Tag Archives: Paul Matney

Amarillo has a ‘walking problem’

A retired college administrator manages routinely to put pressing public matters into their proper perspective.

Take it away, former Amarillo College President Paul Matney.

Matney is an avid supporter of the downtown Amarillo ballpark/multipurpose event venue. He spoke eloquently and passionately about it leading up to the November 2015 non-binding referendum in which voters approved its construction.

He took note Wednesday morning of the $45 million ballpark’s construction, which is scheduled to commence early in 2018, while discussing some issues at a focus group session involving potential activities for older Amarillo residents.

Matney knows a thing or two about parking, given his many years affiliated with AC, where parking — particularly at its main campus on Washington Street — has been a chronic issue for students over many years.

He spoke of public concerns stated about downtown parking once the MPEV is built. He took particular note of the 750-space parking garage that’s being completed on Buchanan Street across from where the MPEV will be erected. He also noted that downtown Amarillo has more than 2,000 parking spaces within three blocks of the MPEV. He didn’t mention the on-site parking that will be available once the MPEV is built … so I’ll do it here.

Matney then quoted one of his AC presidential predecessors, who once said, according to Matney, that “Amarillo doesn’t have a parking problem; it has a walking problem.”

Bingo! Ba-da-boom!

You got it, Mr. President!

The MPEV will continue to have its critics. I understand their concern, even though I fear they aren’t looking at the bigger picture. They look at potholes in the street wonder why the city won’t fix them when it is devoting so much attention to the MPEV and other downtown projects. It’s kind of an apples-oranges deal.

I do believe, though, that the pro-MPEV contingent of business, civic and political leaders need to keep Paul Matney’s phone number on their speed-dial. When questions arise about the MPEV, just call him and ask him for his take on them.

He’ll set anyone straight.

Social media turn ‘friends’ into friends

social-media-people

Social media, particularly Facebook, have this way of turning acquaintances into something more significant than that.

If we’re not actual friends in the manner I prefer to use the term, then at least we are able to communicate on a little higher level than just exchanging banal pleasantries and talking about the weather.

Take for example what happened today.

I ran into someone with whom I’ve been acquainted on Facebook, although we knew each other very casually in an earlier part of our lives. We shook hands.

“I enjoy reading your blogs on Facebook,” he said. “I don’t comment on political things because I know I won’t change anyone’s mind, so what’s the point?” he continued.

“But I guess you’ve found out that our community is full of comedians,” he said. We both chuckled at that.

I told him I don’t write these blogs to change people’s minds. I write because it’s therapy for me.

Some people climb aboard motorcycles for what one biker-friend calls “throttle therapy.” Others go to the gym and pound on punching bags for another form of therapy.

Writing is my bag, man.

I did it for nearly four decades back when I was working for a living. My full-time writing gig ended abruptly — and unhappily, for me at least — nearly four years ago.

I’m still at it. And gladly so.

Which brings me to my actual point.

This blog of mine isn’t intended to change anyone’s mind. I get that everyone’s bias informs their own world view. I also get that the media already are full of talking heads, “contributors” and “political strategists” who fill the air with their opinions.

The only time in recent memory I’ve heard of anyone mind being changed on an issue involved the Amarillo municipal election this past year. Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney came to our Rotary club and made a pitch for the multipurpose event venue. A friend of mine, a hard-nosed Amarillo businesswoman, told me later Matney’s presentation changed her mind from a “no” vote to a “yes” vote on the MPEV.

I wrote about that event:

A mind has changed on the MPEV

No one has come to me ever and said, “You know, John, that blog you wrote about what a bozo Donald Trump is really got me thinking. I’m going to vote for anyone now other than that guy based on what you wrote.”

I do not expect that to happen. Ever!

That’s not why I write this stuff. I do it because I like doing it. It comes fairly easily … now that I’ve been writing many times daily since my full-time job ended.

I appreciated my Facebook “friend” saying what he did today. It means a lot that he gets something out of these musings of mine.

But, no, I don’t expect to convert anyone.

I call myself an idealist on a lot of issues.

On this one? I’m a hard-bitten realist.

I won’t stop offering my view of the world. You can take it or leave it.

See you next time.

 

Obama fails to channel LBJ

claire

Claire McCaskill calls herself a “friend and supporter” of Barack Obama.

But the Democratic U.S. senator from Missouri has issued a candid assessment of the job her fellow Democrat has done as president of the United States.

The president’s major failing, according to McCaskill? He did not learn how to work with Congress.

The Hill reports on McCaskill’s remarks about Obama: “But one of the president’s shortcomings is that sometimes he sees the world through his eyes and doesn’t do, I think, enough work on being empathetic about how other people view things.”

McCaskill blisters president

In truth, McCaskill might be a bit behind the curve when critiquing the job the president has done.

I don’t think he’d mind my saying this, but a now-retired college administrator told me much the same thing during the president’s first term in office.

Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney and I were having lunch one day when Matney lamented the president’s testy relationship with congressional leaders. Matney wished that the president would employ the skill that the late President Lyndon Johnson used to great effect.

Johnson, of course, rose from the Senate to the executive branch of government, as Obama has done. LBJ served as vice president from 1961 until Nov. 22, 1963. Then he became president in the wake of tragedy.

When LBJ moved into the Oval Office, he harnessed all his legislative skill to shepherd landmark legislation through Congress. He was a master of working not just with fellow Democrats, but with Republicans.

Matney bemoaned that President Obama had not developed that kind of bipartisan rapport and it cost him dearly.

McCaskill now — near the end of Barack Obama’s presidency — echoes much of what Paul Matney said years ago. LBJ’s legacy, which was tainted for many years after he left office in 1969 by the Vietnam War, is beginning to look better all the time.

He understood that he needed the legislative branch to make government work, that he couldn’t do it all alone.

As Sen. McCaskill has noted, Barack Obama hasn’t seemed to have learned that lesson.

 

Hey, maybe Amarillo really is a baseball town

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Paul Matney seems to be a serious expert on baseball and its potential interest in his hometown.

The retired Amarillo College president hit the stump this fall to campaign for approval of a multipurpose event venue in downtown Amarillo. Part of Matney’s pitch was that Amarillo “is a baseball town.”

The MPEV received voters’ endorsement on Nov. 3 in a non-binding municipal referendum. The Amarillo City Council then ratified the results and voted unanimously to proceed with development of the MPEV.

Then, what do you think was revealed just this week?

Melissa Dailey, head of Downtown Amarillo Inc., told the Local Government Corporation that, by golly, she’s had some informal contact with a Class AA minor-league baseball franchise that might be interested in setting up an operation in Amarillo.

Dailey said she is not at liberty — yet! — to disclose the name of the franchise. She said the city is on a “short list” of communities being considered.

Hey, didn’t Paul Matney predict this might happen if voters approved the MPEV?

Yes, I believe he did.

The LGC is moving forward, per the City Council’s advice. It will report to the council regularly as it continues its work toward developing the $32 million MPEV.

And now the conversation might include a minor-league baseball outfit, with major-league connections, that could move into the MPEV once it’s built.

Who knew?

Oh yeah. Paul Matney seemed to be ahead of the curve.

 

Potter County ballpark: not worth any more effort

baseball

So … I’m visiting with a health care professional and the discussion about the topic at hand comes to an end.

The conversation then turns to the city’s effort to build a multipurpose event venue downtown — which includes the ballpark that would be the home field for a minor-league baseball team.

My acquaintance — who favors the downtown MPEV — then mentions the Potter County Memorial Stadium next to the Tri-State Fairgrounds. “I’ve heard the argument that we should pump more money into that ballpark,” he says. I shake my head and tell him, “But it’s a dump!”

He agrees, adding that the Potter County already has pumped too much money into the ballpark as it is and then he broaches a subject that few individuals seem willing to address: It’s in a depressed neighborhood that is unlikely to see any kind of revival any time soon.

What’s the point, he asks, of putting more money into that ballpark when the city hopes to build a new venue downtown?

Bingo! Presto! Enough said! Those are the thoughts that banged around my noggin at that very moment.

The Potter County-owned ballpark, in the words of retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, “at the end of its life.” The clock should be ticking on that venue. Its best days are long gone. It is held together with the proverbial equivalent of rubber bands, wire, duct tape and perhaps a staple or two.

Matney made the case all over Amarillo as he campaigned successfully on behalf of the non-binding citywide referendum that voters approved on Nov. 3. The MPEV, with its current price tag of around $32 million, will be built eventually — at least that’s my hope.

Let’s no longer discuss the Potter County Memorial Stadium as having any kind of meaningful future for the county, or the city, or any other entity.

The county has put enough money into it already.

It’s time to look to the future.

 

MPEV argument making more sense

matney

Paul Matney did not say this directly as he was touring Amarillo on behalf of a proposed multipurpose event venue, but I think I have gleaned a message from his pro-MPEV pitch.

It is that if we build a shiny new baseball park in downtown Amarillo we’re going to attract the attention of a serious, well-funded minor-league baseball franchise that can come here to run a team the right way — and not the way it’s being run these days.

I refer to the decision to combine the Amarillo Thunderheads with the Grand Prairie AirHogs and to split the 2016 baseball season between two locations, nearly 400 mile apart.

I believe I now get what the retired Amarillo College president was getting at.

Amarillo’s baseball fan base deserve better than to be treated to this clown show.

They haven’t broken any ground yet on the MPEV. The $32 million venue has been (more or less) endorsed by the Amarillo City Council, which has handed off implementing the development of the project to the Local Government Corporation.

I’m not certain how this combined franchise location thing is going to work for the owner of the Thunderheads/AirHogs. My gut tells me it’s a loser.

It well might give MPEV supporters additional grist to expedite the development of the new ballpark, to get it built, to market the city to the owner of a legitimate Class AA franchise and return serious minor-league baseball to Amarillo.

Hey, maybe this franchise combo deal can be a blessing after all.

 

Positive vs. negative in MPEV debate

amarillo MPEV

Amarillo’s campaign on the multipurpose event venue is heading for the home stretch. Early voting ends Friday.

A week from today, the polls open and those who haven’t voted early will get a chance to vote on whether to build an MPEV that includes a ballpark, a place where a minor league baseball team can play a little ball for about 50 or 60 dates annually.

Have you heard about an alternative to the ballpark if voters nix the notion? Me neither.

Which brings to the point today: The Against Crowd hasn’t delivered an alternative. It has, as near as I can tell, relied on a purely negative message.

That’s expected. An “anti-anything” campaign by definition must be negative. You don’t like something? Say “no.”

On the other side of the divide is the pro-MPEV group. The leading advocates belong to something called Vote FOR Amarillo. The very name implies a positive message.

And that message is?

Well, as its leading spokesman, retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney, has stressed: The MPEV will put Amarillo on baseball’s “radar” by providing a first-rate sports venue; it will create several dozen permanent jobs and hundreds of temporary construction jobs; the bonds to pay for the $32 million construction will be retired using hotel/motel tax revenue; it will become an essential element in downtown Amarillo’s rebirth; and that rebirth will spur further economic expansion throughout the city; the MPEV could play host to a variety of activities throughout the year that have nothing to do with baseball.

That’s a positive message, yes?

Of course it is.

Those who oppose the MPEV say the Civic Center needs renovation first. How do we pay for that? With, um, public money. They contend the city shouldn’t acquire debt to build an MPEV, but don’t seem to mind acquiring such debt on the Civic Center, with a cost that will far exceed the price tag attached to the MPEV.

They keep bringing up things such as secrecy, nefarious motives, the failed master developer (who was nowhere in sight when the MPEV idea was first floated around 2006).

If only we could hear some options from those who oppose the MPEV — for whatever reason.

If there are alternatives on some hidden table, then let’s not talk among yourselves. Share them with the rest of us.

I’m planning on going with the positive message.

 

Heavy early interest in MPEV vote bodes well

early voting

I’m going to set aside my bias in favor of downtown Amarillo’s proposed multipurpose event venue for a moment … or maybe two.

Instead, I want to offer high praise for the apparently strong interest in the upcoming election.

The MPEV is on the citywide ballot Nov. 3. It’s a non-binding referendum that will ask voters if they want to proceed with an MPEV that includes a ballpark component.

You know my feelings on it. I’m all in on the proposed $32 million project. I have favored it from the beginning.

But the point here is that the early portion of the early vote seems to suggest a greater-than-normal interest in this issue.

On one hand, that’s not saying much, given the pitiful, abysmal and disgraceful turnout percentages that usually greet municipal elections in Amarillo.

We elected a City Council this past May with a turnout that barely cracked double-digits. And yet the winners all declared some kind of mandate for change. I don’t buy the mandate part.

Yes, I honor and respect the results, as they reflected a majority of those who turned out. The reality, though, is that it was a majority of a tiny minority of those who not only were registered to vote, but who were eligible to vote. When you factor in the voter eligibility number, the percentage of turnout plummets even further.

The early turnout for the MPEV vote appears to be bucking the norm in Amarillo, where folks traditionally have let others decide these issues.

This morning I happened to ask Paul Matney, the retired Amarillo College president who’s now co-chairing the Vote FOR Amarillo effort to win an MPEV endorsement at the polls about the early surge in turnout.

He offered a couple of ideas. One is that it might be a backlash against some of the negativity that’s been occurring at City Hall. He wonders whether voters might be saying they’ve had enough of the back-biting that has accompanied the three newest council members’ involvement in public policy discussions. Voter might not be necessarily in favor of the MPEV, but they want to send a message to City Hall that they’re sick and tired of the negative commentary, Matney wondered.

He also wonders whether there’s an actual positive turnout in favor of the MPEV … or if there’s the reverse taking place, that voters are expressing genuine anger.

He shrugged today and said, “I just don’t know” what’s driving the turnout.

Whatever the case, both sides of the divide have said the same thing: Be sure to vote. Make your voice heard. Speak out with your ballot.

That’s wise advice, no matter how you feel about the MPEV.

 

 

MPEV can boost baseball fortunes for city

MPEV

Paul Matney is a diehard baseball fan.

He admits to it readily, telling audiences how — as a high school student — he used to post the scores along the outfield wall at the old Potter County Memorial Stadium.

Matney, who grew up to become president of Amarillo College, also tells the story of how he saw the great Willie Mays — yep, that Willie Mays — get picked off at second base during an exhibition game between the San Francisco Giants and the Cleveland Indians.

Matney, who’s now co-chairing a political action group called Vote FOR Amarillo, is making the case on behalf of the multipurpose event venue that’s up for a non-binding vote Nov. 3. City residents are going to decide if they want an MPEV — which includes a baseball park — built in downtown Amarillo. It’s a non-binding vote, but the City Council would commit political suicide if it went against the wishes of the voters, which makes the vote politically binding.

I got to hear Matney’s pitch once more this morning and he is as convincing as he’s been all along.

Amarillo has been a baseball town for many decades. It can be a great baseball town yet again if we build a venue that can attract the interest and attention of Major League Baseball executives looking for a place to develop a minor-league baseball affiliate.

Amarillo can be ripe for such a relationship, Matney said.

The Amarillo Thunderheads — for whom Matney moonlights as a public address announcer — is an independent non-affiliated outfit that plays in a venue that Matney said is “at the end of its life.” That’s a nice way of saying what many of us have known for a very long time: Potter County’s stadium is a dump. Why don’t more fans attend Thunderheads baseball games? Look at the place where they play.

Matney mentioned how a visiting team — on the advice of its manager and coaches — changed into its uniforms at the hotel where it was staying, rather than doing so in the visitors’ clubhouse.

The MPEV is slated to cost around $32 million. It will be paid for with revenue bonds, which will be retired through hotel/motel tax and sales tax revenue. Matney insisted yet again that “no property taxes will be used” to pay for the stadium.

He described the MPEV as a vital component to the convention hotel that is planned for downtown, along with a parking garage. The Embassy Suites hotel owner is footing the bill himself — with help from investors — for the $45 million hotel.

The parking garage feature 24,000 square feet of retail space and it will be financed through rental and parking fees.

The MPEV, baseball park — or whatever you want to call it — can become a vital component to downtown Amarillo’s rebirth. What’s more, if downtown sees an infusion of new life, the energy will ripple throughout the city.

As Matney noted, using the cliché, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

In this case, such a saying is more than just a string of words. It speaks to the future of our city.

Play ball!

 

Early vote numbers for MPEV election … way up!

early voting

The early indications from both sides of the line dividing Randall and Potter counties in Amarillo are encouraging … I hope.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election is way up over what it was for the municipal elections this past May. I’m quite sure the Texas constitutional amendment proposals aren’t pulling voters to the polls in the early balloting.

What’s more, the 3,063 voters who cast ballots during the first two days is just a shade less than the 3,151 who voted in the first two days of early voting in the 2014 general election — when we were voting for governor.

The multipurpose event venue is pulling voters to the polls.

Is that a good thing? Well, I hope it is.

And by “good,” I hope that means that those who support the MPEV as it’s been presented are turning out. Do I know who’s turning out? Of course not.

Me? I ain’t voting until Nov. 3, which is Election Day. I hate early voting. I prefer to wait until the last minute.

Back to issue at hand.

The early vote totals should bode well for the pro-MPEV side. I count myself among them. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. Then again, when I say “should,” I am not necessarily predicting that’s what happening, but instead hoping for what I want to happen.

I’ve been trying to parse through all the arguments for and against the MPEV. I’ve heard the skeptics, the naysayers, the conspiracy theorists. I have sought to examine the issue inside, outside, forward and back.

I keep coming back to this conclusion:

We’re hoping to build a $32 million venue that includes a ballpark in downtown Amarillo; the money will be paid back with hotel/motel tax revenue generated by out-of-town visitors; a hotel developing is plunking down $45 million of investors’ money to build a four-diamond hotel; we’re hoping to build a parking garage with revenue bonds that also will be repaid with hotel/motel tax money.

Property taxes will not increase.

This is a classic public-private partnership that’s seen success throughout the nation. Amarillo’s civic and political leadership has not reinvented the wheel with this project. It’s merely done something new … for Amarillo!

I see virtually no downside to this project. I’ve been on board since the beginning and I have grown weary of the cynics who just know it isn’t going to work.

How do they know it? They just do.

I am going to put my faith in the hard work that’s been done to date.

Furthermore, I am going to continue to hope that the pro-MPEV political action groups have done their spade work and have mounted a massive get-out-the-vote effort that well might be showing itself in these impressive early-vote totals.

As Paul Matney, co-chair of Vote FOR Amarillo, said the other day, the early vote will set the trend. When the city spits out those first early-vote numbers on Election Day after the polls close, we’ll know where the MPEV is headed.

I’m hoping for the best.