Tag Archives: Randall County Commissioners Court

Citizen comment is good, but let’s be reasonable

AMARILLO, Texas — I ran into a longtime acquaintance tonight at Amarillo’s Civic Center auditorium. He is a member of the City Hall legal team and, quite naturally, our discussion turned to the recent kerfuffle at City Hall over citizen comment time in front of the City Council.

As I understand, a few soreheads in Amarillo are mad at the city administration and the council because of rules being placed on the time and substance of citizens’ comments during council meetings.

My friend said he believes Mayor Ginger Nelson and City Manager Jared Miller are placing reasonable restrictions on the time and tenor of the comments. I understand that many of the comments have gotten intensely personal. They have accused the council of violating the Texas Open Meetings Law and of keeping secrets from the public.

Well, I am not close enough to the situation to make a serious judgment on the complaints. Although I do believe governing bodies have the inherent responsibility to conduct their public meetings with decorum and dignity; if residents become too nasty and personal in their comments, they do not need to be heard.

I reminded my friend of what a former local county judge used to do. Randall County Judge Ted Wood — who took office when I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 — allowed county residents unlimited time to comment to the Commissioners Court. Wood’s view was that since the commissioners work for them, the residents are the “boss.” Commissioners, according to Wood, were obligated to give them an open forum to bitch and moan, rant and rail to their hearts’ content.

My friend said, quite correctly, that was an unreasonable concession to the public. Residents who blather on and on take up too much valuable time from the elected officials, from the public staff and from other residents who come to have their own voices heard.

The soreheads who gripe continually at City Hall have filed suit against the city. I don’t know the merits of their action, so I won’t comment. I’ll just offer this bit of opinion: The city, based on what I’ve read from afar, has acted reasonably in trying to maintain a level of dignity at City Council meetings.

The soreheads need to settle down.

War Memorial to add another icon

war-memorial

Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell is a man on many missions.

In addition to running a county Commissioners Court and helping set policy for a county of about 130,000 residents, he wants to ensure that we honor our veterans the right way.

On Oct. 29, the Texas Panhandle War Memorial is going to dedicate another iconic symbol from one of our nation’s past conflicts. It will be yet another addition to an increasingly impressive memorial that honors the sacrifice of those who fought — and died — in defense of the nation.

The memorial is going to dedicate a Huey UH-1 helicopter. It will be mounted and put on display, just as the county dedicated an F-100 fighter — a Vietnam War relic — jet just a few years ago.

The Huey chopper is another┬árelic of the Vietnam War, where Houdashell served two tours back in the day. He served on a crew of a Huey — and as a door gunner when his ship was sent into harm’s way.

Houdashell has worked hard to bring the restored Huey to the war memorial.

The memorial honors those from the Texas Panhandle who fell in every conflict dating back to the Spanish-American War of 1898. All the names are inscribed on stone tablets: World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the Balkan campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Iraq and Afghan wars. A handful of veterans received the Medal of Honor and they are noted with stars next to their names.

The tablets also contain descriptions of each conflict. Allow me this bit of disclosure: I was asked years ago to write some of those inscriptions. Believe me when I tell you how proud I am have to my words carved in stone.

Houdashell is a friend of mine and I enjoy my relationship with him. I applaud his tenacity in adding this important artifact from the Vietnam War.

Think about how this country treated many of the returning veterans from that terrible conflict and then think about the atonement for that shameful treatment that’s been going on since, oh, the Persian Gulf War.

The dedication set for late this month marks another step in that on-going journey.

The ceremony will occur at 11 a.m. on Oct. 29, at the Randall County Veterans Park, right next to the county’s courthouse annex at the corner of Georgia Street and Interstate 27.

Well done, Judge Houdashell.