Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Monday, July 6, 2015

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.