Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

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.