’s non-binding on the City Council.

The DAI Facebook, page, by the way, states, “DAI does not take a position on ballot issues and will not provide a forum for any positions.” That is also a lie. DAI has advocated for the Wallace Bajjali plan all along and the entire Facebook effort by this taxpayer-funded organization is advocacy for Wallace Bajjali and the fraudster firm’s plan. The law is clear on who can and can not advocate on a ballot measure and it is possible DAI’s role on Facebook and elsewhere bears investigation by the Texas Ethics Commission. Given what some of the councilors know and will learn more about DAI and Wallace Bajjali, the council may kill of the entire project and DAI no matter the outcome of the Nov. 3 vote.

And, trust me folks, when the community learns more about Wallace Bajjali and DAI, people will applaud the action that the City Council must and will take to end this fraud upon Amarillo. Stick with me on this one, folks. The Amarillo Independent was right in 2010 and is right about Wallace Bajjali and DAI in 2015.

Meanwhile, just like there are lies, damn lies and statistics, there are also lies, damn lies and the Amarillo Globe-News.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge

I don’t normally post shaky video, but when I do, it’s of content that I can’t resist. And when it comes to trains, I can’t resist. So, after finally catching up a bit on my computer stuff, here is what we caught from an overlook outside Silverton, Colo., in August. I should note that I first rode this train in 1957 when it was still part of the Denver & Rio Grande. I’ve also ridden it in 1977, 1987 and 1990, so it has become a bit of a pilgrimage.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

More misguided propaganda -- and a deconstruction of it

Nick Gerlich, a professor of marketing at West Texas A&M University, posted in his blog a discussion of the Amarillo Millennial Movement, comparing these youth to the Baby Boomers who protested the Viet Nam War. Gerlich portrays these youth as victimized by the older generation because the some of their elders are not taking them seriously.

But, Gerlich is as misguided as this youthful friends. Herewith is a deconstruction of his blog post.

A Different Voice

I am a Baby Boomer. Born in 1959, I was one of the later ones to call this cohort mine. We were a rambunctious group of ne-erdowells. We played our music loud. We protested the View Nam War. We indulged in the free-loving culture of the day. And we wore our hair and clothes in ways that made our parents cringe.

I am a pre-Baby Boomer, technically, with a 1945 birthday, but see myself more of a Boomer than a pre-Boomer. That said, Nick, I also didn’t like the Viet Nam War (maybe the View Nam War refers to it as the first real war brought into the nation’s living rooms on TV. Quite the Freudian slip for you.) However, wearing clothes and listening to music that outraged our elders was not the exclusive domain of Boomers. It’s always been a generation thing. Do study history.

But more than anything, we just wanted people to listen to us. The status quo was to be defied. Our mantra was Question Authority (and sometimes more vulgar).

Again, not the exclusive domain for you.

Somewhere along the line, though, we got a bit older, cut our hair, started families, bought houses in the suburbs, and became Republicans. In other words, we became our parents.

No we didn’t. We became somewhat more permissive and a lot more thoughtful than our parents. And less harsh and more nuanced in our child-rearing. In part, it’s because we didn’t endure the Great Depression like our parents did. Or flee our homeland; or, fight World War II, which was seen as a legitimate war.

History has a funny way of repeating itself, though. Today’s Millennials (those born more or less  between 1980 and 2000) are in many ways like my generation: vocal, passionate, and desirous of change. I see that spirit (and yes, it is a spirit!) in Amarillo among a youngish crowd seeking change in our downtown. The Amarillo Millennial Movement has mobilized its forces, has a social media presence on Facebook, and is actively campaigning for downtown development and anything else that will help make Amarillo a place that they want to live.

No, Nick. You really have this quite wrong — unless as a professor of marketing you have hard data to back up your assertions. But as a long-time journalist and one who has extensively covered downtown development, Wallace Bajjali and the poor judgment of the then-City Commission and now the City Council, I see this differently. If you knew the connections between Brian Eades, one of the city councilors responsible for the downtown development debacle, you’d know these kids are not on some spontaneous spirit-inspired epiphany. It’s a calculated political move, in part evidence by the fact that the AMM is registered as a type of PAC.

And it isn’t pushing for downtown development in total. It’s pushing for the so-called MPEV. A glorified ballpark. They didn’t give a damn about the downtown development until the new City Council was elected and the supporters of the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan was put on the ballot for November, thus jeopardizing the insiders’ deals.

How do I know this? I’m an investigative reporter and I’ve seen documents. Have you?

And not move somewhere else.

Yes, they will. For reasons other than some pathetic ballpark. It’s because Amarillo doesn’t have the upscale jobs base for the good kids from good programs that WT and AC are turning out. Oh, sure. Some of the teachers and health care grads will stay here because we do have the jobs base. So will some of the ag-related majors. But don’t kid yourself. We really don’t have the jobs base they really need.

The only problem is, their Baby Boomer elders are being less than receptive to this new voice, in spite of the fact that we belly-ached for change ourselves some 40-50 years ago.

We have a lot of people the same age as those active in the AMM who disagree with the AMM’s entire approach and premise and see through their charade. And, perhaps the elders who aren’t listening to the AMM, such as me for example, is because I believe they are ill-informed, manipulated and basically too naive to realize they are merely pawns in a larger battle.

Critics respond that Amarillo Millennials do not work, do not pay taxes, and by virtue of this, do not have much of an economic impact at the local level. That was true of my generation years ago, too, but that never stopped us from being loud…and being heard.

See above. The critics I know take issue with the AMM for the reasons I outlined above.

Our local activists want a town that appeals to their sensibilities. They want downtown entertainment. They want downtown living. They want a pedestrian-friendly downtown. They want downtown shopping and dining. They are in favor of the new MPEV (Multi-Purpose Event Center), parking, and retail district.

You really have that quite wrong, as I pointed out above. Their interest in the other elements of downtown development arose only in conjunction with them being sucked into supporting the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News stadium. In fact, I’ve had Facebook conversations with some of the AMM members who have misquoted me, misquoted The Amarillo Independent and relied only on information from Downtown Amarillo Inc. You know, the DAI leadership of Les Simpson and Melissa Dailey who brought us Wallace Bajjali. You know, the DAI and Globe-News that claimed due diligence. And, trust me on this prediction, the people who are still wedded to Wallace Bajjali’s ideas will face massive embarrassment.

And all they get are complaints about how or why this won’t work in Amarillo. It might cost taxpayers a few bucks. It’s too hot in Amarillo. Cold. Windy. No one lives there. No one wants to live there. It’s too dangerous downtown (Really? I grew up in Chicago. This place is soooo safe!).

Whatevs. Just tell us you don’t want change, and you will be a lot more believable.


Really? Nice try at humor, but the situation isn’t funny. Those “complaints” you so cavalierly dismiss are legitimate. Just saying they aren’t, or calling us negative and all the other well-worn Joseph Goebbels propaganda techniques won’t change the facts or the overall truth derived from those facts. In part, every time we learn more facts, we also find that Dailey, Simpson, DAI, the Amarillo Economic Development Corp., the Local Government Corp. and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone have misrepresented the plans and contracts — misrepresented, hell, they have lied. That, too, is on will be revealed because, as a journalist, I have faith that in the end the truth wins out. Oh, and then there’s that pesky FBI and grand jury investigation. Oops.

As an educator, I have always sided with youth. After all, they have a lot more future to live than my cronies and I do. I may be getting a little bit on the old side, but my heart is still young…and it is kept young by my students. I believe in them. I trust them. I love them. They can see the future from here, while my cohort has a better view of the past.

That’s all very sweet. It’s all well and good to love, trust and side with them, but it’s misguided in two respects. First, if their view of the future isn’t informed by the past, then they are condemned to repeat the errors of the past.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana, “The Life of Reason,” 1905.

Further, the youth you mention have no monopoly on seeing the future. Alvin Toffler was age 42 when he published “Future Shock” in 1970 and 52-years-old when he published “The Third Wave.” Those are both futurist works, looking to the future with a respect for the past.

Second, while as an educator you can side with the young, you also have a leadership responsibility toward those same young people. And part of the responsibility is as a role model. To me that means showing more respect for the facts, evidence and “truth” rather than the emotions which the writing above reflects.

And I want to see more of these brilliant Millennials stay in Amarillo. The future is theirs, not mine. Too my contemporaries dismissing the redevelopment project out of hand, I say it’s time to let go.

Let go? Of what? That’s the same rhetoric the AMM and Advance Amarillo people are using. And I counter that the elections in May have consequences and no amount of denial will change the implication — that voters in Amarillo saw through, finally, the lies and spin from the Globe-News, DAI and the now former members of the City Council.

Let go? Maybe the AMM people would face that facts and let go of the illusion that they aren’t any more than useful idiots — pawns in a greater scheme. A scheme, I might add, that could be more embarrassing for the city’s leadership than anyone imagine. And a revelation that some people think they are untouchable either by the law or by democracy.

You know. Kind of like we begged of our parents and grandparents.

Dr “Move On“ Gerlich

As Toffler pointed out in “Future Shock” by quoting Herbert Gerjuoy: “The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself.”

Peace out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No regrets about Real News and Honest Journalism

A small thread on Facebook became the appropriate, if not perfect, place and opportunity to remind you all that The Amarillo Independent survived for six years but never thrived because the conservative business majority wouldn’t support it. Those few who did bless us with advertising recognized that the progressive editorials and opinions were well-walled off from the journalism, which we practiced with unparalleled integrity. I
look back and realize that the best advice I got and biggest regret I have over lot listening to it was from Claudia Stravato, who told me to run the Indy as a 501(c)3 nonprofit — that the old news business model was dying. She was right.

But that aside, and I know I am harping on this, the Indy’s stories and warnings about Wallace Bajjali were right and had the decision-makers here listened, well … .

The Wallace Bajjali stories weren’t the only investigative pieces that broke ground in this vast journalistic wasteland. We exposed Baptist St. Anthony's Health System’s lack of true charity care. When the Texas Medical Board took action on local physicians, we reported it, including a more in-depth look at why Dr. Roby Mitchell lost his license. We also exposed Amarillo ISD’s unfair treatment of the LGBT community; we exposed the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce for shilling an inferior health insurance plan to its members and, in another story, how the city almost shut down the chamber’s big barbeque event because of food handling problems.

I don’t regret a moment of the six years I worked so hard to practice a craft with passion and to give the community an outlet that truly represented “Real News, Honest Journalism.” And I don’t regret for a minute that I shut it down so my wife and I were no longer shackled to the City Council’s meeting schedule and the (in this case, I am proud to use the word) newspaper’s production timetable. Sometimes I wish I’d been more civil along the way, but in my heart I believe journalism was a higher a calling than the Episcopal priesthood, which I decided to not pursue.

Remember that a free press built and sustain the United States’ form of democracy and freedom and it’s as important locally as it is nationally.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The more we know, the better decisions we can make as a community

The Turner Report, a blog run by Randy turner in Joplin, Mo., has been combing a state audit and other records related to that city’s hiring Wallace Bajjali as master developer. His latest review of the documents once again shows that the now defunct master developer had an inside track with at least one Joplin city councilor, the city manager and others.

Those connections were clearly structured to have certain people benefit from Wallace Bajjali deals. And one city councilor now faces possible censure from the Joplin City Council this coming week. Don’t forget, too, that the state auditor has turned over material to a state prosecutor for review of possible criminal wrongdoing.

We have commented on the strong parallels between Amarillo and Joplin in dealing with Wallace Bajjali and the fallout from the fraudster firm’s vaporizing. It’s too bad neither Texas nor Amarillo have a similar mechanism in the form of a state auditor to undertake the same kind of probe as was done in Joplin. But we have an equally potent one if we care to use it: The Amarillo City Council has Sec. 19 of the city’s code to launch a similar investigation. Between the city and the FBI, the public should learn who did what for whom as part of this tainted deal.

We deserve no less than the full and honest truth. The leftover mayor and councilor need to face the fact that the more they resist letting the full truth out, the more trust they lose — and they ain’t got much left at this point anyway.

It’s time to start the Sec. 19 investigation so some information can come out before the Nov. 3 vote on the proposed ballpark.

Stupidity reigns supreme on Harrison Street

The ineffable stupidity in part of the Amarillo Globe-News Saturday editorial about the attendance at the City Council deserves at least a short comment, if for no other reason than to reinforce what a pathetic rag the faux-news outlet has become.

The drivel that Dave Henry inflicted on Globe-News readers observed that the attendance at the initial meeting of an experiment to start the council meetings at 6 p.m. wasn’t much different than those meetings that began earlier. And, that the audience was populated by the usual suspects.

Only the stupidest of people would expect that attendance at the meetings would suddenly blossom at first blush. Only the stupidest of people would also criticize that the regulars would be there. After all, they are engaged in watching city business properly, but for the Globe-News anything that disrupts the past status quo is wrong. And the new City Council surely does that.

So, keep this kind of critical thinking in mind when you see information or editorials in the Globe-News. It’s not journalism. It’s claptrap and disinformation.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More stupidity and propaganda: Guess where

Reading the Amarillo Globe-News these days would be entertaining were it not the “newspaper of
record” for Amarillo. And, in this case, I use the word “newspaper” very loosely. But it isn’t the Globe-News alone that provides the entertainment. It’s also some of those who come before the City Council to comment.

One of those becoming a regular is one Cindi Bulla, a Realtor, who regularly spouts the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News approach to downtown development. She has shown she will not be moved by facts. Let’s start with a Sept.8 story that Kevin Welch penned about the tax talks at the City Council Tuesday.

By the way, it’s instructive of the Globe-News’ approach to the news that the story refers to Bulla as a “resident.” That, of course, misdirects the reader away from Bulla’s portfolio or political reach as a Realtor active with the local realtor association. But that isn’t the worst of it. Bulla then goes on to tell the council, according to the article, “Work together and get the job done and get it done right.”

Like many others still enmeshed with the fraudsters Wallace Bajjali, Bulla overlooks the electorate’s mandate to shake things up at City Hall. Further, working together was the go-along-to-get-along approach was precisely that brought us eight years of wheel-spinning, word spinning. The indiscriminate acceptance of plans from Wallace Bajjali, DAI, the Local Government Corp. and Amarillo Economic Development Corp. have gotten us to a likely corrupt downtown development plan.

This isn’t the first time Bulla’s Babbittry has joined voices with the other smug, self-satisfied Babbitts of Amarillo. She indicated during a July 1 community meeting that the voters of Amarillo aren’t smart enough to assess public policy decisions, much less vote on them.

It gets better, of course. It’s not just the entertainment in the Globe-News. It’s the unmitigated gall and hubris from the paper whose publisher, Les Simpson, is so enmeshed in the downtown development debacle so completely as to destroy any credibility for his media outlet. Don’t forget, it was Simpson, as head of DAI’s board along with Melissa Dailey, brought Wallace Bajjali to Amarillo.

So when we’re greeted Thursday morning with an editorialthat purports to tell us that cutting the DAI budget is about taxes instead of a message to DAI and the community about what DAI is worth to us, I can only conclude two things. Either the Globe-News is once again engaging in a propaganda and disinformation campaign to attack those who would follow the electorate’s wishes; or, that whoever conceived of and wrote the editorial is — how can I say this nicely? (I can’t) — is flat out stupid and thinks we are too.

I will continue to wish better for Amarillo than this. And until then, I feel an obligation to help people understand how badly misled we have been by what was once a real newspaper. And how we’re being misled by a bunch of Babbitt-line insiders whose interest is their own, notthe good of the city. Thank goodness we had an election and that it turned out the way it did.

Final thought: Councilors Burkett, Demerson and Nair, gentlemen, stay the course.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Here is more background on downtown you might have missed

Back in February, ahead of Amarillo’s municipal election, I established another blog called “The postexplained why I felt I needed a more personal blog that was distinct and a little more distant from The Amarillo Independent. I re-affirmed that explanation in a brief poston April 30 on the Indy blog.
Quintessential Curmudgeon.” My initial

The elections are long behind us — at least that’s how it feels to me. And I have returned to The Amarillo Independent as my main blog. However, the discussion of the upcoming Nov. 3 election concerning the $32 million Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News-inspired ballpark for downtown on social media and the Indy’ reaching out through social media has generated more interest in the Indy blog. In light of the continued and increased interest in The Amarillo Independent, readers may wish to look at the posted on the Curmudgeon blog. Consider this one of those ICYMI — In Case You Missed It — posts.

One of the key issues in the past elections, and indeed since the start of the downtown development effort, is the role the Globe-News played over the past eight or so years. Understanding how the paper and its publisher fit into Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Wallace Bajjali narrative is important information. As I noted, Readers should treat “information” and opinions in the Amarillo Globe-News like “Seinfeld” episode “The Bizarro Jerry.” Do the opposite and you’ll be better off for it.

I posted a foreshadowing of my recent open letter to the current City Council (“Tale of Two Cities”) on Feb. 27, a month after Wallace Bajjali vaporized itself leaving Joplin, Mo., and Amarillo holding the proverbial bag. Shortly thereafter, I commentedthat we had every incumbent challenged and that we could have a framework for the election’s issues. That posting also introduced publicly the notion of a forensic investigation of downtown development but it wasn’t until April 27 that I posted information I had found the provision in the City Code that enables the City Council to conduct the kind of probe this city desperately needs. By that time we were well aware of the FBI and grand jury investigation of Amarillo’s Amarillo Economic Development Corp., but for the latter, we’ll just have to stay tuned and hope for the best.

This was also a time I we notedthat the Globe-News became schizophrenic on us — and continued its lies, this time about the ability of the council to give the people a voted on downtown development. And with the now-discredited council in our rearview mirror, the post also pointed out that Mayor Paul Harpole had promised a vote as far back as 2011. It was also a time when none of the former city councilors would acknowledge their culpability in the Wallace Bajjali, although later some said Councilor Brian Eades did so. Still, since the start of the downtown development debacle, people called the old council arrogant and we all know why. It just needed to be pointed out. I also pointedout that Eades, who ultimately survived a challenge, couldn’t really address the issues that led to the council’s flawed decision of hire Wallace Bajjali and cozy it up with DAI. By the way, he never answered my questions at the bottom of the post.

As information about the terms of the various contracts, deal and other obligations for downtown development became public, some revelations a surprise and other information showing the downtown development leadership conducted a variety of disinformation campaigns, we posted a specific storyabout the Liberty theatre and how DAI wasn’t to be trusted. Speaking of distrust, during this time the comments on the Globe-News website flew fast and furious. DAI’s executive director pitched in on comments using an identifier that was based on her maiden name. We bustedher because The Amarillo Independent had done our own due diligence, unlike DAI in recommending Wallace Bajjali.

Less than two weeks ahead of the May 9 election, it must have been clear the downtown development cabal was concerned about losing the lock-step-let’s-support-DAI-and-Wallace Bajjali majority. Grasping at straws, DAI’s board chairman, John Lutz, suggested the old Santa Fe Depot could be an “intermodal” transportation center. The suggestion not only showed how ill-informed and ignorant the leadership of DAI is, but it pointed glaringly to another sad fact, one we have overlooked in all this discussion about downtown development.

What is that fact? The fight over this misguided effort has distracted the city’s leadership from making meaningful contributions to Amarillo’s economic development. No real effort to work with the Texas Department of Transportation, BNSF and Amtrak on a re-route of the Southwest Chief. No real attention to developing and fostering Amarillo as a railroad destination; or as a Route 66 destination; no effort on promoting the cowboy heritage with the various guest ranches in the area; no visible effort to make Palo Duro Canyon more visible. And we could go on.

As we continue toward an advisory vote Nov. 3, I am sure more will come out. However, the links and information in the Curmudgeon blog might be helpful to those still trying to decide about downtown development and whether to support the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan or to reboot and do something for the whole city.

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.


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.