Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole and his City Council colleagues are set to commence an important discussion on the future of a proposed outdoor multipurpose event venue.
A part of me fears the worst. It is that the council will cast a highly split vote to refer this matter to city residents in a non-binding referendum that will ask: Do you want the city to proceed with building the MPEV? Yes, the referendum would be non-binding, but only a fool would go against what the voters decide.
The council vote — if it occurs — could be on a 3-2 split. The votes to refer the measure to residents could come from the three new men on the council — Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair. The three of them have stated publicly their concerns about the MPEV, the process that brought it forward and whether the city really needs it.
Count me, gentleman, as a constituent who believes in the project, the process that produced it and the potential it brings for downtown Amarillo’s hoped-for rebirth.
Another part of me remains hopeful that reason will prevail.
It’s a better than safe bet to assume that Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades want the MPEV process to keep moving forward. I would bet real American money they would vote “no” on sending this matter to a vote in November.
You might be thinking: Is this goofy blogger — that would be me — against giving residents a say-so in an important project?
The answer would be “no.” I believe in the democratic process as much as anyone. But in reality, we’re dealing here with a representative democracy, meaning that we elect individuals to represent our interests. We elect them to lead.
My own preference would be to have council members vote on this matter themselves.
There’s no compelling need to put this matter up for a popular vote. Residents of this city have had ample opportunity to view this project from the get-go. They’ve had equally ample opportunity to speak out.
Yes, there seems to be a serious divide in our city over this MPEV. There also seems to be an equally seriously divide among members of the city’s governing body. A 3-2 split on this issue — in either direction — does not represent a consensus. Think of it as a body that mirrors, say, the U.S. Supreme Court, which often votes 5-4 on landmark rulings; the court is split often along ideological grounds — pitting conservative justices vs. liberal justices.
The best option, to my way of thinking, would be for the five men who serve on the City Council to take a deep breath and ponder the consequences of killing this MPEV, whether they do it themselves with an up-down vote or refer it to voters to decide at the ballot box.
Do they really and truly want to scuttle a project that’s been years in the making? Do they really want to scrap it at this stage of its development and force the city to start from scratch, spending more time and money on an issue that’s been examined from every possible angle?
If they intend to deep-six this entertainment venue, then they will send the city skidding backward.
It’s going to be a big day at City Hall next Tuesday.