Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

And so it begins …. change at Amarillo City Hall -UPDATED

The winds of change are sweeping through City Hall faster than a lot of people would have predicted.

Just hours after his installation as a city councilor, Mark Nair joined with Elisha Demerson and Randy Burkett to call for City Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s resignation and the resignation of the board of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp., according to ABC 7 News, which reported this first. Other media have jumped in to flesh out the story.

Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilor Brian Eades are in no position to halt the long-overdue clean-up of City Hall.

For some, these swift moves might be a surprise. For those who know the three new councilors and their intentions and character, it is not. The new leaders on the City Council are honoring the voters by living up to their campaign promises. As the news coverage on this re-alignment at City Hall continues, take note of two important developments:

First, perhaps better late than never, the other hoteliers in town are finally reacting to the gift the City Council and other connected insiders are giving to NewcrestImage’s Supreme Bright Amarillo II subsidiary. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, “… hotelier Dipak Patel presented the council a petition with unverified signatures representing 75 completed or under-construction hotels and motels.”

Why the little dig about “unverified” signatures is in the story is a mystery, but then so is how the Globe-News and its publisher, Les Simpson, chooses the paper’s enemies and on whom to turn is also a secret. Perhaps some day Harpole, Atkinson, former mayor Trent Sismore and others will tell us how the tinkled in Les’ cereal.

I hate to criticize Patel and other hoteliers, but they might have done better raising their objections back in 2007 or 2008, while Melissa Dailey, the Downtown Amarillo Inc. executive director and Simpson’s errand girl, were creating the faux-input meetings and waging war on the people unconnected to the insiders.

With respect to the Wallace Bajjali-DAI hotel, we need to look into that a lot deeper and the newly constituted City Council can do that. Amarillo’s City Charter and ordinances give the council investigative power, with the authority to issue subpoenas and call witnesses. If Nair, Demerson and Burkett want to do that, which is recommend as one of the ways to help the public understand what is really going on, I’ll help prepare the questions. I suspect I know some of the answers already.

Second, pro-Wallace Bajjali-DAI people who want to push the current plans, are ramping up their campaign further. The Advance Amarillo Facebook page is calling for a petition using iPetition. The exhortation: “Let's show our support for downtown redevelopment! Please take a second a sign this online petition. Let's keep moving forward, we can do this Amarillo!!”

If you drill a little deeper into the iPetition signatures, you’ll find the usual suspects. And you’ll find duplicates. And I noted that some of the backers were surprising, given what I know about them. But, then again, these signatures are unverified.

Advance Amarillo and the pro-Wallace Bajjali-DAI supporters are going to characterize those who back the three new councilors as “negative,” resisting the “positive vision,” and are “naysayers” and part of the “no” crowd. Of course, they are having a difficult time understanding that those of us opposed to the Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan are not opposed to revitalizing downtown. We just want it to be done right, without the good-ole-boy, get-along-by-going-along mentality that borders on corruption.

Here is what Ginger Nelson, am AEDC board member and co-owner of the Amarillo Building said, according to the Globe-News, “My reaction is sadness to the extreme overreaction by the new council members to this situation. What Amarillo needs is a positive vision and leaders who will cast a positive vision, not leaders who are caught up in the venom and misinformation spoken by a minority.”

Nelson, like so many others in the Wallace Bajjali-DAI camp, attempt to discredit those opposed to their insiders plan by saying we’re a minority. The recent city election proves we are not. And that we spread misinformation. That, Ginger, is a lie. We have spread the truth and the Downtown Amarillo Inc., Dailey and your allies have done that.

A public thanks to Councilors Demerson, Burkett and Nair for standing tall and standing strong.