Tag Archives: Paul Matney

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


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.


A mind has changed on the MPEV

amarillo MPEV

A most interesting message came to me this evening.

It was from a businesswoman I’ve known for many years. She and I listened the other day to Paul Matney make the case for the multipurpose event venue that’s going to be on the Nov. 3 Amarillo ballot.

Voters are going to be asked whether to approve the MPEV and its ballpark design. My businesswoman friend had opposed the MPEV. Then she changed her mind. She told me that Matney’s presentation made her reconsider her opposition to the MPEV.

It reminded me of something the late Republican state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo once told about his former Texas Senate colleague, Democrat Carl Parker of Port Arthur, was able to do … which was to change senators’ minds simply by the force of his own debating skills while arguing his case on the floor of the Senate.

It’s a rare thing to watch happen, Bivins said, but Parker was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

I don’t know that I’d ever witnessed such a compelling presentation, either before I heard Matney’s presentation. Then again, he was preaching to the converted already … that would be me.

Matney’s passion for whatever cause that’s on his radar can be a wondrous thing to see and hear. The former Amarillo College president became an ardent proponent of the school he led and he spoke with fluid eloquence about AC whenever he was given the chance.

He apparently has developed the same fluidity as he campaigns across Amarillo on behalf of the MPEV and the years-long effort to remake the city’s downtown business district. The MPEV with its ballpark design can play a huge role in downtown’s revival and Matney is delivering that message with stunning efficiency.

Believe me when I say that my friend whose mind has changed on the MPEV is not one to be pushed around easily.

I believe she might not be alone among those who are rethinking their view on this important project.

Positive message goes out on MPEV


Paul Matney is a positive man.

He spent his lengthy and distinguished public life telling the community that our glass was half full, not half empty. I’m sure he’s said a negative thing a time or two — or maybe three. In public, though, he offers a serene sense of optimism.

Taking the high ground

A group that Matney chairs has begun airing a 30-second spot on TV and on social media extolling the virtues of the proposed $32 million multipurpose event venue — which includes a ballpark — that Amarillo voters will decide on Nov. 3.

I’ve heard Matney say — again in public — that Vote FOR Amarillo will not resort to negative campaigning to sell the MPEV to the skeptics out there.

I believe he intends to be faithful to that pledge.

My hope is that the other side can do the same, although realistically it is impossible to argue against something without saying something negative about it.

I heard Matney over the course of many years stand before audiences and sing the praises of the educational institution he led. Amarillo College has enjoyed a remarkably high public standing in Amarillo while other public institutions — Amarillo City Hall, Randall and Potter counties, even the Amarillo public school system — occasionally have taken broadsides from constituents who are disaffected at some level.

Matney, of course, doesn’t deserve all the credit for AC’s high standing.

Look, I’m not a Pollyanna. I get that politics can be tough. It can get negative. The late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen called politics a “contact sport.”

I do hope, though, that the MPEV campaign that’s unfolding doesn’t drive a huge wedge between disparate community elements.  I am heartened to see that one side of that campaign has pledged to take the high ground.

If the other side is destined to go negative, then my hope is that they do so with honesty and integrity … and with an absence of demagoguery.


MPEV fight: Goliath vs. David

amarillo MPEV

Two groups have formed to carry the fight forward on Amarillo’s multipurpose event venue, which will be decided Nov. 3 in a non-binding municipal referendum.

Under normal circumstances, I’d be pulling for the underdog in such a contest, the one with little money, name ID or significant political backing.

Not this time.

In one corner is Vote FOR Amarillo, which is campaigning in favor of the $32 million MPEV, ballpark component and all. In the other corner is Amarillo Citizens for Tomorrow, which opposes the MPEV design.

VFA vs. ACT. There you have it.

As my friend Jon Mark Beilue reported in the Amarillo Globe-News on Sunday, the differences between the organizations go well beyond their respective views on the MPEV.

For example:

  • Paul Matney, a highly respected — and admired — former Amarillo College president and community leader, is leading the VFA effort; ACT doesn’t appear to have anyone leading it.
  • VFA has registered as a political action committee; ACT has not.
  • Matney and Wendi Swope are serving as spokespersons for VFA; ACT hasn’t designated anyone to speak for the group.
  • VFA has secured the backing of dozens of key community leaders, business groups and civic organizations; ACT calls itself a “grassroots organization.”

I am not going to denigrate the grassroots aspect of ACT’s political base. However, it is important — to me, at least — that a political action group is marching forward with critical backing from a diverse base of business and civic interests.

VFA wants the MPEV to proceed as it’s been presented. The ballpark will be more than a ballpark, Matney and others have declared. It could play host to a number of outdoor activities that could attract visitors to a revived downtown district.

One of the more curious arguments being offered by ACT has been its contention that hotel-motel tax revenue that would pay for the MPEV’s maintenance and operation would be “exhausted in a few years,” forcing the city to increase property taxes to pay for future Civic Center improvements and expansion. I’m not quite sure what one has to do with the other.

Even if the city were to expand and dress up the Civic Center first, it would do so with certificates of obligation or perhaps submit the proposal to voters for their decision on whether to approve a bond issue election. Either way, property taxes would come into play.

I continue to support the MPEV as it’s been developed and presented. Moreover, I will continue to put my faith in an effort led by someone with the credibility that Paul Matney has earned through his many years of service to his hometown.




MPEV campaign aims at older voters


I’m officially an old man now … not that I’m complaining.

A campaign flier arrived in the mail Wednesday. It comes from “Vote FOR Amarillo,” the organization formed to promote approval of a Nov. 3 ballot measure to decided the fate of the proposed multipurpose event venue slated for construction in downtown Amarillo.

“Dear Seniors” is how it’s addressed. The note is signed by none other than past Amarillo College President Paul Matney, who’s my age. He’s a longtime friend and is a key member of this political organization.

The pitch is pretty straightforward, but in actuality Matney is preaching to the choir, so to speak, when he offers these tidbits, which include:

The MPEV can be a successful venue for a number of activities, such as concerts, church services, charity walks, health fairs, car shows, fireworks displays. He didn’t mention it, but yes, baseball games, too.

Here’s my favorite pitch, though. “Property taxes will not be used to build the MPEV and ballpark. Rather, Hotel Occupancy Taxes and private dollars will be used. Visitors to our city are funding this. Not our residents.”

This last message, though, needs to go to non-seniors, folks who aren’t yet 65 years of age. You see, my property taxes are frozen, as the state grants that privilege to homeowners 65 and older. I would hope Vote FOR Amarillo would be aggressive in informing non-old-folks of the reality that property taxes aren’t going to pay for this venue, estimated to cost around $32 million.

The flier’s aim is to promote voting by mail, which is now available to older residents.

Although I appreciate the effort made to inform me of that procedure, I’m going to pass. I intend to wait until Election Day to cast my ballot.

I’ve been on board with this project from the beginning. Nothing has come up to make me change my mind.

However, I intend to stay with my often-stated preference for waiting until the very last day to cast my vote — in case something should arise.


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.


Regents chose well with Lowery-Hart

OK, so I’m a little late commenting on this one, but I’ll weigh in nonetheless.

Amarillo College’s Board of Regents made a sterling choice in naming Russell Lowery-Hart as the college’s next president.

Having said that, I still wish Lowery-Hart would have been put to a stronger test than he got before regents named him their sole finalist for the post, succeeding Paul Matney, who retired after a 40-plus-year affiliation with the college.

Lowery-Hart was second in command at AC. So he doesn’t climb many rungs on the ladder to take the top administrative job.

I get that regents know him well, that he knows the college political and academic infrastructure inside and out, and that he has virtually no learning curve to negotiate as he takes command of the staff.

Over the past few weeks I’ve visited with friends associated with Amarillo College. They all sang Lower-Hart’s praises as a man, an administrator, educator and someone who loves AC. They like his vision and the way he expresses it. They like that he’s “one of us.”

My only wish would have been that regents invited in candidates from other regions, interviewed them along with Lowery-Hart and then considered their visions, outlooks, approaches and credentials.

Something tells me Lower-Hart would have stacked up well against any set of applicants with whom he would compete.

A thorough vetting and comparison with other candidates would have strengthened the local guy tremendously and — were he to still get the job — strengthened the school he was chosen to lead.

Still, I extend my best wishes to the new Amarillo College president.