Category Archives: business news

Hotel signals a potentially shiny future for city

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was unable to attend the dedication of a new hotel in downtown Amarillo, given that I now live about 360 miles southeast of the city.

The opening of the Barfield Hotel, though, has been on my radar for some time, dating back to my days as a journalist covering downtown Amarillo’s rebirth, revival and its renaissance.

The city has crossed what looks to me — even at some distance — like an important threshold.

The Barfield sat vacant for more than 30 years. It was a rotten hulk of a structure. Homeless people would sleep on the ground floor, freezing during winter nights. Then through a series of ownership changes, some fits and starts and a hiccup or two along the way, the city managed to cobble together a development package that resulted in the opening of what they call a “boutique hotel.”

Marriott Corp. is the lead company in this deal. I haven’t yet seen the newly revived Barfield building. I hope to get back there soon to lay eyes on the structure at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street.

Why is this an important event? Because it signals to me that the city’s downtown rebirth is continuing. The Barfield is just the latest in a series of triumphs that businesses and the city have scored along the way.

Hodgetown still welcomes fans flocking to the ballpark to cheer for the Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball team; the Embassy Suites hotel is up and running nearby; various storefronts have opened along Polk Street; the city is offering some additional entertainment venues for residents and visitors to enjoy.  Downtown hasn’t become Nirvana. That parking garage downtown is still lacking sufficient business activity to pay for itself, from I have been able to discern.

Still, downtown Amarillo, as near as I can tell, bears little resemblance to the moribund district I discovered when my wife and I moved there in early 1995.

Is the city done? Has the work been completed? Oh, I doubt it strongly. City Hall might be relocated. The Civic Center is slated to get some major work done. They’re building a new courts building to serve Potter County downtown. Oh, and then there’s the Herring Hotel building … another rotting structure that cries out for some tender loving care.

All in all, I am happy to see the progress being made in a downtown district where I used to work and which I once lamented about its future. I worry far less these days about the future of the city. It’s looking brighter all the time.

Who could have seen this coming?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well now. A lawyer for the former Cheater in Chief says he will fight the order to release his client’s tax returns to Congress.

Who could have seen this coming? Oh, I don’t know. Just about … everyone!

According to The Hill: “There is no evidence of any wrongdoing here and I object to the release of the returns not only on behalf of my client but on behalf of all future holders of the office of the president of the United States,” Ronald Fischetti, a lawyer for (Donald) Trump, told The Wall Street Journal.

Think about the irony of that statement for just a moment.

“No evidence of any wrongdoing here.” That’s what the legal eagle says. My question is straightforward: If there’s “no evidence of wrongdoing,” then what in the world is the reason for withholding those returns, for keeping them from public view?

Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns | TheHill

The custom of releasing those returns arose from the Watergate scandal of 1973-74. Suspicion was rampant throughout the land about politicians’ wealth. Beginning with the 1976 presidential election, candidates of both parties agreed to release their income taxes to show the public they had nothing to hide.

To be sure, plenty of mega-rich individuals have sought the presidency in the more than 40 years since that time. For instance, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, released his tax returns without a whimper.

The custom has held up over time. Then along came the 45th POTUS, who ran for the office in 2016. When he initially balked at releasing his returns, alarm bells began sounding all over the place. What’s he hiding? Is he as rich as he says he is? Are there business dealings he doesn’t want us to see? How much has he donated to charity? Is he paying his fair share of taxes?

The last question perhaps is the most pertinent, given that a president — along with Congress — helps set tax policy that forces all Americans to pay their share of taxes. I don’t know about you, but I want to know whether the president is doing his part, too, in paying for the government.

Of course, the 45th POTUS’s business dealings have become the subject of civil and criminal investigations. The former Liar in Chief said the feds are auditing his tax returns, so he can’t release them. The IRS says that’s malarkey.

Now his lawyer pledges to fight. Good luck with that. The former POTUS no longer can use the power of his office to stonewall what look to me to be legitimate requests to see his tax returns.

Give ’em up, Mr. ex-POTUS.

Let’s see ex-POTUS’s tax returns

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well now, the Department of Justice has spoken, telling the Treasury Department that it must release the long-sought tax returns of the former Cheater in Chief to Congress.

Is that the end of it? Does that mean the former POTUS is going to comply?

Oh-h-h no. Not even close. He’ll find a way to fight it.

The DOJ memo issued today is a reversal of what it declared when POTUS 45 was in office. There’s a new sheriff in town, so now the posture is different.

The memo said the following, according The Hill: In a memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), acting Assistant Attorney General Dawn Johnsen said the Treasury Department was required to defer to the congressional committee.

“The statute at issue here is unambiguous: ‘Upon written request’ of the chairman of one of the three congressional tax committees, the Secretary ‘shall furnish’ the requested tax information to the Committee,” Johnsen wrote in the 39-page memo.

Unambiguous? That means it’s crystal clear.

Justice Department says Trump’s tax returns should be released | TheHill

Many of us have argued all along that presidential political custom should prevail in this matter. Candidates going back to 1976 have revealed to the public their net worth and opened their books to public scrutiny. That held true until POTUS 45 entered the presidential field in 2016. He said he would release them, then he backed out, then he agreed again, then he balked once more.

He said tax gurus are auditing his returns. However, he’s never provided a shred of proof that the Internal Revenue Service in fact is auditing his returns; the IRS, meanwhile, has said that an audit does not preclude a politician from releasing them to the public.

The ex-Liar in Chief insists there is nothing untoward in his returns. Well, alrighty then. If that’s the case, then there should be nothing to hide. Right?

At issue now is whether Congress can review the returns in private and decide whether to make them public.

Speaking only for myself, I want to see it all. We deserve — at the very least — to know whether the ex-Con Man in Chief is as rich as he has bragged of being.

Counter-intuitive message?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As a general rule I am disinclined to use this blog as a forum to criticize private businesses.

However, the image you see here appeared on my Facebook news feed and it prompts me to offer a brief commentary.

Wal-Mart says it is “investing in American jobs.” The other item you see circled is a self-checkout stand at a Wal-Mart store. The two things — the sign about investing in jobs and the checkout stand — appear to be counter-intuitive.

We have a Wal-Mart store in our town that has gone through a massive interior remodeling. It also is expanding its self-checkout operation.

At one level, I understand that Wal-Mart is entitled to say it is investing in American jobs if its investments include jobs related to warehousing, building maintenance, transportation, shelf-stocking.

The checkout counters, though, are the face of retail outlets … such as Wal-Mart.

I guess if I were to critique Wal-Mart’s advertising strategy, I would offer this bit of advice: Don’t position your “investment” sign within sight of a self-checkout counter. You expose yourself to ridicule.

Bipartisan solution still MIA

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden had the congressional Republican caucus in his hands … then he lost them.

Or has he?

Biden has this massive infrastructure package on the table. He is seeking some Republican buy-in.

The president talks a good game. He wants his GOP pals to join him and his fellow Democrats to join in the effort to fix roads, bridges and ports while also protecting families.

I had high hopes he could persuade what’s left of the GOP moderate mini-caucus to sign on. Those hopes are fading with the likes of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine suggesting that Republicans aren’t likely to spend so much money.

President Biden has a lot of experience working across the aisle with Republicans. He contends he has many friends on the other side; they speak kindly of him, too. Those Republicans, though, face pressure of another kind. They do not want to offend the still-significant number of their constituents who remain wedded to the Big Lie promoted by Donald J. Trump … you know the one about the “theft” of the 2020 election by voters who cast illegal ballots. Well, they didn’t steal anything. The only theft I can see is the pilfering of politicians’ honor and integrity.

It is carrying over into President Biden’s desire to achieve something close to a bipartisan solution to this infrastructure package.

I won’t give up hope that the president can deploy his vast knowledge of the political system to benefit millions of Americans who desire to see government work for them.

Time of My Life, Part 58: It goes with territory

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My morning started at the Sam Rayburn VA Medical Center in Bonham, Texas, where I went for a routine exam.

During the course of the examination, the radiology technician and I engaged in some light-hearted banter that wove its way eventually toward some of the complaints she gets from veterans such as me.

“If I say something that someone doesn’t like, they go to” speak to the personnel office, she said. “Then I hear from her” and have to explain, she added.

No one tells the personnel office about all “thousands of good things that go on here,” she said.

I laughed. Loudly, in fact. It reminded me of an aspect of my career that I shared with the radiology technician. I will share it with you.

I told her that “when I was a working guy, I wrote editorials for newspapers.” One of the aspects of the job was getting feedback from readers. It could be positive. It could be negative. I told her that “I lost count many years ago of the time someone would say, ‘Hey, I really liked that editorial you wrote.’ I would ask him or her ‘Which one?’ They couldn’t remember, but only told me they liked it,” I explained. Did it frustrate me? Of course it did! I wanted to know the particulars of what pleased this individual; I didn’t tell her that part.

Then I told her, “If they disagreed with an editorial I wrote or a position I laid out, why they were able to recite it back to me … word for word.” 

Such is the nature of that line of work and so it is with what my new friend at the Rayburn VA Center has chosen to do.

I ended up telling her, “I hope you know it just goes with the territory.”

She understands.

Good riddance, Bernie Madoff

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You know how it goes … that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.

Hmm. Bernie Madoff is dead. He was 82 years of age. Madoff was the perpetrator of one of the world’s most notorious Ponzi schemes. He bilked Americans out of billions of dollars.

Madoff got caught. He was sent to prison. That’s where he died.

What, then, does one say about this truly nasty individual if we are going to avoid speaking ill of the dead?

Not a damn thing.

Boycott? Over this law? Hold on!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am hearing the word “boycott” being tossed around in response to a terrible voter suppression law signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

While I think the law that Kemp signed is atrocious. It is discriminatory. It is a piece of political poop disguised as an “election integrity” protection strategy. It is aimed at suppressing the vote among traditionally Democratic-leaning voters.

OK, with that marker laid down, I want to suggest that boycotts being discussed inflict far too many collateral casualties. I have heard that Major League Baseball’s players association might seek to move MLB’s all-star game from Atlanta to protest the law. Other companies are feeling the heat from customers, who are so angry that they won’t do business with those Georgia-based firms.

I dislike boycotts as a political tactic. They end up hurting too many people who are being kicked around like the old proverbial political football. Concession vendors are hurt. Business that provide all manner of support suffer, too. What do they all have in common? They employ human beings who derive their livelihoods from these events.

There can be plenty of political pressure applied to Gov. Kemp, or to the GOP majority in the Georgia legislature that approved this monstrosity of a law. Why punish businesses whose owners might oppose the law? Or the people they employ who also might be of like minds with those who want to boycott them?

DA gets Trump tax returns … what now?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

OK, where do we stand now that the Manhattan, N.Y. district attorney has gotten his hands on Donald J. Trump’s tax returns?

DA Cyrus Vance Jr. had been fighting with Trump over those tax returns. He is investigating alleged campaign finance violations and other matters that involve the complexities of Trump’s, um, complex fiscal dealings.

Cyrus Vance: Manhattan DA faces critical decisions in Trump investigation as his time in office runs low (msn.com)

It’s not clear whether the public will get to see these returns. As one American who has been yapping and yammering for them to be released, I want to see them. I want to know if the former president is as rich as he said he is; I want to know if he’s paid his fair share of taxes; I want to know all that I can grasp relating to those returns. I mean, he was the president of the United States and even though I never voted for him, I am a citizen/patriot and I deserve to get a glimpse of my country’s formerly elected president.

Cyrus Vance is serving his final term as Manhattan DA. The word is that he is likely to take his findings to a grand jury soon. The grand jury then would have to decide whether to indict the ex-president, which all by itself is a huge deal.

At least the game of keep-away is over. Trump said he would release the returns. Then he backed away from that. It had been customary for presidential candidates, dating back to 1976, to release their personal financial records. Then came Donald Trump. He tossed that custom into the crapper.

So, I am going to place a measure of faith that Cyrus Vance Jr. will do the right thing with those returns now in his possession.

I’ll be patient.

GOP turns hawkish on deficit

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone needs to explain something to me.

Congressional Republicans saw no problem with running up a federal budget deficit when a president of their own party pitched a massive tax cut that would necessarily run that deficit into the stratosphere.

Now their guy has lost an election and the new president, Joe Biden, wants to enact a hefty package aimed at providing relief to Americans suffering from the COVID pandemic.

Republicans’ response? No can do, they say, because it would — get set for it — run up the deficit!

OK, so why is it that one deficit-explosion notion is OK but another one that would cost a huge sum of money to help Americans is not OK? What gives?

I know the answer. It’s politics. That’s all it is.

Yet there can be little doubt we’re going to hear the GOP blame Democrats for “playing politics” with COVID relief. It’s their mantra. Their siren song.

President Biden is pitching a $1.9 trillion package that includes a $1,400 payment to Americans who qualify for it. It also expedites delivery of vaccines to states. Its aim is to jumpstart the economy while seeking to turn the tide against the pandemic. Does it spend more money that the government does not have on hand? Yes.

Let’s look back briefly. Joe Biden became vice president in 2009 as the national economy was in free fall. He and President Obama came up with a massive relief program that bailed out the auto industry and helped shore up a collapsing financial industry. It, too, boosted the deficit.

What happened next? The economy revived. More Americans went to work. The deficit that skyrocketed began to recede. By the time the Obama-Biden administration handed it over to the Donald Trump, the deficit had been pared to less than half of what it was when Obama took office in 2009.

I will await an explanation for why congressional Republicans suddenly have resorted to their game of fear about bold initiatives.