So many questions at City Hall

Amarillo City Council members decided to start their new tenure off with far more than a bang.

It went off like a volcano.

Place 4 Councilman Mark Nair called for City Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s resignation. He was joined by his pal in Place 3, Randy Burkett. That’s two votes against the manager.

Where does a city councilman’s authority begin and end here? Can one, or two members of a five-member governing body make such a call?

The two men also called for the resignation of Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey, who then agreed to quit.

Given that the assistant city manager is hired by the city manager, do council members have any actual authority to call for a city manager subordinate to resign?

Suppose Atkinson doesn’t quit. Suppose he wants to go to the mat. He then can ask for a public airing of the grievances against him. State open meetings law exemptions do not require that personnel matters be kept secret; they only allow for it.

Would the City Council — in the interest of the transparency on which its three new members campaigned — be willing to discuss all this in the bright light of day?

The city is knee-deep — and maybe even deeper than that — in plans to redevelop its downtown district.

What does all of this mean to the city’s efforts and does it derail it if the top municipal administrator is no longer in the picture?

Change has arrived at City Hall. The new guys said they wanted to shake up the way things had been done.

Something tells me we’re about to see whether we reap the benefits of that change — or pay for it.


Here comes that ‘change’ at City Hall

Mark Nair took his oath of office as the Amarillo City Council’s newest member and then asked for the resignations of City Manager Jarrett Atkinson, Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey and the five Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board members.

Isn’t there a “getting acquainted period” involved here?


So, here’s the change voters seemingly said they wanted when they elected Nair and two other new guys to the City Council. Randy Burkett joined the newest guy in calling for the resignations.

Haven’t heard yet if the third newbie, Elisha Demerson, feels the same way. I’ll assume for the moment he does.

The $113 million question is this: What would changes at the top of the Amarillo administrative municipal chain of command mean for its downtown redevelopment efforts?

I hope that rumble I’m hearing isn’t the sound of a train wreck about to occur.


The Cold War is over! We won!

President Barack Obama has declared victory, finally, in the on-going Cold War with Marxism.

On Wednesday, he is going to announce the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, the capital city of Cuba.

Let the healing continue.

A 50-plus year estrangement with a dirt-poor island nation that has been governed by communists is about to end. Good thing, too. Because Cuba no longer poses a threat to the United States of America, the world’s remaining superpower.

Why? Cuba’s major benefactor, the Soviet Union, vaporized into history more than two decades ago. Russia has re-emerged and while the Russians are strong, they do not pose a worldwide threat to take over the world the way the Soviet Union declared publicly it intended to do.

The Soviets once used Cuban territory as a potential launching pad for offensive missiles. But a steely U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, clamped a quarantine on Cuba, intercepting Soviet ships taking missile parts to the island. The Soviets blinked, took down the missile installations and the threat of nuclear war was averted.

Cuba has languished in poverty during entire regime of the communists.

And yet some Republicans in Congress continue to harp on the idea that Cuba’s human rights record doesn’t entitle it to enjoy full diplomatic relations with the United States. Fine. Then let’s bring our ambassadors home from, say, China, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

At least two leading GOP lawmakers, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, have Cuban ancestry. They also are running for president. They say Cuba must remain estranged from the United States until it cleans up its human-rights act.

Come on, fellas.

Let’s get real.

The time has come to end the Cold War. We’re not going to give the Cubans a pass on whatever human rights abuses they still commit against their citizens.

We are, though, going to restore relations with a neighbor. Perhaps some added exposure to what we enjoy here will rub off on the Cubans.


County clerk stands on principle … and quits

Dana Guffey is a principled public servant.

Do I agree with a particular principle that caused her to quit her job as a county clerk in Arkansas? No — but that’s not the point of this post.

My point is that Guffey quit her public service job because she opposes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage across the land.

She should be applauded for her principled decision, which has far more integrity than the idea promoted by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said it is just fine with him if county clerks declined to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Paxton’s view has been endorsed by Texas Republican officeholders.

These county clerks can stay on the job. They just don’t have to fulfill their oath.

To their credit, Potter and Randall counties’ clerks — Republicans Julie Smith and Renee Calhoun, respectively — have said they will issue licenses to same-sex couples when the opportunities present themselves. They’ve chosen to fulfill their oath, which means they vow to uphold national and state laws.

Meanwhile, Cleburne County, Ark., Clerk Dana Guffey has chosen to quit rather than do something with which she disagrees.

The Roosevelt County, N.M., clerk quit her job as well when New Mexico legalized gay marriage in 2013. I had no problem with her resignation, either. It, too, became a matter of principle.

No one says a public official must continue to hold a job if they disagree with fulfilling any of its required duties. The highest court in America has determined that since gay marriage is now legal, that it is constitutional — as opposed to state laws prohibiting it. Thus, issuing marriage licenses to gay couples becomes part of the job description.

If you cannot do the job, you quit.

That is what Dana Guffey did.