Tag Archives: Downtown revival

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.


Lawsuit may muck up downtown plan

Just when you thought Amarillo was set to take a major step toward downtown revival, something gets in the way … maybe.

The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation announced plans to file a lawsuit to recover $1.6 million from the company that built the CenterPort Business Park in east Amarillo. Yes, it’s some distance from downtown.

But hold on.

The CenterPort site is now vacant. Another business lured here by AEDC gave up on its wind-turbine construction project and left. The city wants to relocate the Coca-Cola distribution center, which is currently downtown, to the CenterPort site. Except that it’s structurally unsound. The foundation is a mess, according to AEDC. It needs to rebuilt.

The firm that built the place, Commercial Industrial Builders, muffed the job. AEDC wants the company to pay back the money that AEDC says it will have to spend to fix the site.

What does this mean for downtown’s revival? Well, the Coca-Cola site is supposed to become home to a multipurpose entertainment venue to be built, along with a downtown hotel and a huge parking garage. The legal action just might gum up those works if CIB fights hard to keep from paying the money AEDC wants.

AEDC President and CEO Buzz David said the agency sought to resolve the dispute without going to court. The efforts so far have failed. Perhaps the threat of a lawsuit might spur CIB to pony up the cash so that AEDC can fix what it says is wrong with the building.

If the threat doesn’t work, I’m afraid we’re in for a lengthy delay on downtown’s move forward.