OK, I did it.
I voted early today for the Amarillo City Commission. The election judges at City Hall were just as nice as those who work on Election Day. I went through the drill, again just as I do on the actual voting day.
But I’m still holding my breath, more or less, with my choices for mayor and city commissioner. The reason I like voting on the final day of balloting is because I don’t want any unpleasant surprises to erupt prior to Election Day.
At least I have a good reason. I’ll be unavailable to vote this Saturday. I had to do it early because I want my voice heard on this critical election. City Hall, of course, is where officials make decisions that have a direct, tangible impact on our lives.
But I’ll monitor the election results from afar this upcoming weekend — and hope that my candidates don’t make me regret casting my vote for them.
I just have returned from Midland, where I discovered yet another major West Texas city that has a highway loop that serves as, well, a loop.
It’s Loop 250 and it circles Midland across Interstate 20.
Lubbock has an honest-to-goodness loop, too. It’s Loop 289 and it circles the Hub City across Interstate 27.
How did those cities accomplish this bit of highway engineering, while Amarillo’s so-called “loop” serves as just another busy street, particularly along its western stretch, from I-40 to Hollywood Road? But, by golly, we hung the Loop 335 label on our so-called “loop” — even though it doesn’t serve as a loop the way it ostensibly was designed to do.
It will be years, if ever, before Loop 335 becomes an actual controlled-access thoroughfare that encircles Amarillo. Transportation officials, last I heard, are trying to figure out a way to extend the loop farther west. More private property will need to be purchased, or condemned.
Of course, there’s been next to zero public discussion on the rest of the 43 miles of Loop 335 that could be developed much as Soncy Road has been developed. Try getting across Soncy around 5:30 in the afternoon. You’ll grow old waiting for a break in the traffic.
Meanwhile, the potential extention of Loop 335 farther west of town looms.
Just one request here: Don’t mess with Cadillac Ranch.
I’m still steamed over Gov. Perry’s implied threat of secession.
He spoke to that Tax Day “tea party” rally in Austin and all but said that Texans could secede from the United States if they get angry enough over our government’s tax policies. Had he asked me, though, here’s what I would have had him say:
Thank you, my fellow Texans, for turning out on this glorious day to rally against the government’s free-spending ways.
I see some signs out there saying things like “Secede Now.” You might think you want to pull out of the greatest nation on the planet. But remember, we did that once and look what happened. The nation fell into a Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Look, folks, I know you’re upset with the president’s policies. Same with Congress. You’re angry at the bailouts. But secession creates many more problems for us than it solves. We need to stand together, one nation united, to change the policies we deem to be inappropriate. I plan to call President Obama right after this rally and express my concern — and my support for him and his efforts to right our ship of state. That’s what good Americans ought to do. Unlike some of the blowhards in my party, I don’t want the president to fail, for that would have dire consequences for the nation.
Secede from the greatest nation on Earth? You gotta be kidding!
No, the answer lies in working with the federal government, not against it.
But our governor said nothing like that. Instead, he tossed out all that red meat to the crowd.
And to those who think he misspoke: That was no gaffe. A tough re-election campaign is coming up over the horizon and the governor is energizing his base.
Gov. Rick Perry has said something out loud that has shaken the rafters of the nation’s political establishment.
He suggested, hinted, implied — but never really said outright — that Texans might be justified if they wanted to secede from the United States of America. He was talking the other day at Austin’s “Tax Day” rally, the one ginned up by conservative critics of the Democratic-controlled Congress and the White House, which is now occupied by a Democratic president.
Here is what is being lost in all the hoopla over Perry’s ill-considered remarks: The governor is a conservative Republican. Hasn’t it been Republicans — particularly the conservative folks — who have been calling liberal Democrats “unpatriotic”? Yet this governor has suggested in a none-too-subtle fashion that if Texans get riled up enough over federal tax policies that they might commit a treasonous act by pulling out of the United States.
To be fair, the governor is not endorsing such an act — he said.
But fomenting such feelings among his constituents smacks of being, well, rather un-American.
The protestors who are comparing today’s “tea party” to what happened in Boston in 1773 need to tread carefully when they complain about “taxation without representation.”
Back in the 18th century, it was true. The colonies were being taxed to the hilt without being able to exert the slightest bit of infuence. Today, it’s different.
We do have representation. Whether you like how you’re being represented, though, is another matter.
Amarillo played host to at least two of these Tax Day “tea parties.” Many folks here don’t like President Obama’s tax policies, which is no surprise, given that the Texas Panhandle voted overwhelmingly this past November for the other guy, Republican John McCain. What’s more, the Panhandle’s two congressmen, Mac Thornberry of Clarendon and Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock (whose district includes some southwestern Panhandle counties) have voted against Obama’s tax-and-spend plans.
So, the folks at the “tea party” rallies here can claim with a semi-straight face that they’re being taxed without their approval.
But let’s remember: Elections have consequences. The Panhandle’s wishes weren’t followed in the election this past November. The rest of the country voted decisively for Obama — and in the process endorsed the message on which he campaigned.
No, many folks here don’t like what happened. But we, as a nation, have the representation in the White House and on Capitol Hill that the majority said they want.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Amarillo City Commission doesn’t conduct the meat of its business in a star chamber.
It has a “work session.” It’s also open to the public. The commission, all five of whose members are seeking re-election this year, meets in a small conference room on the other side of the wall from the commission chambers.
OK, so it’s not a spacious room. A conference table gobbles up most of the space in the room. But it does have about 10 chairs lined up along one wall. Residents can attend the open portion of the meeting, where commissioners and the mayor get briefed by senior city staff, led by City Manager Alan Taylor.
The work session, as its title implies, allows commission members to work out the nuts and bolts of topics to be voted on during the business meeting that convenes at 3 p.m. every Tuesday at City Hall. These work sessions convene usually around 2 p.m. on commission meeting days and last until just prior to the start of the regular meeting.
And, yes, they do it in the open — just as if they were in the chambers, with the mayor calling for votes and wielding the gavel.
These work sessions just happen to be a well-kept secret.
Maybe now, though, the secret is out.