Tag Archives: Amarillo EDC

‘Change’ set to present itself at City Hall

Amarillo downtown

Amarillo residents are likely to get a pretty good look at the “change” that arrived at City Hall with the election of three new City Council members this past spring.

It’ll occur Tuesday when the council discusses in public the fate of a proposed outdoor entertainment venue.

Will the council take the issue to a vote? Will it decide the fate of the venue by itself? Will it put the whole off for another day?

The change we’re about to see — as it relates specifically to downtown revival plans — is a divided council. Imagine that. We’ve seen a council — and before that a “city commission” — that spoke with a single voice on most issues large and small. Oh, occasionally we’d get a contrary vote from the late Councilman Jim Simms on, say, whether to ban texting while driving. But generally, the council voted as a bloc.

That’s not likely to happen with this multipurpose event venue matter.

The three new men — Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair — are speaking with a single voice among themselves. They were the agents of change in this year’s campaign. They could decide to send this matter to the voters in a November referendum: up or down on the MPEV. The other two council members, Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades, are likely to vote “no” on a motion to send this matter to the voters.

There seems to be a good chance we’ll see more of these 3-2 splits on the council as it regards a whole array of tax-and-spend issues. Perhaps we’ll see it when the issue involves the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, which fairly regularly presents economic incentive issues to the council for its approval.

Suppose we get a tax abatement request from a business seeking to expand its operations. Will the council split on that as well.

There’s always been an unwritten rule at City Hall — and at the Amarillo Independent School District board — that when the governing board approves an issue, all members line up behind it.

“Change,” as presented by the winning candidates for this year’s City Council race, very well might not allow council members to abide by that rule.

City Hall once prided itself on its unanimity, unity and cohesiveness.

I’m betting something quite different is going to unfold this coming week.


First a shakeup, now there’s none

Amarillo City Hall isn’t about to break out into complete bedlam after all.

I think that’s what I read this morning.

After demanding the resignation of the city manager and the entire Amarillo Economic Development Corporation Board, two of the three newest members of the City Council have pulled back.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson is going to stay on the job; the AEDC board will remain.

The city will continue to move forward on its ambitious plans to reshape, remake and revive downtown.

What the …. ?

Did someone sprinkle fairy dust over all the principals at City Hall?


Whatever. Something positive happened after that lengthy closed session Tuesday. I happen to be glad. I’m sure others around the city are as well.

Atkinson told my NewsChannel 10 colleague Madison Alewel the following: “I think we’ve got everything on a path to move forward collectively, not just as a council, or just myself, or city staff, but the community. We’re in a very good place now and I’m very pleased with that.”

The city clearly did not have to lose its chief executive officer who’s in the midst of a comprehensive downtown redevelopment program. Nor did it have to replace its entire AEDC board, which since 1989 has been using a fraction of sales tax revenue to lure business into the city.

There needed to be an understanding of what the new council expected. Did the parties reach that understanding in that closed session? Well, one can surmise that some accommodation was reached.

The multipurpose event venue remains a sticking point. Do we proceed with it? My hope is that it moves forward so that the developer already on board with plans to build the convention hotel nearby proceeds with his project.

If the MPEV gets shelved, the hotel won’t be built. The project will come to an inglorious end.

My sincere hope is that we’re witnessing a coming together and that, as Atkinson said, we’re all “in a very good place now.”


One down at City Hall … how many more to go?

Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris has quit.

He’ll be gone in two weeks, leaving the city with either zero legal counsel or a new lawyer who’s got to learn the ropes the way Norris did when he became the city’s legal eagle.

There’s really no sugarcoating this resignation. Norris is a casualty of the new regime on the City Council. One of the new guys, Mark Nair, took the oath of office and barely put his hand down before calling City Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s resignation. Another new guy, Randy Burkett, called for the resignation of the entire Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board.

Oh, and today’s joint City Council-AEDC meeting? Neither Nair or Burkett were present.

That’s leadership, yes? Well, no.

That is the kind of chaos facing the senior City Hall staff. Norris would have none of it.


So, he’s out.

As for Atkinson, the council is set to meet Tuesday to discuss his status. I have no clue what the smart money on the street thinks will happen. My own hope is that Atkinson stays on the job.

And as for Norris, he’s had his fill already of the recklessness exhibited by at least a couple members of the city’s governing board.

There’s a lot more at stake than just a handful of public service careers. The city’s forward movement as it relates to its downtown revival effort might be in jeopardy if the “agents of change” seek to do too much too quickly.

Let’s not pussyfoot around this matter, either.

If Atkinson quits or is fired, the city’s top administration is left without a leader at a time when it needs leadership. The city is on the cusp of starting a bold effort that it’s never considered before. Yet the naysayers have gotten cold feet, their hands have gone clammy, they’ve hurled accusations out and about over alleged nefarious motives and a so-called “lack of public input” into this multi-faceted project.

And now some folks dislike the way the city runs?

One key city staffer is heading for the exit. Today was not a good a day at City Hall. I fear more bad days are coming.


Hey, new guys! Listen to the good doctor!

Brian Eades may be whistling in the dark with this request.

That doesn’t diminish its value.

Eades is the senior member of the Amarillo City Council and he’s urging his new colleagues on the council — Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair — to reconsider their effort to toss out the city’s top-level management.


As he told NewsChannel 10, the effort to replace City Manager Jarrett Atkinson and the entire Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board is, at best, “premature.”

Do you think?

All of this has taken a stunning turn. Nair took his oath of office this past Tuesday — and later on that very same day he said Atkinson should resign. The voters elected to Place 4 to be an agent of change, he said, and by golly he intends to fulfill that mandate.

Same with Demerson and Burkett.

Eades, a physician who was elected to the council in 2007, said the call is at best premature.

I’ll go a step or three further. It’s reckless.

Eades told NewsChannel 10: “New individuals may want to understand how the city works before you launch into that. It took me almost two years on the council to figure out exactly all the details regarding city government and how it works.”

Yes, there have been stumbles along the way. I concede readily that the city has been embarrassed by some remarkably inept occurrences. The city erred in hiring a traffic engineer; its animal control operation came under intense fire; it stepped on every one of its toes over that ridiculous city logo fiasco. To be sure, the city manager — as the city’s chief executive officer — is responsible ultimately for everything that happens, good and bad.

But Eades issues another cautionary suggestion: “Certainly, ultimately he is responsible, but I think you have to hold middle managers and lower level managers responsible for what they do in the workplace everyday as well.”

Will the new guys heed the good doctor’s advice when the council meets next Tuesday?

Well, I’m not holding my breath for that to occur.

Some municipal government experience, though, does bring more than a hint of wisdom.

Still waiting for some breaking of ground

Downtown Amarillo’s renovation is proceeding at a snail’s pace.

A couple of things have happened in recent days that give me hope that something might be about to move the city forward.

The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation signed off on the relocation of the Coca-Cola distributing plant from downtown to the business park near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. That move had been stymied when it was learned that the place where the Coca-Cola center would relocate was structurally deficient. The repairs have been made and the deal is done.

Then came news this week that West Texas A&M University’s downtown “campus” is moving from the Chase Tower to the Commerce Building two blocks south on Tyler Street. WT will vacate two floors in the 31-story tower, which I’m sure will be gobbled up by someone seeking some prime office space downtown.

I don’t mean to sound impatient, though. I keep wondering when the big stuff is going to start taking shape. I’m talking about the planned parking garage, construction of a new downtown hotel and the building of that sports/activities venue, aka the baseball park.

Friends and acquaintances closely associated with the project tell me the city is being extra-careful, ensuring that all the hoops are cleared adequately and that no legal hurdles will stand in the way of the projects getting done.

Yes, the city has seen progress. The Potter County Courthouse complex is done, and the square looks fabulous. The city has rebuilt some pedestrian crossings, making them a lot more attractive. Some new businesses have opened up downtown. The district has a business hotel in the historic Fisk Building. All of that is positive news. However, the Barfield Building continues to rot, as does the location across the street from the Santa Fe Building, not to mention the Herring Hotel site.

The development firm the city hired to ramrod the project says private investment money will foot the entire bill of the first phase. No tax money is involved, which should please the anti-tax activists who had said they opposed any public funds being spent on what they consider to be a boondoggle.

Some of the rest of us, though, are waiting for something significant to start happening now that the fanfare has subsided.

Patience is important. It’s also a finite resource.


Osprey takes off with new assignment

That big aircraft assembly plant next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has a new gig.

The MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft being assembled out there is now being assigned to carry key White House personnel as part of the Marine Corps presidential security detail.


Maybe one day, the cutting-edge birds will be hauling the president himself (or herself) to and from the White House.

The Osprey has come a long way from its formative years when Bell Helicopter returned to Amarillo in 1999 thanks to a grant awarded by the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. The plane, which lifts off like a helicopter and then flies like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, has had its fits and starts — and its share of tragedy. It has crashed with Marines aboard, killing 19 of them once on a training mission in Arizona. The Marine Corps and Bell engineers fixed what was wrong with the bird and put it back into the air.

Mechanical difficulties have grounded the Osprey on other occasions. The Pentagon stayed with it, lobbying Congress to keep funding the program.

It’s been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where it has ferried troops and supplies to and from the battlefield.

Now, according to Politico, the Osprey has been used to fly White House support staff and equipment to Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama has been vacationing with his family.

Any kind of state-of-the-art aircraft is going to have trouble. That’s been the history of U.S. aviation. The Osprey in that context is no different from other aircraft.

The bird that’s being built in Amarillo is earning its wings with an important new mission.

Well done, Bell.