Where does the time go?
A year has passed since the Amarillo municipal election occurred that seated three new City Council members.
It’s worth noting this month as the first anniversary, given that the final new guy — Mark Nair — had to win his seat in a runoff that occurred more than a month after the initial balloting.
I’ve tried to give the city the benefit of the doubt as the new folks have settled in.
I am left, though, to give them a mixed rating — at best.
I’ll stipulate up front that I am acquainted with just two of the new councilmen — Elisha Demerson, who I have known from a distance for many years, and Nair, who I only met recently and with whom I had an informative and cordial conversation. I have not yet met Randy Burkett, although I’ve been quite aware of his presence on the council.
What continues to trouble me is the discord that seems to have infected the council. There once was a time when the council sang in nearly perfect harmony on the big issues.
Granted, it wasn’t always pitch-perfect. The late Jim Simms was known to be a contrarian on occasion, as was the late Dianne Bosch in the late 1990s. They would make their objections known and then would back whatever decision the majority of their colleagues made.
That doesn’t seem to be the case these days.
The new guys took office and immediately began damning the performance of then-City Manager Jarrett Atkinson. One of them called for the termination of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board. Then came a temporary truce.
The truce came undone when Atkinson resigned. The council brought in Terry Childers to serve as interim city manager.
AEDC executive director Buzz David quit, as did City Attorney Marcus Norris. Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey retired. Other senior staffers bailed.
The council seated new members on the Local Government Corporation. One of the founders of the LGC, Richard Brown, walked away, taking with him a trove of experience at business development and promotion.
The director of Downtown Amarillo Inc., Melissa Dailey, also walked away from a job that had produced some stunning progress in the evolution of the downtown district.
What’s left? Who’s running the show?
Terry Childers will be gone eventually. He might get to hire a new police chief to replace Robert Taylor, who is retiring in just a few days.
Meantime, the City Council must choose a new council member to replace Dr. Brian Eades, who’s leaving town to set up a medical practice in rural Colorado. That selection process has been something of a cluster hump, too, with the council deciding how to handle some pithy and crass social media posts delivered by one of the finalists for the council appointment; there appears to be disagreement among them over the significance of those comments and whether they should be considered as the council ponders this decision.
Yes, we’ve seen considerable progress in the city.
Construction is proceeding on the Embassy Suites Hotel and the parking garage. Xcel Energy’s new office complex is well underway. The council has instructed the LGC to negotiate a deal to lure a Class Double A baseball franchise to Amarillo, where it will play ball in the ballpark to be built across the street from City Hall.
The fate of the MPEV, though, might be in doubt if the council cannot learn to at leat pretend it is working together.
Not long ago, Mayor Paul Harpole stormed out of an executive session to protest what he said was a lack of “trust in the process” of selecting a new council member. Although I generally support the mayor on most policy matters, I am dismayed at the public pique he exhibited — and the message it might send beyond the city’s borders.
The three new council members vowed to bring “change” to City Hall. They brought it all right.
I won’t give up on them just yet.
However, my own patience is wearing a bit thin.
Let’s step it up, shall we?