Tag Archives: DAI Inc.

City set for a smashing new year

Beth Duke is a longtime friend of mine; I’ve known her since January 1995 when I first moved to Amarillo, Texas, to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, where she was serving as features editor and later as city editor.

Thus, I feel safe in saying that Duke is doing what she now is getting paid to do: She is talking ever so positively about the prospects for the city’s downtown business and entertainment district. As director of Center City, that’s her job.

There. Having said that, I totally agree with her assessment that 2019 is shaping up as a potentially Earth-shattering year for the city’s downtown district, as work continues full throttle on projects aimed at injecting new life into the district.

I no longer live in Amarillo, but my interest in the progression of the city’s downtown rebirth hasn’t abated in the least. I am delighted at what I see happening there and to be candid, Duke and her organization have played a significant role in that effort.

According to the Globe-News: “Last year, 2018, was a great year for Center City with the construction of the MPEV (multipurpose event venue),” Duke said. “People can finally see what venue is a catalyst project.”

The Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new AA minor league baseball team, opens its Texas League season in early April. My hunch is that the ballpark under construction on Buchanan Street will be full on opening day. The “catalyst” hopefully will ignite lots of related activity downtown and, thus, boost the city’s image, fatten its wallet with sales tax revenue and provide the city with additional resources to develop other parts of the city.

Businesses are slated to begin filling the ground-floor storefronts at the parking garage that was erected across the street from the MPEV. Work has begun on the Barfield Building, turning that rotting structure into a Marriott hotel. It will join the Courtyards by Marriott at the Historic Fisk Building as a place that has breathed new life into a historic structure. The Embassy Suites hotel across from the Civic Center is attracting conventions.

Polk Street is coming back to life. Potter County’s refurbished courthouse is a thing of beauty and the county now is beginning to discuss openly options related to replacing the Courts Building.

Yes, I hear about some of the grumbling from those who want the city to invest in other neighborhoods and quit concentrating on downtown. I am empathetic to their concerns. My hope today is that City Hall is listening.

However, none of that should disparage the progress that’s been made downtown. My mantra remains the same as it always has been: Show me a city on the move and I am virtually certain that the city possesses a vital downtown district.

Amarillo clearly is on the move. Its downtown business district is setting the pace.

Pace quickens on downtown reshaping

Is it me or does the pace of downtown Amarillo’s transformation appear to be picking up steam?

I don’t get downtown as much as I used to, but the things I keep seeing and hearing give me hope that this Panhandle outpost city is getting its act in gear as it concerns the reshaping of its downtown profile.

Another storefront on Polk Street — the city’s one-time “main drag” — is getting a new tenant after being dark for longer than I can remember. The old Levine Building has some construction fencing around the ground floor and will be the site of yet another new eatery along Polk.

Crush is moving it location across from where it currently does business; we’re getting that two-story/over-under restaurant nearby; the Embassy Suites is continuing to progress; that parking garage next door is getting closer to completion, with retail outlets making lease arrangements to do business once they start parking vehicles inside.

West Texas A&M University is continuing to rip apart the old Commerce Building to transform that structure into a new WT downtown Amarillo campus.

I am acutely aware that much work needs to be done on major structures. The Barfield Building remains dark; and let’s not forget — if anyone will let us forget — the Herring Hotel, which remains the dream of its owner, Bob Goodrich.

But much of downtown’s face already has been lifted. By my way of thinking, so have some spirits been lifted as Center City continues its work to promote the downtown district. Much of the work done by what used to be called Downtown Amarillo Inc. — I am not clear on the status of that organization — is continuing at a steady pace.

I want to reiterate a critical point here. It is that a city’s health can be measured by the state of affairs in its downtown business/entertainment district. Look around Texas and you see cities working — with a wide range of success — at reviving their downtown districts. This isn’t rocket science, folks.

The proof of cities’ vitality can be found in any community that boasts a healthy central district. Fort Worth? Houston? San Antonio? They all are bustling.

Spare me the response that “We cannot be one of those cities. We aren’t that big.” I know that. My response is simply: economies of scale. We can produce a vital downtown district on a scale that fits a city of 200,000 residents.

What I am seeing is that we are proceeding toward that end.

Let us get busy, though, in getting some paperwork done to finalize that baseball franchise move from downstate to Amarillo so we can start work on that downtown ballpark.

Is the MPEV actually picking up some steam?


If you had asked me, oh, a month ago whether I thought the multipurpose event venue would begin gathering forward momentum so soon after a citywide vote, I’d have said, “not a chance.”

My concern was that foot-dragging would impede the MPEV’s progress, that the Local Government Corporation might begin looking for reasons to delay it.

Well, things might be working out all right after all.

Timeline set for MPEV

The LGC is beginning now to assign duties to city staffers charged with carrying the MPEV forward. Downtown Amarillo Inc. executive director Melissa Dailey has informed the LGC that her office has had informal contact with an organized minor-league baseball franchise that might be interested in moving to Amarillo and playing some old-fashioned hardball in the MPEV. Nothing is set. No deal is done. It’s just conversation, she said.

Then came an LGC decision, which was that it should pursue an affiliated team first rather than an independent team, such as the Amarillo Thunderheads, which has entered into a goofy decision next season to split its home schedule between Amarillo and Grand Prairie.

By all mean, LGC, pursue the affiliated team!

The LGC has been advised that time is not on its side. It has deadlines to meet, work to get done, firms to hire and construction to begin.

The LGC now aims to have the MPEV open for business by the start of the 2018 baseball season, perhaps March or April of that year.

Were some of us wrong about the LGC’s commitment to following through on the voters’ expressed desire to build the MPEV and the ballpark associated with it.

Man, I sure hope so.

Matney sets a principled example

downtown Ama Inc

Paul Matney’s resignation the other day from the Downtown Amarillo Inc. board demonstrated a high ethical standard that the former Amarillo College president has set for himself throughout his lengthy public life.

He joined a group formed to fight for approval of a Nov. 3 ballot measure that will decide the fate of a multipurpose event center being planned for downtown Amarillo. Then he quit the DAI board because, in his mind, the two roles presented a potential conflict of interest.

His keen attention to ethical detail should not be lost on others who find themselves facing a similar potential for conflict.

There appears to be another DAI board member who ought to look inward. He is Lester Simpson, who wears another important hat: publisher of the Amarillo Globe-News.

First, I must disclose that I left the Globe-News in August 2012 under unhappy circumstances created by an organizational restructuring that resulted in my resignation from a post I’d held at the newspaper for more than 17 years.

Where is the conflict?

Simpson gets paid to run a newspaper whose franchise is to report — and comment on — community affairs. The reporting must include a thorough examination of all the issues relating to those affairs — warts and all. The commentary ought to be critical when the need arises.

Simpson’s role on the DAI board gives him access to proprietary information that may be relevant to the public’s interest. Is he going to withhold that information from the newspaper he has run since 2002? Or is he going to be loyal first and foremost to the organization that pays his salary?

And what about the commentary, the newspaper’s other obligation? How does the newspaper look critically at decisions delivered by DAI if its chief executive officer — the publisher — is part of the process that produces a decision that the newspaper otherwise might feel compelled to criticize?

DAI’s mission statement says this: “Downtown Amarillo, Inc. is committed to making Downtown Amarillo a vibrant and attractive place for people to live, work, play and worship, while preserving Amarillo’s rich history and culture.”

That is a noble and worthy goal.

But the process that drives DAI to achieve that goal can produce criticism. Does DAI do everything perfectly? No. But the newspaper has had its hands tied because its publisher wears two hats.

With all the changes occurring in journalism these days — with the Internet robbing newspapers of paid subscribers and changing the very way that papers deliver the news — it is my fervent hope that the noble craft isn’t forsaking its time-honored principle of protecting the public interest.

An important line of demarcation between media watchdog and newsmaker is being blurred in Amarillo.

Paul Matney recognizes the potential for conflict when he sees it — and he reacted appropriately when he faced that potential head-on. Is the message being lost on one of his former DAI colleagues?


Matney does the right thing … as always


Paul Matney has been a pillar of Amarillo for far longer than the 20-plus years I’ve known him.

When I heard today that he resigned from a downtown Amarillo board over a potential conflict of interest, my first though was: Yep, that’s Paul. He usually follows the right path.

Matney joined a group that is promoting approval of the Nov. 3 advisory vote on whether to proceed with the multipurpose event venue. He also had served as a member of the Downtown Amarillo Inc., board, which is an arm of City Hall.

He’s now the co-chairman of Vote For Amarillo, which is launching a campaign promoting the MPEV.

Matney issued a statement that said, in part: “Even though I am serving Vote for Amarillo as a private and interested citizen, and not as a representative of DAI, in order to clear up any confusion, I believe the right thing to do is to resign from the DAI board. Thus, I have submitted my resignation from the DAI board.”

There’s enough confusion out there over this issue. There need not be any hint of it as it regards Paul Matney, a long-time educator and college administrator, whose last full-time job was as president of Amarillo College.

Matney’s standing in Amarillo is beyond reproach. His resignation from he DAI board demonstrates it.


Amarillo City Council gets its own gadfly

When you mention the word “gadfly,” you ought to think of someone who annoys the daylights out of you.

I’m beginning to see a trend developing among the five members of the Amarillo City Council. It is that a gadfly has sprouted wings among them.

Randy Burkett got blood pumping apparently at a city budget meeting this week when he challenged a 3.5-percent budget increase for the Downtown Amarillo Inc., the non-profit organization with which the city contracts to promote our downtown district.

Burkett is one of the three new guys elected to the council in May. I guess he dislikes DAI Inc. He told fellow council members DAI should get a decrease in its budget or perhaps be eliminated.

That got Mayor Paul Harpole excited and the two men exchanged tense words, with Harpole accusing Burkett of “electioneering.”

OK, folks. Change has arrived at the City Council.

That ol’ trick knee of mine is throbbing once again and it’s telling me that we’re going to hear a good more from this new fellow as he seeks to get under the skin of his fellow council members.

I guess at this point I ought to mention the Facebook exchange he had with a member of a group called Amarillo Millennial Movement, a group of young residents who want the city to proceed with its downtown revitalization plans, which include the multipurpose event venue that the council voted 3-1 this week to refer to the voters for their decision on whether to build the MPEV.

I’ve lived in Amarillo for more than 20 years. I’ve spent most of that time commenting on policy decisions from City Hall, attending city government meetings, interacting with municipal officials. I’ve seen my share of contrarians holding elective office at City Hall. The late commissioners Dianne Bosch and Jim Simms come to mind.

But something is beginning to gnaw at me about the chemistry — or the lack thereof — that’s developing among the five men who set municipal policy. It’s palpably different than what we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

If this budget meeting exchange between Harpole and Burkett is an indicator of what’s to come over the course of the next two years, you are welcome to count me as someone who dislikes the change that has plopped itself down at City Hall.

And it’s fair to ask: Is this really and truly what Amarillo voters wanted when they elected this new majority, which includes an individual who seeks to become the City Council’s chief gadfly?

Convention expert says: Your downtown plan won’t work

I’ve got to hand it to those who are seeking to promote a comprehensive effort to rebuild, remake and revive downtown Amarillo.

They are unafraid to hear contrary views.

They got quite a few of them Monday night when Heywood Sanders came to Amarillo to speak to them about plans to build a convention hotel downtown. Sanders, an expert on these matters, said it’s a waste of time, money and effort.


Sanders spoke to the City Council, Downtown Amarillo Inc., and the Local Government Corporation. Two of those three entities have serious designs on pressing forward; the council, with its new majority, has been thrown into the “undecided” category, at least for now.

I believe it’s fair to pose a couple of thoughts about Professor Sanders’ visit.

One deals with how deeply he looked into the specifics of what’s being proposed for Amarillo. Was he relying chiefly on his extensive research into the general notion of convention centers. He’s written a book, “Convention Center Follies,” which I understand debunks the notion that convention hotels boost communities’ economy.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this visit centers on the organization that invited Professor Sanders. It came from the TEA Party Patriots of Amarillo. Readers of this blog know that I like to capitalize “TEA” as in TEA Party, because the letters comprise an acronym that stands for “taxed enough already.”

The TEA Party branches throughout the nation tend to stand strongly opposed to government-initiated or sponsored projects.

The three-pronged downtown project — the multipurpose event venue, the downtown hotel and the parking garage — is being billed as a private-enterprise endeavor. However, the government is involved, as the Amarillo EDC is providing incentives and the city intends to use hotel-motel tax to help maintain the MPEV and the downtown Embassy Suites hotel that’s being proposed.

Did the TEA Party hosts look for someone who’d back up their anti-government agenda?

I did not attend the meeting Monday night, so I won’t critique the specifics of what Professor Sanders said.

Still, it was instructive to hear from someone with knowledge of these things. I’m glad the various pro-downtown project principals were willing to hear what he had to say.