Tag Archives: Amarillo Matters

Time to come clean, Amarillo Matters

I have been a vocal supporter of Amarillo Matters, a group of well-connected business and civic leaders who have formed a political action committee aimed at helping guide the city’s political future.

I endorse Amarillo Matter’s municipal agenda. I believe these individuals are motivated for the right reasons. I do not endorse much of the criticism that has been leveled at Amarillo Matters over the past couple of municipal election cycles.

As the saying goes, “When you insert the word ‘but,’ the next thing that comes out usually isn’t a positive statement.” So, here goes:

But . . . the group needs to be more transparent with the community about its membership and the leaders it has elected among those who have signed on to the PAC. The criticism of the PAC’s secrecy is a valid one.

I chatted the other day with one of the individuals who belongs to Amarillo Matters. I’ll keep his identity a secret here, because he doesn’t know I’m going to write about this matter on this blog.

However, I told this person that it’s imperative for Amarillo Matters to come clean. It’s critical that the group reveal who it is. Absent that total transparency, Amarillo Matters will expose itself to more of the cheap-seat criticism that others will fling at it.

This individual told me the members of the Amarillo Matters leadership are aware of the criticism leveled at the perception of secrecy. He said that those members have businesses they fear could suffer. They are concerned that residents might launch boycotts against them, this person said. The person with whom I spoke gave me some of the names of the PAC’s leadership. I know them all; I know some of them quite well. They are respected community leaders, indeed.

My response was clear: It all goes with the territory.

I still believe Amarillo Matters’ agenda is a noble one. Its mission statement and its vision for the community insist on high integrity and altruism. It endorses efforts to revive downtown; it is pushing hard for the proposed Texas Tech University school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

For the group, though, to keep its membership’s identity from the public it aims to serve actually undercuts its high-minded mission.

Hot buttons hit; now, produce some evidence

I must have hit a couple of hot buttons with a recent blog post about Amarillo Matters, wondering about the sniping at this group of individuals who seek to have its voice heard on the direction taken by City Hall.

My earlier post wondered why the sniping is occurring, given that Amarillo Matters’ mission and vision statements seem noble enough.

A couple of respondents challenged me for weighing in at all, given that I no longer live in Amarillo.

Amarillo Matters worked to re-elect the City Council; they were rewarded by voters who returned all five council members for another two years in office.

But some of these respondents have tossed out a few potentially explosive terms. They referred to what they called “corruption.” They accused members of Amarillo Matters of being interested only in “self-enrichment.” The criticism of the blog post implied that the rich folks who comprise Amarillo Matters somehow are interested only in fattening their own hefty bank accounts.

Is there evidence of malfeasance? Or double-dipping? What about back-room wheeling and dealing?

My comment aims only to draw attention to the positive direction I’ve seen occurring in Amarillo over the course of several years. Yes, that positive course even pre-dates the election of the City Council in 2017.

One critic sought to “shame” me for being “so dismissive” of concerns about Amarillo Matters. I am not dismissing anyone. My concern rests with what looks and sounds to me like an empty gripe.

I must ask: Is the city heading down the path toward oblivion?

I’ll answer my query: I believe it is moving toward a bright future.

Amarillo Matters taking shots … but, why?

Why is it a bad thing for a political action group to seek to guide the city into a future that well could lift everyone who lives there?

Amarillo Matters taking shots … but, why?

Election Day came and went across Texas this past weekend. In Amarillo, the returns were fruitful for those who like the direction City Hall has taken the past couple of years.

Among those who are gratified is a group called Amarillo Matters. The political action committee endorsed all five City Council incumbents; they all won re-election.

But as usual, I am hearing some bitching/griping/sour graping from afar, way over yonder in Collin County, where my wife and I now live.

Some folks think Amarillo has forked over enough money to get the City Council to do its bidding. They are unhappy about it.

OK, let’s take a look briefly at Amarillo Matters. Shall we?

It’s mission statement is simple. It states: Amarillo Matters will work to identify, articulate and facilitate positive opportunities for Amarillo and the surrounding area.

Sounds sinister, right?

Oh, then there’s this from its vision statement, which declares in part: Amarillo Matters will seek out and support leaders of the highest integrity. We will look for leaders who know what makes us great and have the desire and knowledge to make us better.

Nefarious, don’t you think?

Look, I no longer have a dog in that fight. We sold our home in March 2018. We have moved away. We have set up a new life in Collin County. However, I do take a great interest in the city where we lived for more than two decades. It is a city in which I was charged with the task of commenting on its direction during my nearly 18 years as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. Thus, it is hard for me to let go.

Amarillo Matters was right to get involved when it was founded in 2016. A group of leading civic and business leaders didn’t like what it saw when a new majority took control of the City Council in 2015. I shared their concern as I watched it during my final years in the city.

The city has made tremendous progress since the 2017 election, when voters elected a brand new City Council. Is it wrong for Amarillo Matters to want a council that will lead the city toward a future that remains largely unknown, but which is taking shape in real time?

Amarillo appears to be moving forward. How is that a bad thing?

Local PAC under fire once again

I try to keep an open mind. Really, I do.

However, I am baffled about why a group formed in Amarillo, Texas, to promote a certain agenda keeps getting sniped at by individuals and — please forgive me if I sound unkind — a few soreheads who cannot tolerate the influence this group has acquired.

Amarillo Matters is a political action committee with a stated mission to recruit individuals to run for public office. The PAC got involved in the 2017 municipal election, backed a slate of candidates for the City Council and then watched as all five of their endorsees won their seats on the council.

What has happened in the two years since then? Oh, a few things.

The city’s downtown revival has progressed. A new ballpark has opened downtown and the Amarillo Sod Poodles are now playing hardball at the AA level; they’re playing to thousands of fans each night. The Barfield Building, long abandoned and thought to be beyond repair, is being rehabbed and will open as a boutique hotel. City streets are being repaired and upgraded all over town.

The City Council is up for re-election next month. Amarillo Matters has endorsed them all. That’s no surprise, right? The folks the PAC endorsed are seeking another two years and Amarillo Matters isn’t going to abandon the council.

Is the city headed in the wrong direction? I do not believe so.

Check out Amarillo Matters website here.

I keep seeing social media posts from those who dislike Amarillo Matters. Why? Is it because its leadership comprises successful business and civic leaders? If so, why condemn them because of the success they have garnered? I believe we reward success in this country.

I have moved away from Amarillo but I retain an intense interest in the city’s future. I sat at ringside for more than two decades there and have watched it evolve from a moribund community to one that is on the move. Amarillo’s future has yet to be determined, but my creaky ol’ bones tell me it’s on the road to brighter days.

If a group of successful individuals can form a PAC and then push an agenda that enriches the community, then I offer a tip of the cap.

Go for it!

Amarillo still ‘Matters’ to this group

A political action group formed two years ago to help elect a slate of candidates to the Amarillo City Council is back at it.

Amarillo Matters, which comprises some well-funded, well-known and successful business and civic leaders, is working to re-elect the council members it helped elect in 2017. They’re all running for re-election this year.

What strikes me as strange — even from my now-distant vantage point — is that Amarillo Matters is being demonized by challengers to the incumbents. For what remains a mystery to me.

I’ve seen the Amarillo Matters website, read its profile, looked at its mission statement. It says it works to develop “positive opportunities” for the city. It vows to be free of conflicts of interest. Amarillo Matters says it believes in “limited government.”

There’s more to the website explaining this group. You can see it here.

It’s a high-minded group with noble goals, ambitions and causes.

The way I view the city now that I no longer live there is that Amarillo has continued nicely on its upward trajectory during the past two years. Downtown continues its revival; the city streets are under significant repair and renovation; the state is tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27, but that, too, shall pass; Amarillo economic development gurus have gone all in — with significant amounts of public money — on Texas Tech’s plans to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

I have to ask: Is this all bad? Is this a reason to toss aside the city’s leadership?

It’s not that everything is peachy in Amarillo. Sure, there are problems. What American city doesn’t have them? The city needs to devote more money and attention to long-neglected neighborhoods, but I hear that the city is aiming to do precisely that.

I keep hearing whispers about feather-bedding, favoritism and assorted accusations of malfeasance. So help me it sounds like sour grapes from those who aren’t deriving some sort of direct financial benefit from all the good that is occurring in the city.

This economic system of ours means that individuals benefit as well as the community at large. I see Amarillo Matters as the positive influence it purports to be. Thus, I do not grasp the basis for the negativity coming from those who seek further “change” in the direction the city has taken.

From my perspective, the city is doing just fine.

Amarillo channeling OKC?

I’m hearing some similar-sounding economic rumblings from two places: Amarillo, Texas and Oklahoma City.

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Herrick, active in Amarillo Matters, a pro-business political action group, writes this via Twitter: You mean the same OKC that first built a downtown ballpark, then attracted a minor league team and kicked off a revitalization of downtown? And now they are attracting new hotels and investment because there is demand for the product?

I am going to surmise from Herrick’s message that downtown Oklahoma City is continuing to stir, to come to life, to enjoy the fruits of public investment.

Amarillo’s downtown district is beginning to rumble in much the same manner, again thanks to some public investment.

You see, OKC decided some years to invest some public money into construction of a new ballpark near what’s now called Bricktown in the downtown district. The ballpark is now home to the city’s AAA minor-league baseball franchise. Bricktown took off, too.

The city encouraged development of an entertainment district along a Canadian River tributary that flows through the downtown area. Abandoned warehouses were re-purposed. The city built a new sports venue downtown, where the Oklahoma City Thunder play NBA basketball before packed houses.

Life is good in downtown OKC.

So, where is Amarillo tracking these days? From my vantage point it appears that the city of my former residence well might be along the same track. Yes, I get that Amarillo doesn’t have a river running through its downtown district. I also understand the disparity in the size of the two communities: Amarillo has 200,000 residents; OKC is home to around 700,000. Still, there are signs of life to be seen in little ol’ Amarillo.

A downtown ballpark is under construction. The city has opened a first-class convention hotel. Polk Street is stirring back to life. Residents are moving into newly developed dwellings.

Where will the future take Amarillo? It needs to look just a bit eastward along Interstate 40, toward OKC, perhaps to get a clue.

Seliger re-focuses his re-election strategy

If you want to witness how the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is taking shape, those of us in West Texas need look no further than right here at home.

State Sen. Kel Seliger is in the midst of what could become a hard-fought GOP primary battle against two men who are trying to outflank the Amarillo lawmaker — on the right.

Seliger is having none of it.

This Facebook image tells me how Sen. Seliger is showing off his own brand of conservatism to voters who might have their doubts about him. I also have noticed a significant change in the tone of his TV ads of late.

There’s an ad showing Seliger talking about his desire to see local control have preference over the running of public education. Then he piles into a pickup and drives away; but then you notice a National Rifle Association sticker on this rear window as he puts the pedal to the metal.

Seliger’s two GOP foes — former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal — are getting backed by ultraconservative political action groups. Seliger isn’t relying on that kind of political activism, although Amarillo Matters — a local PAC — has signed on with its own endorsement and efforts to push Seliger across the primary election finish line well ahead of his challengers.

Let me be clear: I want Seliger to return to the Texas Senate, where he has served with clear-headed distinction since 2004.

Seliger’s endorsement from the NRA doesn’t exactly thrill me. I am no fan of the NRA and its hard-core resistance to any kind of legislation that seeks to end the scourge of gun violence. That group’s backing of Seliger, though, doesn’t dissuade me from backing his re-election bid.

What I find fascinating about Seliger is his knowledge of all the issues relating to the sprawling District 31, which runs from the very top of the Panhandle to the Permian Basin, which is about 400 miles — or about a seven-hour drive just one way. As I’ve noted, Seliger — a Borger native — is just as fluent in Permian Basin-speak as he is in Panhandle-speak.

His immediate political goal is to win the GOP primary in March outright. He doesn’t want to end up in a runoff. So, to avoid that possibility Seliger is highlighting his brand of conservative values. It’s not a holier-than-thou brand. Instead it is a level-headed realization of the constituency he represents.

If he is looking for any political advice on how to avoid a runoff, perhaps he should seek it from Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner, who in 2014 managed to win her primary race outright, with four other candidates on the ballot; and to think that Tanner pulled off that feat in her first political campaign.

Let it be said, too, that Sen. Seliger is no novice.

Is a vet school coming to the Panhandle?

Texas Tech University officials want to put a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s the word from the chancellor’s office and from others within the sprawling university system.

The notion has a couple of big obstacles. One of them involves money; the other involves politics.

First, the money obstacle.

The Texas Legislature has appropriated about $4 million to Texas Tech to start researching how it can install a large-animal veterinary school that would serve the Texas Panhandle and, indeed, the rest of the state and perhaps the tri-state region.

The hope would be for Panhandle residents to get their DVM degrees and then stay home to serve the community.

But Tech needs about $90 million more, according to Amarillo Matters, a political action group formed to speak on behalf of issues and officials who want to improve Amarillo and the surrounding region. Time isn’t on the side of Texas Tech. They don’t have much time to raise the money and they’re searching for the deepest pockets possible to help finance construction and development of the school.

I happen to believe a veterinary medical school makes perfect sense for Amarillo and the surrounding region. Texas Tech, based in Lubbock, is the ideal school to establish it, given that it already has medical school and pharmacy school campuses in the city. Indeed, the Tech School of Pharmacy came to being after the community ponied up a lot of money to show Tech that it had sufficient interest in the project. It has been a successful venture.

Now for the politics of it.

Texas A&M University doesn’t want Tech to proceed with a veterinary medicine school. Aggieland is totally opposed to Tech impinging on the monopoly that A&M has on veterinary education in Texas.

This interference doesn’t make sense.

There surely must be ample opportunity for a second top-tier university system to develop a veterinary medical school. Last time I looked, I noticed that Texas is a mighty big state, comprising more than 250,000 square miles and stretching more than 800 miles east-west and north-south.

Tech and A&M apparently haven’t yet worked out their differences. My hope is that Texas Tech wins out in this battle of university system wills.

Then the Tech System needs to find the rest of the money.

Amarillo (still) Matters

I had been wondering whatever became of Amarillo Matters, a political action group formed early this year to campaign for a slate of City Council candidates.

A High Plains Blogger post posed the question: Where have they gone?

Just wondering: Amarillo Matters … where is it?

I have some news. Amarillo Matters has re-emerged. It’s not exactly a scoop, but I’ll take a touch of credit for prompting Amarillo Matters to show itself again on the public landscape.

It’s now a 501(c)4 non-profit group, according to a press release issued by Amarillo Matters. It has some ideas on how to make life better in Amarillo. I certainly welcome Amarillo Matters back into view.

Amarillo Matters has elected a board of directors and it has chosen a president, Jason Herrick. The group’s press release talks about Amarillo Matters’ interest in promoting projects designed to improve the city’s economic well-being.

One particular project is one that caught my eye when I first heard about it: Texas Tech University’s proposal to build a large-animal veterinary medical school in Amarillo.

According to Amarillo Matters’ release: “We started working on this during the last legislative session. Our goal was to get funding in the state budget for a vet school in Amarillo,” Board Treasurer Andrew Hall said. More than $4 million was eventually allocated to Texas Tech to begin initial plans for a school. “This is the perfect example of the types of projects we are going to focus on. It’s something that will not only benefit Amarillo but the entire Panhandle and beyond,” Hall added. 

It’s fair ask: What can be wrong with that?

I have lamented about flashes in the pan that come and go on occasion in Amarillo. We hear from political candidates who emerge at election time; they lose and then they disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

The same can be said of the organization formerly known as the Amarillo Millennial Movement. It formed to pitch its support for the multipurpose event venue. The MPEV was put to a citywide referendum vote in November 2015; it passed and then the AMM went poof! when the young woman who founded the organization moved to Fort Worth.

I’m glad that Amarillo Matters has resurfaced in some other form.

The city already is undergoing a significant makeover in its downtown district. Mayor Ginger Nelson has declared her intention to clean up residential alleys that have become cluttered with trash. Interstates 40 and 27 both are under major construction, as is Loop 335 along its Hollywood Road right-of-way.

Amarillo Matters will retain its PAC status as well, as the release notes: The group … will be involved in local elections. “We’re going to limit the races to those that have a direct impact on our city, economy and future,” Herrick said. The PAC has been watching the upcoming primary election and is expected to issue endorsements soon. 

I suspect those “endorsements” will generate their share of public discourse, debate and perhaps even a little dissension.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Just wondering: Amarillo Matters … where is it?

A political action group emerged from nowhere earlier this year. It called itself Amarillo Matters. Its mission, as I understand it, was to elect a slate of candidates to the City Council.

It succeeded. This past spring, voters flipped the entire five-member council, electing five newbies. Amarillo Matters then seemingly packed its bags, and its members went back to whatever they were doing before they formed this political action committee.

They were mostly successful businessmen and women. Their agenda included electing individuals who shared their pro-business tilt. Hey, I have no problem with that.

There’s been some success in the months since the new council members took office. Chief among them is the landing of that AA minor-league baseball franchise that is relocating to Amarillo from San Antonio and will play baseball at the new ballpark that will be built in downtown Amarillo; they’ll toss the first pitch in April 2019.

That’s a big deal, man.

But what has become of Amarillo Matters? It’s no longer garnering headlines, or any discussion on local broadcast media. I looked at its website this evening. It’s still up. AM has a link where one can contribute money; I am not giving them any dough.

I’ve written plenty about them already:

http://highplainsblogger.com/?s=Amarillo+Matters

Given that I am unplugged from most of what’s going on at City Hall these days, I am left to use this blog to pose questions about some of the community’s key players.

I consider Amarillo Matters to be an important cog in the city’s civic machinery. I know many of the folks who formed the PAC’s leadership team earlier this year. I respect them, too.

I hope it hasn’t become what the Amarillo Millennial Movement turned out to be: a flash in the pan. AMM formed to promote the approval of the ballpark in the November 2015 municipal referendum. The measure passed — and AMM then vanished, vaporized, disappeared. Yes, I am aware that the AMM comprised essentially one individual, a young woman who moved to Fort Worth. But you get my point, yes?

Amarillo Matters, where are you and what are you doing to make sure that that Amarillo still, um, matters?