Tag Archives: Ellen Robertson Green

Is this a one-issue race for governor?

Honest to goodness, I usually don’t vote for public office based on a single issue. I regret, though, that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott might have tossed at my feet the one issue that might make me vote against him.

Gov. Abbott said not long ago that the Texas Legislature needs to rescind its earlier approval for cities in the state to deploy red-light cameras at dangerous intersections to help deter motorists from running through stop lights.

If he’s re-elected, Abbot said he would ask the 2019 Legislature to pull the plug on the cameras that have been deployed in cities across the state.

To be fair, I have been looking for a reason to support Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez. The campaign for governor has been so devoid of compelling issues, I cannot commit fully to supporting the former Dallas County sheriff.

Back to Abbott … I wish he wouldn’t have ignited the red-light camera discussion. I continue to support cities’ attempts to deploy this technological ally in their effort to curb dangerous motorists’ behavior. Amarillo, where my wife and I lived until this past spring, is one of those cities.

A former city commissioner, Ellen Robertson Green, once declared that the best way for motorists to avoid getting slapped with the $75 fine is for them to “stop running red lights.” Duh!

Abbott says the cameras haven’t improved traffic safety sufficiently. He said something, too, about an increase in rear-end wrecks at intersections as motorists try to avoid running through yellow lights that turn red.

What about city officials’ concerns about the hazards created by those who continue to run through these street lights? And don’t Texas Republicans traditionally cede these decisions to local authorities, preferring to keep the state out of matters that can be decided locally?

I’m still grappling with how I’m going to go on this race for governor. I hate the idea of leaving that ballot spot vacant when it comes time to vote.

I also hate deciding an important election campaign on the basis of a single issue. However, if I must …

Lesson learned from camera


I once told Ellen Robertson Green that she was my “favorite Amarillo city commissioner.”

Heck, I even wrote it in a column for the newspaper.

Why the statement of respect? It was her blunt retort to those who came before the City Commission to bitch about the deployment of those pesky red-light cameras at intersections around the city.

She told them, in effect, to stop griping and simply obey the law and “don’t run through the red lights.”

Ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing!

Well, I learned that lesson myself — the hard way.

I got careless. I wasn’t paying attention. I apparently zipped through a red light without being aware of it. The camera caught me red-handed.

I’ve made a personal vow to be more attentive on the road. Indeed, I should thank the city more forcefully now for deploying the technology.

Therefore, I shall to do so right now. Right here.

Thank you for humbling me and for giving me even more reason to pay attention to what the heck I’m doing while I’m driving through Amarillo.

OK. I’m done commenting on this now.

Lesson learned.

College needs to own its policies


Some issues just aren’t adding up regarding the matter of Amarillo College’s hiring policies, which now have become the subject of community discussion.

Who’s in charge of administering and enforcing those policies? Aren’t there some others at AC who should be held accountable for this embarrassing development?

Ellen Robertson Green quit her job as AC vice president for marketing and communication after it was revealed that she allegedly violated AC nepotism rules by hiring her daughter to work as a content producer for Panhandle PBS, the college’s public TV station.

Green supervised Panhandle PBS. Her daughter, thus, reported directly to her mother.

That violated the school’s rules against nepotism.

I’ve already declared my own stake in this matter, given that until recently I worked as a freelance blogger for Panhandle PBS and that I consider Green to be a friend.

I now am an outsider looking at this situation from some distance.

However, I do know that everyone works for someone else.

Green didn’t operate in a hermetically sealed environment at AC. I’m going to take a bit of a leap here and presume that the college has qualified and competent legal counsel advising senior administrators of matters that might cause problems.

Thus, I am unclear as to why Green is taking the fall by herself by resigning her post at AC, particularly after the college terminated her daughter’s employment when reports of this policy violation became known.

The way I see it, if the school fired her daughter, that ends the nepotism problem right off the top.

Green was one of several VPs at the school who report directly to AC President Russell Lowery-Hart. Was the president unaware of the hire? Did he let it go? If he was unaware, why was he kept in the dark?

I fear the questions will linger for a time longer and cast a growing shadow over a public institution that — until just recently — had enjoyed a stellar reputation throughout the community it serves.

It’s time to clear the air.



Red-light cameras don’t blink

red light cams

A legal challenge to Texas cities’ deployment of cameras to stop red-light runners has come to an end.

It was tossed out. The case had been filed out of Fort Worth, but it affected all the cities that are using the cameras.

That includes Amarillo.

Now, can we just stop yapping and yammering about these devices?

I continue to support the use of the cameras. It’s not that I cherish the thought of people getting pinched. It’s that I hope knowledge of the cameras at specific intersections eventually will deter motorists from running through the red lights and putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk of getting injured … or killed!

I keep falling back on the comments delivered by my one-time favorite Amarillo City Council member, Ellen Robertson Green. She scolded protesters who were griping about the red-light cameras, telling them flat out that all they to do to avoid getting caught was not obey the law and not run the red lights.

State law is clear: Money raised by the devices must be dedicated to improving traffic in the city. The Legislature tinkered and toyed with the idea of revoking cities’ ability to deploy the cameras. Then it backed off for lack of support. That was a good deal.

Cities should be allowed to determine whether to use the cameras if they perceive a red-light running problem. Amarillo identified such a problem and took steps to deter it.

Let’s allow the system to keep working.

'Getting rid' of good ol' boy system

Someone posted this thought on social media the other day, but it’s worth a brief comment here.

The comment was about the Amarillo City Council election and the calls from several non-incumbents to get rid of what’s called the “good ol’ boy system” of Amarillo politics.

So, what did voters do? They tossed out the two women who serve on the council: Ellen Robertson Green and Lilia Escajeda. They will be replaced by two men: Elisha Demerson and Randy Burkett, respectively.

It’s one of the puzzling aspects of the election.

I realize that “good ol’ boy” doesn’t necessarily describe the gender of those who are part of the system. It’s meant to characterize the back-slapping and the implied agreement that all have with each other any issue that comes before them.

But an all-male City Council is going to include a dynamic that the body hasn’t had in quite a number of years. It will lack a female perspective.

I think the city will become lesser because of it.

Change has come to Amarillo City Hall

I’m going to wait before passing any judgment on the new Amarillo City Council lineup.

A couple of obvious changes are worth noting, so I’ll do so here.

Two women were voted off the council: Ellen Robertson Green and Lilia Escajeda. They lost to men. So an all-male council will be making decisions affecting Amarillo taxpayers’ lives.

There’s something a bit unsettling about that prospect.

As a red-blooded American male myself, it’s not that I think the five men set to serve are all bad. But I do trust women’s judgment.

Ellen Green, for example, offered up my favorite retort to those who were yapping their discontent about the red-light cameras the city has deployed at various intersections. Her answer? Don’t run the red lights and you won’t have anything to worry about. Who in the world can argue with that?

The fellow who defeated Green in Place 1, Elisha Demerson, made history by becoming the city’s first African-American council member. He once served on the Potter County Commissioners Court, as a commissioner and later for a single term as county judge. His record as county judge came under scrutiny during the municipal campaign. It didn’t gain any traction with voters who elected him anyway.

It’s worth keeping our eye, though, on his relationship with the guy who won in Place 3, Randy Burkett, who defeated Escajeda. Burkett, it turns out, has some pretty caustic views about issues involving race relations, as was revealed late in the campaign on his Facebook page.

Will these men be able to work together? They appear to have widely differing world views. City policy, though, would seem to require them to set those differences aside. The City Council, after all, is a non-partisan body.

Demerson and Burkett both talked about accountability and transparency. Mayor Paul Harpole was re-elected and he, too, has talked openly about the need for transparency. Returning Place 2 Councilman Brian Eades brings some continuity to the new council. Mark Nair and Steve Rogers are running off against each other for the Place 4 seat.

It’s a new council, all right. Time will tell whether voters have made a good investment or purchased the proverbial pig in a poke.


Does election diminish need to rethink voting plan?

Elisha Demerson’s election to the Amarillo City Council made history.

It also might have taken a bit of the bite out of those who think the city should revamp its voting plan to create a single-member district for its council members.

I am continuing to consider that a change in the city’s voting plan is in order.

My long-standing support of the city’s at-large system continues to waver, even though Demerson’s election as an African-American candidate in the current system might augur against such a change.


I’m not keen on creating four single-member districts, while electing the mayor at-large. If I were King of the World, I’d consider expanding the council by two places, giving it six council member and electing two of the six at-large while dividing the city into four wards.

Other cities have done something like with varying degrees of success.

Indeed, Demerson’s victory is a ringing triumph for those in Amarillo who’ve declared that it’s virtually impossible for a minority candidate to win an at-large contest. The city’s black population comprises less than 10 percent of the total.

But think also about this: While Demerson was defeating incumbent Ellen Green in Place 1, Lilia Escajeda — the council’s sole Hispanic member — lost her seat to challenger Randy Burkett.

Does her loss lessen the joy that minorities are feeling today over Demerson’s victory?

Hey, I’m just askin’.


Demerson scores historic win

Say whatever you want about the tone, tenor and tenacity of the campaign between City Councilman-elect Elisha Demerson and the incumbent he defeated today, Ellen Robertson Green.

Demerson’s victory is historic in that an African-American has been elected to a citywide public office.

The city’s at-large voting plan has been a point of contention among civil rights groups, minority-oriented political action organizations and citizens interested in changing the plan to a single-member district voting plan.

They’ve contended the at-large plan puts minority candidates at a disadvantage. Amarillo’s black population is less than 10 percent, so it stands to reason — those activists contend — that black candidates fare poorly when they put their names up before a voting public that doesn’t “identify” with them.

The League of United Latin American Citizens sued the Amarillo school district in 1998 to create a single-member voting plan for the school system. LULAC and the school district then agreed on a cumulative voting compromise plan that later was adopted by Amarillo College’s Board of Regents.

Well, perhaps we can put that “minorities can’t win in Amarillo” rationale to bed.

Demerson scored a solid victory. The voting turnout still was pitiful. None of the City Council winners can claim an absolute majority supports their election. What they all got was a majority of a slim minority of voters’ support.

It’s true as well that Demerson had been elected already to a countywide office when he became Potter County judge in 1987. So, he’s no stranger to bucking stiff electoral odds.

He’s just blazed a new trail along Amarillo’s political path.