Amarillo facing potentially hot election

Amarillo’s municipal elections have this history of dismal, abysmal voter turnouts.

Something tells me the turnout this coming May 9 might just be, oh, low to middlin’. Could it become seriously busy? Let’s allow the campaigns to play out.

Five candidates are running for Place 4 on the council, the seat now held by Ron Boyd, who’s not running for election; Boyd was appointed to the seat after the death of Councilman Jim Simms.

Five more candidates are running for Place 3, currently occupied by Councilwoman Lilia Escajeda, who is running for re-election.

As I look at the lineup, though, perhaps the most intriguing matchup occurs in the race for Place 1. Incumbent Ellen Robertson Green will run against Elisha Demerson, the former Potter County judge and the first African-American ever elected to a countywide seat in Potter County.

Demerson is a worthy challenger, but he would be more worthy if he had been active in city affairs before deciding to run for Green’s council seat. Still, the gentleman has name identification, as does Green.

All told, the ballot will contain 16 names. Many of them have been involved in municipal political affairs. Most of them are newcomers to the City Hall game.

What’s driving the interest? Best guess is it’s downtown redevelopment and the hiccup that occurred when Wallace Bajjali, the city’s one-time master developer, vaporized into thin air in January. WB’s disappearance left the city to take care of three key projects itself — a downtown convention hotel, a parking garage and a multipurpose entertainment venue … aka a ballpark.

There’s been considerable discussion about the ballpark in particular and whether it’s a good fit for the city. My own view is that the city has come up with a great concept for downtown. The execution of that concept, though, has been clouded a bit by Wallace Bajjali’s disappearing act.

My fondest hope for the upcoming election — so far, at least — is that the turnout will be much greater than the single-digit events that have occurred all too frequently.

If the city is roiling with controversial issues, then it’s good to have as many voters as possible taking part in the most fundamental aspect of living in a free society: casting your ballot for whom you want to lead our city.