This next weekend is going to produce a new Amarillo City Council majority, with at least three new members joining the five-member municipal governing panel.
However, in the run-up to this election I’ve been detecting a whiff of something about this campaign that sets it apart from recent municipal campaigns. It’s the presence of a well-financed political action committee, Amarillo Matters, that is backing an impressive slate of candidates seeking election to the council.
My mail box is getting nearly daily deliveries of circulars touting the virtues of the Amarillo Matters Five. Our southwest Amarillo neighborhood is sprouting lawn signs faster than the dandelions we see each spring. I’ve greeted three Amarillo Matters volunteers at my front door as they have handed out campaign material.
I happen to be acquainted with many of the principals involved with Amarillo Matters. They are successful men and women who have sought to make a positive difference in the city. However, social media have been chattering of late with some push back from individuals who question the motives behind Amarillo Matters. They can’t fathom why a PAC would spend a six-figure amount to elect a council whose members earn a paltry $10 per public meeting … plus some expense reimbursements.
There’s been the implication in some of these social media posts about possible payback, that Amarillo Matters’ members are looking for favorable treatment by the council.
I’m not going to jump onto that runaway bus.
I am no Pollyanna and I do retain a healthy skepticism about politics — even at the local level.
Truth be told, I am glad to see a healthy discussion taking place about the municipal election and about the stakes involved. Electing the governing City Council will produce far more tangible impact on voters than electing members of Congress or the presidency. I would argue, too, that even countywide elections have significantly less impact on those of us who live within a city’s corporate limits; we are governed in Amarillo by a city charter.
One of the better aspects of City Hall’s governance is that the council is elected every two years, which is the same length of time a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. That means council members could, if they choose, kick right back into re-election campaign mode right after the ballots are counted; that’s how it works in Congress, right?
Voters would do well to stay alert to any sign of favoritism or deal-making with certain PAC principals at City Hall. My guess is that the new City Council — whether it comprises some or all of the candidates endorsed by Amarillo Matters — will be leery of falling into that trap as well.
At least they’d better be.