Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hell has frozen over: Ballpark Vote — a change in position

Earlier today (Friday), I postedthat KAMR’s storyexposed another sneaky move buried in the Local Government Corp.-City Council-Downtown Amarillo Inc. contract for the downtown parking garage. The promoters of the Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan have placed a requirement that downtown Amarillo be “blessed” with parking meters in addition to the multi-million parking structure.

The purpose is pretty clear: People are either going to pay for parking downtown on the street or in the garage, come Hell or high water (of which we have plenty lately).

Let’s put aside the pro and con arguments of the garage and parking meters. Instead, let’s look at some underlying points:

First, this revelation is one of a long, well-documented list spin, misrepresentations and outright lies propagated by DAI, the Local Government Corp. and others in the Wallace Bajjali camp of downtown development — including the Amarillo Globe-News and (mainly) the former City Council. It is, as I wrote, the “the proverbial ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’” in this almost decade-long push to shape downtown in the visions of:
  • A fraudster master developer in the form of Wallace Bajjali;
  • A third- or even fourth-rate planner heading DAI;
  • Boards of DAI, the LGC and Amarillo Economic Development Corp. that show no analytical thinking skills, approving without question anything the bureaucrats want;
  • The 10th-rate publisher of the Amarillo Globe-News, a daily outlet for which the only love for this city is for the amount of money it can suck out of the economy by pandering to those here who can write the big checks;
  • And, prior City Commissions/Councils so clueless and bereft of critical thinking skills that they have led the AEDC and others into an FBI and grand jury investigation.
How do we put a stop to all this?

The three new councilors ran on a platform calling for placing the proposed ballpark on a ballot so voters would have a say about downtown development. I supported all three of the new councilors as candidates on the basis of that position and their calls for transparency in city government. And, normally I would push for elected officials to adhere to their campaign promises. But in this case, I am changing my view.

So, in relation to this, why might Hell have frozen over? Because I agree with a July 18 editorialfrom the city’s propaganda-in-chief Globe-News that called on the City Council to take an open vote on going forward with the ballpark.

There are several reason why I am releasing the new councilors from their campaign pledge.

First, although I believe a decent turnout for citywide vote on the issue will defeat the ballpark, thereby opening the door to rebooting the entire downtown development effort, I want to eliminate the risk of the ballpark winning. The main ways I would consider supporting a public vote is if the City Council invoked its investigative powers under the City Code before the election and let the public judge if it wants to proceed after having all the facts exposed from people under oath. Or, if the council froze all money to DAI and others as to limit their propagandizing.

Second, I am concerned that an additional four months of fighting over this will permit the Wallace Bajjali political descendants here to use their vast wealth to buy the election. They have far more resources than us rational folks and there is a strong possibility we’re at risk of them funneling public money through the city and DAI to sway the election.

Third, the Globe-News has a vested interest and lacks the journalistic ethics to give people here the straight story. The motives and power to purposefully misinform are strong. Finally, in the category of “be careful what you wish for,” I believe the people whom the Globe-News, Wallace Bajjali allies, previous commissioners and councilors have ignored, abused and demeaned need to teach those abusers a public lesson.

In short, “the little people” need to invoke that famous quote from “Network,” the Academy Award-winning movie: “I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!”

Another Wallace Bajjali-DAI City Council sleaze move exposed

I don’t normally use KAMR, Amarillo’s Channel 4 NBC affiliate, as a source for my blogging. In this case, however, the station’s storyThursday did the community a real service by exposing another sneaky and sleazy move by the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. downtown development gang.

The comments under the story on KAMR’s Facebook page are the ones to look at because, interestingly, no one commented on the story on the station’s own website. That aside, the revelation adds to the screams for a deeper more thorough investigation into the entire downtown development planning process, the role that former city councilors/commissioners have played and for exactly whom Melissa Dailey is carrying water.

This one provision alone should be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back” to kill of the entire Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-inspired debacle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Globe-News to Amarillo: Shut Up!

Short and sweet: On the heels of the Amarillo Globe-News’ decision to cut off comments, as is its right of course, the out-of-town owned propaganda organ has decided Amarilloans are too stupid to make decisions about the future of their town. The headline on the editorialon Wednesday says it all.

“Editorial: Parts of downtown development cannot be debated.”

Oh, yes it can. And thanks to ABC 7 News/KVII, the members of the public who could not attend the Tea Party-sponsored presentation but had internet could watch a live stream of the event. This was the event that had UTSA Prof. Heyward Sanders joined the other rational voices in deconstructing the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-Amarillo Globe-News plan for downtown development.

As part of incredible public service to this community, ABC 7 News/KVII hosted a town hall last week, moderated by prominent journalist Mark Hyman. The public service in The Panhandle Spirit continues with the posting of that meeting here.

Meanwhile, here’s a message to the Globe-News quoting Archie Bunker, “Stifle yourself.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Spread the Word

Now that the Amarillo Globe-News has disabled comments, it’s hardly worth going to its website. EXCEPT, the paper keeps propagandizing on its news and opinion pages. I suspect the reason was so much push back from commenters who joined me in calling out the lies and deconstructing the spin.

I have done several posts that deconstruct the Globe-News content and, to the extent possible, will continue to do so. I would like to ask a favor of all of you who are reading the posts, either directly or after being directed from my two Facebook pages. Please feel free to comment and please share these as far and wide as you can. We must neutralize the insider propaganda machine. Remember one of my favorite quotes, from “Markings,” by the late United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, “The madman shouted in the market place. No one stopped to answer him. Thus it was confirmed that his thesis was incontrovertible.”

Deconstructing the AGN propaganda

I will continue to be relentless in calling out the Amarillo Globe-News for propagandizing and acting
without the slightest speck of journalism ethics. If you look at the last few posts to this blog, you’ll see I gave no quarter.

So, again, Sunday, the paper’s editorialattempts to sway opinion — as is its right — with a sleazy tactic of condemning something in total ignorance and undercutting it with “information” that wouldn’t survive critical thinking.

The editorial refers to the public forum Monday featuring University of Texas at San Antonio Professor Heywood Sanders, author of a book entitled “Convention Center Follies;” the book questions whether convention center projects engender economic, or in Amarillo’s cases, downtown development. Propagandist-in-Chief Dave Henry, carrying the water for Mr. Conflict-of-Interest Les Simpson, asserts that Sanders’ information should be discounted a priori (Hey, Dave and Les, that means ahead of hearing the information). The Globe-News believes that two guys with a consulting firm whose business is built on fostering the building of convention, sports and other venues carry equal weight to a professor. In other words, the Globe-News is telling you to discount an academic with no dog in any of these fights and accept the word of guys whose livelihood depends on cities suffering from an edifice complex.

If anything about the Globe-News’ position in this downtown development debacle should make the public angry, it’s the clear message from this hack-led paper: We don’t believe the readers of the paper and the people of Amarillo are smart enough to think critically about downtown development.

Then, the editorial goes even further. The Globe-News asserts the city can’t bring conventions here simply because it lacks a convention center hotel.

“Even those who oppose the overall downtown development project (a convention center hotel, parking garage and multipurpose event center) cannot dispute this disadvantage Amarillo faces,” Henry writes, continuing by quoting Dan Quandt, who heads Amarillo’s Convention and Visitor Council. Quant, of course, also has a dog in this fight.

Truth is, many of us can dispute these assertions.

First, the presumption that conventions will drive economic and downtown development and raise all the vessels in Amarillo’s harbor is fallacious. The disadvantages to bringing conventions to Amarillo arise from: Poor airline service, with difficult connections from the three remaining carriers at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport; no Amtrak service; and, Greyhound being the only other long-distance public transportation.

The Amarillo Economic Development Corp.’s penchant for insider deals instead of working to make public transportation, specifically at the airport and with Amtrak is one more reason to restructure the entire AEDC.

Second, even if (and it’s a big if) the current Civic Center could reasonably host large conventions, and were the only reason for conventions coming to Amarillo, the hotels along Interstate 40 are not that far from downtown. And, the $45 million for the out-of-town version of a Patel-hotel would buy plenty of high quality shuttle bus services into the city center.

Finally, the presence of a hotel and ballpark, or even a nicer Civic Center, aren’t what will bring conventions to Amarillo. It will be the collateral amenities, such as tourist-attracting sites and activities. And, I might add, emphasizing tourism would have more effect than conventions.

The editorial also asserts that perhaps Amarillo loses out on 1,300 conventions, but concedes that number is vapor.

The one thing the opponents of the current Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. downtown development debacle agree on is we need a more vibrant downtown. We just don’t need a corruption-fertilized “catalyst project” to do so.

Henry and Simpson ask this, “If a downtown convention center hotel (and a parking garage and MPEV) will not work for Amarillo, what is their plan for downtown redevelopment?”

·Value the past by emphasizing Amarillo’s Western/cowboy history, railroad history and Route 66 history by developing those elements as reasons to visit.

Ø  Bring together the railroad history interests to consolidate as many of the museum activities as possible around the city-owned property that now houses the Madame Queen.
Ø  Work with the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and other interests to make travel to PPHM possible by public transportation and make the National Center more prominent in Western activities.
Ø  Clean up and help businesses along Sixth Street and Route 66 by working more closely with them and their organization.
Ø  Foster the development of the Herring Hotel as part of the city’s golden era in railroads, cattle and Route 66 and stop putting the squeeze on the hotel’s owner.
Ø  Shift the CVC’s marketing emphasis away from conventions and full-out, heavy marketing for the elements outlined above.

·Make downtown more attractive to the local population by enhancing security and encouraging viable development by:
Ø  Renovating the Civic Center to host better and bigger events, more name entertainment and update the infrastructure systems to make events more enjoyable (e.g., sound systems);
Ø  Increasing police presence downtown.
Ø  Place a premium on making Polk and Sixth streets the centerpieces of redeveloping downtown;
Ø  Work with Potter County to renovate its stadium and set up public transportation infrastructure to make the ballpark more accessible from all parts of the city.

·Add marketing Palo Duro Canyon, the city of Canyon, PPHM, Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Lakes Meredith, Greenbelt and McKenzie to the CVC’s portfolio.

That answer your question, Dave and Les?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Amarillo's cancer: What's the cure?

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. And, I believe I am putting myself at personal risk, as much or more risk than since The Amarillo Independent did a story with KVII in 2008 on a molestation accusation involving former Potter County Commissioner Joe Kirkwood. At the time, several people warned me that the Potter County sheriff’s office and possibly the Amarillo Police Department could be used against me. Given the recent events involving law enforcement in Amarillo and elsewhere in the United States, it’s clear that anyone, but especially a person of color, can be one punch, fist strike, baton blow or one Taser jolt away from death. And for no legitimate reason. That said, this isn’t a condemnation of the good and honest law enforcement personnel, although the blue wall of silence puts the good ones at risk for speaking out.

But the recent events in Amarillo are indicative of a more metastasized cancer in our community than some bad cops. So, bear with me as I connect the dots.

To understand the sources of this cancer, it’s necessary to understand Amarillo’s media landscape.

It’s no secret that I’ve viewed most of the Amarillo media as lapdogs rather than watchdogs, at least until The Amarillo Independent came along and then Sinclair took over KVII and brought Ryan Hazelwood in as news director a little more than two years ago. The cancer infecting the local governments and institutions could have been prevented or treated early had the media — and especially the Amarillo Globe-News — lived up to their journalistic responsibilities. The Globe-News, as the oldest and largest outlet in town, betrayed its community and its legacy for many years. Do you know what the paper’s motto is and what is carved over the door of the Globe-News building? It’s a quote from Gene Howe, “A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for a lack of courage.” The paper is no longer a newspaper and has abandoned wisdom and courage.

The implications of the news media culture in Amarillo meant the governments and institutions that should be accountable to the public saw themselves entitled to use the local media as PR mouthpieces and any coverage that wasn’t glowing, “positive,” and a reflection of that they wanted public was called out as “negative,” inaccurate and divisive. Those same words are being used now by those fighting to retain the power to shove the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. fraud-infested plan for downtown development down the city’s throat.

And so, all of the problem that have festered over the years got a pass, with the various City Commissions either kept out of the loop by city employees or by willful ignorance — matters the commissioners couldn’t have ducked had problems been made public. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that institutions of all stripes strive to create positive images and defend themselves against attempts to reveal their flaws. But with accountability, those revelations would be fewer a more superficial than we are finding now. Which brings us back to the story that triggered this essay.

The recent accusations against the Amarillo Police Department for brutalizing Robert Johnson and planting marijuana on him aren’t the first of similar allegations against local law enforcement. Ask any reporter and he’ll tell you that those stories come up often but “off the record” because of fear of retribution from not only the police but also the other powers of city government. How telling is that?

This time, however, the advocates for Robert Johnson are Jeff Blackburn and his associate Ryan Brown, passionate advocates for justice and fair treatment. And formidable adversaries for those who would trample the rights of the less powerful.

Blackburn points out in several posts for his Amarillo Citizens for Open Government that the validity of the Amarillo Police Department investigating itself is ludicrous, a position echoed by others in the community, including yours truly. That the APD would have the hubris to pull this kind of stunt reflects the legacy of the lapdog media landscape, with the almost paranoid reaction engendered by that sense of entitlement. And the fact that City Manager Jarrett Atkinson would let the APD handle the entire matter internally and not scotch the public relations push the APD used is telling of his poor judgment. Was Atkinson or anyone else so asleep at the switch that they didn’t think to ask the Texas Rangers to investigate? Or, did they think of the Rangers and then decide an internal investigation would permit a cover-up?

I saw a similar reaction from APD Chief Robert Taylor several years ago when the Indy did a story on city salaries, but it was decidedly lower-key.

In fact, in this context, I can share other instances leading me to question why Taylor is qualified to continue in his job. During the 2008 presidential election, after the Indy endorsed Barack Obama, I received a written death threat. To say the APD response was lukewarm is an understatement. It took four hours for anyone to show up and the department did nothing to follow up. Then, when I spoke to Taylor and Atkinson about the danger of traffic barreling off the westbound Interstate 40 exit to Crockett Street, I was promptly “blown off” but both public servants. In fact, at the time, Atkinson said he had full confidence in Taylor.

And that brings us back to the current City Council that now sits at a crossroad, faced with treating such a devastating cancer.

I believe the three new councilors were elected to make significant changes in both the operational leadership at the city and in the direction of downtown development. Randy Burkett’s and Elisha Demerson’s victories over incumbents were clearly a message that citizens wanted more transparency, more competence and less tone-deafness from the City Council, especially a mayor who bullies anyone who disagrees with him. Burkett and Demerson rode in on a wave of events that included bad hires at the airport and traffic engineering, Wallace Bajjali cratering, scandals with the new city logo and at animal control. By the time Mark Nair’s runoff election against establishment toady Steve Rogers, the electorate had also suffered the mismanagement of the water billing system, including a draconian firing of meter readers.

When Nair took office in June, we had another media explosion — this one confusing. Did Nair and the other new councilors call for Atkinson’s resignation in a public meeting? Or, did they think they were still in executive session? And, did they call for his resignation or did they ask for his evaluation ahead of the scheduled review in January? Reports from all the media were confusing, as I noted. But the optics of the move as portrayed, especially by the schizophrenic Globe-News, led the three to back off. Why do I call the Globe-News schizophrenic? Because it endorsed these three as candidates. I don’t know what Simpson and the Globe-News expected. But in typical Globe-News fashion, it turned on the three and made them look as bad as it could. The Globe-News did something else equally stupid in a recent editorial. It tried to separate the operation incompetence from downtown development, calling them different issues. As usual, the Globe-News is wrong. Don’t forget, it was the city and the paper that collaborated on hiring Wallace Bajjali, establishing all the alphabet soups of DAI, Local Government Corp. and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.

After this latest episode with the APD and the way the city handled the matter, I am have doubts the three new councilors should have backed off. In other venues, I’ve called for a full-blown investigation of some of the city matters. I believe that is the right way to go; but I am not sure the City Council needs to wait until January to take action on the city leadership.

It’s time for the behaviors in Amarillo to reflect the values we saw characterized the Panhandle.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fighting against the truth

The Amarillo Globe-News, without notice or explanation, shut down comments on its website a couple of days ago. Then, Friday, it posted a storyoutlining the situation.

The Globe-News quoted the publisher, Les Simpson, thus, “But allowing those on our website to call out people by name and make accusations against them — sometimes criminal — isn’t fair and won’t be tolerated in the future unless you put your name by it. And even then, comments that make factual claims that aren’t substantiated may be deleted even if the author is known.”

I truly believe this arises out of some of the solid and scathing deconstruction of Downtown Amarillo Inc., Les and the whole hotel-garage-ball park thing. Les has a huge ego and he and his allies are fighting to preserve this three-legged deal. Of course, if he has more invested than ego, he may have more motivation to stifle dissent. And none of this discussion on the Globe-News site was at risk until the composition of the City Council changed and put the Wallace Bajjali plans at risk. So, let’s see if Les plays this fair and square.

Further, the reason I valued being anonymous was on the basis that Les or whomever would have me blocked or banned knowing who I really was as a poster. He or whomever did so when they learned that I was, in fact, posting as “kumquat” (my homage to W.C. Fields). That said, I will defend the Globe-News’ right to ban or block anyone or any reason. It’s their circus and their monkeys.

After a hiatus, I returned to post as opinionista after the pro-Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan propaganda became intolerable and devoid of any truth. By the way, I identified myself about two months ago after Melissa Dailey, DAI’s $134,000-per-year executive director, tried to hide her identity with her maiden name as a handle. It will be interesting to see if Les will let me in if he knows my real name.

It will also be interesting to see what “standards” he sets about substantiating posts, especially in light of the way the AGN slants news, mostly by acts of omission. Here’s the thing, and it derives from one of my favorite quotes, one by Dag Hammarskjöld, “The madman shouted in the marketplace and no one stopped to answer him. Thus it was confirmed that his thesis was incontrovertible.”

I will also defend any news outlet’s right to handle content as it sees fit. But as a journalist, I won’t defend an outlet’s removal of the wall between news and opinion; and, I won’t defend the removal of the wall between the news and business side; and, I won’t defend the removal of the wall between the news and the outlet’s political agenda. The Globe-News didn’t maintain those walls when I worked there and my view is that it doesn’t do so now.

Les wouldn’t let one major story that could have won the paper an award had he let it see the light of day. And I can tell you about at least one other story in which editors ignored the substantive issues in the story. Both of those stories would have cast Baptist St. Anthony's Health System in a negative light and it was a struggle to get the leadership of the Globe-News to give Northwest Texas Healthcare System a fair shake.

By the way, the story about BSA’s charity care subsequently ran in The Amarillo Independent and got gratifying support.

You don’t have to buy my assertions above any more than you have to buy my opinions. But what strikes me about all this is that Amarillo as a community deserves better. I tried to give it better with The Amarillo Independent and try to counter the Globe-News’ slanting of news as best I can with my blogging and with the posting on the Globe-News website. I also am trying to contribute to more investigative reporting in this community to balance the Globe-News by working with ABC 7 News/KVII as a consultant. The prior general manager there valued my input, sometimes referring to Les and Wallace Bajjali as “The Music Man.” I hope the new GM will support those efforts.

I am perfectly willing to post on the Globe-News site openly. I would challenge the Globe-News to maintain an open dialogue in the community, but will be surprised if the new policies settle in that direction. Given its news philosophy, why would it? And, I would ask, what motivated the Globe-News to make this change? Who pressured Les?

As I’ve said, let’s see what happens.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lies and propaganda continue on downtown development

I have tried to lay back on the latest vomit of Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. loving
propaganda and lies, especially the absolutely shameless spew in the Amarillo Globe-News. But sooner or later, someone who has covered this issue from the start needs to stand up and look you Wallace Bajjali-DAI lovers in the eyes and tell you how full of crap you are.

First, Dailey and DAI will lie and tell you anything to make you believe this doomed-to-failure scheme. The claims are too many to list, but they start with the claim of due diligence about Wallace Bajjali and they were reputable people. Ask around town.

Second, Les Simpson has so much ego tied up into this little brain child of his and his little go-fer (who for $134,000 per year, can’t tell you what minor league parks work and why) that he will do anything to help sell this stupidity in order to salve his ego. He has turned a newspaper that once owned a Pulitzer into a dump of disinformation with the credibility of Fox News. Consider what is happening to good people who work as reporters there: They are forced to sell out principled reporting to keep their jobs. Is this what Amarilloans, who value honesty and integrity, want for people in this community?

Third, while I admire Kevin and Ginger Nelson, all this talk about trust is laughable. The reason for the recent election’s rejection as much of the City Council as it did is precisely about trust. The council has squandered its trust and credibility; and Paul Harpole’s boorish behavior and intolerance of thoughtful and differing opinions is part of the rejection. Had only slightly stronger and better-financed candidates face Harpole and Eades, they also would have been turned out.

And speaking of lack of trust, along with the City Council, the others involved insiders in the current Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plans are no longer trusted members of the community. Look no further than the FBI and grand jury probes; and you’re judged by the company you keep. Look at Wallace Bajjali’s record in Joplin.

Finally, the election means something. The people who bothered to vote elected the new councilors to put the two-bit ball park (MPEV is a joke, even as language) to a vote if not restart the whole planning process. And they want transparency; and don’t tell me the “200” meetings were transparent and legitimate, any more than the dog and pony show July 1 was to really bring new councilors up to speed. They know what they are doing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Well, that got your attention

Well that got your attention

As Amarillo moved toward Tuesday’s City Council meeting, we expected fireworks. After all, two of the new councilors got our attention calling for the resignation of City Manager Jarrett Atkinson and dismissal of the board of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.

Today’s meeting started with pulling those two items off the agenda, moving consideration of Atkinson’s status back to his normal personnel evaluation cycle. And, no decision on the AEDC board will occur until after another joint meeting between the City Council and AEDC.

So after all the name-calling, we learn that the two new councilors are capable of compromise. Just as many mistook the seemly precipitous action for “knee-jerk,” don’t mistake the compromise of lack of resolve. There is more than meets the eye.

Trust me on this.

Call the investigation and stop the name-calling

Some of my friends are rallying to the defense of the entrenched crew at city hall, calling two of the
new councilors, Mark Nair and Randy Burkett, members of the “knee jerk party.” Mayor Paul Harpole is on the attack, going as far as calling Burkett a liar. There is more to this whole issue and I add this information to the blog to let people know.

I covered City Hall for steadily from 2007-2013. I watched Harpole in action. A now-former city councilor one complained to me about how Harpole treated her and others and tried to even bully her and others. When I ran the Indy full-time during the 2013 campaign, former employees from the old Ford dealership contacted us to complain about Harpole’s temper.

Throughout the downtown development, I personally saw Harpole in action. He treated people who disagreed with him and the City Council with open disdain and on several occasions with discourtesy that went well past rudeness.

And let me tell you something else about this city government people are so staunchly defending. When one of the big upheavals went on at the airport, someone from the city gave me the full personnel file of one of the airport managers under scrutiny. The file contained tons of really, really negative stuff and it was given to me to bolster the city management’s position — and that was when Atkinson was the assistant city manager over the airport. Whoever at the city got the file to me did something illegal (it even had the SSN and other clearly confidential stuff) and did it clearly for the benefit of management.

My sources in a position to KNOW tell me that Vicki and the top management KNEW from Burkett well ahead of time he was going to ask for her resignation, as he ultimately did. So, it wasn’t a surprise. While I share some people’s concerns about Burkett and I don’t know what really happened, I am not going to out-of-hand accept the city’s version as if it was pure as the driven snow. The city people can play hardball with a smile on their faces. That means the letter can be back-dated and I have no reason to believe otherwise.

And, add to this, many of you all sneered when the city used the term “resignation” about McGee and Barlow from Animal Control, saying it really wasn’t. Why take the other position now. I am tired of this naïveté.

The three new councilors are doing what they promised and what the people wanted. Period.

If we want to remove all the doubt, let’s have an investigation using Sec. 19 of the Amarillo Municipal Code.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Time to start the investigation

In early August 2014, a couple of folks met to explore the idea of launching a slate for the now-recent municipal elections. The slate would carry the name “Reform Amarillo.”

We never got that off the ground, but I played with some planks for a platform focused on downtown development. I thought these ideas would resonate with the voters who wanted to reject the insider dealings and the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plans. Since then, of course events overlook this platform. But, still, are the key elements:

  • As soon as possible terminate the contract for Wallace Bajjali as master developer. This provision should be offered to the public with as much fanfare as possible, emphasizing that Wallace Bajjali failed to meet several deadlines and benchmarks; and, point out the City Council’s extension of those were poor public policy. This should also freeze development of the ballpark, convention center hotel and parking garage.

  • As soon as possible defund and dismantle Downtown Amarillo, Inc. The only funding for DAI that would remain are the amounts needed to dismantle the corporation. Any contracts in place with consultants would be terminated or bought out. The new City Council will seize all DAI records, including cell phone records and texts, for possible turning over to investigating authorities.

  • As soon as possible defund and dismantle the Amarillo Local Government Corp. The only funding for the LGC that should remain in the budget is the amounts needed to dismantle the corporation. Any contracts in place with consultants would be terminated or bought out. The new City Council will seize all LGC records, including cell phone records and texts for possible turning over to investigating authorities.

  • Undertake a legal and forensic review of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to determine if it should remain a viable entity or if it can and should be dissolved.

  • As soon as possible, instruct the city staff to develop Requests for Proposals to redevelop and/or renovate the Civic Center with an emphasis on attracting and accommodating larger and “better” national shows and conventions. The criteria in the RFP would place greater weight on local businesses being involved with the studies, designs and construction of the Civic Center.

  • Restart the downtown redevelopment process, possibly using Center City as the facilitator. As part of this effort, review for likely revision both the area under the downtown development rules, the rules themselves and the specific design standards.

  • Conduct a forensic/management audit of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. Conduct a management audit and review of the city staff. Promise to freeze taxes until the management audit and review are complete.

The new City Council can do this. The City Council has the power under Section 19 of Amarillo’s Municipal Code, to “investigate the financial transaction of any office or department of the City government, and the acts and conduct of any officer or employee. In conducting such investigation, the Council may compel the attendance or witnesses, the production of books and papers, and other evidence, and for that purpose may issue subpoenas or attachments which shall be signed by the Mayor; which may be served and executed by any officer authorized by law to serve subpoenas or other process, or any peace officer of the City.”

Sec. 19 is a powerful tool in the City Council’s arsenal. Under this provision, an investigation might provide answers to some very serious questions. An investigation under this provision in the Code would have serious consequences for those who might lie their way through such a probe. Can you say perjury?

Given the suspicions surrounding downtown development, much less city management, the City Council should move to do this as soon as possible, either with a new city attorney or with a contract attorney retained directly by the council. And, to those status quo people now attacking the new councilors, I say this: What do you think the message will be if you oppose such an investigation?

If not the new council, who? If not now, when?

And then the you-know-what hit the fan


That was a favorite term that the late Leonard Nimoy’s character, Spock, used on the iconic “Star Trek.” it was reserved for observations that had no obvious explanation but nevertheless were unusual or interesting.

It can also be applied to the goings-on at Amarillo’s City Hall in the wake of a new majority on the City Council. Let’s recap briefly.

In May, two incumbents who supported the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. downtown plan fell to challengers. You remember Wallace Bajjali? It was the master developer firm of fraudsters the old City Council hired, despite warnings. And then Amarillo joined Joplin, Mo., Waco and Kingswood as victims of these snake oil salesmen. But, the status quo candidates, who spun the Wallace Bajjali mistake as inconsequential, lost decisively to challengers who don’t want the status quo or the full plan without more public input. A month later, the third anti-status quo, pro-transparency candidate beat the “establishment” candidate in a landslide.

On June 30, the new majority called for the resignation of an assistant city manager (which they got), the city manager and members of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.

And then the you-know-what hit the fan.

The supporters for the Wallace Bajjali and Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan have launched a major public relations campaign to impugn the new councilors, stooping to dragging out the old epithet “CAVE,” meaning Citizens Against Virtually Everything. The name-calling is but one of the tricks of the propaganda trade the pro-Wallace Bajjali plan supporters are foisting on the community. Another piece is to claim the new members of the City Council haven’t done their homework, are acting too precipitously and must slow down and that they don’t have the facts. Still another is to trot out a bunch of naïve high school and college kids as part of stacking the audience at the July 1 Kabuki Dance dog and pony show at the obsolete Civic Center. These are the “millennials,” say the pro-Wallace Bajjali plan people, who think a convention center hotel, parking garage and undersized, empty-in-the-winter ballpark are keys to the insiders building them a new generation’s nirvana.

Two years ago, the same cabal made much of a city election that retained the pro-Wallace Bajjali, vote-in-unanimous-lock-step, on the council. The election was an affirmation of their vision and leadership, they said. But since the election, despite the efforts to hide the Wallace Bajjali-inspired plans, the voters learned the downtown development deal was for insiders all along; that the Wallace Bajjali work in Joplin resulted in corruption that may yet see public officials there indicted; and, that the Amarillo AEDC’s work with the former mayor’s husband and a prominent Amarillo lawyer triggered a federal grand jury probe and FBI investigation. Taxpayers also learned that city management has stumbled badly, to put it charitably. Bad hires; plagiarism for the city logo; egregious, if not criminal, problems at the city animal shelter; huge problems with getting the right contractors for rebuilding streets; and, of course, what many believe to be the final straw: the water billing debacle.

As I write this, we learned Monday morning that the city attorney has resigned. As the news spreads across Amarillo, with some of the media spinning this as a tragedy, we hear lamentations that this is the first of many to leave City Hall and these exits will devastate city government. I’d suggest the supporters of Wallace Bajjali’s plan for Amarillo and for the status quo take a deep breath. If major turnover indeed devastates city management in any objective sense, that speaks volumes about the former City Council and management of the city. Any large organization’s leadership that hasn’t considered these types of contingencies has foundered in its fiduciary duties. I know some of the new leadership has given thought to those contingencies.

In light of this, the psychotically apoplectic reaction to the result of the 2015 municipal elections is (back to my main theme) “fascinating.” After all, how does one claim one election is legitimate and the other not? And how, in a representative democracy, how does one not accept the legitimacy of the most precious right of a United States citizen — the right to vote?

Instead of impugning those who have spoken and telling those of us who now constitute the majority of the voters to back off and slow down, I suggest they open their eyes and look for ways to be honest and help repair the damage to this city from the insider-trading, paternalistic, status quo and anti-open government cabal that has taken us down this path.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lessons from the sessions

Advance Amarillo is on Facebook crowing about the great turn out and support for the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan for downtown development.

“A big thank you to everyone who voiced their support for the plans to revitalize downtown today, it was a good day!” reads the post. And one of the supporters, a Sally Jennings, responded, “Today was a great day for the citizens of Amarillo!! Those that want to create and do something good and make this a great city spoke up and were heard. 99% positive comments!!!!”

Here are some major takeaways about the Wednesday session.

• While the turnout was good at the start, let’s remember that the purpose of the all-day dog-and-pony show was to sell and/or pressure the new councilors to buy into the Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan. By the way, one of the speakers said the ballpark wasn’t a Wallace Bajjali idea, but that was one of the many pieces of disinformation. The so-called three-legged stool is the cookie cutter approach Wallace Bajjali peddled elsewhere.

• The daylong meeting was designed to bring out the supporters who had pecuniary interests in the plan and to exclude those who would have spoken against the ballpark in particular. Amarillo’s working stiffs had zero chance of sitting through this disinformation campaign.

• After almost 8 hours of the advocates representing Center City, the Local Government Corp., Downtown Amarillo Inc. and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone as well as the city itself with the mayor touting elements of the plan, the public comment session began 2¾ hours after the originally scheduled 3 p.m. start time for public comment. This was a transparent ploy to wear down the outnumbered opponents of the Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan.

• It became clear that the public comments portion of the day was also a setup when participants learned about the City Council’s sacred three-minute time limit, wired to favor the advocates of the Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan. The setup included “youth” with clearly scripted speeches that conveniently fit the time limit. When was the last time you heard a high school or college kid refer to “catalyst project?”

• And, speaking of three-minute time limit, it was impossible for anyone sitting through the 8 hours of presentations from the advocates talking without time limits to come up with an equally balanced critique of the disinformation.

• While one of the key pitches to the public, and made by several at the meeting and after as presented on ABC 7 News Nightside, the purpose of the meeting was transparency. But when some key questions came up, there was not transparency. Case in point: Who are the investors in the convention hotel? NewcrestImage’s Chuck Patel said it was no one’s business. But newly elected Councilor Randy Burkett got a confirmation that Joe Bob McCartt, former Debra McCartt’s husband, and Alan Rhodes, of the Underwood Law Firm, were two of the 30 investors in the hotel. And McCartt and Rhodes are also involved in the Commerce Building scandal that has triggered an FBI and grand jury probe.

The new City Council members — Mark Nair and Elisha Demerson — have joined Burkett in the first shake up at City Hall. They called for and got Assistance City Manager Vicki Covey’s resignation on Tuesday and succeeded in getting City Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s job status on the agenda for next week’s council meeting. They also called for the resignation of the entire AEDC board. I can’t imagine that the DAI and LGC boards are far behind.

But ultimately, the meeting, while cordial, generated more heat than light. We still lack in-depth and, perhaps, honest answers about:

• Why the city didn’t move to rebuild the Civic Center first.

• Why it focused Wednesday so much on “millennials” while throughout the process until now we’ve not heard about those folks.

• How the “millennials” would drive conventions and hotel usage and how that relates to the ballpark.

• Why the budgets after eight long years of planning are so tentative.

• Why the city is stonewalling the Herring Hotel and who is behind this attempt to put this kind of squeeze on the owner.

• Who the other local investors in the hotel are and what ties they have to public money and local decision- and policy-making.

• Who the organizers of Advance Amarillo are and the interests those people have in property downtown.

• How DAI’s Melissa Dailey came up with Wallace Bajjali and has contributed to some of the enmity toward her, going back to the 2007-2008 years with her treatment of people objecting to the design standards.

• How Dailey has also misled (some have told me she lied) about some of the plans.

The City Council, it turns out, has the power under Section 19 of Amarillo’s Municipal Code, to “investigate the financial transaction of any office or department of the City government, and the acts and conduct of any officer or employee. In conducting such investigation, the Council may compel the attendance or witnesses, the production of books and papers, and other evidence, and for that purpose may issue subpoenas or attachments which shall be signed by the Mayor; which may be served and executed by any officer authorized by law to serve subpoenas or other process, or any peace officer of the City.”

In the 12 years I’ve lived here, I don’t remember anyone using this provision. But, if that is what it takes to get answers to the questions that may make the citizens and taxpayers of Amarillo more trusting, then I hope the new council will do so.

It is a dog and pony show

As I begin to write this at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday as I follow the ABC 7 News/KVII live streaming, Richard Brown, one of the key players on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, Local Government Corp. and the lawyer who helped establish Downtown Amarillo Inc., is wrapping up his presentation.

It is now 3¾-hours past the time for public comment. It is a typical ploy to wear down the opposition to the topic of this. Further, the three-minute limit is a further ploy to stifle opposition to the agenda of the dog-and-pony show.

I urge the new councilors to stand strong on this.

I also know that the City Council has the power to conduct an investigation, using subpoena power and ability to put witnesses under oath. I urge them to do so to drill further down on some of the presentations today.

Signatures on the Advance Amarillo petition - as of June 30


Tonya Milam United States

John mcbryde United States

Gina Woodward United States

Austin B. Jones United States

David Ellis United States

Kristen Barrick United States

Bill Chudej United States

John Pierce United States

Thomas hill United States

Amy Shelburne United States

James Wester United States

Raven Smith United States

Bryce Trenfield United States

Bradley Van valkenburg United States

Claudia Shelton United States

Bradley Van valkenburg United States

Claudia Shelton United States

Jay Groom United States

Cindy Cooksey United States

Emmy Mitchell United States

Kris Radisewitz United States

Jonathan Sanchez United States

Ginny Early United States

Sloan TeepleTurks and Caicos Islands

Mason Rogers United States

Jessika Carrier United States

Bethany Castle United States

Jerson United States

Lauren Lusk United States

Moises Sandoval Jr United States

David hughes United States

Stacey Pybus United States

Patricia Dye United States

Matt iler United States

Kristen Ruland United States

Karman Vasquez United States

Lindsay e Parsons United States

Monica Tenorio United States

Judy Jurado United States

Gaye Reeves United States

Johnny Mize United States

Brent Reno United States

Lori Henke United States

Daniel Henke United States

Don Dodson United States

Amy langner United States

Eric Darnell United States

Kendra Ramsey United States

Arra Coleman United States

Clark Damon United States

Parie Donaldson United States

Sunny Ratliff United States

David Sougstad United States

David Sougstad United States

Maria Bybee United States

Johnny Merritt United States

Keena Ladd United States

Robin Villagomez United States

Allison Parker United States

Andrea Rojas United States

Andrea Rojas United States

Vali Jenkins United States

Theresa Cruz United States

Marty Rowley United States

Cindy Rowley United States

Kyle Johnson United States

Blake Bailey United States

Sue Church United States

Dr. Mike Tenorio United States

Janice Carter United States

Bill Pinkham United States

Bruce Fielder United States

Nicole Talamante United States

Shawn Morrison United States

Jeannene Woods United States

Shirley eudy United States

Shelby Neichoy United States

Blake Nixon United States

Stephanie larsen United States

Rob Woods United States

Carol McKinney United States

Jennifer Newman United States

Diane Lee United States

Daniel Martinez United States

Kaylee Quinn Greer United States

Arthur Ware United States

Kathy Ware United States

Peggy McGehee United States

Celeste Saadeh United States

Nick Gerber United States

Marshall Dawkins United States

Adrian Flores United States

Nora Huelster United States

Angela Brady United States

Tom Knapp United States

Stan Morris United States

Cassidy knapp United States

Cassidy knapp United States

Carrol Brunet II United States

Rob Parker United States

Shad Goldston United States

Shaynna Goldston United States

Scott Herrick United States

Monica Terrell United States

Tom Riney United States

Monica Terrell United States

Tom Riney United States

Shirley Lewis United States

Blaze May United States

Blaze May United States

Mike Rivera United States

Meganne Walsh United States

Mary M. Bearde United States

Jeannette Sandoval United States

Pedro Limas United States

Julie Pierce United States

Kathi Lewis United States

Will snead United States

Nicole Koetting United States

Dolores E Hernandez United States

George Enloe United States

Michelle Garvert United States

Jeannine Bellinghausen United States

Jeremy Baskett United States

Kelly Caviness United States

Allen Barrett United States

Natalie Barrett United States

Natalie Barrett United States

E Carter United States

Jon Irvine United States

Steve Astuto United States

Bruce Dodge United States

Vicki Wilmarth United States

John Kanelis United States

Michelle Lawrence United States

Penelope Davies United States

Ross Clopton United States

Melody Purdy United States

Donna Clopton United States

Adair Buckner United States

Adair Buckner United States

Travis David United States

steve turner United States

Susan soya United States

Tim Cato United States

Jason Velky United States

Christy Campbell United States

Nick Stevens United States

Andrea Davidson United States

John R. Douglass United States

Scott L Raef United States

Tina Sims United States

Stephanie irvin United States

Esmeralda Padron United States

Margala Reinbold United States

Bailey Railsback United States

Wendy Frick United States

Jacy Jenks United States

Matt Anderson United States

J. Shane Brooks United States

Joel Brooks United States

Neil Parrack United States

Lisa doyle United States

Clint haider United States

Brad Doyle United States

Amy Wisdom Tye United States

Amy Wisdom Tye United States

Kerry McLain United States

Bob Juba United States

Mark B. Johnson United States

Suha United States

Colby Monroe United States

Brad Stout United States

Bill Harris United States

Ashli Merklein United States

J Pat Richmond United States

Cori Harkins United States

Michelle Eggleston United States

Bret Selfridge United States

Lizzie Smith United States

Reece hutto United States

Sonya Michieli United States

Jason Anderson United States

Alan Roberson United States

Jill Vogel United States

Jessica Manor United States

Amanda Shelton United States

Kimberly Dryden United States

Helen Hudson United States

Dustin Dodgin United States

Joe Howell United States

Meredith Stover United States

Jenifer Payne United States

Belinda Hall United States

Megan Seaton United States

mark langford United States

Rod SCHRODER United States

Brad Stuteville United States

Michael Alexander United States

Scott Lower United States

R. Stephen Brooks United States

Kimberly Warminski United States

Brian Pruitt United States

Misty Barakovic United States

Mike H. Tijerina United States

Felisha Thorn United States

Kathy Cook United States

John T. McElyea United States

Gary Barrick United States

Richard Barket United States

Cathy Derr United States

Cathy Derr United States

Kathy Rieken United States

Michael alexander United States

Mark Bridges United States

Patrick Stanley United States

James Shafer United States

Smith Ellis United States

Jack Miller United States

Marilyn Thomas United States

Rachel Zeck United States

Rachel Eades United States

Brandy Waugh United States

Haley Shelton United States

Jerry Rohane United States

Amy O'Meara United States

P. David Walker United States

Charles Thonas United States

Kirk Crutcher United States

Joshua Line United States

Barbara Miner United States

Alfonso Zambrano United States

Cheryl Rogers United States

Stacy Hamby United States

Josh Skora United States

Mary K Dulle United States

Joseph K Dulle United States

Vicki Lorenzen United States

Michele Fortunato United States

John Irwin United States

Christy Errington United States

Jennifer Vigil United States

Charles King United States

Ed Nichols United States

Perry Graham United States

Alyssa Heck United States

Cindi Graham United States

Kirk martin United States

Alan Cox United States

Britney Britten United States

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Mary Louise Kibbey United States

Dustin ODell United States

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Pam Barley United States

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Kathy Kleman United States

Michelle Molberg United States

Misty Pulliam United States

Matthew Gonzales United States

Angela Champion United States

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Paul Simpson United States

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Jennifer rutstein United States

Tom Panger United States

April Johansson United States

Amanda Shelton United States

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Tony DeAlessio United States

Ginny Shelton United States

Blaine Roberts United States

Celeste Leimer United States

Gabe Irving United States

Regan Caviness United States

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Stephen Martin United States

Don Tipps United States

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Ross Middleton United States

David Strange United States

Janet Taylor United States

Brenda Graham

Ed Dowdy United States

Shelton Bivins Triplett United States

Moses Zuniga United States

Jimmy Throckmorton United States

Ben Whittenburg United States

Clara Carpenter United States

Sydna Stout United States

Darren Jenks United States

Debbie Shields United States

Jennifer Adams United States

Brad Boxwell United States

Katy McNeer

Douglas Blait United States

Desiree Frey United States

Lon Packard United States

Alex Yarbrough United States

Marci Hand United States

Steve Ligon United States

Brandon Wing United States

John Hood United States

Sonya Letson United States

Alan Teague

Karen Isern United States

Molly Caviness United States

Corey Krusa United States

Tamara Lemaster United States

Tom Cambridge United States

Ruth Pilco Jaber

Brad Johnson United States

Aleisha Newton United States

Robert Hansen United States

Wales Madden, Jr. United States

Bob Rathbun United States

Linda Astuto United States

Leslie Rathbun United States

Joy Follis United States

Cyndi De Leon United States

Liana Proffe United States

John Mark Bennett

Cynthia Huffman United States

Mark Fields United States

Amanda Jarnagin United States

Annika Spalding

Dwayne Edwards United States

Dean Self United States

David Woodburn United States

Ray Guy

Lance Green United States

Jacob Williams United States

Walter Webb United States

Bryan Barrios United States

Teresa Gollihugh

kara gaut United States

Jan SoRelle United States

Dennis Amason United States

McKay Sharp Anderson United States

Melissa Champlin United States

Bill Tarwater United States

Chelsy Ritter United States

Randy Dryden United States

Lisa Blake United States

Bernadette DeBrango United States

Cindy United States

Michele Agostini United States

Suzy Lemaster

John Atkins United States

Allison Silvertooth

Janet Luman United States

Mary Coyne United States

Chad Davis United States

Sharon Miner United States

Tiffany Curtis United States

Joe Shelton

Allison Covey United States

Sarah Silva United States

Derek Davis United States

Kevin Golden United States

Steve Smart

Mary Stephens United States

Ramon Johnston

Isabel Ramon

Marsha Hughes United States

Phyllis Enloe

Dale Smith United States

Scott Martin United States

Sharon Bradley United States

Scott Dickerson United States

Lance Jones United States

Laura Gerber United States

Bonney MacDonald United States

Jennifer Waters United States

Rochelle Chancler United States

Marcie Rea United States

Alice Johnson

Vonn Simpson United States

Laurie Higgins United States

Ray E Keller United States

Stacey Harwell United States


Vianey Valdez Earthman United States

Peyton Bivins United States

Tara Lowery-Hart United States

Sandra gilliland United States

Sonja Clark United States

John Navarrete United States

Roy Urrutia United States

Kalley Sadler United States

Matt Sadler United States

Bill Archinal

D'Ann AllenDominican Republic

Carol Abraham United States

Lori United States

Susan wenger

John Hornecker United States

Ellen Dunn

John Hornecker United States

Ryan Parnell United States

Molli Davis United States

Sarah Caviness

Susan cox United States

Blake Reeder

Brian and Molly Ritchie United States

Greg Burgess United States

Rudy morales

Kim May United States

Maggie velky United States

Mike Smiley United States

Ryan White United States

Mackenzie Weir United States

Garland D. Sell United States

Julie Yock United States

Jeff Parsons

Steve Madrigal United States

robert adams United States

Mary Bralley United States

Judy rogers United States

Judy rogers United States