As I posted right at the end of the filing deadline Friday evening, every incumbent has at least one opponent and some incumbents have drawn several opponents. Place 1 Councilor Ellen Robertson Green and Place 2 Councilor Brian Eades have drawn one challenger each. Place 3 Councilor Lilia Escajeda has drawn four opponents. Place 4, open because of the death of Jim Simms, has also drawn four opponents. Even the mayor, who won the last election with 77 percent of the vote, has drawn an opponent.
The past two council races were a bit of a clown carnival, with some candidates clearly not qualified. On the surface, this year’s crop of challengers look more credible, although we have much to learn about those aspirants. It is too soon to address the individual attributes of each candidate, although we know what the incumbents have done and the City Council’s abject failure in the downtown development debacle and Wallace Bajjali scandal, in my mind, disqualify each of them. Not one of the incumbents have taken responsibility for what has happened. Whether there is any redemption by any of them or city staff remains to be seen.
The extent to which they align with these issues and actions that should determine whether they deserve to take over governance of Amarillo:
· Wallace Bajjali Development Partners — As a result of master developer Wallace Bajjali Development Partners self-destructing and disappearing into the vapor, the city of Amarillo should consider seeking damages from Wallace Bajjali and a return of any monies already paid to them.
· Downtown Development — The City Council should immediately take several steps:
Ø Immediately freeze development of the ballpark, convention center hotel and parking garage;
Ø Reboot the entire planning process with specific attention to bringing the Herring Hotel back into play;
Ø Instruct the city staff to develop Requests for Proposals to redevelop and/or renovate the Civic Center with an emphasis on attracting and accommodating larger and “better” national shows and conventions. The criteria in the RFP would place greater weight on local businesses being involved with the studies, designs and construction of the Civic Center.
· Downtown Amarillo Inc. — As soon as possible defund and dismantle Downtown Amarillo, Inc. The only funding for DAI that would remain are the amounts needed to dismantle the corporation. Any contracts in place with consultants would be terminated or bought out. The new City Council should seize all DAI records, including cell phone records and texts for possible turning over to investigating authorities.
· Amarillo Local Government Corp. — As soon as possible defund and dismantle the Amarillo Local Government Corp. The only funding for the LGC that should remain in the budget is the amounts needed to dismantle the corporation. Any contracts in place with consultants would be terminated or bought out. The new City Council will seize all LGC records, including cell phone records and texts for possible turning over to investigating authorities.
· Undertake a legal and forensic review of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to determine if it should remain a viable entity or if it can and should be dissolved.
· Conduct a forensic/management audit of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.
· Conduct a management audit and review of the city staff.
· Promise to freeze taxes until the management audit and review is complete.